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Wen-hsin Yeh – Vast Ocean, Small People: The Aborigines of Taiwan
May 7, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Speaker: Wen-hsin Yeh, University of California at Berkeley
For centuries under the Ming and the Qing, indigenous communities of Taiwan (i.e. the Austronesian-speaking tribal groups in the mountains and on the Pacific side of the island) led distinct styles of life in a state of relative insularity. That insularity ended in the 19th century when Western and Japanese naval vessels appeared on the Pacific. In response, the Qing cut roads into the mountains and sent troops down the coast. These events marked a new beginning for the aborigines who, labeled as headhunters and savages, came under successive regimes of colonial rule. Things changed again towards the end of the 20th century. China adopted a “National Ocean Strategy” by which the People’s Navy would routinely project its presence on the Pacific. And Taiwan, out of a determination to deliver transitional justice, issued in 2016 a presidential apology to the tribes as long-suffering victims of historical injustice.
This presentation on Taiwan’s indigenous people takes the Pacific as a point of reference to build a historical narrative. In doing so, the talk seeks to position Taiwan in a changing world of connecting oceans.