Austronesian Southeast Asia:
Christian Alan Anderson
Department of Anthropology
University of Southern California
March 19, 2002
AUSTRONESIAN SOUTHEAST ASIA
ISSUES IN AUSTRONESIAN STUDIES
Austronesian origins: Archaeology, linguistics, and local knowledge
Navigation and Austronesian colonization
Political dynamics of exchange systems
Religious diversity and syncretism
Status and autonomy for women
Social obligation and debt bondage
Postcolonial independence and nationhood
Discussion: Globalization, jihad, and ethnic relations
TAIWAN AS A CASE STUDY
Anthropological research on Taiwan
The prehistory of Taiwan
Taiwan¡¦s colonial history
1. Dutch and early Chinese settlements in Taiwan
2. Japanese colonialism in Taiwan
3. The Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalists in Taiwan
The Urbanization of Taiwan & native movements
Discussion: Taiwan¡¦s place in Austronesian studies
Map 1: Geographical boundary of contemporary Austronesian language
speakers (Pawley & Ross 1995, 45).
The first section of this paper defines a region of Austronesian Southeast
Asia. The second and main section of this paper deals with several contemporary
issues in the region. The final section examines ways in which the Austronesian
world is connected with Southern China and Taiwan, and elaborates Taiwan¡¦s
place in Austronesian studies.
AUSTRONESIAN SOUTHEAST ASIA
Austronesian is a linguistic
classification, yet when considered as a region, there are also similarities
in the archaeological, ethnographic, historical, and even genetic records (Bellwood
1995). There is, of course, great cultural diversity throughout the Austronesian
world, and so successful efforts to find common, yet meaningful, ground have
been relatively few. James Fox (1995) suggests one common Austronesian theme
is a notion of multiple origins, and a preoccupation with precedence. Others
have noted that Austronesian populations are generally associated with animal
domestication and agriculturally based economies (Bellwood 1995; Spriggs 1995;
Groves 1995; but see Sather 1995 for a refutation). Still others are most impressed
with the navigational technology that enabled the Austronesian colonization
of the Pacific (Oliver 1989a, 1989b; Horridge 1995; Howe 1996). With the exception
of New Guinea and some of the islands of Melanesia, Oceania was not populated
prior to Austronesian colonization, so in Polynesia and Micronesia, Austronesian
cultures are considered indigenous.
With the exception
of linguists and the volume edited by Peter Bellwood and colleagues at the Australian
National University (1995), few anthropologists have published comparative research
on Austronesia. Many of the most famous anthropologists, however, have researched
particular Austronesian societies, and many of the most significant problems
and questions of social anthropology have been found and dealt with in Austronesian
cultural contexts. For that reason, the field of Austronesian studies is among
the richest in anthropology. Yet, since most of the Austronesian societies did
not keep written accounts of history, there is a wide gap of unknown history.
Before the European colonization
of Southeast Asia and Oceania, documentary sources on Austronesian Southeast
Asia came from accounts of traders and religious expeditions from India, the
first of which is dated to the 2000BP inscriptions in East Kalimantan and Java
(Supomo 1995). The rise of state-level society in Java and Bali is attributed
to influences from Hindu and Buddhist priests who traveled to Southeast Asia
on the trade routes since the first century AD (2000BP).
The earliest human occupation
of Southeast Asia was between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago, achieved by voyaging
in watercraft across up to 65 kilometers of open ocean (Bowdler 1993: 57). These
early settlers were not, however, Austronesian. They are linguistically and
racially distinct, having more in common with contemporary peoples of New Guinea.
The Austronesian colonization of island Southeast Asia, according to linguistic
reconstruction of Proto-Austronesian and archaeological evidence (Bellwood 1995),
happened between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago. Exactly from where the Austronesians
came, discussed in depth below, is still debated.
Southeast Asia is a modern
concept used to construct a region of modern nations, those south of China,
east of India, and west of the island of New Guinea. Cultural and economic life
on mainland Southeast Asia, which includes the modern nations of Vietnam, Laos,
Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma, is more influenced by Chinese cultural values.
Conversely, cultural and economic life in what Anthony Reid calls the ¡§Lands
Below the Winds¡¨, or Peninsular Malaysia and Island Southeast Asia, while indeed
influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism (for example, Bali) and Chinese values (brought
by immigrants now concentrated primarily in Singapore and Malaysia), is more
influenced by Islamic cultural values. It was the Malay (Austronesian) traders
who spread the Muslim religion throughout Southeast Asia during the time when
the great trade port of Malacca was a central hub for the spice trade (around
400AD), connecting the islands of Indonesia to India and China. Throughout Indonesia
and Malaysia, Austronesian societies networked in trade routes, supplying spices
to the kingdoms of Southern Asia much earlier than their counterparts in Oceania
CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN AUSTRONESIAN STUDIES
Some of the most interesting
and provocative anthropological studies are based on ethnographic research in
the Austronesian region (for example, Malinowski 1922 in the Triobriands; Mead
1928 in Samoa; Mauss 1950 comparing Trobriands; Lutz 1988 in Micronesia (Ifaluk);
Weiner 1988 in the Trobriands again, Sahlins 1985 in Oceania, Geertz 1980 in
Bali, etc.). Recent studies of Austronesian populations are concerned to understand
processes of religious syncretism (Reid 1995; Yengoyan 1995; Supomo 1995). Other
studies are concerned with political dynamics of exchange systems among Austronesians
before, during, and after the influences of Western capitalism (Thomas 1995;
Stoller 1995;Weiner 1988, 1986, 1980). The following summary provides an outline
of some of the most prominent anthropological issues in contemporary Austronesian
origins: Archaeology, linguistics,
and local knowledge
archaeologists, physical anthropologists, and cultural anthropologists have
all contributed to the ongoing debate on the
origins of Austronesian languages and cultures (Bellwood, Fox & Tryon 1995). The archaeological record suggests that Austronesians,
having a distinctive language and having developed agriculture and animal domestication,
as well as expert navigational technologies, colonized what became the Austronesian
world at a time when other settlers, mostly foraging cultures, inhabited the
islands of Southeast Asia, the island of New Guinea, and Australia.
Some suggest that Austronesian languages,
and therefore cultures, originated on Taiwan between 5000BP and 6000BP (Bellwood
1995). Three factors mark Taiwan as a likely place where Austronesian
language and culture first developed: (1) Taiwan has the greatest diversity of Austronesian languages
presently and historically, so much so that a top level linguistic subcategory
of Formosan languages is currently used to identify Austronesian languages spoken
in Taiwan, contrasted with the neighboring subcategory of Malayo-Polynesian
(Tryon 1995, 24-27); (2) the physiological, or genetic, variation of Taiwan¡¦s
Austronesian population is greater than any other island in the Pacific; and
(3) archaeological dates for the Austronesian cultural complex of pig domestication,
agriculture, and pottery are found in Taiwan earlier than elsewhere in Island
Southeast Asia or Oceania.
Others suggest that Austronesian languages
and cultures originated in the Southeastern Asian mainland that is now Southern
China, or that they conversely originated in what is now mainland Southeast
Asia, and spread out through the Malay/Indonesian archipelago (Bowdler 1993).
This issue is difficult to resolve because the linguistic and archaeological
data at times disagree, and there are large gaps in archaeological records.
The general pattern of Austronesian colonization,
however, is clear enough. Whether originating on mainland Southeast Asia, Southern
China, or Taiwan, there was an initial movement to the southern islands¡Xwhat
is now the modern nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines¡Xfollowed
by movements outward in all directions, reaching the western extreme of Africa
and settling the island of Madagascar, and reaching the eastern extreme of Easter
Island, then north to Hawaii and south to New Zealand around 1000BP. Significantly,
the mountains of New Guinea and the Australian continent were not colonized.
Linguistic data suggest subsequent voyages and migrations between already colonized
islands, and trade connections throughout.
Local stories of origins,
of course, do not extend unchanged thousands of years into the past, but focus
on the most important aspects of these stories for the contemporary population,
which is the identification of the founders of specific communities. It is through
this sort of precedence that Austronesian cultures everywhere establish social
relations between and among various sub-groups within a larger community. Fox
(1995) has described a process of ¡§apical demotion¡¨ to account for such a
preoccupation among Austronesian peoples generally. He points out the importance
of local origin myths in establishing and maintaining local social relations.
