Taiwan’s Indigenous Activism in Transition - From ‘Counter-Hegemonic Presbyterian Aboriginality’ to the ‘Bureaucratization of Indigeneity’. Lecture Series “Taiwan's Civil Movements: History, Culture and Legacy” / Lecture at Vienna University

Rudolph, M. (Foredragsholder)

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In most parts of the world, on-going globalization and the destruction of natural environments constantly reduce indigenous peoples’ chances for independent development and cultural survival. The political paradigm shift in Taiwan during the 1990s brought new hope for the island’s Austronesian aborigines. In the course of the process of demarcation and emancipation of Taiwan’s Han from mainland influences, these ethnic minorities became a crucial factor in the construction of Taiwanese identity and hence received specific protection and measures of support.
This development also affected Taiwan’s aboriginal movement, which had started in the early 1980s as a panethnic social movement with a strong Christian orientation (Rudolph 2003). After the aborigines’ recognition by Taiwan’s government in 1994, and in 1996 the establishment of special institutions for indigenous peoples on the ministerial level, the panethnic movement began to subside. A number of disconnected sub-movements of separate ethnic groups now evolved, movements that strived for social matters, ethnic reclassification of their own ethnic groups, and autonomy. Street protests diminished considerably. After the nation state had bolstered indigeneity with a multitude of regulations, laws, and new institutions, a larger part of Taiwan’s modern and well-educated aboriginal elite gradually turned to legal engineering as a strategy to contest unsatisfying state policies and market intrusion (Lin Kai-Shyh 2007).
This research investigates the question of which new opportunities the full recognition of their indigeneity actually brought for Taiwan’s indigenous peoples. Many of the key issues aborigines fight for today, such as autonomous zones, ethnic reclassification or intellectual property rights, seem to satisfy only the interests and zeal of intellectual aborigines, as they are too detached from the real life exigencies faced by common people. Partly connected to this problem in recent years is an increasing ‘bureaucratization of indigeneity.’ As S. Simon (2012) points out, the leaders or ‘big men’ of the past were replaced by paid bureaucrats who today manage and administer ‘indigeneity’ from their well-established positions. However, the original goal of leading aboriginal society closer to conditions which would eventually facilitate their cultural survival seems as far away as ever.

Keywords: Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, aboriginal movement, identity politics.
Periode21. jan. 2015
BegivenhedstitelTaiwan’s Indigenous Activism in Transition: From ‘Counter-Hegemonic Presbyterian Aboriginality’ to the ‘Bureaucratization of Indigeneity’. Lecture Series “Taiwan's Civil Movements: History, Culture and Legacy”, Vienna 21.1.2015
PlaceringVienna, Østrig