SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

The Great Exodus from China: Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Modern Taiwan

Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang (楊孟軒)

Date: 26 November 2020Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 26 November 2020Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Book Launch

Attendees can access this session 15 minutes before the listed start time using Blackboard Collaborate.


The book examines one of the least understood migrations in modern East Asia—the human exodus from China to Taiwan when Chiang Kai-shek’s regime collapsed in 1949. Peeling back layers of Cold War ideological constructs, Dominic Yang tells a very different story from the conventional historiography of the Chinese civil war that has focused on debating the reasons for Communist success and Nationalist failure. Yang lays bare the traumatic aftermath of the Chinese Communist Revolution for the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who were forcibly displaced across the sea and for the local Taiwanese who were compelled to receive them. Underscoring the displaced population’s trauma of living in exile and their poignant “homecomings” four decades later, Yang presents a multiple-event trajectory of repeated traumatization with the recurring search for home, belonging, and identity. By portraying the mainlanders (外省人) in Taiwan both as traumatized subjects of displacement and overbearing colonizers to the host populations, this thought-provoking study challenges the established notions of trauma, memory, diaspora, and reconciliation. It speaks to the importance of subject position, boundary-crossing empathic unsettlements, and ethical responsibility of historians in writing, researching, and representing trauma.

"The Great Exodus from China: Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Modern Taiwan" can be purchased now from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Great Exodus from China Book Cover

Speaker Biography

Dominic Yang Profile

Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang (楊孟軒) is Assistant Professor of East Asian History in the Department of History at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His research focuses on the massive human exodus out of China in the mid-twentieth century during and following the Chinese Communist victory to places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and North America. Using this research, particularly his work on the mainlanders in Taiwan, Dominic proposes a “multiple-event” concept of trauma and memory production that challenges the prevailing “single-event” notion of trauma that has originated from both the turn of the twentieth century Freudian psychoanalysis and memory studies scholarship. His first book The Great Exodus from China: Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Modern Taiwan is published by Cambridge University Press in late 2020. Dominic has also published related articles in China Perspectives, Journal of Chinese Overseas, Historical Reflections, and 臺灣史研究 (Taiwan Historical Research).

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies

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