Other research into the way kinship ¡¥falsification¡¦ is used to provide ancestral
links with the most powerful and increase one¡¦s own chances of rising to power
in Austronesian Southeast Asia are noted by Paul Cohen (1993:183). Further research
into the political implications of scientific and popular notions of cultural
identity throughout Austronesian Southeast Asia also relates, if less directly,
to the issue of origins in terms of what they mean in contemporary daily life
(see Anderson 2002 and Anderson 2001 on this issue in Austronesian Taiwan).
and initial colonization
The navigational technology required
to voyage hundreds of miles across open sea that was widely employed as early
as 6000BP, the dates suggested by both linguistic Proto-Austronesian reconstructions
and archaeological evidence in Southeast Asia for the peopling of the Austronesian
world (Bowdler 1993, Bellwood 1995), remain among the greatest feats of human
were a colonizing people. Indeed, the Austronesian language family was the most
geographically widespread of any language family prior to the European colonization
(Blundell 1995). In terms of technology, the navigational wisdom necessary to
colonize the smallest islands in the Pacific Ocean is one of the great advances
in human history. Most of the islands encountered during colonization were already
inhabited by foraging populations, including most of Indonesia and New Guinea,
as well as some islands in western Melanesia. In these places, Austronesian
cultures settled the coastal areas and must have come into conflict with other
well-established cultures. Austronesians ventured into the interior regions
in some cases (especially in Island Southeast Asia), or conversely moved on
to other less populated environments (as is the case in New Guinea). The Austronesians
were, in fact, the ¡¥indigenous¡¦ peoples of Polynesia and Micronesia. In these
places they encountered uninhabited islands which they were able to settle as
a result of their portable agricultural technologies.
What factors inspired these
people to venture out to sea? Some possible motivations are associated with
the prestige of finding a new land, cultural fission, or even accidental discovery
on fishing trips. It is now generally accepted that the Austronesian colonization
of the Pacific was, if not purposeful, then certainly intelligible to the original
discoverers. That is, once an island was found, return trips were easily accomplished
by drawing on navigational skills (Lewis 1994). An intimate knowledge of currents,
stars, wind patterns, and other makers of land such as birds and bio-efflorescence,
as well as sailing techniques made these journeys possible (Oliver 1989b).
of exchange systems
Similarly, research on the political
dynamics of Austronesian exchange systems has been a productive field of study
for cultural and social anthropologists in the region, such as Malinowski (1922)
and Weinner (1980) on the Trobriands. Of course, the most widely known
study of exchange in the Austronesian region is Malinowski¡¦s study of the Trobriand
kula ring. Mauss¡¦s (1950) study of
¡¥the gift¡¦ is also based in part on Malinowski¡¦s work. And, Weinner¡¦s research
on sagali elaborates women¡¦s place
in Trobriand exchange.
More recently, Nicholas Thomas
(1995) analyzed Austronesian exchange systems according to a set of criteria
that focus on the convertibility of exchange items. One form, epitomized in
the Marquesas, involves the exchange of ¡§like-for-like,¡¨ emphasizing the quantity
of goods as in the case of competitive exchange of food. The other form involves
the exchange of different types of valuables among more hierarchically oriented
groups, often across a wider region. The latter form has generally demonstrated
compatibility in foreign trade encounters and eventual colonial relationships,
while the former when presented with the colonial context has generally fallen
away in the destruction of the indigenous exchange system because it is not
developed for foreign trade.
greater the range of possible conversions, the greater the scope for political
actors to mobilize resources of different kinds and obtain strategic advantages
over other competing groups, and the more scope, in particular, for the development
of complex regionally-differentiated exchange systems in which some groups have
central and others peripheral statuses (Thomas 1995:272).
other words, the ability to absorb and put to use new trading relations and
exotic goods by being able to translate their value into an indigenous system,
as Thomas finds in Fiji, enables the existing authorities to keep a political
edge in trade relations with outsiders. It is this same ability to translate
values that characterizes Austronesian religious and belief systems.
The religions of Austronesia
prior to outside influence are summarized by Reid (1995) as marked by a dualism
in which both male and female elements were essential. Indeed, Hoskins¡¦ (1998)
discussion of ¡¥gender dualism¡¦ in Sumba finds these same elements present
in the indigenous belief system of the Kodi, not only with reference to people,
but to objects as well. Hoskins¡¦
(1993:224) earlier writing about the Kodi of Sumba also notes the importance
of ancestors as related to land claims through oratory at feasts. Usually the female roles were
associated with the spiritual realm. The material world was understood as a
place of spiritual forces that must be manipulated in daily interactions. Anthony
and shamanistic activity was usually designed for immediate practical ends.
Spiritual forces had to be manipulated to cure illness, ensure fertility, increase
power, safeguard the living particularly at dangerous life crises, and ensure
that the dead were assisted through the most traumatic of all transitions into
a contented afterlife. Feasting and animal sacrifice was made to ensure the
spirits were on side for every personal crisis ... [1995:323]
religions were usually organized around appeasing the ancestors.
It is therefore, no surprise that when other ¡¥world religions¡¦ came
into the area, they were understood and practiced with this bent toward ancestor
teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, Catholicism and Christianity
all had great influence on Austronesian Southeast Asian political and religious
thought. Alongside these ¡¥outside¡¦ influences, the wide variety of ¡¥indigenous¡¦
beliefs about supernatural and natural beings were combined with the ¡¥world
religions¡¦ exemplifying ¡¥religious syncretism,¡¦ or the bringing together
of different religious ideologies to form a new belief system. Austronesians
are said to be fond of combining belief systems, indeed as early as 2000BP in
the ¡¥Javanization¡¦ of the Hindu Bharata which followed the ¡¥Sanskritization¡¦
of ¡¥Jawa¡¦ culture (Supomo 1995).
The earliest evidence of
Hinduism in Southeast Asia comes from Sanskrit inscriptions on seven stone pillars
found in East Kalimantan near the Makassar Straits in Indonesia, dating to around
400AD (Supomo 1995:292). Supomo develops the idea that Buddhist and Hindu religious
traditions were welcomed by the Javanese elite, eventually resulting in the
adoption of Sanskrit as a written language for this early ¡¥literati.¡¦ It was
brahman priests from India who brought the knowledge of Sanskrit, but the political
dynamics developed internally, merely drawing on the spiritual aspects of the
¡¥exotic¡¦ tradition (Bentley 1986). Literacy
in Sanskrit spread throughout Indonesia among Austronesian elites between the
fourth and eighth centuries AD as one result of the extension of kingdoms throughout
the region. Brahmans and Buddhist monks were invited by local rulers to teach.
They were given land and other accommodations, and generally encouraged to keep
relations with the ruling elite. Chinese accounts from the seventh century indicate
that Walaing in central Java and Sriwijaya in southern Sumatra were by that
time famous centers for Buddhist learning, and popular stops along Chinese pilgrimages
to India (Supomo 1995:301).
Generally speaking, the Hindu
and Buddhist traditions that entered from India remained aristocratic eccentricities
for the first few centuries. However,
the infusion of the Indian conception of royalty, it is extremely doubtful whether
local polities with the relatively small-scale systems of political integration
and ranking which were the common features of prehistoric Austronesian societies,
could have developed into ¡¥true states with specialised bureaucracies and the
powers to maintain allegiance by force¡¦ (Supomo 1995: 298).
By the ninth century AD, there
are Old Javanese inscriptions in Java, indicating that the general level of
literacy had increased significantly by that time.
Somewhere around the beginning
of the eleventh century, the Mahabharata was translated into Javanese, under
the patronage of King Dharmawangsa Teguh (Supomo 1995:306). The story was not
only translated into the vernacular, but also given the cultural context of
the times. The translator was drawing on common knowledge to tell the same basic
story, and in effect ¡§Javanizing¡¨ the story.
