Marilyn Zurmuehlen Working Papers in Art Education A Post-Colonial Critique of the Representation of Taiwanese Culture in Children' s Picturebooks A POST-COLONIAL CRITIQUE OF THE REPRESENTATION OF TAIWANESE CULTURE IN CHILDREN'S PICTUEBOOKS

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Marilyn Zurmuehlen Working Papers in Art Education A Post-Colonial Critique of the Representation of Taiwanese Culture in Children' s Picturebooks A POST-COLONIAL CRITIQUE OF THE REPRESENTATION OF TAIWANESE CULTURE IN CHILDREN'S PICTUEBOOKS
   Marilyn Zurmuehlen Working Papers in Art Education ISSN: 2326-7070 (Print)ISSN: 2326-7062 (Online) Volume 2005|Issue 1 (2005)pps. 1-12  A Post-Colonial Critique of the Representation of Taiwanese Culture in Children's Picturebooks Chien-hua Kuo Copyright © 2005 Working Papers in Art Education. Hosted by Iowa Research Online is Article is brought to you for free and open access by Iowa Research Online. It has been accepted for inclusion in Marilyn Zurmuehlen WorkingPapers in Art Education by an authorized administrator of Iowa Research Online. For more information, please Recommended Citation Kuo, Chien-hua (2005) "A Post-Colonial Critique of the Representation of Taiwanese Culture in Children's Picturebooks,"  MarilynZurmuehlen Working Papers in Art Education : Vol. 2005: Iss. 1, Article 2. Available at: hp://    A POST-COLONIAL CRITIQUE OF THE REPRESENTATION OF   TAIWANESE CULTURE IN CHILDREN’S PICTUEBOOKS   Chien-hua Kuo   Background to the Study   According to W. J. T. Mitchell (1994), there is a pictorial turn in today’s society and visual images dominate people’s daily lives; these irresistible images usually raise issues regarding visual representations. Today, most learning experiences and information that children acquire heavily depend on visual representation in different formats, such as printing and digital imaging. Traditional stories, including folktales, myths, fables, fairly tales, everyday experiences and the like, which pass down certain folkways, ethnic traditions, heritages, and cultural values from one generation to the next, relied on traditional oral storytelling in the past. However, they have been gradually transformed to various visual formats. Such transformations include products that are  popular in the international book market, such as children’s picturebooks, novels, CD Roms, E-books, and so forth. Although the forms of storytelling may change, they maintain the same function to some degree in contemporary societies and still convey meanings in their own  particular ways. Both traditional and contemporary stories are being produced in these formats. These visual representations contribute to the process of identity formation and to the construction of social reality for the viewer. In other words, they shape children’s  perception of who they are and how they see the world. As a result, more and more studies have been conducted to examine the issues regarding visual representation. There are three studies that critically examine the visual representation of different cultures and ethnicities in children’s picturebooks. Bradford (2003) adopts a  postcolonial viewpoint to critically analyze the problem of the absrcinal visual representation shown in Australian picturebooks. She asserts that “books for children are inescapably ideological, Australian picturebooks offer the child reader versions of the  postcolonial experience…oppositional ones…[and] privileging the imperial centre” (2003, p.110). Cross (1995) adopts multiple voices to critically analyze how the cultural icon of Christopher Columbus was presented in different picturebooks. Her study raises the issue of whose view was presented in any given picturebook and what is missing. Miranda (1994) conducted a cross-cultural comparative study of how India and its culture were presented in picturebooks published in the United States and India. In her study, she discusses the issues regarding stereotypes and authenticity through critically examining character, theme, and point of view in the picurebook. The studies mentioned above indicate that children’s books, as a production within a consumption driven world, convey implicit or explicit ideologies (Stephens, 1992). In other words, “[p]icture books can, of course, exist for fun, but they can never be said to exist without either a socializing or educational intention, or else without a 1   Kuo: A Post-Colonial Critique of the Representation of Taiwanese Cultu    specific orientation towards the reality constructed by the society that produces them” (ibid, p. 158). Thus, it is important to critically examine what is present or not present in children’s picturebooks. Children’s picturebooks have rapidly grown in Taiwan’s book market in recent years and they have been broadly adopted in school curriculums, book clubs, library activities and the like (Bradbury and Liu, 2003). However, most picturebooks published in Taiwan are translated from other languages, while only a small portion of them are made by Taiwanese writers and illustrators. In order to distinguish the characteristics of these Taiwanese picturebooks, publishers usually select several books to put in one set and create a special title for this set of books which emphasize Taiwanese culture. This strategy is an attempt to make Taiwanese picturebooks visible to consumers and fulfill a societal demand for learning about traditional Taiwanese folk lives and values. 1  As a result, these types of picturebooks present some possibilities for interpreting Taiwanese culture. Statement of the Problem Accompanying new curriculum standards for grades 1 through 12 established during 1998 in Taiwan, a new holistic educational philosophy involving curricula and teaching and learning was also emphasized (Lo, 1999). Because of this, the ideas of curriculum integration and multiple learning abilities have replaced the notions of single discipline-based education and traditional paper and pencil tests. Awareness of the humanities, democracy, Taiwanese culture, and global world are taught to cultivate citizens in contemporary society (Lo, 1999). In addition, reading has been strongly encouraged in schools and communities since the Ministry of Education promoted a national movement of reading in 2000. As a result, children’s books are welcome in schools, especially those created by Taiwanese writers and illustrators and telling stories about life experience in Taiwan from early times to the present. In order to incorporate children’s books into the curriculum, school teachers usually rely on getting information regarding recommended book lists from libraries,  publishers, teacher conferences, and other sources. In nurturing students’ interests in reading, parent volunteers also become involved in school activities, such as storytelling, reading, bookmaking, playing, and the like. Many parents are in favor of the stories reflecting the memory of their childhood, such as traditional Taiwanese folktales. In order to fulfill the demand of children’s picturebooks regarding Taiwanese culture, publishers create new book titles based on it. According to the book lists 1 They oftentimes refer to the Chinese culture brought to Taiwan by the Han people from Mainland China who had immigrated to Taiwan during the Ming and Qing Dynasties; and, in order to adapt the new environment, these immigrants have gradually evolved their particular ways of lives and values which are different from that of their home land. Therefore, the use of the traditional folk lives and values here, in  particular, focuses on the Taiwanese culture without any influence by the Japanese colonial culture, the Kuomintang’s promotion of so-called orthodox Chinese culture, and the current American and Japanese  popular cultures. 