Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Joy E. Hayes
This dissertation offers a historical and cultural analysis of the highly controversial Japanomania (ha-ri) phenomenon in East Asia with a special focus on post-authoritarian Taiwan. Despite its colonial relations with Japan and its relatively small population of twenty-three million, Taiwan has become the largest market for Japanese trendy dramas outside Japan in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Attracted by these Japanese idol dramas, pop music and fashion, many Taiwanese youths became loyal to anything Japanese. The Japanomania phenomenon in Taiwan aroused stringent public condemnation for being detrimental to national pride and was commonly regarded as a social pathology. I offer my intervention into this debate by arguing that Japanomania consumption has little to do with nostalgia towards Japanese colonization. Rather, Japanomania is best understood as a response to the particular, lived conditions of the generation of Taiwanese who came of age in the 1990s. Given the prevalence of Japanomania among this generation, and given the fact that this was the same generation of young voters who were key to the election of the first opposition party President in 2000, it is remarkable that the connections between these two significant youth movements have been overlooked in existing scholarship. Based on my research and on my own lived experience and participation in both of these movements, I argue that Japanomania discourse in fact played a crucial role in Taiwan's democratization and nation-building in the 1990s.
To de-mystify the intensive consumption of Japanese popular culture in Taiwan, I critically analyze interviews, online Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), historical archives, Japanese TV dramas, and political campaign materials. Such mediated forms give us access to the fluid and mobile field of subject formation in a transitional society. I conclude that transnational culture serves as a medium for Taiwanese politics, and for the current fourth generation in particular. In addition, I suggest that transcultural consumption has political potential not only in Taiwan but also in other contexts such as the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. This dissertation tackles some of the most fundamental questions in communication studies: the influence of media on politics and the role that people play in making meaning in the context of democratization and globalization. By creating a dialog between this East Asian cultural phenomenon and Western critical theories of culture and globalization, my research also contributes to the development of a multilevel and multicultural approach to discourse, audience studies and globalization studies.
Copyright 2010 Hsin-Yen Yang
Yang, Hsin-Yen. "Re-interpreting Japanomania: transnational media, national identity and the restyling of politics in Taiwan." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2010.