Building an Aboriginal society with the media at its centre: The current state of play and outlook for the Aboriginal print media.
Lin Ming-teh (Kapi Kalidoay)
Publisher, Austronesian News
Translated by Martin Williams
1. Introduction: Aboriginal society under the domination of a cultural hegemony
(i) Cultural hegemony: Cultural and social manipulation through which rulers influence the thought and ideas of the ruled, thus making them identify with the regime, or else producing such identification through identifying with certain other ideas. The most refined art of Nationalist Party (KMT) rule has been the exertion of influence and manipulation of people using party-state ideology, sinocentrism and capitalism via the indirect and intangible vehicles of culture and thought. This influence has resulted in unconscious identification with the "superiority" of the ruler and its "civilisation", as well as with the "barbarity" and "backwardness" of the ruled, finally leading to worship of the ruler and submission.
(ii) The form of KMT rule of Taiwan's Aboriginal people: A variable, composite form of rule employing a sinocentric, party-state capitalism; it is also an exemplar of "internal colonialism".
(iii) Four outcomes of modernisation in Aboriginal society under KMT rule:
(a) in the political sphere: party-state authority >>> alignment of Aboriginal society with the KMT
(b) in the economic sphere: plains-area capitalism >>> materialism in Aboriginal society
(c) in the social sphere: class discrimination by the dominant ethnic group >>> enslavement
(d) in the cultural sphere: sinocentrism >>> assimilation
(iv) The government's so-called "mountain area* modernisation policies" are therefore policies of assimilation and homogenisation, causing Aboriginal people to fall from their historical position as masters of Taiwan to take up the role of dependent fringe-dweller. With their gradual alienation from an ethnic identity, they have gradually lost their sense of dignity and autonomy.
2. The modern education system and the mass media are structural, systemic accomplices in the implementation of colonial rule and the execution of cultural hegemony.
(i) How racial prejudice is formed:
(a) A lack of awareness: Courses and teaching materials in the education system are yet to provide students with an understanding of differing ethnic groups, particularly the historical culture and social environment of Aboriginal people. They are also yet to instruct children on the thought and behaviour of differing ethnic groups;
(b) Inadequate contemplation: Readily accepting prejudice without reflecting on its causes;
(c) Deflection of hatred to racial targets: While learning how to grow up, the general impulse to attack must be rigorously suppressed - thus, another object for this animosity and hatred must be located;
(d) Compensating for feelings of self-loathing: Feelings of self-loathing are avoided by pointedly regarding others as inferior to oneself and conceitedly discriminating against other groups;
(e) Impulsive projection: Intense impulses and feelings of dissatisfaction are frequently projected at other groups, thereby forming discriminatory and prejudicial stereotypes.
(ii) Images of Aboriginal people in reporting by mainstream media:
The content and sources of reports by Taiwan's publicly and privately operated media outlets mostly stress the social problems, "exotic" customs and traditional culture of Aboriginal people. Particularly when dealing with the social problems of the "mountain brethren", such reports frequently tend toward a rigid ignorance.
3. Shedding the "colonial" and reconstructing the self-as-subject
(i) A review of the development of the Aboriginal print media (Table 1).
(a) The content of those periodicals published by KMT political figures or KMT-backed civic organisations is largely made up of explanations of government policy, the activities of political figures and reports of the activities of civic organisations. Periodicals managed by opposition movement or Aboriginal Movement organisations, on the other hand, favour critiques of social problems and the party-state system and demands arising therefrom; even these periodicals lack independent financial resources, however, and so they accept the aid and support of corresponding political parties. For this reason their survival rate is not high.
(b) The period from 1983 (when the first edition of Mountain Youth proclaimed the beginning of the "Taiwan Aboriginal Ethnic Awareness Movement") until 1995 (when the first edition of the privately funded Austronesian News heralded its arrival as a specialist and entrepreneurially operated newspaper) was a key period of the Aboriginal Movement in which the "colonial" was shed and the "self-as-subject" reconstructed. It was in this period that the print media played a historic role in disseminating ideas and presiding over criticism.
