Spent most of yesterday working with Hsiu Chin on her PhD. Her thesis is that Taiwanese national identity has been kept alive through the sentimental TV dramas imported from Japan and Korea.
In other words the education reforms pursued by both political parties the KMT - who believe that Taiwan is a bastion representing the true 'anti-communist' China and the DPP who believe in Taiwanese Independence lead to an imposed understanding of Taiwanese-ness, challenged only by the domestic moralities represented through infiltrating TV dramas.
It's a complex and layered argument and I have to admit to fearing the worst whenever national identity is taken as a serious concern. The troubles in the Balkans can be directly linked back to a body of Serbian academics and intellectuals who in the late eighties used literature, song, cultural artifact and poetry to argue the case for a Greater Serbian identity, distinct from the construct of Tito's Yugoslavia - sure the politicians manipulated this scholarship -but academic freedoms took a highly politicised form. It led to genocide.
Reading the work made me realise the links between Taiwan and Serbia - particularly the desire to assert a distinct sense of self after years of apparent occupation and the emmotive pride of maintaining a true flame alive.
Interestingly, as satellites to a larger republic, neither Serbia nor Taiwan seriously argued that they'd been territorially invaded. However, both countries have kept alive a certain consciousness that something of value has been safely protected, within the national border and imagination, in preparation for a future rebirth.
For nations like these the role of stories, poems and dramas take on a huge significance leading to resistance and conflict.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.