First Advisor

Sharon Carstens

Date of Publication

Fall 1-17-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology






Mandarin dialects -- Taiwan, Nationalism -- Taiwan, Anthropological linguistics -- Taiwan, Taiwanese -- Social aspects



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 241 pages)


In contemporary Taiwan, Mandarin language proficiency and literacy in Han characters are not only key skills needed for success in academic institutions and employment markets, but they also carry meaning as symbolic markers of national and supranational Chinese identity. This study examines how Taiwanese-language medical studies curriculum planners are promoting alternative linguistic practices as a means of resisting the influence of Chinese nationalism in Taiwan and striving to replace it with a rival Taiwanese nationalism. I conducted research for this study during the 2010-2011 school year in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I collected data for this study by engaging in participant observation research at Taiwanese-language curriculum-editing meetings; auditing Taiwanese-language courses at Kaohsiung Medical University; and conducting interviews with both curriculum planners and students at KMU. The role of official languages, literacy, and historical narratives are examined as symbolic components of a Chinese nationalist hegemony, which was constructed through the policies of the Kuomintang's Republic of China administration in post-war Taiwan. This study also examines the relationship between occupation, language skills, and national identification in the context of the contemporary Greater China regional economy. The curriculum planners who are the subjects of this study are employed in the field of medical care, where Taiwanese language skills are valued resources for communicating with patients from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, medical doctors have historically been vocal opponents of the Kuomintang administration's pro-Chinese nationalist policies. Therefore, this case study illustrates how the curriculum planners' occupations and language practices are utilized as resources in their efforts to foster Taiwanese autonomy in the Greater China region. This study also examines current limits to the effectiveness of language preservation and revitalization policies in Taiwan due to the importance of Mandarin-language literacy in the majority of high-status occupations in Greater China and to changing conceptions of the relationship between language practice and national identity. This study contributes to the fields of linguistic anthropology and Asian studies by examining relationships between nationalism, employment, language practice, and literacy in the context of Taiwan's ambiguous status as a national entity. It also analyzes ways in which language practices and literacy forms are created and modified as strategic acts to both identify people with competing nationalisms and allow them access to employment opportunities in the context of shifting administrative and economic power structures in the Greater China region.


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