Taiwanese Indigenous Community – Change and Challenge in the 21st Century

Excited to be part of this exciting event next week at the University of Alberta.

Taiwanese Indigenous Community- Change and Challenge in the 21st Century

An interdisciplinary panel discussing the history, literature, and contemporary religion of indigenous people in Taiwan.

Tue, May 7, 2024  10:00-14:00 (MST)

Assiniboia Hall 3-30 or online here.

Refreshments will be served in person.


Event Schedule

10:30-11:45 (MST) - Presentations

Distortion or Reorientation: The Entanglement Between Christianity and Taiwan’s Indigenous Cultural Revitalization, Ayah Demaladas (McGill University)   

Toward Decolonial Oceanic Literature: The Pursuit of Tao Dignity in Syaman Rapongan’s Works, Pei-Yin Lin (Hong Kong University)  

Indigeneity, Violence and War: the Indigenous Taiwanese during the Asia-Pacific War, Kirsten L. Ziomek (Adelphi University)

11:45-13:00 (MST) - Break for refreshment [in-person]

13:00-14:00 (MST) - Roundtable

Abstracts & Speakers

Distortion or Reorientation: The Entanglement between Christianity and Taiwan’s Indigenous Cultural Revitalization Ayah Demaladas (McGill University)

Abstract: The Pangcah, the largest Indigenous tribe in Taiwan, is predominantly Christian. Historically, they had a matriarchal culture that included matrilineal family structures, female deities, and women’s involvement in spiritual rituals. An old Pangcah saying, “O Cidal ko Ina” (the sun is our mother), describes the sacred nature of women in the tribe. The loss of Pangcah women’s traditional social and cultural authority, including ceremonial participation, is widely believed to be connected to Japanese colonization and sinicization. Less studied is the role of missionary Christianity. This presentation explores the various discourses and assumptions regarding the traditional roles of Pangcah women in ethnic, gender, and religious studies. Along with exploring the history of Pangcah Christian missions, I analyze the interpretations of Pangcah matriarchy in academic, Christian, and traditional Pangcah contexts. I argue that the role of Pangcah women in families and communities has been distorted, with some viewing them as privileged or possessing mysterious powers. To address this misrepresentation, I draw on the experiences and stories of Pangcah women involved in the church to better understand their perspectives. Revisiting these misconceptions can pave the way for Pangcah women to re-assert their traditional authority. 

Ayah Demaladas, also known as Chung-Chih Hong, is a scholar of Indigenous religion from the Kasavakan community of the Pinuyumayang tribe in Taiwan. She is a PhD candidate at the School of Religious Studies, McGill University, focusing on Gender and Women’s Studies. Ayah’s research interests revolve around exploring the relationships between Christianity, Indigenous traditional practices, and the life and spirituality of Indigenous women. Growing up in a colonial context where Indigenous people were forced to assimilate, Ayah is dedicated to reconstructing the distorted Indigenous cosmology and restoring the sacred nature of Indigenous women. To achieve this, she revisits current Indigenous discourses, explores the methodologies of Indigenous studies, and draws upon the lived experiences of Indigenous Taiwanese.

Toward Decolonial Oceanic Literature: The Pursuit of Tao Dignity in Syaman Rapongan’s Works
Pei-Yin Lin (Hong Kong University)

Abstract: In postwar Taiwan, the ocean was initially associated with national defense during the Cold War under Kuomintang rule. However, following the lifting of martial law in 1987, the ocean gained significance in constructing a Taiwan-centric cultural identity distinct from the continent-focused rhetoric of the Kuomintang. While an oceanic perspective contributes to Taiwanese cultural nationalism, it is crucial to avoid forcibly assimilating the ocean-centric Tao tribe, an Indigenous Austronesian group from Orchid Island, into the Han people’s nationalist narrative. To address this, this talk focuses on Syaman Rapongan (b. 1957), a Tao writer, to explore the indigenous dimensions of contemporary oceanic writing in Taiwan. Analyzing Syaman Rapongan’s works, including Floating Dreams on the Sea (2014), Floating Dreams on the Sea (2018), and the latest, The Man without a Mailbox (2022), it highlights their distinctive features, such as the fluid emphasis on Tao’s native science, identification with other ethnic minorities or the marginalized, and the pursuit of Tao ethnic dignity while embracing a multi-centered epistemology. It argues that oceanic imagery not only shapes Tao ethnicity but also underpins the Han people’s reorientation of Taiwan toward the world. 