(ii) The current state of the Aboriginal print media
Aboriginal publications still being distributed are the magazine Taiwan Indigenous Voice Bimonthly, the irregularly published social movement journal Yuanpao, the community journal Lanyu Biweekly, the ethnically oriented Voice of the Bunun, and the weekly format newspaper Austronesian News. These publications, other than the nationally distributed and comprehensive Austronesian News, either have their own special area of concern, are published relatively infrequently, or else have a distribution restricted to a particular area. Furthermore, these surviving periodicals each face difficulties in respect to funding, labour, and management. Future prospects are bleak indeed.
4. The particular influence of the Aboriginal print media on the development of Aboriginal society
(i) The confines of oral dissemination in the absence of a written language
As different Aboriginal peoples in Taiwan speak different languages, and as there are rather independent linguistic aspects even across a single Aboriginal people's various communities, the scope of oral dissemination is therefore confined to within those communities. It is thus difficult to escape the limits of time and space, and so, in comparison with the dissemination of the written word, the accumulation of such knowledge and the transmission of such experience lacks stability and durability.
(ii) Different characteristics of the print media and the electronic media
If we make a comparison of different media forms, we can see that television is able to present the greatest sense of verisimilitude in audiovisual terms; broadcast media in general are able to reach its users at the fastest speed; the Internet is best in terms of interaction; but in terms of durability and convenience, printed materials have the most merit. In other words, the durability, visual stability and portable convenience of the print media are benefits that the electronic media cannot replace.
(iii) The function of the print media in Aboriginal society
Under the control of the mainstream media's cultural hegemony, Aboriginal people have either been forgotten or stereotyped. As a result, if Aboriginal people want the right to express themselves and the right to jieshi they have to try to create a mass media base or stage for themselves, and so free themselves from their fate as "the controlled" and "the governed" by constructing an ethnic sense of self and a sense of autonomy. In the history of mankind, experience has shown that the print media have not only played a role in enlightening the intellect and uniting organisations - rallying and coalescing intellectuals in particular - but also have a significant contribution to make in building the goals and values for a national struggle. Moreover, if one could combine the print media and electronic media, one could overcome time and space limitations and any obstacles to reading or listening. If the media had the role of penetrating each Aboriginal community and district to the point where it could both inform and be a guardian, it could not but exert the most profound influence.
(i) The global trend: Human society has moved from the industrial age to the post-industrial information age
The globalisation of capitalist markets and the digitalisation of the mass media has pushed the world into a global village without borders.
(ii) The function of the media in modern society
The news media is regarded as the "fourth estate" in modern society, supplementing the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. It has five major functions: to monitor, to inform policy, to educate, to entertain and to mobilise.
(iii) The mass media have become a critical component of national life
In recent years, Taiwan's mainstream media have followed in the footsteps of Western, postmodernist social development and so have become a critical component of national life. Particularly in this era in which media politicking has replaced party politicking, the media have become the most important guiding force in the struggle for power. By contrast, Aboriginal society, in the absence of checks and balances in party politics and general society, has seen its officials, elected local representatives and even its academic elite combine to form a self-perpetuating circle of privilege. What is regrettable is that the mainstream media has been utterly uninterested in reporting this, so there is an urgent need for Aboriginal people to establish media outlets that are authentically their own.
(iv) Building an Aboriginal society with the media at its centre
For Aboriginal people in the era of the information explosion, the mass media are, more than ever, the most important means for Aboriginal people to keep up with the times, as well as a needed force for overseeing and criticising government administration of the day. As a whole, however, the development of the mass media in Aboriginal areas - be they print or electronic media - is still rather deficient and backward. The state should, in keeping with the spirit of ethnic equality contained in the Constitution, safeguard both the right and the opportunity for minority groups to equitable use of state broadcasting and publishing resources in order to develop and perfect multicultural values in our society. Therefore, it is essential that the highest administrative organ in charge of Aboriginal matters, the Council of Aboriginal Affairs, as well as the Government Information Office put forward a "Comprehensive Plan for Strengthening or Perfecting Information Acquisition Systems in Aboriginal Communities" to assist in building, at the earliest date, an Aboriginal society with the media at its centre.
