China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
In cultural industries, producers utilize language varieties stylistically to construct conversations and animate characters in ways that evoke preconceived, well-recognized notions of class, gender, ethnicity, etc., that are associated with larger social constructs. This paper explore one such industry—the dubbing industry—in Taiwan and its intertwined relationship with the State in the Post-WWII years. Specifically, based on the ongoing two-year ethnographic research with three generations of dubbing professionals, I argue that this industry’s everyday mundane media practice—dubbing ‘peiyin’—is shaped by, and in turn shapes, the State’s language standardization project and its designated politics of representation. “Standard-ness” of Standard Mandarin Guoyu becomes the means to establish protagonists and denounce foes. Ethnographic accounts from these professionals indicate that, cross-generationally, they collectively demonstrate a strong ideological preference for Guoyu. That said, however, participant-observations on recording sessions and behind-the-scenes interactions show that, in practice, dubbing professionals are much less concerned with the standard-ness they insist. Rather, they stylistically use language based on commercial calculations and aesthetic creativities. In particular, while many of the oldest generation that began their career in the ’70s speak of an idealized, hyper-standard Guoyu, most dubbing professionals entertain innovative mixed use of Guoyu and other non-Standard varieties. By paying equal attention to interview accounts and observed practices, this paper not only unpacks the outspoken linguistic stereotypes but also reveals unspoken language ideologies. More importantly, I show the possibilities in making visible the cultural politics that is often (made) invisible behind the making of cultural products.