A Lost Generation Moves Forward

By  |  May 7, 2020
All photos © Bess Adler All photos © Bess Adler

A photo essay supplement to Wei Tchou’s What Is Lost, a Points South essay in our spring issue


In Atlanta, an aging community of Taiwanese-American immigrants from a disappearing generation is devoted to fostering a diverse and politically active community, even as they watch their own cultural identity recede. 

These particular Taiwanese-Americans comprise the first generation of Kuomintang-aligned Chinese refugees to flee to the island of Taiwan following the democratic Kuomintang Party’s defeat at the hands of the Communist Party, in 1949.Their residency was originally a stop-gap, meant to last only until the military returned to war on the mainland. Instead, the ramshackle barracks, known as Juancun, became their permanent homes as well as the beginning of a new cultural identity. Many prominent Taiwanese figures emerged from these provisional spaces: the singer Teresa Teng, the directors Hou Hsiao-hsien and Ang Lee, to name a few. 

Yet as time wore on, a return to mainland China became increasingly unlikely as the Communist party gained full political control of the country. More recently, younger generations of Taiwan-born Chinese consider themselves to be Taiwanese, rather than Chinese. Further, they increasingly believe in an independent Taiwan. In the autumn of their lives, the Juancun community, many of whom have immigrated to other countries to seek greater opportunity, are watching the foundations of their cultural and political identity slip away. 

In spite of this palpable, omnipresent sense of loss, or perhaps precisely because of it, the Juancun community in Atlanta has devoted themselves to engaging the city’s larger Asian-American population, in an attempt to share what they feel remains of their cultural identity.

—Bess Adler, photographer

 


Read “What Is Lost” by Wei Tchou, with photos by Bess Adler here


Bess Adler is a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. She received a BFA for Photography and Imaging from New York University. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic Digital, among others.