Bridging Generations in Taiwan: Lifestyle and Identity of Mothers and Daughters

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9781498514101: Bridging Generations in Taiwan: Lifestyle and Identity of Mothers and Daughters

This book contributes to an understanding of how globalization affects the lives of ordinary people. Since the middle of the twentieth century Taiwan has undergone a remarkably rapid change from a poor, mostly rural society to a thriving industrial, mostly urban one. Because of its openness to global influences, it has been called the first transnational culture. Women have been especially affected by the new opportunities available as this transition has occurred. We focus on two generations of women, mothers who came of age before the transition and their daughters who became adults as the island was emerging onto the top tier of industrial economies. We interviewed both generations in five families, obtaining first a biography of each, followed by a detailed inventory of their everyday lifestyle activities. In analyzing these two sets of data, a combination unique in the literature, we show the ways in which there has been an intermixing of transnational and local cultural elements. The result is a flowering of distinct identities as women can choose from a greater variety of lifestyle options by virtue of the increased awareness of the outside world. To make sense of this unfolding process, mostly concepts associated with theories of globalization are employed, but in some cases reformulated. Our approach to these issues can lay the groundwork for a more penetrating understanding of changing lifestyles in an increasingly globalized world in which transnational influences and traditional concerns are woven into a complex web of cultural responses.

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About the Author:

Philip Silverman is emeritus professor of anthropology at California State University, Bakersfield.

Shienpei Chang is researcher at the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research.

Review:

Imagine Taiwan society as an inherently ambiguous and slowly morphing jungle gym. Some bars and posts are firm, dependable or unavoidable: enforced laws, hard-shelled demographic events, market values. Others are rubbery, unreliable or flexible: taxes easily evaded, fictive kinship ties, prices for ‘special customers.’ Some are merely notional: norms of filial piety, social values, selves. With admirable transparency, Philip Silverman and Shienpei Chang show five mother-daughters pairs struggling through these limitations and opportunities toward safe perches and acceptable identities in their complex, cosmopolitan world. (Hill Gates, Central Michigan University)

This book provides an intimate look into the lives of two generations of rural, working class Taiwanese women, revealing how Taiwanese women combine tradition and individual lifestyles under conditions of high modernity. It will be relevant to women’s studies, but also to readers interested in how individuals create and maintain life-worlds within the social constraints of their times. (Scott Simon, University of Ottawa)

That Taiwan experienced profound changes in the postwar period is not news, but the way Bridging Generations in Taiwan brings those transformations to life is new, and startling. The struggles of two generations of Taiwanese women recounted in this book offer a fresh perspective on the suffering and endurance on which the island’s economic, social, and political ‘miracles’ are built. (Shelley Rigger, Davidson College)

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