(I) The Contemporary Post-colonial Situation in Taiwan and Taiwan’s Attitudes Toward Japan


Unlike other countries in Asia such as South Korea or China who have also had a history of war, colonization and occupation with Japan, Taiwan has had a very unique experience. The pro-Japanese attitude demonstrated generally by the Taiwanese is a drastically different outlook from that of the two aforementioned countries. Taiwanese society is still entangled in three “post-wars,” and different “Taiwanese” populations have crafted unique positions, loyalties and resentments with relation to the Japanese and Chinese legacies and presences in Taiwan. This uniqueness has made this phenomenon all the more interesting and increasingly important to study in the domain of social sciences.

Specific research topics in the past have included particular aspects of Taiwanese society such as: the phenomenon of Japan’s post-colonial local religious missionary efforts, the February 28th Incident, the Japanese spiritual discourse of the Takasago volunteers, the sentiments of the Taiwan and Japanese revealed through tragic poetry, the analysis of books on Japanese culture in Taiwan, the unique spiritual concepts of consolation of war in Taiwan, and the socio-cultural phenomenon of two-layered colonization in Taiwan post-1987.

(II) The Ethnography of Okinawa Yonaguni Area and the “East Taiwan Sea” Ring

In 1992, I began studying the ethnology of the southern Yaeyama and Miyako Islands, Yonaguni Island, and Okinawa, close to Yilan, Taiwan. Geographically, I expanded my study to the overall maritime region including three island groups: (1) the Sakishima Islands at the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands, (2) Taiwan and the islands of Lanyu and Green Island off its eastern seaboard, and (3) the Batanes Islands north of the Balintang Channel. I have employed the term “East Taiwan Sea” when describing the history of interactions among the various ethnic groups that inhabit the area around this maritime region as well as the cultural affinity that links their myths, legends and rites. This “East Taiwan Sea” ring is an area with its own distinct ethnic cultural history that has been neglected in ethnological discourse and I believe that it will soon become a recognized new theme of discourse.

(III) Action/Applied/Public Anthropology Research and Practice

At the core of this so-called “action/applied/public anthropology” is the promotion of the interaction of anthropology and public policy issues. Particularly in light of the challenges of that face many indigenous peoples, anthropology has attracted a new sense of ethical responsibility in terms of its knowledge and action feedback.

Under this theme, I have focused particularly on two issues: legal anthropology and the anthropology of natural disasters. August 2009’s Typhoon Morakot has left much to study as a social and cultural phenomenon especially regards to the indigenous people of Taiwan. Typhoon Marakot and its subsequent relief efforts had a tremendous impact on nearly seventy (70) indigenous tribes in Taiwan, with damage that had not been experienced in over a century. In particular, the Taiwanese government’s relocation efforts have caused a near-extinction of many ancient tribal cultures and has left us with a new sense of urgency to conduct action in this area.

Although Taiwan belongs to an area that is prone to natural disasters, the country’s knowledge of appropriate response methods and disaster strategies is still very scarce. Thus, I have spent a great deal of time collecting research data from other countries, including Aceh of Indonesia, Sichuan of China, New Orleans of the US, Tohoku of Japan, in order to make comparison and facilitate a stronger knowledge base. Furthermore, I am actively involved in numerous non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), have participated in an expert capacity in court and other legal proceedings, and have acted as a bridge of communication between the government, tribal peoples and the public.