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This article originally comes from:

Michael Rudolph,Heidelberg University, Institute of Chinese Studies;

The Pan-Ethnic Movement of Taiwanese Aborigines and the Role of Elites in the Process of Ethnicity Formation[1]

1. Introduction 

2. Aborigine elites: Interaction during authoritarian rule

3. Aborigine elites: Interaction in times of multiculturalism

4. The view from the countryside

5. Conclusion


When we try to understand processes of ethnicity formation in Taiwan, we have to distinguish two periods: the period of authoritarian rule and its aftermath until 1990; and the period of Taiwanization and democratization since 1990.[2] This distinction seems necessary because the conditions under which the formation of ethnicity and its manifestation could take place in Taiwan were very different during these two periods: In the first period, ethnicity was suppressed by the Nationalist Party (KMT) -state that conjured ethno-cultural homogeneity of all Chinese in order to have a legitimisation to ‘recover the mainland’. In the second period, ethnicity was fostered and enhanced by the government that now - after a profound 'personnel'-transformation in its interior from Mainlander- to Hoklo-domination - had subscribed to building up a multicultural society vis-à-vis the mainland and its claims of ethno-cultural homogeneity of all Chinese.[3] The former discourse of homogeneity was now replaced by a discourse of ethnic heterogeneity and – in order to enhance a feeling of togetherness in the new frame of reference - a discourse of hybridity. This process can be particularly well observed in the development of the Aborigine movement in Taiwan and the efforts of Aborigine elites[4] to adapt their cultural representations to the changing paradigms.

1. Introduction

From the founding of the first Aborigine rights group in 1984 until the establishment of the Council of Aborigine Affairs (xingzhengyuanyuanzhuminzuweiyuanhui) under the central government in 1996, the pan-ethnic movement of Taiwanese Aborigines (Yuanzhumin=YZM)[5] has always been among the smallest of all social and ethno-political movements evolving during the political transformation process since the eighties. This is not astonishing if one considers the small percentage of Austronesians in Taiwan (only approx. 1,6% of the total population) and the fact that they consist of at least 9 different cultural groups with different languages.[6] Nevertheless, it has turned out to be one of the most vigorous and successful movements with a growing degree of attention and support from Taiwanese society - much more than for instance the movement of the Hakka, which has been loosing much attention and momentum since its emergence in 1988, in spite of the comparatively large number of Hakka in Taiwan (approx. 9%).[7] However, as testified by the results of Aborigine elections[8] as well as by the low participation in demonstrations for the ethnonymYuanzhumin’, for YZM-government institutions on the central level, and for cultural and political autonomy, the main motor of the Aborigine movement were a handful of elites that was in general only badly supported by the majority of members of Aborigine society.[9]

This paper investigates the reasons why ethnicity in Taiwan's Aborigine society had its origins mainly in the elite strata and not in other parts of Aborigine society. What motivated Aborigine elites to engage in ethnic politics and identity construction in Taiwan in the time of changing political paradigms, while common people in the villages hardly showed any ambitions to fight for more cultural recognition?

2. Aborigine Elites: Interaction During Authoritarian Rule

The role of elites in the process of ethnicity formation has been thoroughly dealt with in the instrumentalist branch of ethnicity resarch. Paul Brass (1991) suggests that "ethnic self-consciousness, ethnically-based demands, and ethnic conflict can occur only if there is some conflict either between indigenous and external elites and authorities or between indigenous elites." For Brass, ethnicity is "created and transformed by particular elites in modernizing and in post-industrial societies undergoing dramatic social change" in a "process that invariably involves competition and conflict for political power, economic benefits, and social status between competing elites, class, and leadership groups both within and among different ethnic categories".

For an initial understanding of the origins of the pan-ethnic movement of Taiwanese Aborigines and the role of different elites, two studies are of special interest, not only because of their different perspectives, but also because of the high degree of involvement of the authors of both accounts.

The first work has been composed by XieShizhong, today professor at the Department of Anthropology of Taiwan National University, who may be called an advocate of engaged anthropology in Taiwan and who has been in close contact with the movement since its early days.[10] In 'Stigmatized identity - Ethnic change of Taiwan Aborigines' (Xie 1987a),[11]Xie contends that in the middle of the 1980s two different types of identity prevailed in Aborigine society: the stigmatized identity resulting from inadequate government policy, discrimination and marginalization on the one hand, and pan-ethnic identity as a reaction of intellectuals on this stigmatization on the other hand. The stigma felt by most Aborigines because of their cultural background as 'savages', 'mountain people' and badly educated 'Chinese' was not only expressed in strong inferiority feelings towards the outside, but also in passing behaviour when exposed to Han society, as well as in different kinds of anomie, like alcohol abuse, prostitution, a high divorce rate etc.. From an investigation by the Taiwanese anthropologist Fu Yangzhi (1994) we know that - analogous to the attitudes inHan society - there existed a strong feeling within Aborigine society that the predicament of Aborigines reflected the lack of diligence on the part of the 'mountain people' rather than social injustice.[12]

