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Scott Simon - Thinking with Birds: Ornithomancy and Indigeneity in Taiwan

Date:        Tuesday 9th April, 2019

Time:        16:20 - 17:50

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



Ornithomancy, divination by human observation of bird behaviour, is particularly elaborate in South-east Asia and Oceania. Taiwan’s indigenous people, parts of the Austronesian cultural world, used to look carefully at birds to anticipate future events. In the Truku and Seediq tribes, hunters observed the flight path of the sisil bird in order to predict the outcome of a hunt. But ornithomancy has lost much of its relevance in the colonial and contemporary contexts. The people no longer live in the forest. In addition, because of the prohibition of many hunting activities, the men hunt clandestinely in the night and no longer see the diurnal birds. Nonetheless, people continue to talk about the birds and they have adopted the oracle birds as national symbols of their tribes. Reflecting on Formosan ornithomancy and ethno-ethology opens the door to discussions about bird agency as part of an entanglement of lives. In addition, divination is itself a symbol of a living tradition and thus at the heart of the symbolism of political demands. Identifying with the sisil, indigenous activists demand the return of their traditional territories and at least a certain degree of political autonomy.



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