All Our Relations: Indigenous Rights Movements and the Bureaucratization of Indigeneity in Taiwan

Friday, October 3, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM


  • Scott Simon


Taiwan’s indigenous social movement, active since the 1980s, has successfully lobbied to get indigenous rights included in the Republic of China Constitution, to create a cabinet level Council of Indigenous Peoples, and to pass the 2005 Basic Law on Indigenous Peoples. Taiwan’s indigenous social activists have also become regular participants in United Nations indigenous events. Especially during the Chen Shui-bian presidency, foreign observers often suspected that the state instrumentalized “indigeneity” to claim a distinct identity from China. Events since 2008, however, demonstrate that the indigenous rights movement has maintained its own momentum and that the indigenous peoples have interests that cannot be reduced to issues of national identity or party politics. In fact, the indigenous people overwhelmingly support the KMT, and indigenous movements are involved in both “pro-unification” and “pro-independence” political networks.  Most indigenous social movement leaders, as well as ordinary indigenous people, hope that their movement can make progress in indigenous rights in ways that transcend the “blue” and “green” division between Han Taiwanese. This talk will explore the diversity of the indigenous movements, their mobilization strategies, and values since Ma Ying-jeou was elected President of the ROC in 2008.

Speaker Bio

Scott Simon holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from McGill University, and began his career working in the anthropology of development. Two separate research projects led to his books Tanners of Taiwan: Life Strategies and National Cultures (2005), as well as Sweet and Sour: Life-Worlds of Taipei Women Entrepreneurs (2003). He has worked extensively on ethnographic research with Truku and Sediq groups in both Hualien and Nantou counties of Taiwan since 2004. His third book - entitled Sadyaq Balae! L’autochtonie formosane dans tous ses états – was published in French by the Laval University Press. This book is an exploration of state-indigenous relations, including the social movements that often contest state projects on indigenous territory. He has in recent years, in annual trips to Taiwan, been working more closely with Truku-speaking trappers and hunters, who have been teaching him about ethno-biology and human-animal relations in addition to sharing their discontent about Taiwan’s legal regime that criminalizes most hunting activities.