A Peek Into Taiwanese Culture

Immigration laws, created to restrict Asian Americans, fueled the start of the Asian American movement which reached even college campuses across the United States. Asian American college students created ethnic organizations that not only supported antiracist movements but also cultural practices related to the respective ethnic/racial group. These practices allowed the individuals to experience a connection with their homeland while speaking out about the issues they faced living in America as Asian Americans.  As these organizations developed, cultural events were created as a means of representing grassroots culture and providing entertainment to colleges and communities.

In Theodore S. Gonsalvez’s “Repetitive Motion: the Mechanics of Reverse Exile”, Gonsalvez brought attention to a cultural event that was established by the Filipino American student organization at a University of California school in the 1980s. It quickly became a tradition and spread throughout schools on the West Coast and eventually the rest of the United States. The Philippine Cultural Night is an event that consists of both a traditional side of Filipino culture and a theatrical narrative where the protagonist encounters various stages to reach their “Filipino American identity” destination. Philippine Cultural Nights quickly became a way for students to present the integration of their Filipino and American cultures and how they personally identify as a Filipino American college student. As Gonsalvez stated, it provided an outlet for students to learn more about their native culture while exploring their own Filipino American identities through their experiences as Filipino American college students. The general audience of college students might approach this event in hopes of entertainment and pleasure, but most are able to walk away with the knowledge of Filipino culture and the role intersectionality plays in the lives of Asian American college students.

The Taiwanese American Student Association was created in the early 2000s at the University of Maryland College Park. Like the Philippine Cultural Night that was organized in order to represent culture and the fusion of identities, the TASA at UMD modeled their cultural event after the night markets Taiwan is famous for. The night market hosted by UMCP TASA this year was on April 17th and provided a variety of both Taiwanese and American culture through food, drinks, performances, arts and crafts, games, and activities. The food and drinks were provided by the families of UMCP TASA students along with different Taiwanese American restaurants such as Ten Ren’s and Asia Taste. The arts and crafts, games, and activities such as the fishing game were all popular activities at Taiwanese night markets. The performances, all evident of Taiwanese culture through their visual representation of costumes, included dance, Chinese yo-yo and wushu and were all performed by student groups on campus.

Participants of the TASA night market also come in hopes of spiritually returning to Taiwan just like the participants of Philippine Cultural Night were able to experience a spiritual return to the Philippines. As a result, authenticity is often questioned at cultural events like these because it is evident to the audience that some aspects such as the hip hop dance in the performance portion were not exactly representative of Taiwanese culture. In order to integrate Taiwanese and American cultures together, UMCP TASA had both modern performances such as hip hop and traditional aspects such as calligraphy in the arts and crafts section and wushu in the performance portion. The night market event itself was organized in a way that a night market in Taiwan would have been, with booths lined up next to each other, and also included signs in both Chinese and English. TASAs all over the country host these night market events in order to appeal to their fellow college students and educate them about the culture of Taiwan. As a TASA member at UMCP, I contribute my efforts in planning this night market event every year because I wish to proudly show my combined identity as a Taiwanese American college student to my college community.

Cultural events hosted by student organizations on college campuses not only raise awareness of their native cultures, but allow students to integrate their two cultures together to form a collective identity. Bringing these cultural events to college campuses can also allow Asian American students to defy the surrounding stereotypes of their ethnicity while proudly presenting their cultures to their peers. Cultural events that attract a variety of people can also draw students out to more events and bring attention to the issues Asian American students face today. By expanding their audience, Asian American college students can work together with other interested students to solve the issues Asian Americans face and change the Asian American identity represented in American society. Thus, these cultural events not only represent an integration of multiple identities and cultures, but can also expand the presence of Asian Americans and change the hegemonic views of Asian Americans in society.

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