Mediating national identity : television, politics and audience in Taiwan
This thesis is concerned with the relationship between the mass media and national identity. It uses methodological triangulation involving multiple methods and multiple sets of data to investigate the ways in which the mass media and television in particular have contributed to the formation of national identity in Taiwan. The Taiwanese case markedly points to the inadequacy of a widely held assumption bout the influence of the media on the formation of national identity: that national media foster national identity and global media weaken national identity. The thesis argues against this simplistic assumption, which reflects two dominant perspectives in the study of nationalism and communication the diffusionist view of national identity-formation, and the transmission view of communication. Both perspectives underestimate the complexity of the media-identity relationship and cannot adequately accommodate the Taiwanese case. This thesis provides an alternative perspective that stresses national identity-formation as a conjunctural mediation process between media representation and audience reception, whereby the powerful media and the active audience co-exist. As a constitutive part of the national discursive space that contains both text and reader, television has helped to create among the Taiwanese audience an imaginable community of solidarity, constituting both the symbolic textures of national identity and the contexts in which that identity is experienced. Through the conjunctural mediations between media representation and audience reception, the respondent families in the present study have subscribed to a national identity that necessarily assumes a hybrid form. Yet despite (or indeed because of) Taiwan's ambiguous statehood, the respondents' hybrid identifications with the 'nation' can best be summed up in the term 'Taiwan-centred identity'. The findings of this thesis extend beyond the Taiwanese case to the broader theorisation of the role of the media, especially television, in the formation of national identity in an age of globalisation.