Taiwan indigenous hunters try to uphold tradition

Source: NYT (4/13/21)
Taiwan Hunters Contend With Taboos, and Trials, to Uphold Tradition
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The island’s Indigenous hunting cultures are circumscribed by ancient rituals and modern legal restrictions. We join a hunt as Taiwan’s constitutional court considers a case on Indigenous rights.
By Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien

Bayan Tanapima, a Bunun hunter, firing his homemade hunting gun in the woods of eastern Taiwan last month. Credit…Ashley Pon for The New York Times

ZHUOXI, Taiwan — The smell of damp earth filled the air on a recent moonless evening as the hunter wove through the dense mountain thicket, clutching a homemade rifle and with only the narrow white beam of a headlamp to illuminate his prey.

But the hunter, Vilian Istasipal, was confident. He knew this terrain well.

A member of the Bunun, one of 16 officially recognized Indigenous groups in Taiwan, Mr. Vilian, 70, has been hunting on this land for more than 60 years.

Some of his earliest memories growing up in Zhuoxi, a town of around 6,000 people in eastern Taiwan, involved going on dayslong hunts with his father deep into the mountains where he learned skills considered essential to being a Bunun man, like how to lay a trap, shoot a flying squirrel and skin a boar.

“We kill them, but we also pay respect to their lives,” Mr. Vilian said in the courtyard of his home in Zhuoxi, also known as Takkei in the Bunun language. Continue reading

Queer Taiwan and Historical Difference

Event Announcement: At the Edge of the Sea: Queer Taiwan and Historical Difference

Join us for a conversation on new ways of thinking about Taiwan’s past and future. Exploring regional diversity and global connections, four panelists draw on a range of cultural repertoire to diagnose the stakes of queer narration and Taiwan’s historical difference in the world.

Forum speakers include Eno Chen (National Chengchi University), Fan-Ting Cheng (National Taiwan University), Ta-wei Chi (National Chengchi University), and Wen Liu (Academia Sinica).

Forum discussants include Amy Brainer (University of Michigan-Dearborn) and Ying-Chao Kao (Virginia Commonwealth University).

Event Organizer & Contact: Howard Chiang (hhchiang@ucdavis.edu)

Time: April 28, 2021 6pm in Pacific Time
Zoom Registration Link

Taiwanese-dialect Cinema of the 1960s film series

Starting this Friday, the Harvard Film Archive will be streaming the film series Cities of Love and Sadness: Rediscovering Taiwanese-dialect Cinema of the 1960s—a collaborative effort with students from Harvard’s East Asian Film & Media Working Group who have curated the series and also provided the text and video introductions for the four recently restored films. With a focus on the shifting roles of modern Taiwanese women, the “urban melodramas” will screen in two programs on the HFA Eventive page, joined by a third program of lectures and discussions which add vital context to these thrilling rediscoveries.

Program One will screen this Friday March 26 through Thursday April 1, and Program Two will be available Tuesday March 30 through Monday April 5. Program Three—featuring the lectures and discussions—will remain available throughout the series. Log on to Eventive and enjoy these shows free of charge!

Shao-Hung (Tim) Teng
PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Harvard University

The Landscape of Historical Memory

If I might indulge in a little shameless self-promotion…

The Landscape of Historical Memory: The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post–Martial Law Taiwan (歷史記憶的景觀:戒嚴後的台灣博物館和紀念文化的政治意義)
Kirk A. Denton
Hong Kong University Press (March 2021)
Hardback 978-988-8528-57-8

The Landscape of Historical Memory explores the place of museums and memorial culture in the contestation over historical memory in post–martial law Taiwan. The book is particularly oriented toward the role of politics—especially political parties—in the establishment, administration, architectural design, and historical narratives of museums. It is framed around the wrangling between the “blue camp” (the Nationalist Party, or KMT, and its supporters) and the “green camp” (Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, and its supporters) over what facets of the past should be remembered and how they should be displayed in museums. Organized into chapters focused on particular types of museums and memorial spaces (such as archaeology museums, history museums, martyrs’ shrines, war museums, memorial halls, literature museums, ethnology museums, and ecomuseums), the book presents a broad overview of the state of museums in Taiwan in the past three decades. The case of Taiwan museums tells us much about Cold War politics and its legacy in East Asia; the role of culture, history, and memory in shaping identities in the “postcolonial” landscape of Taiwan; the politics of historical memory in an emergent democracy, especially in counterpoint to the politics of museums in the People’s Republic of China, which continues to be an authoritarian single party state; and the place of museums in a neoliberal economic climate.

Kirk A. Denton is a professor of Chinese language and literature at The Ohio State University. He is the author of Exhibiting the Past: Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China (2014) and The Problematic of Self in Modern Chinese Literature: Hu Feng and Lu Ling (1998). He is also editor of the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture.

