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Voices and Their Discursive Dis/Content in Taiwan Documentary

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Instead of attempting to provide a survey of Taiwan documentary, this article focuses on a few critical moments in its long and uneven history and proposes a potentially productive site for understanding its formal manifestations of representational politics. By honing in on the uses of sounds and words, I show that the principle of a unitary voice—voice understood both as the utterances of sound and the politico-cultural meaning of such utterances—organizes the earlier periods of the colonial and authoritarian rules and shapes later iterations of and formal reactions to them. Be it voice-over narration or captions and inter-titles, this article provides a historiographical lens through which the politics of representation in Taiwan documentary may be rethought. Furthermore, this article takes documentary not merely as a genre of non-fiction filmmaking. Rather, it insists on documentary as a mode, and indeed modes, of representation that do not belong exclusively to the non-fiction. Notions of “documentability” are considered together with the corollary tendency to “fictionalize” in cinema, fiction and non-fiction. Taiwan, with its complex histories in general and the specific context within which the polyglossiac practices of New Taiwan Documentary have blossomed in recent decades in particular, is a productive site to investigate the questions of “sound” in cinematic form and “voice” in representational politics.


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