Cross-Currents e-Journal (No. 33)
Global Island: Taiwan and the World
This article explores the life and images of Huang Bamei (1906–1982)—a female bandit, guerrilla leader, and women’s organization coordinator. During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), Huang was involved in smuggling and trade with pro-Japanese forces. The Nationalist authorities recruited her troops and hid her past by portraying her as a wartime heroine and model housewife. Yet, in later times she participated in guerrilla warfare and was portrayed as a pirate queen and a Han traitor, and her roles and images changed dramatically with the wars. Drawing on government archives, newspapers, memoirs, and films, this article examines how Huang developed survival strategies during turbulent times and how competing regimes used her images discursively to promote various social and political agendas and stimulate Chinese patriotism and war commemoration in different historical periods. Through a close reading of the life history of a woman made legendary by the state and the media, the article shows how Huang’s changing roles and competing representations were deeply embedded in the wartime politics of modern China and Taiwan. The author argues that Huang’s guerrilla practices, as well as her involvement in banditry, formed an integral part of not only her survival strategies but also a range of options for achieving legitimization.
Keywords: Huang Bamei, pirate queen, female bandit, heroine, Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War, Taiwan
In 1912, Eikichi Iso arrived to serve as a plant breeder in the Japanese colony of Taiwan. Iso and his researchers developed crossbred Horai rice that produced the round grains desired by Japanese consumers. This article explains how Horai rice made Taiwan into an economically viable possession of the Japanese Empire. Iso matched the terrain and conditions of Taiwan to the regions of the Japanese home islands closest in character, and the varieties from each region were selected for experimentation at field stations located in the matching Taiwanese region. The experiments yielded new varieties of rice that fostered trade relations between Taiwan and the home islands. This change brought about higher incomes but also increased costs for the farmers. The addition of a new cash crop unsettled Japanese attempts to manage the sugar industry, instigating greater state intervention in rice markets, even as war demand meant that Taiwanese rice became indispensable. The success of Horai gave Taiwan an identity as a rice colony, which its leaders sought to leverage as expertise to colonize newly conquered Hainan. The movement of people, ideas, and the genetic materials of rice plants created a “Japanized” Taiwan that in turn expanded beyond the shores of the island colony.
In 1959, the Republic of China (ROC) government on Taiwan enacted its first international agrarian development mission to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). The mission began modestly to assist primarily with crop improvement and farmers’ associations. But by the fall of the RVN in 1975, Taiwanese development constituted a global project of the authoritarian Guomindang (GMD) regime to redefine Taiwan’s place in the world. This article explores the sixteen-year span of missions to Vietnam, drawing on reports by Taiwanese agricultural team leaders, oral history interviews with Taiwanese technicians, Taiwanese and Vietnamese policy documents, and visual and propaganda materials published by the GMD and overseas Chinese. Agrarian development became a platform through which the ROC represented Taiwanese success at agricultural science and rural modernity. Taiwanese technicians showcased high-yielding crop varieties, large and luscious green vegetables, and rationalized agricultural implements. Simultaneously, Taiwanese teams also emphasized their rural roots, through an expertise in forming farmers’ associations that appealed to RVN leadership seeking to battle communist insurgency. These representations of success and sacrifice allowed the GMD regime to portray the ROC as leading a global vanguard of developing nations, all toward the goal of securing its legitimacy at home as a developmentalist regime.
Keywords: Taiwan, Guomindang, Vietnam, agrarian development, rural development, agricultural science, farmers’ associations, Cold War
Women’s shifting positions in common public space have contributed significantly to the historical ebb and flow of Taiwan’s cosmopolitanism. The importance of Austronesian and Bendi 本地 contributions to Taiwan’s history are widely accepted, but women’s roles in these contributions are still largely overlooked. Austronesian women facilitated the sociality across diversity that made Taiwan cosmopolitan under seventeenth-century Dutch colonialism. But cosmopolitanism is a fragile social niche, and it waned under Qing settler colonialism. Taiwan’s post-1860 forced reentry into global trade—with a woman-processed product, tea, as its top export—again expanded cosmopolitanism under late Qing and early Japanese rule, also expanding Bendi women’s quotidian public engagements. Recovery from a long, war-related, mid-twentieth-century nadir occurred via economic development that was driven by global trade and relied particularly on Bendi women’s labor. Historical intersectionality has repeatedly enabled social linkages for burgeoning cosmopolitanism in Taiwan.
Keywords: Taiwan, cosmopolitanism, gender, indigeneity, public sphere, Austronesian, Bendi, ethnic intermarriage, global trade, historical contingency
With Taiwan’s same-sex marriage bill advancing, LGBTQ/tongzhi Taiwanese are rejoicing in the progress being made but have become exhausted in combating protests from their opponents. They also must reconcile conflicts with their families of origin stemming from discrepant expectations regarding life, family, marriage, and so on. To understand this reconciliation process, scholars must investigate how the discrepant expectations are formed. Using critical discourse analysis to analyze interview data, field observation, and cultural texts, this article identifies three sets of discourses: heteronormativity/homonormativity, patriarchy, and compulsory marriage. In Taiwan, heteronormativity manifests in the term zhengchang (正常, normal, sane, regular), which stipulates that human beings are heterosexual; homonormativity is an assimilation of heteronormative ideals into tongzhi culture and identity. Patriarchy includes a patrilineal and patrilocal system that organizes Taiwanese daily life. Compulsory marriage accentuates how marriage operates as an imperative, unavoidable, and prescribed force in Taiwanese culture that banishes and punishes tongzhi for their unsuitability for the heteronormative/homonormative patriarchal marriage. Responding to the call for more studies outside the U.S.-Western European contexts, the author of this article sheds light on cultural discourses that help shape the discrepant expectations, and the findings help LGBTQ/tongzhi studies in other cultures to develop contextualized theorization.
