Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Reformation of Taiwanese Indigenousness and Transmigration to China

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Reformation of Taiwanese Indigenousness and Transmigration to China

Article excerpt

  Several of the arguments made in this article rarely appear in the
  existing literature of indigenousness. First, that the nature of
  indigenousness may not be stable. This article examines the formation
  and reformation process of Taiwanese indigenousness with a focus on
  the latter. Second, the driving force of indigenousness might be
  economic. This article argues that the driving force of the formation
  process of Taiwanese indigenousness is more political than cultural,
  whereas that of the reformation process is more economic than
  political. Third, the key element of indigenousness is "attachment to
  the land," not "aboriginal people." In the formation process of
  Taiwanese indigenousness, physically residing in Taiwan was deemed
  important to show attachment to Taiwan. However, transmigration
  process influences the reformation process of the Taiwanese
  indigenousness so that one can show attachment through actions
  overseas. Fourth, in a transnational social field, new strategies to
  keep or reform indigenousness might be developed. This article
  introduces two strategies the Taiwanese government has used to ensure
  that Taiwanese people in China keep their attachments to Taiwan. In
  this article, these two strategies are named graduated sovereignty
  and governance of spatial movements. Keywords: Indigenousness,
  transmigration, attachment to the land, graduated sovereignty,
  governance of spatial movements

"What is 'Taiwanese'?" and "What are some impacts of Taiwanese transmigration to China on Taiwan?" These two issues catch many scholars' attention; however, very few studies make a connection between the two questions. Regarding the first, many studies focus on the relationship between the Taiwanese people and Mainlanders since the 1940s when the Nationalist Party took over governance in Taiwan. These studies tend to treat the concept of Taiwanese as something stable: the main thing that is changeable is the percentage of people who identify themselves as Taiwanese. However, whether important social forces, such as transmigration to China, influence the concept of being Taiwanese is rarely questioned. The same problem happens in studies about transmigration to China. Scholars debate impacts of this transmigration on Taiwanese interests, but seldom do they discuss whether transmigration influences the meaning of Taiwanese.

In this article, I try to bridge the two issues by asking if the transmigration to China influences the idea of Taiwanese. I use the perspective of indigenousness for my discussion about the concept of Taiwanese, which is also a new attempt, in contrast to many other studies that use the perspective of identity.

The following sections start with a discussion of indigenousness. Before exploring influences of transmigration to China on the Taiwanese indigenousness, I briefly explain the formation of the Taiwanese indigenousness before the transmigration happened. Then I name the influences of transmigration to China on the Taiwanese indigenousness as a reformation process of Taiwanese indigenousness. I also discuss strategies used in this reformation process. In the conclusion, I discuss what new insights the case of Taiwan can bring to the field of studies on indigenousness.

What Is Indigenousness?

An interesting question about the concept of indigenousness is whether it is about universal human rights or about differences between a dominant and a marginal social group. Indigenousness is usually associated with a marginal social group whose rights of sovereignty, culture, language, and so forth within a political body are not fully acknowledged. (1) Most indigenous movements try to achieve these universal rights by emphasizing differences between the marginal and the dominant social group. Even though heterogeneities between groups are highlighted, scholars achieve an agreement that the purpose of indigenousness is to accomplish universal human rights, which say that every individual or social group is believed to have the right of self-determination, the right of recognition, the protection of human welfare and cultural practices, and so on. …

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