When Urban Mass Transit is More than a Means of Transportation: Cultural Intimacy, Civility, and Identity on Taiwan's MRTs

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Talk by Anru Lee, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Thursday, December 11, 2014
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Bunche Hall 10383

This talk approaches the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit System (MRT) as a space of cultural intimacy wherein metropolitan Taipei residents (re)shape their collective identity against Taiwan’s recent political history as well as within the current global economic context. Temporally, the knowledge derived from the shared sentiment of cultural intimacy helped people in Taipei to construct a present self that is civilized and enlightened, separating from their politically repressive and unruly past. Spatially, as Taiwan is increasingly integrated into the global system and highly receptive to changes in the world economy, the Taipei residents’ new self-identity also takes on new significance. The timing of the completion of the Taipei MRT coincided with Taiwan’s recent economic restructuring on the one hand and the emergence of global cities as the main site of global economic competition on the other. Behaving in an orderly way as well as keeping a positive image of the Taipei MRT, therefore, resonates with metropolitan Taipei residents’ efforts and desire to keep their city economically competitive. Yet, the anxiety seeping through some of the self-deprecating comments I heard during the course of my research also indicates clearly the precarious nature of the current global capitalist system and the resulting challenges faced, and uncertainties felt, by the Taiwanese people including those in Taipei.

Anru Lee is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. She is the coeditor (with Catherine Farris and Murray A. Rubinstein) of Women in the New Taiwan: Gender Roles and Gender Consciousness in a Changing Society.

"Creative Commons MRT木柵線 by Hirotomo Oi is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Published: Thursday, January 15, 2015