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A quiet subversion: Taiwanese opera tradaptation of the Biblical story of Joseph

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This article examines the tradaptation of the story of Joseph in the Bible into Taiwanese opera staged by the opera troupe Taiwan Gua-a-hi Ban since 2011. Set against the backdrop of the oppression of Taiwanese Opera in Taiwan’s authoritarian era, this case study argues for the subversive implications of such tradaptation. First, it seeks to challenge the victim image borne by the subaltern culture of Taiwan in history. Second, the local adaptors’ effort interestingly manoeuvers the symbolic power from the west, Christianity, to counteract the domination of concrete colonial powers within the continent in Taiwan’s history, i.e. Japan and China, through performing this Taiwanese opera with an intent to ‘empower’ the local Taiwanese community that was historically repressed. Third, the staging of this tradapted work that integrates Christian and non-Christian elements also loosens the religious frames set by mainstream Christian community in Taiwan. This case study, therefore, responds to the existing scholarly discussion on tradaptation through a contemporary Asian example that represents a dynamic negotiation between the dominators and the dominated, the past and the present, the traditional and the modern, and the local and the foreign.
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Keywords: Christianity; Gua-a-hi Ban; Taiwan; Taiwanese opera; biblical story; indigenization; tradaptation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Nottingham

Publication date: June 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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