Pan-ethnic identity on the other hand had its strongest expression in the foundation of the Alliance of Taiwanese Aborigines (ATA) in 1984.[13] Being in close contact with the younger generation of Taiwan's anthropologists including Xie himself, members of the ATA were not only well informed about anthropological conceptions concerning ethnic groups, but were also aware of the cultural rights and autonomy rights of Aborigine people in other countries. On anthropological advice, they created the new pan-ethnic name 'Aborigines' (Yuanzhumin), that was supposed to replace the government-term 'mountain compatriots' and the commonly used terms 'savages' and 'mountain people', and defined a set of symbols and special rights that should apply to all Taiwanese Aborigines equally, including rights on ancestral land, use of vernacular languages in schools, revitalization of individual Aborigine names as well as autonomous cultural and political institutions. In order to let all this become reality, they organized petition-movements and demonstrations that not only turned against the KMT-government and ethno-centric Han society, but also against those Aborigine elites, who had moderated the KMT’s assimilation policy in Aborigine society since 40 years.[14] Eager to replace them, ATA elites regularly participated as non-party candidates in public elections since 1986, albeit without success. In all their actions, they were strongly supported by the Taiwanese opposition party, the Democratic Progress Party (DPP)[15], which considered the Aborigine issue as a good opportunity to attack inadequate ethnic and cultural policies of the KMT. Other important support came from critical scholars of Han-society, who expressed their worry that inadequate minority politics would not only have negative impacts on Aborigine society itself, but also on Taiwanese society as a whole as well as on Taiwan’s international reputation. And, last and not least, Aborigine elites also got strong support from the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT) that had one-third of its 210 thousand followers in Aborigine areas.

A second work on the Aborigine movement with a very different focus has been presented by the Canadian Michael Stainton (1995), who himself played a catalytic role in the movement as a missionary, activist and teacher of Aborigine youths in the Aborigine PCT from 1980-1991. As Stainton contends in a voluminous M.A. thesis he wrote after his return to Canada in 1995, the Aborigine movement was more or less a creation of the PCT, which initiated the activism as a reaction on the tyranny it endured from the side of the KMT government after the publication of the 'three statements' in the seventies. Though the ATA always seemed to be the main actor to the outside, it only played a minor role as an executor: to the extent that the Aborigine movement had an organization, it was the Presbyterian Church, which provided an ideology (built on metaphers like 'chosen people' and 'promised land'), a multi-level organizational network (for instance Urban Rural Mission-trainings in Japan and Canada), trained and paid workers (both clergy and staff at the national offices) and financial access to the Taiwanese donors and foreign grants through the World Church Counsil Program to combat racism. As Staintons shows in his M.A. thesis, the ATA, while led by secular activists as well as PCT related people, was financially and logistically dependent on the PCT for all of its successful mobilizations.

From the accounts of Xie and Stainton, we learn about the existence of at least three different kinds of Aborigine elites that were involved in identity construction in Aborigine society during the years of the evolution of the movement:

The old political elites loyal to the KMT, that had been co-opted to accomplish the Nationalist Party’s project for assimilation of the Aborigines and whose policy of non-recognition of cultural differences constantly nurtured the stigma of Aborigines. The main 'capital' of these elites, who had not been brought up within the modern educational system, had been their bi-culturality. Their own feelings of stigma were compensated for by their high positions in Han-society.

The intellectuals in the Alliance of Taiwanese Aborigines, who criticized members of the elite associated with the KMT for their assimilation policy,and who led the pan-ethnic movement in Taibei. They mostly derived from Taiwan's general educational system. For these young members of the educational elite whose access to higher school education had been facilitated by a bonus-system for students with 'mountain area status', bi-culturality was much more a hindrance than a ‘capital’. Since the early seventies, the membership of the educational elite in Aborigine society had steadily grown.[16] Many of them wished to join political elites after finishing college or university, but faced a dead end because the state that before 1990 conjured cultural homogeneity of all people in Taiwan had not created new opportunities for bi-cultural Aborigines with their particular talents and weaknesses. The leaders of both the pan-ethnic movement in the cities and the 'tribalist movement' that split away in 1989 were graduates from the department of political science of Taiwan National University. As it becomes clear from Xies accounts, the impetus of these intellectuals to offer resistance was largely born out of dissatisfaction to be – in spite of their equivalence in terms of education - discriminated against on ethnic grounds; their opposition thus was also a result from the failure to assimilate to the dominant society.[17] Nevertheless, neither of these educational elitessucceded to build up grassroots in the tribal areas. As Xie (1992) contends in an article entitled 'Elites Without People', the main reasons for the inability of these elites to spread their influence all over Aborigine society were the KMT’s strong control on the people, the dispersal of Aborigines all over Taiwan, the differences in interest and attitudes of different cultural groups as well as the differing world views of elites and people.[18]

The Aborigine church elite was the third type of elite involved in identity construction in Aborigine society. It worked closely together with the educational elite from the campuses. Its members derived from the educational system of the PCT - a system that was not acknowledged by the state and thus isolated - and were assigned to stimulate ethnic consciousness on the local level, a task that was not easy because of the strong KMT-control in the villages. As we learn from Stainton, the re-contextualizedBibel exegesis in the PCT-liberation theology provided the main impetus as well as the psychological basis for resistance in the case of these intellectuals: used as a 'codification' which re-presented the social reality of Aborigine people, the Bible permitted the reader to stand outside the hegemonically determined common sense of the believer's own existence as a member of a devalued and violated ethnie, and allowed him or her to critically examine that situation. Another, rather pragmatic motivation for this elite to oppose assimilation of Aborigines to Han society was connected to their wish to survive as a religious group: In some areas where Aborigines lived in close contact with Han Chinese, the percentage of Aborigines that had already become Buddhist had grown to more than 80%, compared to 80% Christians in Aborigine society in general.[19]

As the Aborigine church elite had profound grassroots in the tribal areas, they were much more successful in mobilizing large segments of Aborigine society than the ATA-elite. Particularly in the 'Return our land' movement that was launched in 1988 and 1989 as a reaction to high taxation of Aborigine church land by the state since 1981, large numbers of protesters could be mobilized. Nevertheless, strong control from the side of the Presbyters, who were mostly KMT-loyal, prevented activist ministers from spreading PCT-liberation theology in their parishes. Thus, their influence was mostly confined to institutions like colleges or administrative units of the Presbyterian Church.