2   Marilyn Zurmuehlen Working Papers in Art Education, Vol. 2005 [2005], Iss. 1, Art. 2     provided by publishers in the past four years, there were three sets of picturebooks named Taiwanese picturebooks 2  published by two of the main children’s book publishers. In order to emphasize the characteristics of these picturebooks, the publishers create catalogs with a nostalgic atmosphere (the examples can be seen on the publishers’ web  pages). 3  These picturebooks are marketed in a way to present a sense of Taiwanese culture mainly based on an agricultural society. These images and stories are articulated through Taiwanese traditional folktales and folk lives in Taiwan. Therefore, these  picturebooks provide and reinforce readers with an idea of what Taiwanese culture should be about. This led me to wonder about the questions of what and whose ideas is Taiwanese culture based on. If these picturebooks do convey Taiwanese culture, then how is the culture represented through the picturebooks published in Taiwan? Research Question The research question is “how do Taiwanese writers and illustrators present Taiwanese culture in the three sets of children’s picturebooks labeled Taiwanese  picturebooks during 2001~2004?” To be more specific, I would like to identify what kinds of stories are retold and what kinds of cultural symbols are frequently represented in the picturebooks. I want to critically analyze the representation of meaning within a  basis of intertextuality and a current social context. In order to investigate this question in more depth, the following five specific questions must be discussed. 1. What are the objectives of the three sets of picturebooks and their marketing strategies? What meanings/ideologies are associated with them? 2. What kind of text-picture relationship between verbal and visual narrative patterns is shown in these picturebooks? How do these two narrative patterns complement each other? 3. What verbal and visual narrative patterns are in the picturebooks? 4. How do the elements used in the visual narrative patterns provide cultural clues? 5. How do these narrative patterns and cultural clues together suggest an interpretation of Taiwanese culture? Whose viewpoint is presented? What meanings/ideologies are associated with it? 2 They include  Firefly Picturebook Selection (including six titles of Taiwanese folktales and published in 1989 and reissued in 2001), Taiwanese Children’s Picturebook Selection (including ten titles and published in 2002), and Taiwanese Teenagers (including six titles and published in 2003). The term “firefly” used for the title of the Taiwan traditional folktales is a metaphor, representing agricultural Taiwan because fireflies are oftentimes seen in natural environment without pollution. When Taiwan was an agricultural society, fireflies were a popular type of insect. However, they are less frequently seen in industrial Taiwan today. 3 The promotion of  Firefly Picturebook selection is shown at The promotion of Taiwanese Teenagers is shown at The promotion of Taiwanese Children’s Picturebook Selection is shown at  3   Kuo: A Post-Colonial Critique of the Representation of Taiwanese Cultu    Definitions of the Terms In order to clarify the important concepts of this study, the terms used for culture, representation of meaning, ideology, and the picturebook should be defended. Culture The term culture is a complex and complicated concept. According to Stuart Hall (1997a), culture contains at least three different aspects. First, “in more traditional definitions of the term, culture is said to embody the ‘best that has been thought and said’ in a society” (ibid, p. 2). Based on this definition, culture refers to so-called “high culture” including the classic works of literature, painting, sculpture, music, and the like. In contrast, this definition is extended to what is so-called popular culture, which includes  popular forms of literature, music, art, design, and things created or practiced by the majority of ordinary people on a day-to-day basis. Second, from the anthropological perspective, culture refers to “the way of life of a people” (ibid, p.2), which means culture as general patterns that can distinguish among groups of people based on their characteristics. It can be divided into two categories: nonmaterial culture (such as beliefs, values, behavior) and material culture (such as material objects, products) (Macionis, 1994). Third, from the perspective of cultural studies and the sociology of culture, “culture is concerned with the production and the exchange of meanings—the ‘giving and taking of meaning’—between the members of a society or group” (Hall, 1997a, p.2). Moreover, language which includes linguistic language, visual images, sound and the like is “central to meaning and culture and has always been regarded as the key repository of cultural values and meanings…” (ibid, p. 1). Based on this view, meaning is what a group of people ascribe to the cultural production through their use of language. In other words, meaning is negotiable. This study considers all three aspects of culture. Particularly, the first definition reminds me of being aware of possible ideology of power relationships between high and low cultures. The second definition provides my study with a guideline to look at  behavior and value systems of a culture through picturebooks. The third definition inspires me to see the picturebook serving as a medium that brings a group of people together, such as writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, and readers, to share their ideas. For this reason, I tend to perceive the picturebook as a cultural production within Taiwan’s cultural context. And, I situate this context within a current cultural discourse regarding the issues of globalization versus localization. Representation of Meaning According to Hall (1997b), “there are broadly speaking three approaches to explaining how representation of meaning through language works” (p. 24). They include 4   Marilyn Zurmuehlen Working Papers in Art Education, Vol. 2005 [2005], Iss. 1, Art. 2
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