Keywords: Taiwan, LGBTQ family communication, heteronormativity, homonormativity, patriarchy, compulsory marriage, tongzhi
This article brings to light a unique set of field notes on Taiwanese children’s life collected by anthropologist Arthur P. Wolf (1958–1960). Designed as an improved replication of the classic Six Cultures Study of Child Socialization, Wolf’s study was the first anthropological and mixed-methods research on ethnic Chinese children, marking a historically significant moment when Sinological anthropology first intersected with the anthropology of childhood. Based on a subset of Wolf’s standardized interviews with seventy-nine children (ages 3–10), this article focuses on children’s narratives about peer aggression. They distinguish serious forms of aggression from milder ones in perceived negativity, and they react differentially; these perceptions and reactions reflect important concerns and strategies in local socio-moral life, some of which diverge from adult ideologies. These findings highlight the role of children as active moral agents. Through analyzing children’s voices of peer aggression, this article illuminates a dark side of moral development that would otherwise remain obscured in the historical literature of childhood: the mischievous, naughty, and even violent interactions among children. The article reveals the tensions and conflicts in children’s interactions underlying the Chinese cultural value he, or social harmony. It also reveals a complex spectrum of reciprocity in children’s understandings and adds an important theme, “negative reciprocity”––defined as responding to a negative action with a negative action—to the recent advocacy in anthropology for taking children seriously in understanding human morality.
Keywords: childhood, aggression, moral development, Taiwan, Arthur P. Wolf, Margery Wolf, Six Cultures Study, Sinological anthropology
This article uses musical events in Taiwan to examine the changing contestation of Taiwanese politics. It shows how youth activists remake political practices by connecting people to constructions of local culture through musical performances. Whereas civil society and youth participation in Taiwan’s elections have attracted increased scholarly attention, this article focuses on politically charged activities outside election campaigns. The article sources politics in musical practices, highlighting localized reproductions of global genres of popular music and its significance for Taiwanese youth activism. Drawing on historical analyses of the development of Taiwanese music throughout the twentieth century as localizing global influences in the production of indigenized music, the author argues that music has been more than just a communicative medium for contesting establishment politics, because activists use it to resignify sociocultural symbols and practices in productions of Taiwanese identity. The author examines two 2016 music festivals, Inland Rock and Tshingsan Fest, to analyze active constructions of identity and political action through a framework of music as politics. It demonstrates how, by appropriating space and symbols of Nantou County and Monga district for new cultural festivities, activists reterritorialized physical and conceptual terrain to reconnect people to indigenized constructions of Taiwanese identities.
Keywords: Taiwan, popular music, politics, youth, identity, activism, music festival, resignification, indigeneity
In Taiwan, the term for “migrant workers” (waiji yigong) refers to non-Han immigrant populations—including those from Thailand and the Philippines—whose numbers have been increasing since the 2000s. As these populations have grown, they have become part of the public conversation, and cinematic representations of migrant workers have increased as well. Immigrant films function as a form of recognition and thereby challenge the homogeneous Taiwanese national identity. Two questions arise: Is it possible to change existing stereotypes and cultural conflicts? And, how can we avoid a crisis of oversimplified presentations of immigrants? In order to address these questions, this article examines two films: Ho Wi Ding’s Pinoy Sunday (Taibei Xingqitian 台北星期天 2009), a comedy that focuses on two Filipino immigrant workers’ lives in Taipei, and Tseng Ying-ting’s Ye-Zai 椰仔 (2012), a crime film with a plot that involves tracking down “runaway migrant workers” (taopao wailao).The author employs three different lenses or paradigms to consider the establishment of migrant-worker subjects in these films in order to fully understand the power dynamics at play in the workers’ interactions with Taiwan’s broader society. Because of state and social attempts to control these migrant workers, the first important paradigm is the act of “running away,” which makes border restrictions in Taiwan clear and creates a space to explore strategies of escape from routine lives. Second, by considering how different powers intersect, the author explores the relationship between the viewer and the viewed, and how migrant workers can become the subjects, not just the objects, in this paradigm. By employing two techniques of visualization—the gaze and symbolism—these films present migrant workers’ emotions and desires, which are rarely shown in mainstream cinemas, and encourage viewers to recognize the perspectives of migrant workers. Finally, the author suggests the use of the language act as a means of resistance to show different affiliations and identities in both films; the visibility of these migrant workers challenges their discrimination.
Keywords: Taiwan, Taiwanese film, waiji yigong, migrant workers, immigrant labor, Pinoy Sunday, Taibei Xingqitian, Ye-Zai, ethnoscapes, non-Han-Taiwanese identities