3. Aborigine Elites: Interaction in Times of Multiculturalism

After 1990, however, there occurred a significant change in the attitudes and the impetus of Aborigine elites. The most salient difference compared to the preceding period was an increasing co-operation between the former KMT-loyal Aborigine elite and the resisting Aborigine elites. Particularly in the period of the modification of Taiwan’s constitution (the constitution that had originally been set up when the KMT was still on the mainland and that was supposed to represent all Chinese), these elites worked closely together: Their common aim was to assure Aborigine representation in the new constitution. Another remarkable change took place in the claims that were made: The focus now shifted from land rights to recognition of YZM-name and YZM-status. Further, there could be perceived a change in the way how the claims were made: Had Aborigine elites before referred to Aborigine culture mainly to point out the reasons for the structural lag-behind of Aborigine people vis-à-vis their Han-oppressors – there were frequent references to the ‘culture of poverty’ of Taiwan’s Aborigines or the ‘moral superiority of Christian Aborigine Culture’ -, it now served to emphasize the ‘authenticity’ and the ‘subjectivity’ ofTaiwan’s Aborigines as a distinct ethnic group, while Christianity more and more lost its former importance as a cultural marker.

The changes described above were brought about by a major shift in Taiwan’s larger political landscape in 1990. The rather slow pace of liberalization in the first three years following the lifting of martial law in 1987 was accelerated when LiDenghui – a descendent of those Han who had their roots in Taiwan – was officially confirmed in his office as president of the ROC in May 1990.[20] Had the government in the years before still been dominated by Mainlander-Han who were also in control of the military, the Taiwanese Han – mostly Hoklo - within the KMT now soon gained superiority in the party as well as in the military. Their relation to mainland China was not as unquestioned as it was by the former Mainlander government elites. Neither the claim to recover the mainland nor the claim of sovereignity over all of China were now held up anymore. On the contrary, the Presbyterian LiDenghui soon became suspect to take sides with the Democratic Progress Party (DPP) – Taiwan’s political opposition party that promoted the island’s independence and that shortly after its official approval in 1989 already occupied one third of the seats in the national parliament and controlled three of the island’s eleven county gouvernments. In order to make Taiwan politically and culturally discernable from the mainland, both the socalled KMT-mainstream faction around LiDenghui and the Hoklo-dominated DPP now aggreed on a multicultural policy in a multi-ethnic Taiwan – a clear affront against their opponents in the non-mainstream faction of the KMT who had denied the existence of different ‘ethnic groups’ in Taiwan for four decades.[21] According to the new political discourse after 1989, Taiwan’s population now was not constituted of a homogeneous Chinese race (zhonghuaminzu) anymore, but of ‘four big ethnic groups’ (Taiwansidazuqun), i.e., HokloHakkaMainlanders and Aborigines, that in the course of time had merged into a ‘new Taiwanese’ as a result of mutual cultural fertilization and intermixture.[22] The concept was not only suitable to create a new sense of commonness among the members of Taiwan’s different ethnic groups, but also defied the mainland’s claims on Taiwan in historical and in cultural terms. With the ingredient ‘Taiwanese Aborigines’ - a people that had been classified as part of the ‘Austronesian language group’ by Japanese and Western linguists and anthropologists - Taiwan’s history could now be backdated to a history of 8-10 thousand years, even longer than that of the mainland. Furthermore, Taiwan’s austronesian heritage also served as a proof that Taiwan - in cultural and genetic terms – had its own particularity and was much more connected to the pacific region than to any region to the west of Taiwan.[23]

In order to create the basis that was necessary for the further development of a ‘Taiwan living community’ and a ‘new Taiwanese’, the government in 1992 started a long-term community renaissance policy. In this project that was also strongly supported by the DPP, all communities in Taiwan – ethnic, rural and urban communities, most of which where either HokloHakka or Aborigine – where asked to participate actively in local cultural life, to organize rites and festivals, and to engage in the preservation of local culture and the collection of oral history. It was in this context that more and more members of the former resisting Aborigine elites began to take over the role of administrators of tribal culture. Aborigine literature in Chinese language and Aborigine art now blossomed in the big cities, and travels and study-stays were organized in the tribal areas. Apart from these activities, many young people returned to the tribes to engage in either state- or church-financed cultural revitalization projects, as for instance the reconstruction of traditional buildings and cultural sites, education in mother languages, rehabilitation of traditional Aborigine names etc.. With the organizational help from the PCT, ATA-intellectuals and Aborigine church leaders since 1991 regularly participated in the meetings of the Working Group of Indigenous Affairs (WGIP) in Geneva, a measure that increased the pressure on Taiwan’s government to improve Taiwan’s Aborigines situation in general, but that also caused increasing protest from the side of the PCRh, because Aborigines after all were representatives of the ROC, a state that had finished to exist in 1949 according to the official discourse of mainland China’s government.[24] Simultaneously, the demonstrations for Aborigine political and cultural rights in Taiwan continued. As a reaction to the obvious attitudinal change in Han society toward Aborigines and Aborigine rights, now even the members of the former KMT-loyal political elite joined the petitions for issues like autonomous zones, rehabilitation of traditional Aborigine names and re-education of children in their mother-languages. At least in Taiwan’s political and intellectual world, ethnic and cultural difference now no longer had a negative image, instead, it was looked upon as an important heritage and enrichment of Taiwanese culture. The ‘cultural head-hunting raid’[25] staged by a couple of well known Aborigine intellectuals at the first Aborigine Culture Congress in 1994, that was supposed to urge the government to comply with the activists claims and that got a lot of positive feedback and recognition within Han society, must be seen in this context. Another related phenomenon was TianGuishi'shomepage 'The Facial Tattoo of Tayal'[26] on the internet, where users world wide were confronted with impressive and exotic pictures: Photographs of old men and woman with greenish-blue tattoos on chin and forehead, in the case of the men rather decently done, but somewhat more shocking in the case of the women, whose lower part of the face is sometimes totally covered by the tattoos.[27]

