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UCLA Asia Pacific Center Supports Studies of Taiwan's Indigenous Peoples

UCLA Asia Pacific Center Supports Studies of Taiwan

UCLA-NCCU visit to Sqoyaw, hosted by the Tayal community.

Partnership with National Cheng Chi University yields comparative scholarship and publications

A new book on Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples and cultures,  Indigenous Peoples, Heritage and Landscape in the Asia Pacific: Knowledge Co-Production and Empowerment (Routledge 2021), edited by Stephen Acabado and Da-wei Kuan, is the result of research and conferences supported by the UCLA Asia Pacific Center’s Taiwan Studies Program. A preview of the book is available here (PDF).

Acabado, associate professor of anthropology and incoming director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at UCLA, and Kuan, associate professor of ethnology at National Cheng Chi University (NCCU), together with Chih-hua Chiang, assistant professor of anthropology at National Taiwan University, launched the Taiwan Indigenous Landscape and History Project in 2019. Focusing on Tayal Indigenous communities, the researchers conducted an archaeological survey in the village of Sqoyaw, Heping District in Taiwan.

The collaborative research program aims to contribute to a better understanding of Taiwan’s Indigenous communities and their links to island cultures of the Asia Pacific region through archaeological and historical investigations of landscape utilization and agricultural models. Equally important, the project employs engaged research via collaboration with the community. Through an institutional partnership between UCLA and NCCU established in 2017, the leading scholars who spearheaded the Taiwan Indigenous Landscape and History Project and the 2019 archaeological survey envision an annual field school to train students from the U.S. and Taiwan how to conduct engaged research and archaeological surveys.

Contributions of collaborative research and training. Indigenous rights over traditional territories, especially the delineation of territorial boundaries and overlapping territorial claims, have become an important issue in Taiwan. The project is a model for collaborative research and training that will contribute to Taiwan scholarship through:

  1. a better understanding of human-environment relationships that form the agro-ecological complexes in highland ecosystems; 
  2. empirical data that facilitates further social dialogue over the issues surrounding Indigenous traditional territories; and 
  3. community collaborative research in which the Sqoyaw community is actively involved. 

The archaeological work linking Indigenous groups to the deep history beyond colonial ethnographic records not only advances theories of the human relationship to the environment, but also demonstrates value for policy recommendations. Ultimately, the project aims to contribute to the redress and reconciliation between the state and Indigenous peoples in Taiwan.

Stephen Acabado is a specialist in the landscape archaeology of the Philippines and co-founder of the Ifugao Archaeological Project, a landmark study of the Indigenous Ifugao rice terraces. The study pioneered community-engaged research in that area. Other contributors to the book participated in a ten-part webinar series hosted by UCLA in fall 2020 on Engaged Scholarship in the Asia Pacific that highlighted successful community engagement and Indigenous empowerment in the region. The volume and the webinar series serve as a kind of “how-to” guide for both scholars and community members, highlighting the fact that there is a need to invest time to find out their respective goals for collaboration. The series has engaged more than 10,000 attendees from the United States, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia.

Da-wei (Daya) Kuan was a TSL visiting professor at UCLA in winter quarter 2020. During his residency, he co-taught a new course with Prof. Acabado, “Modernization and the Development of Taiwan Indigenous Societies,” and presented a public lecture, “From Territorial Claim to Land-Use Plan: The Experience of Dialoging Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and State Management Regime in Taiwan.” 

Two other books edited by UCLA faculty focus on Taiwan’s indigenous societies: Indigenous Knowledge in Taiwan and Beyond(Springer 2021), edited by Shu-mei Shih and Lin-chin Tsai, is the first volume in the new series entitled Sinophone and Taiwan Studies. Acabado and Kuan also contributed comparative study of the agricultural transition of highland Indigenous communities in the Philippines and Taiwan to that volume which, together with other chapters, was developed from presentations at the 2018 UCLA-NTNU annual conference “Indigenous Knowledge, Taiwan: Comparative and Relational Perspectives,” organized by Shu-mei Shih, Edward W. Said Chair Professor of Comparative Literature, professor of Asian languages and cultures and Asian American studies, and director of the UCLA-NTNU Taiwan Studies Initiative at UCLA. Her co-editor, Lin-chin Tsai, received his Ph.D. from the UCLA Department of Asian Languages and Cultures in 2019, with a focus on Taiwan as a settler colony and its cultural productions.

Last year, Michael Berry, professor of Asian Languages and Cultures and director, Center for Chinese Studies at UCLA, published his edited volume, The Musha Incident: A Reader in Taiwanese History and Culture (霧社事件:台灣歷史和文化讀本) (Rye Field Publications 2020). The volume comes out of the 2017 TSL conference, “Musha 1930: History, Memory, Culture,” which examined a violent conflict between the Indigenous Seediq and the Japanese colonial powers in Taiwan. An English version of the book is forthcoming from Columbia University Press.

Download file:A48-Knowledge-co-production-preview-kl-wie.pdf

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Published: Thursday, May 20, 2021