Title page for ETD etd-05312010-160002

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Chang, Kuo-Hui
Author's Email Address changk@vt.edu, chang.truman@gmail.com
URN etd-05312010-160002
Title Technological Construction as Identity Formation: the High Speed Rail, Hybrid Culture and Engineering/Political Subjectivity in Taiwan
Degree PhD
Department Science and Technology Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Downey, Gary L. Committee Chair
Breslau, Daniel Committee Member
Halfon, Saul E. Committee Member
Wisnioski, Matthew Committee Member
Wu, Chyuan-yuan Committee Member
  • sociology of technology
  • technology policy
  • engineering culture
  • national identity
  • high speed rail
Date of Defense 2010-05-24
Availability unrestricted
This project examines the construction of the Taiwan high-speed rail (THSR; 台灣高鐵) technology as a vehicle of Taiwanese identity formation. The THSR project is a product of a hybridization of design from Japan and Europe. The Japanese and Europeans transferred their HSR technology to Taiwan, but Taiwanese policy actors and engineers localized and assimilated it to their politics, society and history. They reconstructed the meanings of HSR technology in an indigenized (Ben-Tu-Hua; 本土化) and democratic way. In addition to focusing on the THSR’s technological content and engineering practice, this dissertation explores how Taiwan identity formation has shaped technology and vice versa. The identity formation and technological construction in Taiwan tell one techno-political story.

Since the 1960s and 1970s, Taiwanese engineers were forced by international politics to cannibalize technological projects, but later they began to localize and hybridize different foreign engineering skills and knowledge. This growing engineering culture of hybridity generated impacts on the development of Taiwan’s identity politics. Some critical political leaders exploited their engineers’ capability to hybridize to introduce international power into Taiwan. This power then was used to either strengthen the Taiwanese population’s Chinese identity or to build their Taiwanese identity. Both politics and technology offered each other restrains and opportunities.

This project offers an approach from science and technology studies to understand postcolonial technopolitics. The engineering practice of hybridity in Taiwan has become a locally transformed knowledge to reframe and negotiate with the more advanced technologies from the West and Japan, even though it was a contingent outcome of earlier international politics. In addition to technological non-dependence, this engineering culture of hybridity has given the Taiwanese an independent political vision not only against China but the West and Japan. However, Taiwan paid significant prices to acquire technological non-dependence and international independence. In addition to extra wasted money and time, some over design was often seen in their public projects. Large technological projects also often draw political patronage. Moreover, techno-political survival alone might not be enough to represent postcolonial resistance.

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