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Lecture | Research Seminar

A Brief History of the Shifting Representations of Indigenous Taiwanese in Documentary Film

  • Kerim Friedman
Monday 12 April 2021

This talk will explore the shifting representations of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples in films by indigenous and non-indigenous directors alike. Drawn from over sixty films in the archives of the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (TIEFF), these films offer a snapshot of the changes in how indigenous personhood has been constructed in Taiwanese documentary films going back to the end of the martial law era. The films are grouped into three overarching Bakhtinian chronotopes, each of which uses indigenous identities to highlight different relations between Taiwan’s past, present, and future, as well as different spatial relations following from those choices. The first chronotope highlights the Japanese colonial encounter with indigenous peoples. The second the continuity between ancient Austronesian culture and the present. And the third focuses on encounters between indigenous people and the modern Taiwanese state. Films are compared within and across these chronotopes to reflect on the shifting nature of indigenous personhood in Taiwan, tracing the way these chronotopes have adapted to shifts in Taiwan’s wider political economic framework. Finally, the paper turns to the work of two young indigenous filmmakers whose films draw on oral histories to transcend all three chronotopes. Salone Ishahavut’s “Alis’s Dreams” (2011) and Su Hung-En’s “The Mountain” (2015), each formulates a unique indigenous “voice” to call for indigenous sovereignty over their own destiny.

About Kerim Friedman

P. Kerim Friedman is professor in the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan. His research explores language revitalization efforts among indigenous Taiwanese, looking at the relationship between language ideology, indigeneity, and political economy. An ethnographic filmmaker, he co-produced the Jean Rouch award-winning documentary, 'Please Don't Beat Me, Sir!' about a street theater troupe from one of India's Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs). Kerim is also a co-founder of the anthropology blog anthro{dendum} (formerly Savage Minds).

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