4. The view from the countryside

Cultural representations of this kind, however, could hardly attract ordinary people still living in the tribes. They had their own attitudes toward the new development. Some results of a field research I made in villages of the Taroko (a subgroup of the Atayal) and the Paiwan in the period from 1994 to 1996 with the aim to evaluate the acceptance of the Aborigine movement may serve as an example.[28]

In the case of the Taroko, for instance, few villagers perceived the former tattoing practices – an integral part of the Taroko’s former headhunting habit - as an admirable part of Taroko culture. Rather, they looked upon it as a stigma and a symbol of 'savageness'. Those who still wore tattoes were kept hidden or at least out of the view of outsiders. Even less did people wish to talk about headhunting. Instead, I was often told the story of JiOang, the Taroko woman who brought Christianity to the Taroko under the Japanese, and the plight and the suffering of indigenous missionaries like WilangTakao, who was said to have endured severe punishment for his efforts to evangelize Aborigines in times of Japanese colonial rule. Despite all the cruelty of the Japanese, most people said that they wouldn't blame them for it, because after all the Japanese liberated the Taroko from headhunting even before the consolidation of Christianity.

As with the attitudes concerning the headhunting past of the Taroko, the conceptions of origin often formed a contrast to the convictions among elites. Only a few villagers were inclined to consider themselves as 'Austronesians' as proclaimed by their elites, i.e. as members of peoples totally different from the Han. They had already got very much used to the belief that they were of common origin and descent with the Han people (including the affiliation to a 5000 year-old mainland-culture), just as KMT-education had assured them for decades, in spite of the daily allusions to their backwardness, exemplified by their 'dialects' and different life and housing styles. They had strongly internalized the political view proclaimed by the KMT until the early 1990s, according to which some day in the future the mainland would be recovered and ruled again. In some cases, I was told how 'one' (i.e., the Chinese) had been mistreated by the Japanese during the 'eight-year anti-Japanese war', and that it was 45 years since 'one' (i.e., the ROC) had come to Taiwan. At the same time, the political situation of the Aborigines in Taiwan was not very well known: very few people knew that the only central government institution for minorities was dedicated to Tibetans and Mongolians and that there was no similar institution for Taiwan's Aborigines - one of the improprieties the elites where fighting against.

From the perspective of the villagers, it seemed totally useless and even against one's own interests to rehabilitate traditional front and family names, as had been allowed by the government in January 1995 after many years of engagement by the elites.[29] Even for outsiders they would be discernable as Taroko then, a prospect that did not seem very attractive to them after the long period of discrimination. Likewise, the people could not see a crisis of their mother language in the same sense as this was perceived by the elites. The Taroko language was widely used, but many people also believed that they could live without it: English was believed to be more important.[30] Very similar were the attitudes concerning the possession of mountain reservation land: it was believed to be of equal importance to gain some surplus money - for instance by selling this land illegally to the Han -, so that one could afford an estate or a home in the cities. Autonomous zones did not seem very attractive from this point of view; it was even suspected that this was only a means to get Aborigines 'locked up in a cage so that people could look at them like monkeys in the zoo'.

But not only the Taroko villagers regarded the activities of the elites to revitalize and protect culture with suspicion. In the Paiwan village where I lived after my stay with the Taroko, I realized that the scepticism against official rehabilitation of traditional front and family-names was especially strong. Due to the rudimentary subsistence of certain structures of the former nobility- and class-society (which was partially a consequence of the government instrumentalization of people with former nobility status), non-noble members of this society naturally regarded the possibility of name rehabilitation with very mixed and ambivalent feelings: an official rehabilitation of one's status-revealing front and family-name would inevitably cause a fall back into one's former subordinate, inferior status.[31] Thus, they often even refused to tell me their 'bad-sounding' Paiwan names. In contrast, the former 'nobles' with their 'nice-sounding' names tried to make use of the favourableness of the situation and emphasized the superiority of their class in government-sponserednativist publications, schoolbook-materials and in newly established 'culture protection committees'.

5. Conclusion

As the account above showed, motivations and incentives for intellectual and political elites in Taiwan’s Aborigine society to participate in political activism and identity construction were much higher than for ordinary people in this society. Both in the period of authoritarian rule in Taiwan and in the period of Taiwanization and multiculturalism that started after 1990, political activism of elites was linked to competition either between Aborigine elites or – in the latter case - between Aborigine and Hanelites. Where members ofbi-cultural Aborigine elites in the first period had struggled for the rare positions as mediators between Han- and Aborigine society, they soon recognized their new opportunities in the period of Taiwanese nativism and sought mutual solidarity in order to enlarge their common territory vis-à-vis ethnic Hanelites. This aim could best be reached by emphasizing the Aborigines’ particularity. In both periods, competition and conflict between different elites and struggle for political power played an important role, as it has been suggested by Paul Brass in his instrumentalist approach. Nevertheless, it also became clear that there was still another important motivation for educated Aborigines to engage themselves in politics. The activism must also be seen as a reaction to the strong feelings of stigma that had been imposed on Aborigine identity for many decades and that now could be overcome with the help of techniques provided by anti-systemic and system-critical forces in- and outside of Taiwan. In a study on Burakumin identity in Japan, George De Vos and HiroshiWagatsuma (1966) suggest that political activism may be an alternative way to compensate for social stigma and simmering discontent with discrimination.[32] Hence, discontent with discrimination on the basis of collective social stigma must not be underestimated as a reason why Aborigine elites took to political activism. The contact of a growing number of Aborigines with higher school education as well as with certain elite groups outside of Aborigine society stimulated the process of consciousness formation. Societal groups with a strong catalytic function in the first period were intellectuals within the Taiwanese opposition party DPP, Taiwan's anthropologists, foreign missionaries and the PCT. In the second period, these influences were reinforced by a further factor outside of Taiwan, i.e., the link to the Fourth World Movement that was provided with the help of the church and the anthropologists. By this linkage and by adoption of the strategies of this movement, Taiwan’s Aborigines were able to become an influential pressure group within Taiwanese society.