During the fifteenth century,
the Muslim religion was forcibly introduced across Island Southeast Asia bringing
about rapid changes in Austronesian identity, especially regarding the special
cultural value of pigs, and mortuary practices (Reid 1995). Again, different
sorts of ¡¥syncretism¡¦ eventually developed wherein newly converted Austronesian
Muslims found ways to satisfy the ancestors while still outwardly observing
the tenets of Islamic theology. From the thirteenth century until European colonization
beginning in the seventeenth century, Islamic sultans ruled in Malaya and Indonesia,
the most wealthy and powerful controlled trade hubs of Malacca, Aceh, Johor,
Banten, Makassar, and other estuarian river valleys (Cohen 1993:186). Even after
the British took control of Malaysia in 1794, Islamic sultans continued their
rule, although under British control. The Dutch also ruled Indonesia through
local sultans and regents from the traditional aristocracy, more interested
in economics than religion. Interestingly, modern Indonesia remains the world¡¦s
largest Muslim population, and the anti-colonial revolution in Indonesia was
carried out as a jihad, or holy war, under the tenants of Islam (Janet Hoskins,
Although the Muslim religion
is not ¡¥native¡¦ to Malaysia, it is certainly pre-colonial, and has since been
the focus of a nationalist movement in the 1970s, called ¡¥dakwa¡¦
(prosletyzing). Diverse Islamic revivalist groups began to develop as a social
force among university educated Malay women, and united to rally against the
decadent lifestyle of the secular Malay elite. The dakwa movement called for a return to the moral and spiritual values
of Islam, in which the ¡¥umma¡¦ (Malay
race) was to be ¡¥recovered¡¦ by revitalizing, or re-inventing, Islamic traditions
borrowed from Arabic societies, including veiling for women, prayer rituals,
and diet restrictions (Ong 1995:159-187). Islam in Malaysia, once a foreign
religion, has come to represent the native nationality of Malay people, and
mark their distinctiveness vis-à-vis the minority Chinese and Indian
In Taiwan, Chinese migrations began
in the seventeenth century, and the western port cities of Kaohsiung and Tainan
were established. Some of the local Austronesian cultures were pushed away from
the prime land, while others were ¡¥sinicized¡¦ (made Chinese) and incorporated
in the creation of what would become Taiwanese culture. The Portugese, Spanish,
and British all temporarily occupied parts of Taiwan, but the Chinese hero Koxinga
defeated the last of the Portugese in the 1640s. From the eighteenth century
until Japan¡¦s occupation in 1895, Taiwan remained a Chinese settlement on the
western half of the island, and an Austronesian homeland in the central mountains
and valleys of the eastern coast. The Austronesian cultures of Taiwan all continued
to hold traditional beliefs, except for those living on the western plains,
who were ¡¥sinicized¡¦ into the traditional Taiwanese belief system that is
a complicated and flexible blend of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. The
Chinese on Taiwan also held ancestors in high esteem, and for the Austronesians,
the transition involved changes more in terminology than practice.
Japanese colonialism on Taiwan
was aimed at bringing the island into the burgeoning Japanese economic system,
which already included Korea and parts of Northeast China (Manchuria). Yet,
other than language instruction and the rhetoric of a Japanese led Asian co-prosperity
sphere, no attention was given to converting Taiwan¡¦s people to Japanese religion,
itself a mixture of Buddhism and Shinto (indigenous) beliefs.
In the Philippines
and throughout Oceania, however, European colonialism meant conversion to Christianity.
From the seventeenth century, European missionaries arrived with the colonial
governments. The Spanish occupied and took over the Philippines beginning with
the founding of Manila in 1571. Unlike the British in Malaysia, the Spanish
ruled the Philippines through the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church, and conversion
of the Austronesian population was done by force. The Spanish developed the
¡¥encomienda¡¦ system¡Xbased on the Austronesian ¡¥barangay¡¦ (kinship group)
system¡Xa local arrangement for administration through a Spanish priest, replacing
the Austronesian datu (shaman/leader), collecting tribute for the colonial administration.
In this way, the belief system of Catholicism was placed on top of the traditional
Austronesian belief systems.
The main ¡¥world religion¡¦ introduced
into Oceania was Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism), and this only
began in the eighteenth century, in some places not until the twentieth century.
Then again, the Austronesians themselves did not reach the most remote islands
of New Zealand and Hawaii until the tenth century. Throughout Oceania, Christianity
was presented alongside other Western cultural values such as commercialization,
capitalism, individualism, liberalism, and humanitarianism.
The Fijian notion of ¡¥sukulu¡¦
(Lau of Malaita, film) encompasses all of these values together, expressing
what seemed to be the thrust of Christianity as introduced by the mission in
that area. Similar responses to
early traders and missionary influence throughout Oceania, and especially in
Melanesia, are called cargo cults.
Autonomy for Women
in the Austronesian world have a comparatively higher status than in other regions
(Reid 1988). As early as the fifteenth century, the markets of island Southeast
Asia were dominated by women (Brenner 1995). Virginity was not valued, and in
some cases considered dangerous. Specialists were sometimes required to deflower
girls before their marriages to protect their husbands from the power of a woman¡¦s
blood (Reid 1988:152). Also attesting to women¡¦s power, Southeast Asian men
underwent painful surgeries on their penises, inserting various metal balls,
pins, and wheels, explained to give the woman more pleasure in sexual intercourse
(Reid 1988:148-150). Divorce was also relatively more common in Southeast Asian
(50% of married couples) than elsewhere, especially Europe of the same period.
Women could initiate divorce as well as men, and there was ¡¥no shame¡¦ to remarry.
Children were divided between the divorced couple, with the sons usually going
with the father and daughters with mother (Reid 1988:152-158).
patriarchal values were translated locally into recognizing female authority
along with male authority. One particular Malaysian group with roots in the
¡¥dakwa¡¦ movement (discussed above)
called ¡§Sisters of Islam¡¨ based their social movement on the goal to articulate
women¡¦s rights in Islam, based on interpreting the Koran in its historical
and cultural context. In other words, to reach the ¡¥heart of the Koran¡¦, not
the literal interpretation of the texts. ¡§It is not Islam that oppresses women,
but human beings with all their weaknesses who have failed to understand Allah¡¦s
intentions¡¨ (Ong 1995:185). The two genders both had and continue to have realms
of authority: masculinity in spiritual and political life among the elite, femininity
in social and economic life of the household and marketplace.
More recently a wealth of research on
the relatively high status and autonomy for women in Austronesian societies
has flourished, some of which is collected in the volumes edited by Aihwa Ong
and Michael Peletz (1995), Krishna Sen and Maila Stivens (1998), and Laurie
Sears (1996). Notable contributions by Suzanne Brenner (1995) and Aihwa Ong
(1995) explore the contemporary understandings of the Muslim notions of akal
(reason) and nafsu (passion) in Java and Malaysia respectively, especially as they
are inscribed on men¡¦s and women¡¦s bodies. Akal is the Arabic/Muslim concept of ¡§rationality/spiritual potency/restraint¡¨,
while nafsu is the concept for ¡§passion/emotionality/desire.¡¨
According to official Islamic ideology, men are more akal
and women are more nafsu by nature.
In Java, however, men are also considered to be by nature more nafsu and have a harder time controlling their desires, especially
dealing with money (gambling) and sex (prostitution), while women demonstrate
more restraint (akal) in dealing with
money and sex. Men are said to have a ¡§lust for money¡¨ and tend to think in
terms of self-interest, while women tend to show a ¡§family, or kinship interest¡¨
that enables them to set aside personal desires for the benefit of the social
In Java, even though women can and do
control their own desires, they are still considered dangerous as they can ¡§awaken¡¨
desires and passions (nafsu) in men.
¡§Whereas men¡¦s extramarital sexual activity is associated with uncontrolled
desire and the dispersion of family resources, female sexuality remains conceptually
bound to economic accumulation and to the production of status for the family¡¨
through work in the market (Brenner 1995:45).
Even though women in Austronesian Southeast
Asia have been traditionally excluded from political leadership roles, there
are a few contemporary examples of women leaders: Megawati Sukarnoputri in Indonesia
(the daughter of Sukarno), and Imelda Marcos and Corazon Aquino in the Philippines.
