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Lunch Talks

Performing Assumptions?: Tuvalu’s Performative Cultural Diplomacy in Taiwan

  • Date:2018-02-21
  • Register Deadline:2018-02-01 00:00 ~ 2018-02-11 00:00

Ms. Jess Marinaccio, PhD Candidate, Pacific Studies, Victoria University of Wellington

Time

12:00 ~ 13:30 PM

Venue

R2319, The New Wing, Institute of Ethnology

Abstract

Although from an academic, government, and, even, media perspective, the relationship between Tuvalu and Taiwan, if not completely ignored, is often posited merely as a straightforward example of diplomacy motivated by Taiwan’s competition with China and/or Tuvalu’s attempts to derive benefits from Taiwan, focusing on performative cultural diplomacy reveals that people from Tuvalu and Taiwan travel to, live, and perform in their diplomatic partner every year. Thus, the relationship is by no means straightforward and has currently expanded and evolved to encompass multiple cultural interactions. In this presentation, I discuss how Tuvalu’s performative cultural diplomacy is conducted in Taiwan and what it can tell us about Tuvalu-Taiwan relationships by analyzing performances and interviews relevant to two of Tuvalu’s performative cultural diplomacy projects in Taiwan: performances by The Association of Tuvalu Students in Taiwan (TATST) at the 2013 to 2017 APCD and performances by the Tuvalu Youth Troupe (TYT) during the 2014 Nan Ying International Folklore Festival. In examining both case studies, I discuss official expectations for these projects from both the Tuvalu and Taiwan sides, focusing on how, while touting the similar overall goal of promoting understanding through cultural representation, the Tuvalu and Taiwan governments often implement radically different standards and protocols in achieving this goal. I specifically examine how concepts of “professionalism” inform much of the Taiwan government stance toward participation in cultural events while the Tuvalu government places a premium on demographically representative performing groups and performances. I also place this discussion within the broader context of views on Pacific performance in Taiwan, considering why groups from Tahiti and New Zealand are often considered more favorably than those from Taiwan’s Pacific allies. I focus the remaining portion of the presentation on content from interviews with TATST and TYT performers and planners. Within the broader context of official ideas regarding these projects, I describe how performers and planners develop performances for these events and the connections they see between these performances and Taiwan audiences. I specifically consider the fact that although TATST and TYT members see the Tuvaluan dance fatele as equivalent to Tuvaluan culture, this dance has only been publicly performed in Taiwan once. I conclude by considering what this tells us about Tuvaluan conceptions of cultural representation abroad.

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