Mapping Formosa: Settler Colonial Cartography in Taiwan Cinema in the 1950s

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Department of English, NTNU


This paper suggests a methodological intersection of cultural geography and settler colonial criticism to critique and reflect on the Han settler colonial structure in Taiwan by examining two representative but rarely studied propaganda films made at the inception of the Nationalist rule in the 1950s, Bai Ke’s Descendants of the Yellow Emperor (1955) and Chen Wen-chuan’s Beautiful Treasure Island (1953). More specifically, by investigating the discursive function of maps and mechanisms of mapping, it will be demonstrated how these two films construct a form of “settler colonial cartography” through the cinematic visualization of space and the use of multimedia, and how the Han settler colonial consciousness is formulated and expressed in cinema. To further differentiate the narrative and discourse of settler colonialism from classic colonialism, I compare these two films with another imperial policy documentary from the Japanese colonial period, Southward Expansion to Taiwan (1940). By doing so, this paper argues that the comparative analysis between the two modes of colonial domination can allow us to envision more effective ways of decolonization practices to “unsettle” the Han settler society. That is why settler colonial criticism matters, particularly for Taiwan at this point in its history.