SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

Book Launch and Chapter Talk: Maps, Power, and Knowledge: Three Decades of Cartographic Blankness in Post-war Taiwan

Chang Bi-yu

Date: 15 November 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 15 November 2017Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 116

Type of Event: Book Launch

Book-Place, Identity, and National Imagination in Post-war Taiwan

Book Launch and Chapter Talk

To launch the publication of the paperback edition of her book Place, Identity and National Imagination in Post-war Taiwan (Routledge), Dr Bi-yu Chang will give a talk entitled "Maps, Power, and Knowledge: Three Decades of Cartographic Blankness in Post-war Taiwan". The talk will focus on Taiwan’s map history, exploring the relationship between knowledge and power and examining the early post-war cartographic governance in Taiwan.

Talk: Maps, Power, and Knowledge: Three Decades of Cartographic Blankness in Post-war Taiwan

Far from the innocent products of ‘disinterested science’ or the subject of decorative collections in museums and libraries, maps are now widely recognised as “inscriptions of political power”. Not only can maps frame and construct our world views, but also impact on the formation of our sense of identity, and serve the interests of the powerful. The ability to produce ‘scientific’ and accurate maps symbolises the strength of state power and the extent of modernisation. My examination of Taiwan’s post-war cartographic history is therefore not only concerned with ‘what happened’, but also investigates why it developed in this way and how change took place. In so doing, the talk reflects on how power operated during that period of time through cartographic governance.

It is generally accepted that the poor quality of post-war maps published in Taiwan in the early post-war period was due to strict map censorship and a stifling political atmosphere. Cartographic development in post-war Taiwan is usually considered to be negligent, and the weakness of postwar cartographic abilities is usually understood to represent a weak state and the incompetent governance of the KMT. In recent decades, a stark contrast has been identified between the maps produced during the Japanese period and those of the post-war era. Such a narrative has highlighted the differences between the ‘progressive’ modernisation of the Japanese and post-war regression under KMT rule. The narrative relating to the KMT’s inability to produce ‘scientific’ maps thus implies a weaker state and by extension, an unworthy ruler.

My talk examines the problem of the KMT’s ‘map-phobia’ and the subsequent regression in Taiwan’s cartographic production. It presents examples of the serious consequences befalling those accused of leaking cartographic ‘secrets’, explores the reasons for KMT’s anxiety and fear of cartographic knowledge, and finally, considers a newly formed narrative on cartographic blankness in post-war Taiwan.

CTS-IMG-2017-Chang Bi-yu


Dr Bi-yu Chang is the Deputy Director of the Centre of Taiwan Studies at SOAS. Her main research interest has always been identity politics, focusing on the relationship between culture, knowledge and power in post-war Taiwan. Her early research focused on the power relationship between identity formation and cultural governance; in recent years, her research interest has extended to include cultural geography, identity and travel, and knowledge reproduction (especially the representation of the indigenous peoples in Taiwan’s education).

Her recent publications in the last two years include a chapter “戰後初期(1945-1968)臺灣小學地理知識傳授中的家國想像” in 《交界與游移:跨文史的文化傳譯和知識生產》(co-edited by Lin Pei-yin and Mei Chia-ling) (2016 Taipei Maitien); a monograph Place, identity and national imagination in postwar Taiwan (2015 Routledge); a book chapter “Politics of Repositioning and State Spatiality: From ‘Xiangtu China’ to ‘Oceanic Taiwan’” will be published in Connecting Taiwan (ed. Carsten Storm) by Routledge (forthcoming, 2017); and a new article “The wild, the unproductive, and the archaic: The changing representation of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples in elementary Social Studies textbooks” (under review).

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies

Contact email: