Reading history and political illustration in Taiwan popular culture

Ann Heylen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This study is considered an exercise in new cultural history, one in which the representational nature of written history is offered through the prism of several literary genres and narratives that carry ideological implications. The article argues that cultures develop a collective imagination, explicable as narrative forms. This will be illustrated by zooming in on three specific culturally defined visual representations: manga drawing, picture book and textbook illustrations. The first example introduces a manga used for educational and didactic purposes that singles out the representation of one aspect of intellectual history from the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945). The second example draws on contemporary situations and depicts a socio-political satire through the icon of textbook visuals. The third visual is taken as a representative example of Taiwan local manga that taps into the craftily cultivated tradition of socio-political satire. As suggested by Roland Barthes' rhetoric of image, each case study pays special attention to the orthography in the linguistic and symbolic messages that accompany the comic art. Itamar Even-Zohar's interpretation of culture planning allows us to link these three case studies under a common denominator: a strong generational undercurrent in their production, which is embedded in the material structure of the publishing world and in the socio-political institutions of the authors. Against the background of this generational demarcation perception in popular culture, this article seeks to evaluate some of the observations that have brought about the inclusion of Taiwan manga in scholarly research activities associated with East Asian comic art.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-435
Number of pages25
JournalArchiv Orientalni
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Culture theory
  • Ideology
  • Manga
  • Satire
  • Taiwan history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


Dive into the research topics of 'Reading history and political illustration in Taiwan popular culture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this