Taiwan Arts program administrator position

The University of Washington is looking for a Taiwan Arts Program Administrator to design and direct a new Taiwan Arts Program. As part of our new MOFA grant, the new Taiwan Arts Program under the Taiwan Studies Program will offer national events open to the public focused on Taiwan arts and culture. We define arts and culture broadly, including high culture, popular culture, folk culture, cultural history, indigenous culture and contemporary cultural movements in Taiwan.

The Taiwan Arts Program Administrator will have an opportunity to direct and grow an ambitious new initiative at the intersection of contemporary culture, higher education, and academic studies of Taiwan.  The Administrator will be in charge of finding and engaging culture partners, such as film directors, literary authors, and dance troupes to perform or speak for US audiences, and will have significant ability to shape the program.

As part of the role, the Program Administrator will also offer one academic course on Taiwan per year on an arts or humanities field.  This could include, for example, literature, poetry, cultural studies, art history, performance studies, film and media studies, cultural anthropology, etc.  The ideal candidate will have academic training, preferably a PhD in one of these fields.

The position will remain open until filled.  For more details and to apply, please see the job listing in UW Human Resources.

Hauntological Aesthetics in Grandma and Her Ghosts

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (2/21/21)
Hauntological Aesthetics in Taiwanese Animation Feature Grandma and Her Ghosts (1998)
By Li Guo

Fig 1: A still from Grandma and Her Ghosts, 1998

In her recently published monograph Puppets, Gods, and Brands: Theorizing the Age of Animation from Taiwan, Teri Silvio insightfully observes that for the author, the animation model could also be utilized to “illuminate cultural logics anywhere, and to see how specific local cultural traditions make sense of and contribute to global transformations.”[1]  Further, Silvio observes that “recent transformations of Taiwanese animation practices offer alternative (and not just reactive) concepts of animation in the broader sense, and thus, alternative ways of imagining and bringing into being the Age of Animation.”[2] Among the many understudied animation works that Silvio discusses, the classic Taiwanese animation feature Grandma and Her Ghosts (1998), directed by Wang Shau-di, is mentioned as a successful example representing “folk Daoist magic with an environmental theme.”[3] As Silvio observes, in this animation, “Daoist magic is framed, not within the wuxia genre, but within a nostalgic family drama about a boy from the city visiting his grandmother in the countryside.”[4] Building on Silvio’s ground-breaking work, this essay explores the hauntological imaginations in this seminal animation film. Animated cartoons, from an Eisensteinian point of view, could “return the reviewer to a pre-logical state, to the realm of sensuous thought.”[5] Eisenstein terms animation’s abilityto articulate “freedom from ossification” and take on nascent and dynamic forms of expression as “plasmaticity.”[6] The potential of animated cartoons to bespeak the transgressive and the metaphorical, furthermore, invites an engaged discussion of hauntological aesthetics in animation films representing ghosts, with a focus on Grandma and Her Ghosts.[7] Continue reading

The Membranes

First published in Taiwan in 1995, The Membranes by Chi Ta-wei, forthcoming in an English translation by Ari Larissa Heinrich on June 1, is a classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese. In this mindbending novella, Chi Ta-wei weaves dystopian tropes—heirloom animals, radiation-proof combat drones, sinister surveillance technologies—into a sensitive portrait of one young woman’s quest for self-understanding. Predicting everything from fitness tracking to social media saturation, this visionary and sublime novel stands out for its queer and trans themes.

It is the late twenty-first century, and Momo is the most celebrated dermal care technician in all of T City. Humanity has migrated to domes at the bottom of the sea to escape devastating climate change. The world is dominated by powerful media conglomerates and runs on exploited cyborg labor. Momo prefers to keep to herself, and anyway she’s too busy for other relationships: her clients include some of the city’s best-known media personalities. But after meeting her estranged mother, she begins to explore her true identity, a journey that leads to questioning the bounds of gender, memory, self, and reality.

The Membranes reveals the diversity and originality of contemporary speculative fiction in Chinese, exploring gender and sexuality, technological domination, and regimes of capital, all while applying an unflinching self-reflexivity to the reader’s own role. Ari Larissa Heinrich’s translation brings Chi’s hybrid punk sensibility to all readers interested in books that test the limits of where speculative fiction can go. Continue reading

KMT tries a revamp

Source: NYT (2/12/21)
With Pig Parades and Youth Camps, Taiwan’s Ailing Kuomintang Tries a Revamp
The Beijing-friendly party, which long held an iron grip on the island, is struggling to stay relevant at a time when many residents are wary of China’s ambitions.
By Amy Chang Chien and Amy Qin

A Kuomintang protest in Taipei, Taiwan, in November against the lifting of restrictions on American pork imports containing a controversial additive. Credit…Hsu Tsun-Hsu/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s main opposition party, once a widely feared political force, now parades through the streets in a pink pickup truck decked out with pig’s ears and a snout. It brings life-size pig models to rallies. On the floor of the island’s legislature, its members recently flung pig intestines at rival lawmakers.

