Security Dialogue, Ahead of Print.
The concept of war has always been taken for granted in the study of Taiwan vis-a-vis the People’s Republic of China. Under the dominant international narrative, Taiwan is often framed as a contested territory, where its land and sovereignty are up for competition. While recent escalating geopolitical tension has brought increasing international attention to Taiwan, international discourse on Taiwanese sovereignty has been largely limited to a traditional conception of war that views Taiwan as a geopolitical pawn in a ‘new Cold War’ between the United States and the People’s Republic of China or, under the banner of ‘geopolitical realism’, treats the rise of Taiwanese national identity as war-making. Both approaches minimize the significance of Taiwanese sovereignty and subjectivity in the struggle between superpowers. This article intervenes in both of these views by applying the framework of martial empiricism with an analysis of the subjectivity of war preparedness in Taiwanese civil society to demonstrate that war has become a normative and liberal mode of politics in Taiwan. From my ethnographic fieldwork on the grass-roots mobilization of civil defense in the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I illustrate how civil defense rearticulates war not as a distant, spectacular event but as a mundane scenario that can be prepared for through daily practices and communal planning in Taiwan.