chiang gone, and confucius in the corner

the appearance of malikoda in public representations of taiwan resonates with a broader movement toward a multicultural public sphere. as i have noted elsewhere (see, for example hatfield 2008), democratization on taiwan has meant denationalization, the removal of the forms and practices through which taiwan was china both internally and externally. thus from the 1990s onward, a variety of possible taiwans–dutch, japanese, folkloric, and indigenous–have appeared in traces, often covering over or displacing the previous iconography of taiwan as china. on the one hand, the work of disclosing and befriending these diverse traces valorizes the “local;” however, it is also a scale making project which opens to broader circulation. images of indigeneity link taiwan to global imagination of indigenous people and indigenous rights movements. for this reason, the diverse traces are tracks to a future beyond taiwan’s current lack of recognition. mass indigeneity, what i’ve called the need to represent in public spaces and as a private citizen an indigenous heritage (even in those cases in which one does not have an indigenous identity) is an ethical correlate of this scale making project, our lived experience of scale or, if you like, the political as personal. to underline multiculturalism as an ethical project, moreover, suggests that the work of disclosing diversity is an ongoing process of making and remaking scale

schools are one of the good places to see this process in action, particularly in small towns and villages. dulan elementary school, which dates to 1915, was first founded as a “tribal public school” (番公學校 literally “public school for savages”) and became a national elementary school with all six grades late in the japanese colonial period, in 1941
IMAG0235

 

like schools throughout taiwan, the elementary school is furnished with a track and a large courtyard in front of the school buildings. an official viewing stand (司令台 literally “commander’s platform”) occupies the high position facing this courtyard, shaded for the principal and other notables to gaze over the students assembled in ranks in the courtyard. architecturally, the official viewing stand not only occupies a commanding position of the school courtyard. during the KMT oligarchy (1945-1987) these structures also contained moral and political slogans, images of the national territory or flag of the republic of china, and portraits of national father sun yat-sen and president chiang kai-shek. official viewing stands thus interpellated students within the ideological and scale making projects of the KMT state. in addition to the official viewing stand, bronze statues or busts of president chiang and confucius often occupied prominent positions toward the front of the school courtyard. students coming and going to school were encouraged to doff their hats and bow to the chiang statue as they entered or left school

IMAG0004

with the end of martial law and accelerated political reform, chiang began to disappear from public spaces, including schools. soon, the political exhortations and icons of the nationalist state would fade. school administrators, responding to calls for the representation of local culture in school buildings, then covered these icons with other ones. at dulan elementary, indigenous iconography covered the chiang portrait

IMAG0237

IMAG0238

currently, solar panels and indigenous motifs foreground dulan elementary’s commitment to sustainability and local cultural development. and yet, the students at dulan elementary are not all indigenous; half of the student body belongs to hakka, hoklo, or new immigrant ethnic groups. moreover, although the wooden panels at dulan elementary represent local subsistence, mythology, and ritual, woodcarving of this sort was not practiced among a’tolan ‘amis. in fact, the images of coiled snakes and ancestor figures here borrows heavily from the woodcarving tradition of the paiwan group. the novelty and cross-borrowing of techniques and iconography suggests that for the artists (and the school, with whom they are complicit) the carved panels further another sort of scale making project, one in which the local (a’tolan ‘amis mythology, subsistence techniques, and dance gestures) articulate with pan-indigenous representational strategies

IMAG0239

chiang is gone, and confucius is in the corner; but depictions of malikoda are never just a representation of the local

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *