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Scott Simon - The (Re)enchanted Forests of the Sejiq: How Animals Connect Humans to the Realms of the Ancestors in Taiwan

Date:       Wednesday 10th April, 2019

Time:       18:30 - 20:00

Location:  SIN1, entrance 2.3, Altes AKH, Campus, Spitalgasse 2



Centuries ago, groups of Truku-speaking people made their way across Taiwan’s forested mountains from the highlands of Nantou to the coastal regions of Hualien. As they did so, they hunted mammals, followed the flightpaths of birds with their eyes, and made careful observations of both human and non-human lives. Life in the forest, which still lies at the core of their identities as Truku or Sejiq Nations, gave them a rich corpus of legends and rituals, practical knowledge of plants and animals, and a cosmology linking humans, animals, and ancestral spirits. The ancestral law of Gaya regulated animal as well as human behaviour; while simultaneously making animals into mediators between the living and the dead.

Indigenous life-worlds have been challenged by the introduction of Christianity and new forms of education, as well as by a colonial history and new forms of labour that have alienated many people from the forests. Yet, Taiwan’s indigenous nations have demonstrated great resilience. In many ways, indigenous nationalists, local entrepreneurs taking indigenous youth back into the forests, and hunters have all found their own unique ways of re-enchanting the forests. In this lecture, based on nearly two decades of field research in Nantou and Hualien, I will explore the on-going entanglements of humans, animals and spirits in the mountains. How have forest mammals and birds, dogs and pigs, connected the living and the dead, the past and the present, in Sejiq (Truku) territory? What role do animals play in the re-enchantment of the forests in a time of indigenous resurgence?



Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies

Department of East Asian Studies
University of Vienna
AAKH-Campus, Hof 2, Entrance 2.3
Spitalgasse 2
1090 Vienna Austria

Contact: Astrid Lipinsky
T: +43-1-4277-43844
University of Vienna | Universitätsring 1 | 1010 Vienna | T +43-1-4277-0
Lastupdate: 10.03.2018 - 15:08