springtime

wow. so it’s the end of another academic year (almost)

as the academic year ends, i’m trying to keep up with all of the end of term work but also think about the coming summer. this year, something on the horizon is an upcoming residence at the cepo art center in fongbin township. it’s an art center in an old police station just above gangkou village beside the siugulan river. during the summer, i will be at cepo and sometimes in ‘atolan writing but also engaged in a large-scale soundscape documentation project, in which i will document soundscapes of the siugulan river, a work that i consider research on “mediating spaces”–spaces that come to mediate relationships among groups but also through their role as conduits also mediate history. it will be an addition to my ongoing work on the ethics of locality, but the first time i will be trying something quite so large and systematic in sound. so it’s a cool step

of course, it might require me to develop yet another domain name and website. well, maybe not–it could be a subheading of taiwan soundscapes or live here, i suppose

this past semester, i’ve also been further pulled into a kind of ironic experience around teaching. trying not to blame my students, i really wonder: what is the role of a teacher if students no longer read and if they are constantly distracted? on the one hand, i’m too committed to academic life to leave the university. and yet, i’m not sure that anything i know of how to teach or what it means to teach still applies. ok, maybe i am blaming my students–or at least the surrounding culture and probably their intellectually lazy parents and high school teachers. the entire society, really. how are we to intervene, if we still think that the life of the mind is valuable?

perhaps it’s best to set these questions aside to move forward as i think of the summer

tempus fugit

over break, i visited virginia for the first time since my parents moved to the west coast

renting a car, i drove from dulles to richmond, to williamsburg, to charlottesville, to lexington, to boyce, then back to dulles. virginia is much larger than you think it is when you see it on a map, and moving from tidewater back to the shenandoah valley, i was struck by the different ecologies as i moved upland along the james river, then over afton to charlottesville

it had been a long time since i had been in lexington, where i first studied mandarin Continue reading

addresses and senses of place

today, in a departure from what i usually write about, i’d like to talk about something i noticed from my recent trip to kyoto, japan for the association for asian studies in asia conference

throughout my adult life, i have lived mostly in cities–chicago, boston, taichung, and taipei for the most part. most of these cities do have some sort of grid, even if it merely surrounds or is superimposed upon an earlier, less rational system

one of the wonderful things about living in chicago, in contrast to boston, is that the city grid and system of street numbers makes the city incredibly easy to navigate. although it might take a few years of residence intuitively to feel one’s relationship to the lake and thus to cardinal directions, an address like 1500 north on pulaski (which is 4000 west) has a clear location on a cartesian grid and is easy to locate even for the most challenged of visitors–or new cab drivers. yet even boston, with its maze of alleys and off-kilter grids, is not that difficult to navigate, even if asking for directions causes one to realize that a southerner will never quite get the boston accent (or the fondness for dunkin’ donuts)

in taipei, the street numbers on the left and right sides of the street might vary too greatly to know how to find an address (hsining south road in the westgate district is a fine example of this oddity). similarly, the lack of street names in the village where i now live, ‘atolan, is confusing to visitors and even to officials

“what do you mean there is a house number but not a street name? there is a neighborhood number but not a street name? are you sure that there is not a street name?”

“yes! there are no street names here! the address is dulan village, ## lin, ###-#”

“really? ok…”

image of L stop with street grid coordinates, chicago
image of L stop with street grid coordinates, chicago

the shared feature of all of these urbanized spaces is that they have some kind of street number, which depends upon a cartesian grid. even in ‘atolan, the street numbers follow the conventions of smaller hundreds down toward rt 11, the two lane coastal highway, and higher hundreds as one moves toward the back of the village. to the north, the numbers get higher; to the south, the numbers get lower. this does mean that #295 dulan village is across from #335 dulan village–which might make for difficult navigation. but at least there are street numbers arranged in some rational fashion

surprisingly, even in large japanese cities, such as kyoto, this system of street numbers is not in place

we first became aware of this anomaly when taking a cab from nearby the train station to the place in which we were staying in kyoto. the cab driver could find the neighborhood easily enough, but once there, our directions were not clear enough at first to find the street sign for the locksmith shop that would be on the corner near the gravel road in which we would turn to find the cream colored house with orange mailbox. the cab driver had to stop and ask a few people sitting with their coffees at a local tapas place, one of whom looked at the pictures provided by our innkeeper and took us by hand to the corner in question. we thanked her profusely and felt relieved that kyoto people were such friendly types

later, in our journeys through the city, including to a café famous for its 1950s interior, grouchy boss, and delicious doughnuts, we discovered that even relatively well-known destinations had no addresses, leading us to follow directions like, “walk north on the alley after the bridge for 150 meters, then turn at the place where there used to be a large tree.”

