Diplomats, Activists, and the Hauntology of American Empire in Martial Law Taiwan

In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies
Derek Sheridan Assistant Research Fellow, Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan,

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Despite open US support for the Kuomintang (kmt) during the martial law period, opposition and pro-independence politics to this day have been haunted by the spectre of the American empire. Imaginings of US power and intentions, however, have often exceeded the actual institutional traces of US presence, both extending and subverting US power. In this article, I explore how imperial conditions during martial law were imagined through the relationships Taiwan dissidents had with two kinds of US expatriates: foreign service officers and civilian anti-kmt activists. While the former were formally bound to the principle of ‘non-interference’ despite local appeals, the latter justified ‘intervention’ as resistance against existing US support of the kmt. Based on a close reading of memoirs and historical surveys by former diplomats and activists, I examine how the micro-politics of the Cold War US presence contributed to spectres of American empire beyond the intentions of its putative planners.

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