Politics and ethnicity : a study of the role of state security interests in the maintenance of aboriginal difference in Taiwan

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2005
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This thesis analyses the conflicting relationship between Kuomintang (KMT) security measures and assimilation policies in relation to Taiwan's Aboriginal population from 1945 to the beginning of the modern Aboriginal movement. I refer to the social anthropological model of ethnicity in examining the impact of these policies on Aboriginal leaders and expressions of Aboriginality. New evidence is presented showing that expressions of pan-Aboriginality prior to the 228 Incident existed, but that in the main, Aboriginal involvement in the 228 Incident reflected a growing identification with Han Taiwanese in the face of an unpopular administration. I provide the first comprehensive analysis of this involvement, together with the impact of the security census that followed it, which involved replacing the emerging dialectic of ascription between Han Taiwanese and Aborigines with a remote form of assimilationist control. Primary sources of data included newspapers on microfiche between 1945 and 1952, which produced more than one thousand items relating to Aboriginal affairs, and which filled a sizable gap in research on this period. Extensive use was also made of archived material on the 228 Incident and the White Terror, while fieldwork and interviews were conducted in the Aboriginal townships of eight counties. I conclude that Aboriginality was sustained and shaped by the incompatible policy requirements of a martial-law era administration. Factors causing the failure of assimilationist policies include the presence of Christian denominations in Aboriginal communities - which nourished Aboriginality so that they could survive - and the KMT's own appropriation of Aboriginality. From this I conclude that sustained and forcible uses of categorisation in the context of an Aboriginal population are more capable of reinforcing and creating ethnic boundaries than destroying them.
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