Talk: The Great Exodus from China: Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Modern Taiwan with Meng-Hsuan Dominic Yang

The book examines one of the least understood migrations in modern East Asia—the human exodus from China to Taiwan when Chiang Kai-shek’s regime collapsed in 1949. Peeling back layers of Cold War ideological constructs, Dominic Yang tells a very different story from the conventional historiography of the Chinese civil war that has focused on debating the reasons for Communist success and Nationalist failure. Yang lays bare the traumatic aftermath of the Chinese Communist Revolution for the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who were forcibly displaced across the sea and for the local Taiwanese who were compelled to receive them. Underscoring the displaced population’s trauma of living in exile and their poignant “homecomings” four decades later, Yang presents a multiple-event trajectory of repeated traumatization with recurring search for home, belonging, and identity. By portraying the mainlanders (外省人) in Taiwan both as traumatized subjects of displacement and overbearing colonizers to the host populations, this thought-provoking study challenges the established notions of trauma, memory, diaspora, and reconciliation. It speaks to the importance of subject position, boundary-crossing empathic unsettlements, and ethical responsibility of historians in writing, researching, and representing trauma. 

Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang (楊孟軒) is Assistant Professor of East Asian History at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He completed his PhD in the Department of History, the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on the massive human exodus out of China in the mid-twentieth century during and following the Chinese Communist victory to places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and North America. Using this research, particularly his work on the mainlanders in Taiwan, Dominic attempts to reorient historiography of the Chinese civil war, from discussing the success and failure of two revolutionary parties to the protracted social history of mass displacement and human suffering in the war’s aftermath. On the theory front, Dominic proposes a “multiple-event” concept of trauma and memory production. The concept challenges the prevailing “single-event” notion of trauma that has originated from both the turn of the twentieth century Freudian psychoanalysis and Halbwachsian sociological memory studies. His first book "The Great Exodus from China: Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Modern Taiwan" is published by Cambridge University Press (2021). Dominic also publishes related articles in China PerspectivesJournal of Chinese OverseasJournal of Chinese HistoryHistorical Reflections,and Taiwan Historical Research (臺灣史研究). Dominic has been a recipient of multiple SSHRC awards (Canada) and Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation grants, as well as UT Austin IHS Fellowship and Taiwan Fellowship. He has recently been awarded University of Missouri, Provost’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Research and Creative Activity Award, the highest recognition for research at the assistant level in the University of Missouri.  

Talk organized by UT Department of History Professor Madeline Hsu.

This event will be held on Zoom and is open to the public. 

Dial-In Information


Friday, March 5, 2021 at 3:00pm

Virtual Event
Event Type

Academics, Arts & Humanities, World & Culture


All Departments

Target Audience

Students, Staff, Faculty




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