The attitudes of ordinary people towards Aborigine identity, however, were very different. Though the style of interaction with Han culture varied according to the social system of every ethnic group, people in general didn’t like to emphasise their Aborigine origin or cultural background in front of outsiders, sometimes they even refused to admit it. Instead, they were very eager to adapt their actions and attitudes to the Taiwanese standards as they perceived them – for example emulating Taiwan’s middle and lower social strata. On one hand, this behavioural pattern enhanced the adoption of cultural conceptions and consumption styles of the larger society.[33] On the other hand, it caused a rejection of one’s own Aborigine culture, including language, traditional names and certain traditional habits that were perceived as a symbol for the savageness and backwardness of Aborigines, like headhunting, tattooing, buildings in traditional style etc.. Most salient was the dislike to be defined as a member of another cultural group not belonging to the ethnic Chinese. Further attitudes that pointed to a low degree of identification with Aborigine culture were the indifferent attitudes of ordinary people toward Aborigine land or toward the intrusion of industries that caused the destruction of environment and living sites, but that created working places and brought surplus money by (illegal) selling and letting of Aborigine land.

These observations suggest that different self-perceptions and behavioural patterns of Aborigine elites and ordinary people developed because different segments of Aborigine society attached themselves to different groups of reference and value-orientations within Han society. As the work of culture preservation and revitalization pursued by Aborigine elites was frequently morally and financially supported by Taiwanization circles, environmental protection groups and so on, Aborigine elites also often identified or at least sympathized with their world-views; by establishing the concept of ‘Aboriginality’ (Stainton 1995), they finally achieved a high amount of recognition in Taiwanese society; in contrast, common people felt much more attracted by the value-orientations of a consumption-oriented Hanmiddleclass. Differently from the elites who could rely on their upper class mentors, they did not get any support from the side of middle class and middle educated Han. Instead, they were often discriminated against because of their low degrees of qualification and their different mentality (for instance their ‘low working morale’). As I said in the beginning, most Aborigines and Han shared the conviction that Aborigineintegration would be successful with 'only a little bit more effort from their side'.[34] To free oneself from one’s inferior status and to be engaged in such well respected jobs as in the police or in the army, a high degree of conformity was necessary. For those who longed for social mobility within Han society, the identity symbols propagated by the intellectuals hence did nor make much sense and were often perceived as an impediment.

In sum, there is much evidence that people within both segments of Aborigine society harboured a strong inclination to assimilate to Han society or at least to adapt themselves to the expectations within Han society.[35] Nevertheless, contrary to the elites, ordinary people from the villages neither had the tools to develop alternative ways to handle their feelings of stigma and inferiority, nor did they feel any support or incentives to expose their feelings of discontent toward the members of Han middle classes, where most people believed that the Aborigines predicament was due to the lack of diligence of Aborigines rather than a result of social injustice.


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Brass, Paul, 1991, Ethnicity and nationalism: theory and comparison, (Sage Publications) London 1991:25f;8.

Chang Mao-kuei, 1996, "Political Transformation and the 'Ethnization' of Politics in Taiwan", in: SchubertGunterSchneiderAxel, 1996 (ed.): Taiwan an derSchwellezum 21. Jahrhundert - Gesellschaftlicher Wandel, Probleme und Perspektiven eines asiatischen Schwellenlandes, (Mitteilungen des Instituts fuer Asienkunde Hamburg vol. 270) Hamburg 1996:135-152.

De Vos, George / WagatsumaHiroshi (ed.), 1966, Japan's Invisible Race, (University of California Press) Berkely 1966.

Fu Yangzhi, 1994, "Taiwan Yuanzhuminkunjing de guiyinjieshibijiaoHanrenguandianyuYuanzhuminguandian" [The anticipated reasons for the predicament of Taiwanese Aborigines - Comparison of Han and Aborigines' perspectives], in: Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnology Academia Sinica, No.77, Taibei, 1994:35-87.

HuangYinggui,Jiang Bin, ChenMaotaiShi Lei, QuHaiyuan, 1993, "ZunzhongYuanzhumin de zicheng" [Respect for the name that the Yuanzhumin gave themselves], in: ZhangMaogui, 1993a, ZuqunguanxiyuguojiarentongGuojiazhengceyanjiuzhongxin (CaituanfarenZhangrongfajijinhui), (YeqiangchubansheTaibei, 2/1993:191-197 (first puplished in Independent Morning Post, 16.5.1992).

Institute of Ethnology Academia Sinica, 1992, Shanbaofudaocuoshijixiaozhiyantao [An evaluation of the assistance measures towards mountain compatriots], (Executive YuanTaibei 6/1992.

