The Aborigines of Taiwan: The Puyuma--From Headhunting to the Modern World

The Aborigines of Taiwan: The Puyuma--From Headhunting to the Modern World

The Aborigines of Taiwan: The Puyuma--From Headhunting to the Modern World

The Aborigines of Taiwan: The Puyuma--From Headhunting to the Modern World


Based on extensive field research over a period of twenty years, this is the first comprehensive study of the Puyuma people of Taiwan. The Puyuma belong to the Austronesian peoples, which today number less than 370,000. In Taiwan, they are the least known of the aboriginal groups, numbering only 6000, and inhabiting the Southeastern province of Taitung. The study looks at the historical changes in the status and definition of these people in relation to the central state, the criteria by which people determine their own ethnic identity, and the evolution of that identity through history. The increasing awareness in the West of the importance of ethnic relations makes this an especially timely book.


With The Aborigines of Taiwan, Josiane Cauquelin has given us a first-class work on the aboriginal population of Taiwan, until now one of the least studied.

The great value of this work is incontestably due to the quality of the ethnography, which gives the theoretical content a solid basis. It has attained this high level thanks to the author's qualities not only as an observer, but also as a linguist, because, as so rarely happens, she is an anthropologist with a talent for languages. Josiane Cauquelin began her survey in Chinese, but very soon started to learn Puyuma, the Austronesian language of her hosts and informants. We may admire her linguistic sense in the analysis she gives us of the ritual language used by the shamans. To complete her biographical sources, apart from Chinese and European material (Josiane Cauquelin is first and foremost a Sinologist), she also set to work to learn Japanese, thus consolidating ethnology and linguistics in a virtually exhaustive bibliography.

The ethnology of the Puyuma presents numerous topics of interest, not only to the researcher, but also to the curious reader: head-hunting, shamanism, the dual organisation of the village, age-sets associated with rites of passage-all these may attract our attention, but the intimacy in which Josiane Cauquelin lived with these people over a period of several years (1983-4, and at intervals since) gives a particular depth and consistency to these topics, providing the richness of the present synthesis, which completes her numerous publications over the past ten years.

I will not repeat what the author has already written in such detail, but will simply emphasise several points that seem characteristic of her method. Whether the subject is the age system or shamanism, Josiane Cauquelin not only describes in meticulous detail what she herself has observed in her own experience, but also-and I find this particularly important-describes the dynamics of change in this society, due in part to her interpretation of the work of her Chinese, Western and Japanese predecessors, but mainly thanks to discussions with her partners, and their information concerning the past of their group. According to the author, the origin of these changes resides

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