Although Imelda Marcos did not officially rule the Philippines, her contribution
to the making of Ferdinand Marcos¡¦ political career through her family networking,
or ¡§kinship politics¡¨ was essential (Roces 1998). Yet, Roces analysis of the
Philippines also suggests that for women to be powerful, they must also be beautiful,
and that requires ¡§a thin body size, a full bosom and hips, and a body decked
with fashionable clothes, adorned with a perfectly made-up face and hair-do,
expensive clothing, perfume, jewelry, high heeled shoes, manicured nails and
coordinated accessories¡¨ (1998:308). Her analysis suggests Corazon Aquino lacked
these powerful images of beauty, and therefore also lacked the attendant political
power of Imelda Marcos.
From at least the fifteenth
century in Austronesian Southeast Asia, control of manpower was the main index
of political power. Labor was scarce, not land. Human transactions were usually
expressed in monetary terms, and the state, where it did exist, did not provide
for legal or financial security. Here Anthony Reid finds ¡§a system of bonding
based largely on debt, where loyalties were strong and intimate, yet at the
same time transferable and even salable¡¨ (1988:129). There were several ways
to end up as a debt-bondsman: (1) inheritance of the bondage of one¡¦s parents,
(2) sale into bondage by parents, husband, or oneself, (3) caputre in war, (4)
judicial punishment or inability to pay a fine, and (5) failure to meet prior
debts (Reid 1988:131). Reid summarizes the Southeast Asian experience of ¡¥debt
bondage¡¦ as follows:
the absence of free wage labor, bondage was the primary source of labor mobility.
¡K It would be wrong to characterize the social and economic system of Southeast
Asia as either feudalism or slavery ¡K the Southeast Asian system was both more
personal and more monetary. Loyalty was more important than law, and everybody
had a master. Money was necessary to buy men¡¦s loyalty through debt, not to
buy their labor on a temporary wage basis. [1988:136]
These ¡¥slaves¡¦ could earn
their freedom, and buy their way out of ¡¥slavery,¡¦ so in this sense it is
not the same as the North American experience of African slaves. Another notable
difference is the absence of race as a marker of slaves, although that Muslims
could not take fellow Muslims as slaves shows an additional religious dimension.
trade routes across mainland Southeast Asia at first connected Rome through
India to China, then ocean voyages through the Straits of Malacca made the port
city a central hub in 400AD linking to both China and India, trading gold, spices,
silk, ceramics and cloth (Cohen 1993). During what Anthony Reid (1988) calls
the ¡¥age of commerce¡¦ (1400AD to 1800AD), Southeast Asia was exporting spices
and tin to Europe, West Asia, and India, acting as a middle-man between India
and China, and exporting wood, gold, and cotton to India, China, and Japan.
This resulted in a net trade surplus with India and trade deficit with China
(Frank 1998:92-104). The local pattern of social organization was based on the
debt-bondsman model discussed above, and there was no such thing as wage labor.
Masters owned the labor of their servants, and directly drew the profits on
The Austronesians of the Malay/Indonesian archipelago have
a long and continuous history of trade connections with India and China extending
to at least 400AD. It was not until the
late fifteenth century, however, that Island Southeast Asia¡¦s well-established
and flourishing trade network attracted the attention of the colonial European
countries of Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, France, and Britain. And, it was
in Southeast Asia that European trade companies first entered the Austronesian
region. Even though the Portugese tried to take the port city of Malacca in
1511 and control trade with the eastern Indonesian islands of the Moluccas (known
as the ¡¥spice islands¡¦), the first strictly ¡¥colonial¡¦ rule in Southeast
Asia was probably in the Philippines by the Spanish, starting in 1571 with the
founding of Manila.
The Philippines was incorporated into the capitalist economic
system through Spanish colonialism, beginning in 1521. Unlike the situation
of Malaysian and Indonesian Islamic sultanates, the Philippines had no central
political authority, and only a relatively small population of Muslims. The
Philippines was also the place of Magellan¡¦s death, killed for trying to convert
the natives to Catholicism (Janet Hoskins, personal communication). Spain ruled
the Philippines through the Catholic Church, imposing a mandatory conversion
and integration into the new Philippines colonial society (named after King
Phillip). Over the 350 year experience of Spanish colonialism, very few Spanish
women migrated to the Philippines, which contributed to Spanish men marrying
Austronesian women, creating the metizo
(mixed race) social/ethnic category of Filipino culture. This dynamic of European
father, Filipina mother still resonates in social and political life in the
Philippines today. It also recalls Roces¡¦ (1998) discussion of ¡§kinship politics¡¨
where women work ¡¥behind the scenes¡¦ navigating Austronesian ancestral-based
prestige spheres, itself reminiscent of what James Fox (1995) finds as a general
Austronesian concern with ¡¥multiple origins¡¦ of ancestry.
Shortly after the Spanish claimed the Philippines, in 1610,
the Dutch VOC (East India Company) established a monopoly on the spice trade
in the Moluccas, trying to establish direct trade connections with China. By
this time, Islam had already spread across maritime trade routes reaching most
of the Indonesian archipelago, and as far eastward as the islands of Sulu and
Mindanao in the Philippines. Islamic sultans ruled the island societies of Sumatra
and Java. In 1619, the Dutch took over present day Jakarta, at that time the
port city of Batavia, and ruled indirectly through the Javanese sultanate of
Mataram. They instituted mandatory labor, manipulating the Austronesian master-servant
(debt bondsman) organization, on coffee, tobacco and rubber plantations. All
profits were sent back to The Netherlands while famines recurred in Java and
For a brief five year period from 1811-1816 during the Napoleonic
Wars, the British East India Company expanded its reach from peninsular Malaya,
and occupied all of the Dutch colonies. Then, in 1825, the Netherlands took
back its former colonies of Java and Sumatra, and Austronesian resistance, led
by the Prince Diponegoro, led to the Java War, a five-year holy war (jihad)
against the Dutch, who eventually prevailed. After the turn of the twentieth
century, the Dutch gave into Austronesian demands for education and access to
civil service and government leadership. The next generation of Dutch educated
Austronesians, including the first Indonesian president Sukarno, called for
an end to colonialism. Yet, it would take the Japanese occupation of Indonesia
in World War II to finally get rid of the Dutch for good.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the British East
India Company took over all of the Dutch colonies, the port cities of the Malay/Indonesian
archipelago, and applied the same style of ¡¥indirect¡¦ rule through local Austronesian
Muslim sultanates. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded Singapore, a former pirate¡¦s
hideout, in 1819 and by 1840 it became the central hub of British trade in Asia,
linking to the Federated Malay States and the British protectorates of Sarawak
and Brunei in northern coastal Borneo. Chinese merchants and traders living
in peninsular Malaya migrate to the city of Singapore and become a majority
population (65%) by 1869 contrasted with minority Malay (20%), Indian (5%) and
British (5%). Under British indirect colonial rule, from its inception until
World War II, Singapore experienced steady economic and population growth. Following
Japanese occupation (1942-1945), and national independence in 1948, however,
Malaysia and Singapore were plagued by racial tension and violence between Chinese
and Malays. This tension led to the eventual creation of the separate modern
nations of Malaysia and Singapore to be discussed below.
Taiwan was the only Austronesian Southeast Asian island to be not only
occupied but under complete colonial control by Japan. For fifty years, from
1895 to 1945, Taiwan was part of Japan. The Japanese instituted mandatory education
for all colonial subjects, and brought the whole island, Chinese and Austronesians
alike, under complete Japanese military control from the capitol established
in present day Taipei. Taiwanese (both Chinese and Austronesian) men were forced
into military service for Japan and fought for Japan¡¦s imperialist efforts
throughout island Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines. According to
Japan¡¦s imperial plan, Taiwan was to provide both a base for further expansion
into Southeast Asia, and a labor service to the military industrial complex.
