Re-mediating identities in the imagined homeland: Taiwanese migrants in China

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This dissertation analyzes the identity formation and transformation of Taiwanese migrants to China in light of globalization. Combining migrant studies and media studies, it explores how the identities of Taiwanese migrants are shaped and reshaped through the ongoing interactions of mediated communication and lived experience in the place of adoption. Against the linear model of assimilation, three discourses on transnationalism argue for the pluralization and deterritorialization of identities among contemporary migrants, including continuous home-country loyalty, diasporic hybrid identities, and cosmopolitan consciousness. However, this case study also encounters historical particularities, such as the opposition of Taiwanese and Chinese identities in Taiwan, Taiwanese migration to their imagined homeland, and China' authoritarian media system. While attending to these issues, I analyze the migration patterns of Taiwanese migrants, their use of the media in China, and the relations between mediation and identity.

 Primarily based on in-depth interviews with 68 Taiwanese migrants conducted in 2008, I found that Taiwanese migrants' spatial and upward mobility upon migration contributes to their class distinction and outsider mentality in China. Moreover, despite different settlement plans, migrants tend to see their migration as sojourning. Mental isolation from Chinese society, along with distrust of the Chinese news media, makes migrants heavily dependent on Taiwanese news media for information. They also utilize such communication tools as SMS and the Internet to forge and maintain Taiwanese-only social networks and interpersonal communications. As for entertainment media, migrants prefer foreign and Taiwanese media products to Chinese ones. Much of their transnational communication is sustained through the use of illegal means, such as satellite TV and pirated videos. Everyday experiences--lived or mediated, local or transnational--enable migrants to renegotiate their own similarities with and differences from the Chinese. A kind of Taiwanese consciousness based on pride develops among migrants. Nevertheless, as far as national identity is concerned, Taiwanese migrants remain divided, although they have also become less nationalistic and more realistic.