A reporter's snapshots capture democracy in Taiwan

 

Taiwan Snapshots of Democracy cover

Taiwan: Snapshots of Democracy in Action (我鏡頭下的民主時刻) is a photo book by Taiwan-based German journalist Klaus Bardenhagen (aka taiwanreporter). As well as being packed with photos it is fully bilingual with text in English and Chinese.

The book covers the period from 2008 to 2012 which was Ma Ying-jeou’s first term as president. Events are neatly bracketed by coverage of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

The collection of photos capture some of the diversity and vibrancy of Taiwanese democracy. The book shows how the place named Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall by the Chen Shui-bian administration reverted to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall under Ma Ying-jeou. This site of contest reflects the wider contest between green and blue in Taiwan politics. It also shows some of the purple through images of Falun Dafa (法輪大法), the annual LGBT Pride parade, anti-nuclear protests and the battle between the economy and the environment.

Two major events that seem to be missing from the book are the protests that erupted during the first visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin in December 2008 and Typhoon Morakot in August 2009. In many ways these events and their aftermath set the tone for the first term of Ma’s presidency.

Overall the book is a little short but it serves as a very useful introduction to Taiwan for the uninitiated. It highlights the diverse and colourful nature of Taiwan’s civil society as well as its polarisation. For me it is a nice souvenir as it covers much of the period I lived in Taiwan and I observed many of the events pictured in the book.

*For details about how to order the book see taiwanreporter’s website. It is available in ebook format for Apple devices or hard copy.

New book: Taiwan Since Martial Law

Taiwan Since Martial Law book cover

A few days ago I received a long awaited package from Taiwan in the mail. It contained copies of a new book, Taiwan Since Martial Law: Society, Culture, Politics, Economy.

I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the book because it contains a chapter I wrote titled, “Nation vs. Tradition: Indigenous Rights and Smangus.” The chapter is based on the research I did for my thesis in the Masters of Taiwan Studies program at National Chengchi University (NCCU).

While it is great to finally hold the book in my hands it is important to acknowledge the great amount of work that went into its production. Thanks must go to David Blundell for his tireless work as the editor. Many others were also involved in the project. The quality of the final product shines through in the beautiful artwork and design on the cover. Continue reading “New book: Taiwan Since Martial Law”

Music documentary to shine spotlight on the south

Back in January 2009 I attended a screening of the documentary “Voices from the South: Kaohsiung’s Independent Music Scene” at The Wall in Taipei. The documentary, directed by Don Quan, was about the indie music scene in Kaohsiung. The film followed the fortunes five Kaohsiung bands and four of these bands (KoOk, Orange Doll (橘娃娃), Shy Kick Apple (害羞踢蘋果) and Fire Ex (滅火器)) also performed at The Wall following the documentary screening which made it a unique experience.

Four years have now passed since Don Quan made the original documentary and he is now planning a follow up titled “Dig The New Breed: Voices From The South Part II.” I contacted Don by e-mail to ask him some questions about his new documentary project and the current state of the indie music scene in Kaohsiung. Continue reading “Music documentary to shine spotlight on the south”

The Story of Smangus at Students of Sustainability

This morning I gave a presentation about Smangus at the Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference. This year the conference is being held in Bendigo, which is not far from where I live in Australia. I attended because it was a good chance to reconnect with the academic world and activists in Australia. It was also the first time I have done a presentation about my research in Taiwan for an Australian audience.

SoS is an annual conference organised by the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) which connects campus environment collectives from around Australia. I first attended SoS in 2004. Incidentally the 2004 conference was also the first time I met John Seed. I later had the chance to travel around Taiwan with John and visit some indigenous communities including Smangus.

My presentation, titled “The Story of Smangus: Indigenous Rights in Taiwan,” started with some background information about Taiwan and its indigenous peoples. I then followed this with some discussion of the Smangus community and the legal case about the right to use wood from a wind-fallen tree. As the key theme of the conference is sustainability I wanted people to know more about how the people of Smangus have used their traditional knowledge as the basis for a sustainable community. The word sustainability is often misused, but I think the people of Smangus and other indigenous peoples around the world have practiced sustainable ways of living for hundreds or even thousands of years. There are many lessons that can be learnt from them.

Indigenous issues are a major theme at SoS. The plenary on the first day of the conference was on sovereignty. Grassroots Aboriginal activists spoke about the topic. Their perspectives presented a radical challenge to the mainstream discourse on this issue in Australia. This afternoon I had the chance to further explore some of these issues in a workshop about working with indigenous communities. The workshop talked about the need for “decolonising our minds” in order to work effectively with indigenous peoples for justice.

*You can find the pdf file of my presentation here.

Taiwan's best blogs in 2011

Taiwanderful recently announced the 2011 Taiwan Best Blog Awards. To enter your blog you need to make sure you are registered at Taiwanderful before 10 December. Voting will take place from 10-30 December. I am no longer directly involved in running the awards but this blog will not be entered in the awards even though it is registered at Taiwanderful.

In previous years I have used the blog awards as a time to post links to some of my favourite Taiwan blogs. Even though I’m no longer in Taiwan I still read a number of Taiwan blogs and find them a great way of keeping in touch with what’s happening in Formosa. A list of some blogs I like in several categories follows. Continue reading “Taiwan's best blogs in 2011”

Foreign observers needed for election

I had a letter about the need for election observers published in the Taipei Times today. While I hope the forthcoming election will be trouble free, I note in the letter that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporters have engaged in violent protests following election losses in 2000 and 2004. The risk of violent protests destabilising the political system and affecting the transfer of power should not be ignored.

It is disappointing to see that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not provided funding to European academics to observe next month’s presidential and legislative elections (“European election observers denied funding by MOFA,” Dec. 2, page 1).

The elections should be an opportunity to showcase Taiwan’s democratic development to the rest of the world.

DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has a good chance of winning the election. If Tsai is victorious, it will mark another transition of power and solidify Taiwan’s transition to democracy that began with the lifting of martial law in 1987.

However, one hopes the transition will be smooth and trouble-free. A look at Taiwan’s recent history suggests the possibility of trouble. Continue reading “Foreign observers needed for election”

Building a Taiwanease community

TaiwaneaseThe website Taiwanease, with the slogan “Making Taiwan easy!”,  is the brainchild Anthony van Dyck. Some readers may know Anthony as a long term resident of Taiwan and for his ten year involvement with the well-known online discussion forum Forumosa.com. Taiwanease is a new and expanded website where Anthony is continuing to build an online community. I asked Anthony some questions about Taiwanease via e-mail. Continue reading “Building a Taiwanease community”

Book review: Why China Will Never Rule the World

In the introduction to Why China Will Never Rule the World author Troy Parfitt sets out his motivation for writing the book. Neither academic nor journalist, he simply wants to see things for himself. However, Parfitt does not arrive in China as a naive foreigner. Instead he has already spent more than a decade living on the periphery of China in Taiwan and South Korea. This experience, combined with the author’s Mandarin speaking ability, gives the book a refreshing perspective that differentiates it from other travel books about China.

Parfitt’s journey begins in Hong Kong, another place that is on the periphery of China. It is both part of China, yet distinctly different. The opening chapters about Hong Kong and Macau provide a good counterpoint when the author’s exploration of China proper begins. Continue reading “Book review: Why China Will Never Rule the World”