Japanese did an impressive job of transforming Taiwan¡¦s infrastructure with
roads and railways, and brought the whole island under regimented central control
for the first time, notwithstanding the Chinese presence that was mainly restricted
to the western plains. Japanese did not consider the interests of Taiwanese
(Chinese or Austronesian), did not enter marriages with them, and did not try
to adapt local ways of organization, but rather imposed the already existing
Japanese military social and political organization. Then, at the end of World
War II, all Japanese citizens living in Taiwan ¡¥went home¡¦, leaving a political
vacuum that was shortly thereafter, and again violently, filled by the KMT (Chinese
Nationalist Party) retreating from CCP (Chinese Communist Party) defeat in Mainland
China in 1949.
colonization of Oceania happened much later than in island Southeast Asia. It
was not until the early nineteenth century that more extensive trade routes
were established throughout the Pacific Ocean. European missionary efforts met
with difficulties in Melanesia, but had more initial success in the eastern
parts of Oceania where they found converting the elite of hierarchical chiefdoms
to produce conversion of the whole population. All of the nations of Western
Europe made efforts at colonizing various islands of Oceania; the most successful
were the French and the British. The United States also entered Oceania at the
turn of the twentieth century and established colonial control over parts of
Samoa and eventually annexed Hawaii.
independence and nationhood after the Asian co-prosperity sphere
From the turn of the twentieth century to the years leading up to World
War II, Japanese imperial expansion under the ideology of an Asian co-prosperity
sphere, spread like the plague throughout Asia; beginning with Korea, Manchuria
and Taiwan in the 1890s, and extending to the whole of Southeast Asia by 1942.
The defeat of Japan in World War II by the Allied Forces, and paramount among
them, the United States, marked the ostensible end of colonialism, as it had
existed in Southeast Asia for the previous 350 years, and the beginning of an
era of postcolonial national independence in the newly developing global political
climate of the Cold War. The American colonial rule of the Philippines, however,
had been ongoing since the end of the Spanish-American war, when former Spanish
colonies were ¡¥given¡¦ to the United States under the Treaty of Paris in 1899.
In 1880, approximately 300 years after initial Spanish colonization,
Jose Rizal started the Filipino nationalist movement, asking Spain to give full
voting rights and civil liberties to Filipinos. He was killed and has since
become a national hero. More insurrections followed until Spain ¡¥decided¡¦
to leave the Philippines, and granted control of the islands to the United States.
Filipino nationalist movements continued, and a three-year war of resistance
to American colonial rule followed from 1899 to 1902. The Nacionalista Political
Party was founded in 1907 and continued rallying for independence. The American
colonial rule of the Philippines from 1900 to 1946 was undertaken with the goal
to teach the ¡¥ways of democracy¡¦ through modernization. When the Japanese
attacked United States military bases on the Philippines in 1941, urging Filipino
nationalists to side with them as a partner in the Asian co-prosperity sphere,
Filipino nationalists fought with the Americans against the Japanese.
Following World War II, in 1946, the United States granted
national independence to the Philippines, yet the American military continued
to occupy military bases there until 1991. During the Cold War years, the Philippines
was an ostensible democracy, yet still operated according to Austronesian kinship
politics. From 1972 to 1986, Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines
as dictators. Then, Corazon Aquino, the first female president of a Southeast
Asian nation, ruled as president from 1986 to 1992. In 2001, another woman,
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the daughter of former president Macapagal, became
president of the Philippines. The contemporary Philippines, in 2002, is a nation
of predominantly Catholic Filipinos who speak an Austronesian language, Tagalog.
The Philippines is perhaps the most westernized nation of Southeast Asia, owing
to its long history of Spanish and American colonialism. Yet, it remains a relatively
poor nation, even after technological modernization.
Conversely, the modern nations of Malaysia and Singapore are
among the wealthiest in Asia. Singapore¡¦s per capita income actually surpassed
that of the United States in the 1990s. As in the Philippines and Indonesia,
however, nationalist sentiments developed against the colonial government, here
the British. Also similarly, the Japanese occupation during World War II and
their subsequent defeat and retreat brought about the end of colonialism and
ushered in the age of nationhood. Malaysia and Singapore, however, were and
continue to be racially divided among three groups: Malay (Austronesian), Chinese,
In 1948, Great Britain established the Federation of Malaya
with a majority Malay population (78%, 12% Chinese and 7% Indian), then in 1957
granted independence to both the nation of Singapore and the nation of Malaysia.
Singapore¡¦s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew (Li Guanyao) called for unification,
and it was granted for two years (1963-1965), but dissolved because of Lee¡¦s
alleged efforts to rule all of Malaysia from Singapore (Janet Hoskins, lecture,
From the 1960s through the 1990s, Singapore, located on the
central hub of the old Southeast Asian trade routes, developed one of the world¡¦s
fastest growing economies, trading freely with communist, socialist, and capitalist
nations during the Cold War years, linking ¡¥East¡¦ and ¡¥West.¡¦ Prime Minister
Lee Kuan Yew ruled as a patriarchal father guiding his children to economic
prosperity at all costs. At first an English language policy guided education
in western science and technology. Then, in the 1980s, in response to a ¡¥reproductive
crisis¡¦ that came about from university educated Chinese women delaying marriage
and having fewer offspring than the minority Malay and Indian women, Prime Minister
Lee instituted a policy of Confucian values and Mandarin Chinese language instruction
to ward off the dangers of western (American) cultural values of individualism
and liberalism (Heng and Devan 1995:203-204). So, to be from Singapore in the
1980s meant to be ¡¥Chinese¡¦ in Lee Kuan Yew¡¦s vision, one that selected aspects
of ¡¥Chineseness¡¦ such as filial piety applied to the service of the state.
Meanwhile in Malaysia in the 1970s, the dakwa movement connected Islamic values and re-interpretations of
the Koran and veiling for Malay women with Malaysian nationalism. Racial conflict
erupted into violence between Malays and Chinese over quotas set to allow more
Malays into universities, governmental service, and entrepreneurial development.
As in Singapre, the Malaysian economy prospered, but the wealth remained overwhelmingly
in the hands of the Chinese (80%, according to Janet Hoskins, lecture, 2/12/2002),
even though Malays (Austronesian Muslims) ostensibly control the government.
Racial tension continues in Malaysia and tends to be defined on religious lines
with Muslim as the marked category.
Modern Indonesia is the fourth largest nation in the world
with a population of 190 million, comprised of 300 ethnic groups speaking 583
different languages and dialects (Janet Hoskins, personal communication). It
also is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. The roots of Indonesian
nationalism extend to the Dutch decision to allow education for its colonial
subjects at the turn of the twentieth century. The first generation of Indonesians
to get a Dutch education started anti-colonial movements that General Sukarno
brought together in 1927 to form the Indonesian National Party, whose goal was
to unite subjects of Dutch colonialism (which had spread to include the islands
of Bali, Sumba, Flores, and Timor by 1913) against their oppressors. Sukarno¡¦s
goal was to unify the Indonesian people living on more than 13,000 islands through
a common language, Indonesian, which is a version of Malay language.
The Dutch were defeated by the Japanese in 1942, and forced
to retreat to the Netherlands. Following the Japanese defeat in World War II
and their retreat in 1945, General Sukarno led a five-year war with the Dutch
who tried to re-take Indonesia, and named himself as the first president of
Indonesia. Sukarno established his nationalist government, a kind of secular
socialism, or ¡¥guided democracy¡¦, and put into practice his Indonesian language
In 1966, after a massacre of ¡¥leftists¡¦ and Chinese merchants
supposedly led by the Communist party, General Suharto rose to power and established
a military government called the New Order, emphasizing centralized development
and industrial expansion. From 1966 through 1998, under Suharto, Indonesia experienced
rapid economic growth but limited civil freedom. Suharto then invaded the former
Portugese colony of Timor in 1975 where the Indonesian military killed thousands
of people in order to take the island under Indonesian control.
In the 1990s, various nationalist separatist movements throughout
the Indonesian archipelago developed, first in Timor, then Aceh and West Irian.
Meanwhile, in 1998, General Sukarno¡¦s daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, led
a successful opposition movement against Suharto, and forced him to resign.
Then, in Indonesia¡¦s first free election, Sukarnoputri became president of
Indonesia in 2001. Yet, violence and separatists movements continue into the
present (2002) in Timor, Aceh, West Irian, the Moluccas, and Kalimantan (Borneo).