The garishly porcine displays by the party, the Kuomintang, are meant to highlight one of its pet issues, the importation of American pork containing a controversial additive. But in the eyes of critics, the antics signal the identity crisis that the party, once Asia’s wealthiest, now faces.

Many see it as out of touch with modern Taiwanese life. Even worse, they see its traditional emphasis on smooth relations with mainland China as dangerously outdated, as the Communist Party under Xi Jinping takes a harder line against the island that Beijing claims as its own. Continue reading

Philospher King: Lee Teng-hui’s Dialogue

Source: Taipei Times (1/21/21)
Film Review: Philosopher King: Lee Teng-hui’s Dialogue
This bizarre ‘documentary’ featuring a fictitious Lee Teng-hui conversing with a suicidal Japanese schoolgirl presents a grossly biased, Japan-centric view of Taiwanese history that overshadows the former president’s inspiring message
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

Momoka plays a suicidal schoolgirl in the film Philosopher King: Lee Teng-hui’s Dialogue. Photo courtesy of atmovies.com

This reviewer almost walked out of the theater in disgust after Philosopher King: Lee Teng-hui’s Dialogue spent the first 40 minutes glorifying Japanese colonial rule. It’s beyond tacky to use an imaginary late president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to tell a cynical, suicidal Japanese schoolgirl to be proud of her country despite its historic atrocities due to its achievements in Taiwan, and calling them acts of honesty and compassion.

Yes, Japan made great improvements to Taiwan and the life of its people in its quest to create a model colony out of a disease-riddled, poorly managed land. But if that was purely the case, there wouldn’t be countless uprisings and a continuous anti-colonialism movement that persisted until the Japanese forcefully clamped down on dissidents during the last decade of its rule.

None of this is mentioned at all. The only inkling that there was any resistance is regarding the Aborigines, but only under the context that they later changed their hearts and formed the Takasago Volunteer force during World War II, with zero reference to the many bloody revolts and large-scale campaigns the government undertook to “pacify” them. Continue reading

Taiwan Lit 1.1 and 1.2

Taiwan Lit
January 23, 2021

Dear Friends,

We are happy to present the first two issues of Taiwan Lit (1.1 & 1.2). Established in the summer of 2020, Taiwan Lit aims to build a critical transnational forum, disseminate research ideas, and facilitate innovative modes for scholarly exchange on Taiwan literature and culture. The table-of-contents for both of the 2020 issues are attached below; together, they include six essays, four reviews, and two articles.

We want to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to our contributors.

One of this journal’s primary missions is to advocate a holistic view of Taiwan literary studies as a field constituted by scholars occupying different intellectual and aesthetic positions. These scholars’ methodological approaches and professional agendas are diverse and divergent, as found in any vibrant and thriving academic community. We are delighted that such productive plurality and dynamism are well captured in works that have appeared on our pages. Continue reading

Whither Taiwan’s universities

Source: Taipei Times (1/4/21)
Wither, Taiwan’s universities?
If the central government did not keep private universities liquid with subsidies, many of them would be forced to close
By Michael Turton / Contributing reporter

Music students from National Tsing Hua University in November experiment with a sound board. In Taiwan most students want to go to a public university, where tuition is a pittance and the education and facilities are generally better. Yet typically only well-off local families can afford the intensive education necessary to put a child into a good university. Photo courtesy of Tsing Hua University

This week brought more doleful news on the university front. Ministry of Education (MOE) statistics widely quoted in the media showed that a dozen universities had less than 60 percent enrollment (up from 6 the previous year), while 121 university programs, including 79 graduate programs, had zero students enrolled. The ministry announced that more than 40 schools, from high schools to universities, are on their critical list.

Because MOE subsidies are based on enrollment, schools with low student enrollment receive reduced subsidies from the government, forcing them to close sooner or later.

This outcome had long been predicted, the inevitable result of Taiwan’s low birthrates and surplus of universities. After educational reforms in the mid-1990s, the number of universities boomed. Vocational schools, technological universities and junior colleges upgraded to “universities.” Continue reading

Taiwan’s new passport

Source: NYT (1/11/21)
On Taiwan’s New Passport, the Incredible Shrinking ‘Republic of China’
Officials said the redesign was an attempt to disassociate Taiwanese citizens from those on the mainland, who faced travel restrictions amid the pandemic.
By Livia Albeck-Ripka

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu showing the new Taiwan passport design in Taipei on Monday. Credit…Ann Wang/Reuters

Taiwan on Monday released a new passport that puts a diplomatic spin on the concept of social distancing amid the pandemic.