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Rudolph, Michael, 1996, "'Was heissthier 'Taiwanesisch' - TaiwansUreinwohnerzwischenDiskriminierungundSelbstorganisation [Who has the Right to call himself 'Taiwanese'?' - Taiwan's Aborigines between Discrimination and Self-Organization]", in: Schneider,Axel u. GunterSchubert (ed.), Taiwan an derSchwellezum 21. Jh. - Gesellschaftlicher Wandel, Probleme und Perspektiven eines asiatischen Schwellenlandes, Mitteilungen des Instituts fuer Asienkunde Hamburg, vol. 270, Hamburg 1996:285-308.

Rudolph, Michael, 2000a, Assimilation oderkulturelleRevitalisierungUrsprüngeundImplikationenderIdentitäts-BewegungtaiwanesischerUreinwohner (Yuanzhumin) 1983-1996 (Assimilation or Cultural Revitalization – Origins and implications of the identity movement of Taiwan`s Aborigines (Yuanzhumin) 1983-1996),Doctorial thesis handed in at the Department of Oriental Studies and Archaeology of Heidelberg University in October 2000.

Rudolph, Michael, 2000b, "The Quest for Difference vs the Wish to Assimilate: Taiwan's Aborigines and their Struggle for Cultural Survival in Times of Multiculturalism", in: Rubinstein, Murray et al. (ed) ,Identity, Culture and Religion in Taiwan, (St. Martins Press) New York.

Stainton, Michael, 1995, Return our land: counterhegemonicpresbyterianAboriginality in Taiwan, (York University) Canada 1995.

Wang Fu-Chang, 1989, The unexpected resurgence: ethnic assimilation and competition in Taiwan, 1945-1988 (Ph.D. dissertation , Dpt. of Sociology) University of Arizona 1989.

Wang Xiaohui, 1996, "Yanzheng Taiwan Yuanzhuminxueyuanzhiyuan" [Confirming the blood relationship origin of Taiwan’s Aborigines], in: Renminribao (Haiwaiban) 16.2.1996:5.

WeiYijun, 1997, Lingyigeshijie de lailin:Yuanzhuminyundong de lilunshijian [Another world approaches: Realization of theorie in Taiwan’s Aborigine movement], (M.A. thesis an derNationalenQinghua-Universitaet) Taiwan 1997.

XieShizhong, 1987a, Rentong de wumingyu Taiwan Yuanzhumin de zuqunbianqian (Abstract: Ethnic contacts, stigmatized identity, and pan-Taiwan Aborigineism: a study on ethnic change of Taiwan Aborigines), (Ziliwanbao she) Taibei, 7/1987.

XieShizhong, 1987b, "Yuanzhuminyundongshengchengyufazhanlilunde chengliyiBeimeiyu Taiwan weili de chubutantao" (Abstract: Towards Dynamic Theories of the Origin and Development of Aborigine Movements: The Cases of North America and Taiwan), in: Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnology Academia Sinica, No. 64, Taibei, 10/1987:139-177.

XieShizhong, 1987c, "Minzuzhidaodeyurenleixuejia de kunjing - Taiwan Yuanzhuminyundongyanjiu de lizi" [Ethnographic morals and the dilemma of the social anthropologist: The example of research on Taiwan’s Aborigine movement], in: Con-Temporary, Nr.20, 12/1987:20-30.

XieShizhong, 1992, "Pianliqunzhong de jingyingShilun 'YuanzhuminxiangzhengyuYuanzhuminjingyingxianxiang de guanxi" [Preliminary discussion of the relation between the symbol 'Yuanzhumin' and the elites phenomenon], in: DaoyubianyuanNr. 5, Taibei, 10/1992:52-60.

XieShizhong, 1994, "Shandigewuzainarshangyan?" [Where are the songs and dances from the mountains put on stage?], in: Zilizaobao 19.12.1994.

XuMuzhu, 1990, "Taiwan Yuanzhumin de zuqunrentongyundongxinliwenhuayanjiutujing de chubutantao" [The ethnic identity movement of Taiwanese Yuanzhumin: a prelimineary discussion of the psycho-cultural approach], in: XuZhengguang/Song Wenli, 1990, Taiwan xinxingshehuiyundong, (JuliutushugongsiTaibei, 1990:127-156.

Yuanxuan (Yuanzhumin mission committee of the PCT-general assembly), 1993, Taiwan jiduzhanglaojiaohuizonghuiYuanzhuminxuandaoweiyuanhuichenglisishizhounianjiguojiYuanzhuminnianjiniantekan [Special issue on occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Yuanzhumin mission committee of the PCT-general assembly and on occasion of the year of indigenous people], (YuanxuanTaibei, 8/1993.