In many cases, Islam is associated with anti-Indonesian nationalism, and separatist
movements are framed in terms of holy wars.
Globalization, Islamic resurgence, and ethnic relations
The competing trends of globalization and localism are everywhere pitted
against each other, and this is no less true of Southeast Asia. The various
separatist movements in Indonesia, the Islamic resurgence movements in Malaysia,
the contemporary struggles in the Philippines islands of Sulu and Mindanao,
are all manifestations of anti-western, anti-globalization sentiments, while
they are sometimes nationalist (as in Malaysia) and sometimes anti-nationalist
(as in Indonesia and the Philippines). The ¡¥opposite¡¦ tendency, that towards
globalization, which means service to an American and Western European dominated
economic system and the cultural values of individualism and liberalism that
it entails, aims to neutralize cultural diversity. The example of Singapore¡¦s
Prime Minister Lee¡¦s switch in policy from English language instruction on
western science to Mandarin Chinese instruction on Confucian values shows the
kind of schizophrenia necessary to successfully navigate what Bernard Barber
calls the tension between ¡§McWorld and Jihad¡¨
(Frank 1998:358). The same is true of Indonesia¡¦s recent struggles with its
national borders defined along religious lines, and of Malaysia¡¦s new Islamic
nationalist, and anti-western, movements. Even though the region of island Southeast
Asia has a common history of Austronesian cultural roots, the contemporary manifestations
of national cultures are at once as diverse as any two nations in the world,
and also face the same particular concerns about globalization.
BORDERS: TAIWAN AS A CASE STUDY
peoples abide in Island Southeast Asia and Oceania generally, including Taiwan,
yet a comparative Austronesian perspective is generally lacking in studies of
Taiwanese culture. In focusing my regional studies on Austronesian cultures
of Southeast Asia, I hope to lend a fresh perspective to my continuing research
on Taiwanese culture and the contemporary expression of Austronesian culture
My initial approach to this
regional study aims to follow the precedent set by the Institute of Ethnology
of the Academia Sinica on Taiwan. The regional areas deemed most
important in ethnological studies of Taiwan, according to the Institute of Ethnology,
include southern China, Island Southeast Asia, and Austronesian populations
of Oceania. Eventually, I hope to extend my regional studies to all of these
areas. Since my previous (Anderson 2002) and present research concerns the Austronesian
populations of Taiwan, I have chosen to explore Taiwan as a border case in the
region of Austronesian Southeast Asia. The first part of this outline begins
with an overview of anthropological research done on Taiwan. Then a look at
the prehistory of Taiwan situates the contemporary island society in an Austronesian
region according to its cultural prehistory. The next section discusses the
historical colonization of Taiwan, including initial Chinese and Dutch settlement
in the 1600s, the 50 years (1985-1945) of Japanese colonial administration of
Taiwan, and the more recent (1947 to present) Chinese Nationalist (KMT) government
of Taiwan. The final section discusses the contemporary situation of Austronesian
research on Taiwan
Historically, Taiwan has
held a marginal position in American anthropology generally. It is usually left
out of discussions of Oceania (for example, Howe 1996) or else given only passing
reference as the most likely location for the origins of Austronesian speaking
peoples (for example, Oliver 1989b:19).
For the most part, Taiwan is similarly excluded from regional studies
of Island Southeast Asia (for example, Reid 1988) even though there are many
points of connection. When Taiwan has been written
about at all by Western anthropologists, it has been within a discourse on China,
as a ¡§frontier region¡¨ of the Chinese Empire, or even as ¡§Traditional China¡¨
itself. Generally speaking, Taiwan has generated little evidence of interest
among American anthropologists as a specific subject of focus (but see Ahern
& Gates 1987 and Harrell & Huang 1994 for exceptions). This situation
might be best explained in that American researchers who have done fieldwork
in Taiwan over the last fifty years were primarily interested in ¡§Traditional
China¡¨ (as Murray & Hong 1994 suggest) rather than Taiwan per se. Orientalist
Western interest in Chinese culture after Mao¡¦s Communist Revolution found
its vestige of Chinese cultural continuity in Taiwan. Consequently, there are
very few ethnographies written by Americans regarding the Austronesian speaking
peoples of Taiwan, and a majority of the ethnography
done on Taiwan by Americans has purported to be representing Chinese culture
(for example, Wolf & Witke 1975; Wolf 1968, Cohen 1989, Cohen 1974).
The most significant anthropological
work on Austronesian Taiwan has been done by Japanese and Chinese anthropologists.
The Japanese were the first to conduct ethnographic fieldwork on Taiwan, beginning
at the time of their colonial control of the island in 1895. These Japanese
ethnographers, including Nenozo Utsurikawa, Nobuto Miyamoto, and Toichi Mabuchi,
were concerned primarily with the Austronesian populations in Taiwan (Kano and
Segawa 1956), but also with the so-called ¡§Taiwan Chinese¡¨ (Special Commission
for Inquiry on the Olden Customs of Taiwan, n.d.). Drawing on their early work
makes possible statements about culture change among Austronesian populations
on Taiwan. Chinese ethnographic work on Taiwan, beginning in the late 1940¡¦s
and continuing to the present, similarly focused on the Austronesian populations.
Chen Chi-lu (1989) lists the numerous publications on all facets of Austronesian
culture in Taiwan to date, and the work of anthropologists at National Taiwan
University and the Institute of Ethnology continues to focus on Austronesian
ethnography in Taiwan. This body of work is most valuable in studies of the
modern history of Taiwan¡¦s Austronesian culture.
American ethnographic work
in Taiwan, however, has focused on ¡§Taiwanese¡¨ populations with little or
no reference to the Austronesian heritage of Taiwan. Although some more recent
efforts at an anthropology of Taiwanese society in and of itself show that
this trend to treat Taiwan as an example of Chinese traditional culture is falling
by the wayside, varying degrees of focus on ¡§Chinese culture¡¨ in Taiwan enter
these writings as well. For instance, the work of Chinese ethnographers as translated
into English (such as, Chen et al 1994) describes ethnicity in Taiwan in terms
of a ¡§Chinese cultural context¡¨ (p. 16). The recent book Austronesian
Taiwan, edited by David Blundell (2001, in press), that also includes my
own contribution on Amis cultural performance (Anderson 2001, in press), is
a first step in bringing together international scholars (including Peter Bellwood,
David Faure, Bien Chiang, Erika Kaneko, and others) to write about the prehistorical,
historical, linguistic, and cultural Austronesian heritage of Taiwan.
Yet there is still no consideration
of the contemporary Austronesian language-speaking peoples of Taiwan in Western
ethnography. The closest approximation to Western ethnography on Taiwan¡¦s Austronesian
cultures is Shepherd¡¦s (1993, 1995) historical studies of the early colonization
of Taiwan. Shepherd (1993) explores the historical situation along Taiwan¡¦s
western plains during the 17th and 18th centuries, beginning with Dutch missionary
records and concluding with Qing records. His aim is to show the strategic place
of Taiwan during this period in terms of regional political history. Shepherd
(1995) constructs an historical ethnography regarding one of the now extinct
(or ¡¥sinicized¡¦) Austronesian language-speaking groups on Taiwan, called the
Siraya, from Dutch sources dating to the 17th century.
Basically, contemporary Taiwanese
have both Austronesian and Chinese
(and sometimes Japanese) ancestry, yet have been written about by American anthropologists
as if they represent some sort of pure Chinese culture. Part of my goal in researching
Taiwan is to focus on the Austronesian roots of Taiwanese society, and to assess
the contemporary importance of Austronesian cultures in Taiwan, especially in
terms of Taiwanese nationalism.
Understanding the prehistory
of Taiwan activates a wide regional area through migration, trade, and colonization.
The archaeology of Island Southeast Asia suggests that a distinct Austronesian
material culture without local antecedents emerged between 4,000 and 3,000 years
ago, first in Taiwan and subsequently in the Philippines, eastern Indonesia,
and the islands of Melanesia. The ¡§Lapita cultural complex¡¨ occurs throughout
Oceania at around 3,000 years ago (Spriggs 1995). Evidence of this early Austronesian
culture include red-slipped pottery, domesticated pigs and dogs, shell ornaments,
and polished stone adzes (Bellwood 1995). Before the development of Austronesian
languages and agricultural technology on Taiwan (around 7,000BP), the island
was inhabited by foraging peoples who found all the sustenance they needed in
the bountiful forests of Taiwan.