The self-governing island’s official name, Republic of China, has been downsized, though it remains on the cover in Chinese characters. The words “Taiwan Passport” appear in large bold type. The government said early in the pandemic that it was all an attempt to lessen confusion surrounding its citizens traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, and to disassociate them from people coming from mainland China.

“Today is the day,” Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, said in an Instagram post on Monday evening. “The big TAIWAN on the cover will accompany the people of the country to travel around the world, and it will also make the international community more unable to ignore the existence of Taiwan,” she wrote. (She also boasted that in the past year, Taiwan had successfully slowed the spread of the virus while maintaining economic growth.) Continue reading

ACCL 2021–cfp

The Association of Chinese & Comparative Literature 2021 Biennial Meeting: Call for Papers
29-31 July, 2021
National Taiwan University

The Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature (ACCL) will hold its 2021 Biennial Conference in conjunction with National Taiwan University and the Taiwanese Society for the Study of Chinese Literature and Culture.

Conference Information

Dates: 29-31 July, 2021 (Thu-Sat)
Venue: College of Liberal Arts, National Taiwan University

Hosted by: Department of Chinese Literature, National Taiwan University; Taiwanese Society for the Study of Chinese Literature and Culture; Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature (ACCL)

Conference Theme: Literature and the Sea 「文學海洋島嶼」

Literature is often discussed in terms of nations, cities, and continents—we speak of “Chinese literature,” “Taiwan literature,” or “Asian literature. But, what happens when we leave behind this continental paradigm and instead adopt a maritime perspective on literature? Continue reading

Hou Family Fellowship in Taiwan Studies 2021-22

2021-22 Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies Hou Family Fellowship in Taiwan Studies

The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University is pleased to announce the 2021-22 competition for the Hou Family Fellowship in Taiwan Studies. The fellow is expected to be in residence at Harvard for at least one semester (five months), between August 1, 2021 and July 31, 2022. A longer period of residence up to the full year is encouraged.

Applications are welcome from recent Ph.D.s in a relevant discipline of the humanities or social sciences focusing on Taiwan. Please note that the Fairbank Center is only accepting applications from North America-based scholars; a separate search committee in Taiwan will review local applications.

A strong working knowledge of English and Chinese and/or Taiwanese is required.

Applicants with Ph.D.s may not be more than 5 years beyond its receipt at the start of the fellowship. Harvard University doctoral degree candidates and recipients are not eligible for this fellowship.

Total stipend for one year: $35,000, plus $3,000 for research support.

For program and application details, please see:


Application deadline: March 1, 2021

Musha Incident publications

Dear MCLC Colleagues,

October 27, 2020 is the 90th anniversary of the last major violent resistance to Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan, the Musha Incident (霧社事件). Since 1930, the story of the incident has been retold numerous times in popular histories, comic books, novels, songs, and films, including Wei Te-sheng’s epic film Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, which was released in 2011.

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce two new books about (the representation of) the incident.

First, Indigenous Cultural Translation: A Thick Description of Seediq Bale written by yours truly – Darryl Sterk – and published by Routledge. My book is about the process of cultural (and interlingual) translation that made it possible for Wei Te-sheng to film Seediq Bale in Seediq, a vulnerable indigenous language. Wei had his screenplay translated from Mandarin to Seediq in 2009, but given that the screenplay included Mandarin translations of Seediq songs and stories recorded during the Japanese era (1895-1930), the Mandarin-Seediq translation was partly a backtranslation. In some cases the backtranslation was filtered through Japanese and different dialects of Seediq. Not surprisingly, the songs and stories ended up very different in backtranslation.

Second, 《霧社事件:台灣歷史和文化讀本》 (The Musha Incident: A Reader in Taiwan History and Culture) edited by Michael Berry and published by Rye Field (麥田). In addition to an introduction by Professor Berry, who wrote an influential chapter on representations of the Musha Incident in postwar Taiwan in his A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese History and Film, there are two dozen essays and interviews. The contributors include scholars like Leo Ching, Ping-hui Liao, and Chiu Kuei-fen, writers like Wu He, filmmakers like Wan Jen and Wei Te-sheng, and translators like Dakis Pawan. Including Dakis, five of the contributors are themselves indigenous. The others are Takun Walis, Bakan Pawan, Nakao Eki Pacidal, and Liu Chun-hsiung (劉俊雄).

Lest we forget.


Darryl Sterk