[1] Revised version of the paper for the workshop on "Multiple and Diasporic Identities: National and Ethnic Belongings in East Asia, and Europe" at Aalborg University, Denmark, September 15-16, 2000. Materials used in this paper are based on a research for my doctorial dissertation conducted from 1994-1996 on three different levels: (1) Taiwan’s Aborigine movement, where I looked at the actions and ideologies of those Aborigine elites who were taking part in the movement or in certain currents of it; (2) those circles and segments in Taiwanese Han-society who supported the Aborigine movement, i.eoppositional, clerical and academic circles, and since the beginning of the 1990ies also government institutions; (3) the Aborigine population in rural areas, consisting of at least twelve different ethnic groups, for whose rights and living conditions Aborigine elites were 'fighting' for, but whose voices were only seldom heard (Rudolph 2000a).
[2] The ‘taiwanization’ (‘bentuhua) that took place in the course of the increasing quest of Taiwan’s population for political and cultural independence from the mainland can also be translated as ’nativization’.
[3]Hoklo-Chinese constitute the majority of the island’s population (75%). The so called ‘Mainlanders’, who immigrated from the mainland with ChiangKai-shek after 1945 and who suppressed Taiwans population in the following four decades until the lifting of martial law in 1987, make up only 14% of Taiwan’s population. Another group of Han-Chinese who settled on Taiwan before the arrival of theMainlanders are the Hakka (9%). The only Non-Han on Taiwan are the Aborigines (Yuanzhumin=YZM), who today comprise no more than 1.6% of the population.
[4] ‘Aborigine (YZM) elites’ (Yuanzhuminjingying) and'Aborigine intellectuals’ (Yuanzhuminzhishifenzi) are terms commonly used in Taiwan. A first classification of ‘Aborigine-elites’ has been made by the Taiwanese anthropologist XieShizhong (1987a). Xiedistiguishes three kind of elites: (1) the ‘traditional Aborigine elites’ like chiefs and schamans, (2) the KMT-loyal ‘political Aborigine elites’ (Yuanzhuminzhengzhijingying), who were not recruited from the modern educational system yet and who only partially were traditional elites; and (3) the ‘intellectual Aborigine elites’ (Yuanzhuminzhishijingying), who splitted into two main antagonistic 'subgroups’ in the beginning of the 1980s, i.e., the young KMT-loyal ‘political Aborigine elite’ (Yuanzhuminzhengzhijingying) and the ‘resisting Aborigine elites’ (Yuanzhuminkangzhengjingying) who were organized in the pan-ethnic movement (Xie 1987a:75 u. Xie 1992a:54). In general, only the members of the ‘resisting Aborigine elite’ were refered to as ‘Aborigine intellectuals’ und ‘intellectual Aborigineelites’ (WeiYijun 1997:5).
[5] The term Yuanzhumin (hereafter: YZM) has been choosen in 1984 by the 'resisting Aborigine elite' (Yuanzhuminkangzhengjingying) as a substitution for the official term 'mountain compatriots'. It took ten years until this new ethnonym was officially recognized by the second constitution amendment in June 28, 1994, and two more years until the government yielded to pressure from YZM-legislators to establish a YZM-representing committee on the central level.

I principally agree with XieShizhong (1994) who suggests that in research literature 'YZM' should only be used as a term for 'Aborigines with awakened consciousness'. Nevertheless, for the sake of simplicity, I here use the term 'YZM' to refer to 'Taiwanese Aborigines' in a more general sense.

