chapter  3
Comparison for com-passion: exploring the structures of feeling in East Asia
Pages 21

This paper intends to put Taiwan in a comparative perspective by juxtaposing Taiwan’s nationalism to others in the neighboring region.2 It is often held that nationalism in Taiwan has been characterized by grief or “sadness” (beiqing). However, if we look around, we will soon find that grief is not only a characteristic of Taiwanese nationalism, but also is a common feature of many nationalisms in the surrounding area (e.g. China, Japan, and Korea). For instance, when analyzing the so-called “new nationalism” in China since the 1990s, Zheng Yongnian (2001) contends that, just as Taiwan has “Taiwanese grief” (Taiwan beiqing), so, too, does China have “Chinese grief” (Zhongguo beiqing). Similarly, Korean nationalism has been known for its hatred and resentment towards Japan and later towards the US (Shin 1996, 2006; Park 2005). What is more, scholars doing research on post-war Japan have also pointed out that national identity of contemporary Japanese has to a large extent centered around the so-called “victim’s consciousness,” in which sorrow and grief also play a big part (Orr 2001; Seraphim 2006). It appears to us that nationalisms in these countries all bear, explicitly or implicitly, negative feelings of some sort. How can we make sense of these negative feelings? What kind of role have they played in nationalism in each case, and how are they related to each other? What can be learned if we compare them to each other? To answer these questions, this paper is a preliminary attempt, with a modest scope, to explore what can be called the “structures of feeling” in East Asia. The term “structures of feeling” is borrowed from the British cultural critic

Raymond Williams, who appears to be the first scholar to bring up this concept. By “structures of feeling” he refers to “social experiences in solution, as distinct from other social semantic formations which have been precipitated and are more evidently and more immediately available” (Williams 1977: 133-134). The term “feeling” is chosen:

to emphasize a distinction from more formal concepts of “world-view” or “ideology.” … It is that we are concerned with meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt, and the relations between these and formal

systematic beliefs are in practice variable (including historically variable), over a range from formal assent with private dissent to the more nuanced interaction between selected and interpreted beliefs and acted and justified experiences.