This thesis attempts to venture into a new field of cultural study on the terrain of sleep. The priority of this thesis is to investigate the changes of practice and perception of sleep in the context of modern Taiwan, and to discuss the significance of such changes.
With a careful reading of historical materials, modern theories, and media representation, I argue that modern Taiwanese’s practice and perception of sleep have been made different from their ancestors in many ways. On the one hand, social division of time into the realm of work and the realm of rest puts more restrictions on individual sleep pattern than before, by wrapping all kinds of sleep non-conformities (mainly, insomnia and drowsiness) as curable symptoms that should be treated with medical and capitalistic interventions. On the other hand, conceptual evolution of politeness and work ethic, which highlight the importance of behavior propriety and extol work as an honorable duty, also help reshape the way people perceive the issue of “snoozing at work,” while endowing the contrary feelings of embarrassment and shame on the subject who violates the sleep norms.
In addition to textual materials, I also did an empirical study by interviewing thirty people. From the result of empirical study, I find that the social regulating apparatuses on sleep do not have equal influence on each subject: the middle class is more concerned to present a responsible, honorable self-image as they felt more embarrassed while being asked whether they would doze off during working hours.
Such a tendency was not found, however, among the blue collar workers. On the other hand, chronic fatigue as a result of sleep deprivation is an invisible form of exploitation that has been constantly neglected, since the slow encroachment on the worker’s physical strength is unable to be measured by money.
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