at first, one might find the lack of street numbers uninviting. indeed, it is a bit unfriendly to visitors and new residents that one cannot depend upon street numbers to get from place to place. when taking a cab, for example, one would need to know relatively detailed directions. thus the lack of street numbers could be a means to maintain a kind of exclusivity

yet, from another angle, needing to know how to navigate the city from experience rather than a grid might be an invitation to get lost, wander, and discover. no doubt, kyoto, for example, attracts many who want to see the city’s UNESCO world heritage sites; but many other visitors go there expecting to visit a particular café only to discover a completely unexpected by even more charming place once getting lost amid the city’s alleys. however, i think that there is more here than just a kind of tourist experience. indeed, the lack of street numbers may alienate tourists and other visitors to the city. what the city requires is experiences of navigating it on foot, perhaps being led by hand by longterm residents. the lack of street numbers means, in effect, that to know one’s way around kyoto one has to become a local

an invitation to know the city from everyday practices of walking and dwelling

it is for this reason that apart from a few commercial thoroughfares a city like kyoto feels like a collection of neighborhoods or small villages. i am not sure that navigating kyoto requires more knowledge than navigating chicago, but i am certain that this knowledge is of a different, more practical sort. there is a sense that kyoto remains closed to the casual visitor, who will only know kyoto through a course of long walks in which one engages local memories

IMG_4550 (Medium)

how might this differ from the way that the chicago denizen feels the lake even when it is not visible? in other words, what is the relationship between the city grid and one’s sense of place? is it merely superimposition, a process of filling in, or something else? de certeau asked similar questions a few decades ago in his discussion of walking in the city, but in a far too abstract fashion. walking in kyoto (versus in chicago) places these questions in a useful comparative light. i’d be interested in hearing about your experiences of navigating cities as a way to think these questions more fully

(perhaps bringing in sound and our experience of cities)

village industries? 部落產業和多元文化的誤認

因為這個月是豐年祭的季節,所以聽到縣長鄉長村長代表大人的致詞是難免的
我暫時不要責怪他們殖民主義狀態,卻要對台灣政教兩界的言論包含一種好奇心
一種疑問一種納悶
覺得納悶是說,有原住民身分和非原住民身分的官
還有很多原住民菁英,如大學教授
都在說,部落要有所謂部落產業才有經濟基礎
有經濟基礎年輕人才回部落
部落才有未來,原住民自治才能進行
我有時疑問,這樣不是顛倒本末嗎?
不是因為原住民沒有主權(包括土地權,文化權,等),所以部落從自給自足導入經濟依賴?
不是因為土地拿走差不多,才無法維持生活?
這些疑問先放在一邊,我們沒有辦法改變歷史,但是我們應該對所謂部落產業的定義表示疑問

一般來講,官方提出部落產業,其實是觀光業的一種
無論在’atolan或者在cawi’
立委,縣長,鄉長,代表致詞都大力推薦開發觀光
觀光客來的多,年輕人就會回部落,他們這樣說
同時,很多原住民菁英,一邊反對大型觀光開發案一邊提倡部落產業
他們好像在說,部落缺乏產業,所以自治無法執行

但是,如果我們待部落一兩天,我們會發現,其實部落產業已經很多也
有ina開的早餐店,fayi的卡拉OK,有vuvu的檳榔攤,mamu的柑仔店,大姐的理髮廳
弟弟的咖啡屋,年輕人開的瓦斯店,哥哥的鐵皮工程,還有很多哥哥和大叔在賣他們家裡吃不完的漁獲

這些,不是部落產業嗎?

好像不是。那些職業原住民給部落產業的定義,是將部落傳統文化加值,
他們所謂部落產業不是建立在部落為了部落人提供服務的產業
是部落文化加以商品化,然後賣給白浪的對外推銷商業行為

一些方面,我不能完全否認他們所提倡的部落產業
的確,有一些傑出的年輕人在用部落視覺文化做出T Shirt,背包,等產品
也有kakawasan的草帽,等的例子
但是,部落產業,難道只是這一些?為何它的定義,是給非原住民來消化原住民文化的觀光行為?

另一方面,有人說部落產業是自治的基礎
我真的很好奇,人家要的是東管處,林務局,土地銀行,退輔會,等,還部落的土地
人家要的是學校尊敬部落文化並教部落歷史
人家要的是主權
但是,部落產業言論卻要給部落是以文化產品參與多元文化的公共文化
這樣不是一種誤認嗎?

life in text and stereo sound