Table 1: Chronological list of major government and civilian Aboriginal periodicals during the era of Nationalist government rule**
Name of periodical
Year of first publication
Supporting body or funding source
Mountain Weekly (Shandi zhoukan)
Taiwan Provincial Government (TPG)
National and international news, explanations of government policy
Mountain Weekly (Shandi zhoukan) aka Fengkuang Weekly (Fengguang zhoubao)
National and international news, explanations of government policy
Mountain View Weekly (Shanguang zhoukan)
TPG, National Language (Mandarin) Promotion Committee
Facilitate government policies promoting Mandarin
Mountain People Daily (Shandiren ribao)
[Northern Taiwan Tertiary Students, the then Aboriginal legislator Mr Hua Ai, and Aboriginal district chiefs from across the island began preliminary meetings to set up this public forum discussing Aboriginal culture and literature, but in the end it was frustrated; finally, Hua Ai proposed that its name be changed to the "Chuangching Daily" (Zhuangjing ribao) or the "Empowerment Daily" (Ziqiang ribao), but in the end it never saw publication because of political factors]
Mountain Culture (Shandi wenhua)
Mountain Area Development Association.
Chiefly government policy explanation and works of literature
Mountain Youth (Gaoshan qing)
Iban Nogan, Yijang Baluar
Students from National Taiwan University (NTU), the Northern Taiwan Tertiary Students Association
Expression of NTU student identity with own ethnic group (zuqun) and national (minzu) consciousness
The Aboriginal (Yuanzhumin)
Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines (ATA), Independent Politicians' Editors Group (Dangwai bianlianhui)
Record of ATA activities as part of the Aboriginal Movement
Mountains Beyond the Mountains (Shanwai shan)
Periodical of the ATA
Discussion of problems relating to Aboriginal people
The Chuangching Mountains (Zhuangjing shanmai)
KMT, Elected Aboriginal local representatives and chiefs of districts/townships
Chiefly government policy explanation and accounts of politician activity
Mountain Youth Forum (Shanqing luntan) aka The Aboriginal Voice (Yuanzhumin zhi sheng)
Protestant Aboriginal students in Taipei, northern Taiwan tertiary students
Forum for the ideas of northern Taiwan tertiary students
The Aboriginal Post (Yuanbao)
Kapi Kalidoay (Lin Ming-teh), Taibang Shasale, Walis Yogan
Elite in the Aboriginal Movement, ethnic Chinese literati and news industry personnel
Debating and communication forum for intellectuals of southern Taiwan which regarded the traditional Aboriginal community as the focus for activity.
Mountain View Daily (Shanguang ribao)
Weng Wen-teh, Tsai Chung-han
Political figures and Aboriginal business figures
Self-declared role of acting as a bridge between the government and Aboriginal society
Hunter Culture (Lieren wenhua)
Aboriginal Culture Centre, central Taiwan tertiary students
Regarded the cultural movement as the focus for activity
Taiwan Indigenous Voice Bimonthly (Shanhai wenhua)
Hua Chia-chih, Sun Ta-chuan***
The Republic of China Taiwan Aboriginal Cultural Development Association, government bodies
A magazine mainly dealing with literature, art and culture
Austronesian News (Nandao shibao)
Lin Ming-teh (Kapi Kalidoay)
Independently financed; will be floated on the stock market
A comprehensive newspaper reporting, analysing and critiquing Aboriginal affairs
* The term "mountain area" or "mountain" (shandi) is frequently synonomous with the word "Aboriginal" in such usage. It should be noted, however, that Taiwan's surviving, non-urbanised Aboriginal communities are not necessarily located in Taiwan's mountains, nor are designated Aboriginal districts in the mountains exclusively populated by Aboriginal people.
** Except for the last two periodicals listed, it has not been possible to locate official English-language titles for the above publications (where they exist) due to lack of time.
*** Hua Chia-chih and Sun Ta-chuan are currently Chairman and Deputy Chairman, respectively, of the executive-level Council of Aboriginal Affairs.
[Chinese Version/Back to the Schedule/College of Law/National Taiwan University]