[6]Anthropoligical findings suggest that there originally dwelled more than 25 different Austronesian groups on the island. Most of them assimilated to Han society in the course of the last two centuries. The cultures and languages of the Ami (37,5%=120.704 Ps.), Atayal (23,6%=75.995 Ps.), Paiwan (18,9%=60.764 Ps.), Bunun (10,9%=35.041 Ps.), Puyuma (2,5%=7.989 Ps.), Cao (2,2%=7.140 Ps.), Rukai (2,1%=6.815 Ps.), Saisiat (1,9%=3.884 Ps.) and Yami (1,2%=3.497 Ps), however, are still alive.
[7] One of the reasons for this decline of interest is the difficulty to adapt the Hakka movement to the taiwanization-movement:Hakka – who were once regarded as an ethnic group different from the Han -are reluctant to give up their 'zhongyuan-(=Center of Chinese Culture) identity'which has been constructed only very recently as a reaction to discrimination by the Han.
[8] Aborigines have quotas for own representatives in the parliament (Rudolph 1996).
[9] An exception were the demonstrations for land return (huanwotudiyundong) in 1988, 1989, and 1993. Numbers of participants each time reached from one to two thousand (Rudolph 1996).
[10]Xie 1987c.
[11] The same year, this work of Xie was followed by another publication on the movement (Xie 1987b).
[12] Fu Yangzhi (1994) found this attitude not only in most middle and lower class Aborigines, but also in most middleclassHan including 'middle-level' intellectuals.
[13] According to Xie, pan-ethnic identity was constituded of exogenic as well as of endogenic factors. Exogenic factors included the dissatisfaction with a number of discriminatory ethnonyms like the commonly used term 'savages', the official term 'mountain compatriots' used by the Taiwanese government until 1994, as well as the academic term 'high mountain tribe' (today, this term is still used by the PRC). A further exogenic factor was the indifferent attitude and the ideology of the government in terms of YZM-administration. Endogenic factors included the common historical experience of the last 400 years (i.e., the decline from the status of only dominator to the status of being dominated under the Han and the KMT-government), the similar cultural background (all groups belong to the Austronesian language group), the cultural crisis experienced by the members of these ethnic groups (i.e, the rapid dying of their languages and cultures) as well as the development of a new critical consciousness within a growing number of YZM-intellectuals in the course of political change in Taiwan during the 1980ies (Xie 1987a).
[14]XieShizhong 1987a and b.
[15] Taiwan’s first political opposition party – the Democratic Development Party - has been founded in 1986 when martial law had not been lifted yet. Until its legalization in 1989 the DPP was only tolerated by the KMT-government.
[16] Although the percentage of Aborigines with higher school education was always five times lower than the average in Han society, their number had doubled in the years 1978 to 1985 (i.e., from 0,92% to 2%). Until 1988 it had risen to 2,5% of the Aborigine population in Taiwan (Institute of Ethnology Academia Sinica 1992:24f). The number of PCT-preachers and social workers, which in 1983 had reached 390, rose to 500 until 1993 (Yuanxuan 1993:33).
[17] A very similar process has been described by Wang Fu-ch'ang (1989) in his analysis of the development of Taiwanese political opposition in Taiwan. Wang contends that Taiwanese Han intellectuals experienced a twofold process of assimilation and discrimination when they competed with mainlanderHanelites in a Chinese culture biased system. This finally caused them to stand up against the mainlander regime.
[18] Though Xie, who strongly supported the Aborigine movement, also warns that worldviews and symbols of the elites might be not intelligible for ordinary people from Aborigine society, he does not go deeper into this argument. As results from my own fieldwork from 1994-1996 indicate, the incompatibility of YZM-ideology with the perceptions of ordinary people became one of the most important reasons for the gap between 'elites and people' that kept on existing in the period after authoritarian rule.
[19]XuMuzhu 1990:137.
[20] Two years passed until LiDenghui, who had succceded president JiangJingguo after his death in late 1988 as vice-president, was officially approved by the parliament.
[21] The term ‘ethnic group’ (zuqun) had not been used in Taiwan’s political vocabulary before 1989 (Chang 1996). When the term became popular in Taiwan in 1989/1990, it was totally unfamiliar to people in Mainland China.
[22] How much the KMT-mainstream faction - relieved from the mainlanders within the KMT after the splitting away of the New China Party (NCP) in 1993 - supported this discourse, was demonstrated by LiDenghui, who in 1994 adopted the notion of the ‘Taiwan living community’, a notion that has originally been created by Taiwan’s opposition party and that was slightly alteredby Li. The term used by the DPP was ‘Taiwan fate community’, it referred to the common experiences of the different peoples of Taiwan who were ‘thrown together by fate’. As the promotion of the ‘Taiwan living community’ was not the only pro-Taiwan notion made by Li at that time (another important slogan was ‘[Let’s] manage great Taiwan and establish a new Chinese cultural center’), authorities in Beijing harboured the suspicion that Li was a ‘traitor to the Chinese nation’.
[23] Of course, the ‘Austronezation’ that seized Taiwan since the early 1990s did not stay unnoticed in the PRCh. The new kind of nationalist discourse in Taiwan that referred to the hybridity of Taiwan’s inhabitants and that hence stayed caught in the category of ‘race’, was now again countered with arguments stressing ‘racial origins’. For instance, an article with the title "Testification of the genealogical (xueyuan) origin of Taiwan’s Yuanzhumin" in the foreign edition of People’s Daily on 16.2.1996 pointed to new archaeological findings, according to which the ancestors of the Yuanzhumin had originally come from the mainland and partly even from North-China to Taiwan and hence must have been Chinese. The author of the article contends enthusiastically, that these findings should also have ‘direct impact on the important national question of reunification of Taiwan and China’ (Wang Xiaohui 1996:5).
[24]Allio 1998:59f.
[25] The incident happened on the first day of the conference: A group of 10 Aborigine activists in traditional costumes suddenly interrupted the official program, marched on to the stage, and openly announced the 'cultural headhunting raid proclamation'. In general, this was a catalogue of demands in which Aborigines requested to be taken more seriously with respect to their sovereignity. The participating cadres were asked to intensify their cooperative efforts regarding name correction as well as the implementation of Aborigines' institutions and autonomous zones; and the anthropologists who had been the main planners of the congress were blamed not only for wasting too much time on academic questions, but also for their Han-centred world-view, demonstrated by the under-representation of Aborigines at the congress. The first official recognition of the ethnonym 'Yuanzhumin' occurred during the speech LiDenghui gave on the last day of the congress. For a more detailed description of the event see Rudolph 1996.
[27] In one of the attached Chinese language articles Tian - himself a member of the Taroko, a subgroup of the Atayal - explains the myth of the origin of the custom, in another article he explains the qualifications men and women needed to demonstrate in order to receive the tattoo and acquire the right to marry: men had to prove their skills in hunting and in battle, while woman were expected to have high skills in weaving. Males who were successfull several times in headhunting were authorized to add special tattoos to their breast, feet and forehead. Among the stories reported, is also that of 90-years old BiyangLahang, who had observed the bloody scenes of headhunting with her own eyes and who could account for the way the heads were treated after headhunting.
[28] That members of the YZM-movement were only poorly supported by the larger Aborigine society was certified once again by the election results for YZM-legislators in December 1995. All politicians elected belonged to the KMT-loyal political elite of Aborigines (Rudolph 1996).
[29] Although the office for population registration of the ministry of Interior had "mobilized all forces to encourage Aborigines to rehabilitate their original names", (for example by making advertisements on all state TV channels or by permitting Aborigines to go through formalities without official identity papers), only 154 of 380 Ts. Aborigines had made use of the possibility of name rehabilitation until July 1997. As LinJiangyi, director of the YZM-educational board emphasizes, even younger Aborigines (including his own children) do not dare to reveal their YZM-status before their social ties and relations in their living environment are not fixed (Taiwan AktuellNr. 201, 16.7.1997).
[30] It was looked upon with suspicion that many members of Aborigine elites who claimed that their "mother language was the root of a particular culture and thus should be practiced more often in everyday life" sent their own children to Han schools in the plains.
[31] The intellectuals justified their behavior byemphasizing the importance of opposing these structures, which could take on excessive forms during periods of authoritarian rule.
[32] De Vos and Wagatsuma state: "As a result of involvement, the individual may participate in politically deviant behavior rather than resort to individual extra-legal deviancy. Far left political movements are socially integrative insofar as they seek means of effecting change without a denial of self-identity (...). The individual who takes political action is mobilizing his energy toward a cause rather than falling back from it in either resignation or apathy, as is the case with a great majority of the Burakumin." (De Vos/Wagatsuma 1966:259).
[33] This also included the adoption of certain Han stereotypes of Aborigine identity in the tourism sector, as Xie shows in Xie 1992c.
[34] Fu Yangzhi 1994.
[35] This is also testified by the relatively high degree of intermarriage of Aborigines andHan: Data of LiYiyuan (1992:253f) indicate that the percentage of Aborigine woman marrying Han men in 1984 almost reached 40%.