Professor Lin Pei-yin is currently Head of the School of Chinese at The University of Hong Kong (HKU), where she is also an associate professor in modern Chinese-language literature and culture. Prior to joining HKU in 2012, she has taught at the University of Cambridge, the National University of Singapore, and at SOAS (University of London). In 2020, she was named Chair of Taiwan Studies at Leiden, and in 2015/2016, she was a Harvard Yenching Visiting Scholar. She has authored two monographs, Colonial Taiwan: Negotiating Identities and Modernity through Literature (Brill, 2017) and Gender and Ethnicity in Taiwanese Literature: Japanese Colonial Era to Present Day (NTU Press, 2021). She has also co-edited five books, with Taiwanese Literature as World Literature (Bloomsbury, 2022) being the latest one.

Indigeneity, Violence and War: the Indigenous Taiwanese during the Asia-Pacific War Kirsten L. Ziomek (Adelphi University) 

Abstract: This talk will introduce a work in progress concerning the Asia-Pacific War and the colonial peoples of the Japanese empire as well as the Indigenous and local people on the islands were war came who were soldiers and forced laborers as well as coopted into supporting the imperial Japanese military in various ways throughout the Pacific theater. With a focus on the Indigenous Taiwanese’s experiences as soldiers and forced laborers, she will challenge previous frameworks that rely upon depicting them as “good and friendly natives” –as benign, harmless and subordinate to the Japanese and ancillary to the war effort. Rather than viewing the Indigenous Taiwanese as passive victims of war in some sort of abstract way, this talk will emphasize the extreme level of violence not only perpetuated against the Indigenous Taiwanese by the Japanese, but understand some Indigenous individuals as perpetrators of violence as well. It is only when we start to take the Indigenous Taiwanese seriously as actors in war and not as footnotes, that we can begin to sketch the contours of the Asia-Pacific War as a transimperial war, where clashing empires relying upon and utilizing its colonial populations from within and without their empires helped to fuel mass killing on a hitherto unknown and unprecedented scale.

 Kirsten Ziomek is an associate professor of history and director of Asian Studies at Adelphi University in New York. Her research focuses on the Japanese empire, colonial subjects, Indigenous people, visual culture and imagery, the Asia-Pacific War and comparative imperialisms.Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies and Critical Asian Studies and her first book, Lost Histories: Recovering the Lives of Japan’s Colonial Peoples was published in 2019 by Harvard University Asia Center. Her current book project reimagines the Asia-Pacific War by focusing on the experiences of colonial and Indigenous people throughout the Pacific theater- some who fought for the Japanese military- others who were coerced into providing forced labor, resources or sex. A fellowship from the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) and the Japan U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) is supporting her research leave during 2023-2024.

All are welcome.  Should there be any questions, please feel free to contact us at christianpak@ualberta.ca.

Remaking the world: Revenge and revolt in the wake of Japanese defeat

Caption: “Korean members of a group that revolted against Jap slavery are shown here aboard an American LCI

Excited to give a talk at USC on January 25th, 2024 based on some of the ongoing research I am conducting for my book  project on World War Two. This
talk aims to move beyond our reiterative framework of the immediate
period of Japan’s defeat in World War Two – shifting away from an
emphasis on the Japanese populace’s “embrace of defeat” – and instead
contemplating defeat as also encompassing frenetic flashpoints
throughout the collapsing empire and surrounding Pacific islands. Some
defeated Japanese soldiers were filled with disgust and anger at their
superior officers for their brutal treatment on the battlefield and
sought revenge on the repatriation ships back to Japan by either
throwing them overboard or beating them up on the ship. Common, too,
were lynchings in the prisoner of war camps where Okinawans, Koreans and
Japanese were separated from each other but still at times explosive
feuds erupted, with Okinawans or Koreans beating up the Japanese. It was
also a time of revolts; one in the heart of the Japanese archipelago in
Akita prefecture involving Chinese forced laborers, with another
occurring on Mili Atoll in the Marshall islands led by Korean and
Marshallese forced laborers. By focusing on revenge, revolt, and the
anger and rage throughout the Pacific region we can imagine defeat as
offering an opportunity to the disenfranchised to remake the world, to
overthrow the hierarchy, with their own sense of justice and
retribution, even if these worlds were fleeting and unsustainable. See details on location here

Using Format