The question of when the
first Austronesian populations entered Taiwan is as yet unanswered. Peter Bellwood
(1995), however, presents strong evidence of the rise of Austronesian agriculture
and animal domestication economies in the Yangtze River basin, followed by a
rapid migration to the island of Taiwan. During this time, around 7,000 years
ago, Taiwan was already peopled by foragers. In fact, there is archaeological
evidence of human habitation in Taiwan from around 40,000BP. These people were,
of course, not Austronesian. Between 7,000BP and 4,000BP there is the first
evidence of pottery associated with Austronesian cultures on Taiwan. From 5,000BP
onwards, there is a florescence of regional variation in the material culture
found in archaeological studies of Taiwan (Liu 1997). The following discussion
of Taiwan¡¦s colonial history takes as its starting point Taiwan in the age
of advanced Austronesian colonization.
(colonial) history: 1600s to present
1. Dutch and early Chinese
Dynastic settlement in Taiwan (1600-1895)
Beginning in the 17th century,
Dutch, Spanish, and Chinese colonists landed on Taiwan, variously coming into
conflict with the Austronesian speaking population in the western plains. During
the Song dynasty (1127-1279AD), however, trade connections between China and
Island Southeast Asia mysteriously bypassed Taiwan (Reid 1995). For instance,
there is no evidence of Song porcelain in Taiwan, although it is found in great
abundance in the Philippines. Before the 17th Century, China interacted with
Taiwan only as a ¡§frontier region¡¨ (Shepherd 1993).
Infrequent journeys to Taiwan aimed to bring back some of the forest
products of the ¡¥wild¡¦ island, but the trappers did not intend on actually
migrating to Taiwan until the 17th Century.
Ming naval forces landed
briefly on Taiwan in Taoyuan on an expedition aimed at eradicating Japanese
piracy and smuggling in 1603 (Shepherd 1993:47). It was not until 1624, however,
that the first foreign colony on Taiwan was established by the Dutch East India
Company in the southwestern port city of Tainan. The Dutch met with fierce intertribal
warfare involving headhunting. Austronesian cultures of Taiwan¡¦s southwest
coastal area, including the Siraya who Shepherd (1995) documented, were involved
in taking heads of rival communities for maintaining hunting territory, much
in the same way as peoples of coastal New Guinea and Indonesia at the time of
contact. Making the most of existing disputes over territory, the Dutch easily
managed to align themselves with some of the most powerful tribes, forging out
a place for themselves in the southwestern area of Taiwan (Shepherd 1993).
Meanwhile, migrations from
Southern China, especially Fujian, began in earnest with aims of settling in
the fertile plains of western Taiwan. Minority ethnic groups from Southern China,
including the Hakka, established communities on Taiwan in this early period
of the 17th and 18th centuries. The Dutch actively recruited Chinese laborers
to work on rice and sugarcane farms. Dutch settlement, while influential, was
short-lived on Taiwan. Alas, Dutch goals of establishing a trade connection
with China were never fulfilled. In 1661 the Ming loyalist called ¡§Koxinga¡¨
(Cheng Ch¡¦eng-kung), retreated from the Qing Dynasty onto Taiwan along with
his troops, and quickly expelled the Dutch from the island. Koxinga¡¦s heirs
remained in rule until 1683, at which time the Qing finally gained official
rule of Taiwan (Shepherd 1993).
Increased prosperity throughout
China came with Qing rule, soon leading to a population explosion from 150 million
in 1650 to 270 million in 1776 (Shepherd 1993). Chinese, especially on the outer
provinces, began to emigrate from the old centers in China to the various newly
acquired ¡§frontier regions,¡¨ of which Taiwan was one. As Chinese migration
increased, ethnic Chinese communities developed on Taiwan in the west, displacing
as well as intermingling with Austronesian peoples along the western coast.
Chinese and Japanese pirates had been frequenting all of the coasts of Taiwan,
trading iron and salt for deerskins and antlers with Austronesians and Chinese
alike during the 17th and 18th centuries. However, contact with the Austronesian
populations in the highest mountains of central Taiwan, and along the eastern
coast remained low.
Towards the end of the 17th
and beginning of the 18th century, the Qing state¡¦s concern was to keep competition
between Chinese immigrant farmers and Taiwan¡¦s Austronesian peoples from disrupting
its control of ¡§a strategic periphery¡¨ (Shepherd 1993:20). Taiwan could serve
the Chinese Empire as a well-situated port for trade into Southeast Asia. However,
possibly the most lucrative reason for keeping control of Taiwan from the Qing¡¦s
perspective was the vast natural resources on the island, so far unexploited:
abundant forests, game animals, and potential agricultural land that the Austronesian
peoples of Taiwan had not yet even begun to cultivate.
The Qing Dynasty gradually
lost power during the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century
at the moment when it was developing a system of land tenure in Taiwan wherein
Chinese farmers were allowed to only ¡¥rent¡¦ land from the Austronesian peoples
of Taiwan who actually ¡¥owned¡¦ the land. During this time of upheaval and
disorder, intense rivalries developed among different ethnic Chinese immigrants
in Taiwan. Access to land resources was a complicated problem, and eventually
lead to the break up of Chinese Dynastic control, as the Qing Dynasty¡¦s concerns
turned to the invasion from Japan.
colonial control of Taiwan (1895-1945)
Japan colonized Taiwan in
1895, winning the island as one of the provisions in the Japanese victory against
China. The Japanese military quickly established control over the whole island,
including the eastern coast, and even the highest mountain regions.
Japan set up its government in what is now the city of Taipei. Japanese
rule brought an end to the intense disorder of the previous century, but also
added another layer of political, social, and cultural complexity. It was the
Japanese who first constructed a road along the east coast of Taiwan, a largely
unexplored region of the island inhabited by the speakers of Atayal, Amis, Puyuma,
and Rukai languages. Japanese rule lasted until
their defeat in World War II in 1945. At the end of World War II, Taiwan was
to be ¡¥returned¡¦ to its previous government as part of wartime concessions.
While it was clear that Japan no longer had control over Taiwan, no particular
nation was named as the political authority on Taiwan, and the Qing Dynasty
no longer existed in China.
In 1945, shortly after Japan
surrendered, fighting broke out between Chinese Communist (CCP) and Chinese
Nationalist (KMT) troops in China regarding the reoccupation of Manchuria. The
conflict quickly became a full-scale civil war. By that time, the KMT forces
were severely weakened by two decades of nearly continuous warfare, the leadership
was troubled by internal disunity, and the Chinese economy was experiencing
unprecedented inflation. In 1948 the military superiority of the Communists
was ensured, and in the summer of 1949, KMT resistance finally collapsed, and
the KMT government, led by General Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), fully retreated
Kuomintang (KMT): Chinese Nationalists
on Taiwan (1947-present)
Chiang Kai-shek¡¦s defeated
Chinese Nationalist government began its occupation of Taiwan in 1945. On February
28, 1947, an event now known as the Taiwan Uprising (or Si
er er ba, death-2-2-8) made clear the hostilities evident between the new
Chinese Nationalist (KMT) government and the ¡¥native¡¦ Taiwanese peoples. The
Nationalist government terrorized the Taiwanese, arresting and killing between
1,000 and 100,000 people, including all of the Taiwanese ¡¥elite¡¦ (Lai, Myers,
& Wou 1991, 155-163). Two months later Taiwan was proclaimed a province
of China, under the authority of the Kuomintang, and put under martial law.
On December 8, 1949, following occupation of most of the Chinese mainland by
Communist armies, the Nationalist government of China, led by General Chiang
Kai-shek, officially established its headquarters in Taipei.
