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Session B8
Consuming Democracy: Geopolitics and Tourism Landscapes in Taiwan
Hardina Ohlendorf
Social Science Division, Mahidol University International College, Thailand


As a marginalized state, Taiwan has little access to formal channels of international diplomacy and to membership in international organizations. In its foreign policy, Taiwan relies strongly on informal diplomacy and the mobilization of soft power resources. International tourism has been one of the areas where Taiwan has projected its soft power. Tourism involves constructing an identity for the outside world to see and tourism as "placemaking" requires the deliberate selection of imagery and rhetoric that will represent and synopsize the history, culture and environment of a location. This paper looks at the themes of democracy and human rights in Taiwan's tourism landscape to argue that Taiwan's experience of political transformation is becoming a vital component of Taiwan's tourism identity under the current government. Emphasizing Taiwan’s democratic achievements helps Taiwan to build a collective memory of its democratic citizenry, to distinguish itself from the People’s Republic of China and to garner support among Western liberal democracies. The case studies of the paper include the 2-28 museums in Taiwan, the political prison museums and human rights parks in Xindian and Green Island, the “Young Backpacker’s Guide to Democracy in Taiwan’ publication and the annual Human Rights Arts Festival on Green Island.