Taiwan Studies takes centre stage at ANU

Taiwan the view from south conference anu

I’ve just spent the past week in Canberra attending a Taiwan Studies conference at Australian National University (ANU). The conference titled “Taiwan: The View from the South” was hosted by the Australian Centre on China in the World. The conference brought together scholars from Australia, Taiwan and other countries

It was the first time that I had been involved in a Taiwan related academic activity in Australia. It was great to renew some of my connections with Taiwan, especially meeting with my supervisor Dr David Blundell. It was also a good opportunity to learn more about the work being done in the field of Taiwan Studies in Australia. Continue reading

The Story of Smangus at Students of Sustainability

This morning I gave a presentation about Smangus at the Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference. This year the conference is being held in Bendigo, which is not far from where I live in Australia. I attended because it was a good chance to reconnect with the academic world and activists in Australia. It was also the first time I have done a presentation about my research in Taiwan for an Australian audience.

SoS is an annual conference organised by the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) which connects campus environment collectives from around Australia. I first attended SoS in 2004. Incidentally the 2004 conference was also the first time I met John Seed. I later had the chance to travel around Taiwan with John and visit some indigenous communities including Smangus.

My presentation, titled “The Story of Smangus: Indigenous Rights in Taiwan,” started with some background information about Taiwan and its indigenous peoples. I then followed this with some discussion of the Smangus community and the legal case about the right to use wood from a wind-fallen tree. As the key theme of the conference is sustainability I wanted people to know more about how the people of Smangus have used their traditional knowledge as the basis for a sustainable community. The word sustainability is often misused, but I think the people of Smangus and other indigenous peoples around the world have practiced sustainable ways of living for hundreds or even thousands of years. There are many lessons that can be learnt from them.

Indigenous issues are a major theme at SoS. The plenary on the first day of the conference was on sovereignty. Grassroots Aboriginal activists spoke about the topic. Their perspectives presented a radical challenge to the mainstream discourse on this issue in Australia. This afternoon I had the chance to further explore some of these issues in a workshop about working with indigenous communities. The workshop talked about the need for “decolonising our minds” in order to work effectively with indigenous peoples for justice.

*You can find the pdf file of my presentation here.

Ethnoecology workshop at Smangus

Smangus community classroom

On Sunday and Monday I attended a conference in Smangus. The conference, organized by National Chiao Tung University (國立交通大學), brought together a small group of anthropologists to discuss the topic of “Rethinking environment, localisation and indigenisation.” While it poured rain on the Sunday afternoon the cafe at provided a great refuge for the presenters gave their papers.

The presentations started with Dr Lin Yih-ren (林益仁) talking about the politics of the plan for the Maqaw National Park. The proposed national park covers a mountain area that is the traditional territory of the Atayal people. The social movement to promote the park developed through several stages. Initially indigenous people were not involved but an alliance between indigenous people and conservationists later developed. However, there was also another indigenous group that opposed the park. The plan for the park is now suspended but it has had an important influence on the development of ecotourism and laws related to indigenous peoples. Continue reading

Call for papers – 2010 Taiwan Studies Postgraduate Symposium

The Asia Institute, the Taiwan Research Reading Group, and the Chinese Studies Research Group of the University of Melbourne cordially invite all postgraduate (PhD, Masters and Honours) scholars working in the field of Taiwan Studies to present their work at a symposium to be held in Melbourne on the 7-8 December 2010. The theme of the symposium is “Taiwan Studies: the State of the Field”. The deadline for submitting abstracts is 14 June 2010.

The symposium will be held at The University of Melbourne, Australia, in conjunction with an international conference on Taiwan Studies — focused on the theme of space and culture — on 9-10 December 2010.

More details here.

Greens from Asia Pacific region meet in Taipei

The Asia Pacific Greens Network Congress took place in Taipei from Friday through Sunday. It brought together members of Green parties and environmental activists from many countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region and also from Europe. I attended the conference on Saturday. Continue reading

Australia Conference at NCCU

An International Conference on Australia and Cross-Straits Economic Relation, organised by the College of International Affairs, was held at National Chengchi University today. The conference included scholars from Australia and Taiwan discussing Australia’s relations with Taiwan and China as well as links with ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region.

Acting Representative of the Australian Commerce and Industry Office, Richard Matthews, gave a brief welcoming speech. He noted that both Taiwan and China were important trading partners for Australia. Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Andrew Hsia (夏立言), also welcomed participants. He said the Australia Studies Centre at NCCU was founded in 2002 and it has held eight international conferences. The centre has enhanced understanding of Australia and Australia is a good friend of Taiwan. Continue reading

Indigenous conference in Taipei

I attended the 2008 World Summit of Indigenous Cultures (全球原住民文化會議) in Taipei over the weekend. The conference included speeches, musical performances and an open space forum. Indigenous people from The Philippines, Canada and the USA attended as well as many indigenous people from Taiwan and academics and researchers.

On Saturday night there was a welcome banquet at the Grand Hotel. It was a chance to meet some of the participants and also enjoy some wonderful music and dancing performances.  The picture above shows a Taroko man playing the mouth harp. It is an instrument carved from bamboo.

On Sunday the conference moved to the Taipei County Government building in Banqiao where the papers were presented. The talks were based on three themes: Indigenous belief systems today, Developing indigenous enterprise and indigenous wisdom and protection of the environment.

The keynote speech was given by indigenous legislator Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉). He spoke about Continue reading

Religion and Gender Ethics Conference

poster of the 2007 International Conference on Religious Culture and Gender Ethics

The 2007 International Conference on Religious Culture and Gender Ethics (宗教文化與性別倫理國際學術會議) was held over the weekend at Hsuan Chuang University (玄裝大學) in Xinzhu.

David and Doris, MCs at the Religious Culture and Gender Ethics Conference

I was one of the MCs at the conference. I made all the announcements in English, while Doris made the announcements in Mandarin.

Dr Mettanando at the 2007 International Conference on Religious Culture and Gender Ethics

On the first day of the conference the keynote speech was given by Dr Mettanando. The topic was “The First Council and Suppression of the Nuns”. Ven. Sujato also gave a talk about the status of nuns in early Buddhist history based on study of the Pali texts. Some more of his research on early Buddhism can be found at the Sects and Sectarianism website. It was very interesting to hear these two experts give their analysis of Buddhist history. Kate Crosby also spoke about early Buddhism looking at representations of the female in Theravada Buddhism. She noted that many Western scholars looking for Buddhist feminist writings draw on Mahayana and Vajrayana texts, yet the Theravada canon also contains feminist writings.

The first day was also notable for various feminist perspectives of Buddhism. The papers of David Schak and Elise A. DeVido showed that even though women have played a prominent and important role in Buddhism in Taiwan, there hasn’t really been a transformation in attitudes about gender roles.

Ven Sujato and Ven Chao Hwei at the 2007 International Conference on Religious Culture and Gender Ethics

Ven. Chao Hwei (昭慧法師) and Ven. Sujato from the Santi Forest Monastery in Australia.

The second day of the conference focused on other religious traditions, mainly Christianity and Islam. There were more excellent talks and lots of issues to think about. Overall there was an excellent line up of speakers from overseas and Taiwan.

Many thanks to Ven. Chao Hwei for giving me the opportunity to be involved in this conference.

* More photos at flickr. Also see the photos from Hongshi College.