Chiang brought with him some
of the cultural artifacts of ancient China, ¡¥saving¡¦ them from destruction
by the new communist government of China (PRC) led by Mao Zedong. Even today
these artifacts can be seen at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. While China
was destroying all evidence of its great cultural traditions and embracing the
new communist doctrine, Taiwan became the last vestige of ancient Chinese cultural
artifacts and documents, but remained in social, political and economic turmoil
for the next two decades.
of Taiwan and native movements (1970-present)
An economic transformation
from the 1970¡¦s through the present has shifted Taiwan¡¦s national economy
from agricultural to industrial. Factories were set up in cities employing women
and students in sweat-shop-like conditions. Cheap labor attracted business-minded
foreign interests. The Western image of Taiwan as a large production factory
developed during this period. International economic connections were forged
throughout the world.
China continued, and new partners in the West, such as the United States, were
added to the repertoire. After World War II and throughout the Cold War years,
the United States supported Chiang Kai-shek¡¦s nationalist government against
the Mainland Chinese communist government with military and industrial aid.
American military bases were set up on Taiwan, and there has been a continuous
American military presence on the island into the present.
It was during
this time that the question of ethnicity in Taiwan again rose to prominence.
Identity politics on Taiwan have recently been fueled not only in reference
to Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Austronesian cultural identifications,
but also finer grained divisions within these groups. For instance, the Hakka
(kejia) ethnic group is considered
Taiwanese, but also non-Han Chinese. The majority population on Taiwan is Han
Chinese, and refers to themselves as Hokien, or Taiwanese. The descendants of
the KMT Chinese who fled to Taiwan after 1949 are called ¡¥foreign-born people¡¦
(waisheng ren), signaling their outsider
status in the wider society, and they are not considered nor do they consider
themselves to be Taiwanese. In fact, many of these ¡¥waisheng
ren¡¦ after they have retired, choose to migrate to the United States; they
have never considered the island of Taiwan as their home country, and when they
have ¡¥returned¡¦ to visit their homelands in Mainland China, they often find
nothing resembling their imagined home. Juhua Wu has written on this issue in
her master¡¦s thesis in visual anthropology at USC, titled ¡§Worlds Apart¡¨.
The contemporary Austronesian peoples of Taiwan, that is, those who continue
to speak Austronesian languages, identify themselves based on their particular
village of ancestry, and as a result of Japanese ethnography, have come to identify
with ethnolinguistic categories (such as Amis, Atayal, Puyuma, Bunun, etc.),
and at other times activate a united indigenous identity as yuanzhumin.
Taiwan is one of the most interesting places for the study of identity politics,
with various ¡¥nativist¡¦ movements competing at any given time, in terms of
Taiwanese identity, yuanzhumin idendity, Hakka identity, and of course the recent
efforts to construct a national Taiwan identity.
The past four hundred years
has seen considerably rapid cultural change in Taiwan, through periods of the
most intense disorder. To understand contemporary Taiwan, along with understanding
contemporary Chinese culture, one must look to the neighboring nations of Southeast
Asia such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, the Austronesian cultures
of Oceania, as well as to the international relations with Japan and the United
States. Only then is it possible to understand contemporary Taiwan in terms
of the world economic system.
Taiwan¡¦s place in Austronesian studies
Austronesian studies is a
rapidly growing area of scholarly interest, demonstrated in the recent establishment
of the ¡§Comparative Austronesian Project¡¨ at The Australian National University.
Moreover, Taiwan¡¦s place in Austronesian studies is unique, as Peter Bellwood
linguistic stage before the break-up of PAn [Proto-Austronesian language] it
would appear that some colonists with an agricultural economy moved across the
Formosa Strait from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan. Here developed the Initial Austronesian language(s), and after
a few centuries some speakers of one of these languages made the first moves
into Luzon and the Philippines. [p. 99]
There are currently ten Austronesian
languages spoken on Taiwan. During the years between 500AD and the first Dutch
settlement (mid-1600s), Taiwan was generally isolated from the rest of Island
Southeast Asia (Bellwood 1995:107). The current information suggests that the
Austronesian populations on Taiwan were basically isolated without any connections
to external trade routes from 3500BP (1500BC) to 1600AD, a period of over 2,000
years. Before this period, Austronesian migrations out of Taiwan, first directly
into the Philippines around 5000BP, and much later into Micronesia (perhaps
3500BP) in ocean-going vessels must have left Taiwan from the southern parts
of the eastern coast. Three of the four main subgroups of the Austronesian language
family are found on Taiwan. Tryon¡¦s (1995) linguistic reconstruction of Austronesian
languages indicates that the Amis language of Taiwan has the closest resemblance
to the fourth subgroup, variously called ¡§Extra-Formosan¡¨ or ¡§Malayo-Polynesian,¡¨
which also supports the suggestion that Austronesians left the southeastern
coast of Taiwan, voyaging south and east.
Present day Taiwan is a modern
post-industrial and multi-ethnic society and has a minority (2%) Austronesian
population. Yet, the geographical extent of Taiwan¡¦s Austronesians covers nearly
half the island, and Austronesian cultural values, habits, and customs still
permeate the daily life of Taiwanese. At the same time, Taiwanese cultural values
expressed in popular religion of Buddhism and Taoism have influenced the Austronesian
cultures as well. Moreover, life in modern metropolitan Taipei is in a sense
dominated by consumerism and entrepreneurism, and this sensibility is rapidly
expanding into rural areas.
Yet Austronesian roots of
contemporary Taiwanese society are discernable in everyday behavior, such as
the habit of chewing betel nut, an Austronesian cultural practice that was taken
up by the Han Chinese migrants in Taiwan, but is not part of Chinese culture
on the mainland. My current research on Taiwan and on the southern Chinese island
of Hainan (PRC) investigates this particular contemporary expression of Austronesian
culture. I hope to contribute to further understanding of indigenousness and
cultural heritage on Taiwan and Hainan and to apply that understanding in the
regional context of Austronesian Southeast Asia.
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The Australian National University,
 My regional studies focus primarily on the indigenous
populations of Island Southeast Asia. I am initially defining this region with reference to the Austronesian
language family diaspora. An Austronesian geographical region encompasses
the traditional regional areas of Indonesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Micronesia,
and Island Southeast Asia, as well as the island of Madagascar (see Map
1). This area includes an estimated
270 million people (Bellwood, Fox, & Tryon 1995). The present paper, however, confines itself to Austronesian
Southeast Asia with reference to neighboring regions as they come in contact
through trade, such as India and China, and also through colonial relationships,
such as Netherlands, Britain, France, Spain, Japan, and the United States.
My discussion of Taiwan¡¦s place in Austronesian Southeast Asia is based
on previous fieldwork among the Amis language-speaking communities situated
along the eastern coast of Taiwan.
¡§Amis¡¨ is the name of an Austronesian language.
It literally means ¡§north,¡¨ and was used in reference to the ¡§Pangtsah¡¨
(self-described) people by their southern neighbors.
Japanese ethnographers used the term Ameizoku
and Chinese ethnographers have used the term Amei-tsu
in reference to these people, giving the English translation ¡§Ami¡¨. Here
I use the term ¡§Amis¡¨ for both the language and the people.
Fellows of Academia Sinica conduct research on a full time basis in their
respected fields of study. The
Institute of Ethnology houses researchers in the fields of anthropology
One exception is Yamaji¡¦s (1990) edited volume, which is notably a collection
of work by Japanese scholars.
There is, however, an extensive body of ethnographic research done by Japanese
and Chinese scholars on the Austronesians of Taiwan. See Passin (1947) for
an overview of Japanese research on Austronesian peoples of Taiwan, and
the Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnology,
Academia Sinica 40 (1975) for an overview of Chinese research on Austronesian
speaking peoples of Taiwan. The only English language ethnographic sources available
to me at the time of writing are Ferrell (1969, 1971) and Schroder (1967),
as well as Shepherd¡¦s (1986, 1993, 1995) writings from an historical perspective.
See Ahern & Gates (1981); Harrell & Huang (1994); Kung (1994); and
Chen, Chuang, & Huang (1994).
The government of Taiwan currently recognizes nine ¡§tribes¡¨ of Austronesian
peoples on Taiwan. However,
these ¡§tribes¡¨ are actually Austronesian language speaking groups, and
are not currently or historically political units.
Historically, the highest level of indigenous political unity on
Taiwan was at the village, or community level (Shepherd 1993).