Locating a promise land: from Taiwan to Oceania, from History to Literature

by on Thursday, 24 March 2011 6756 hits Comments
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The young scholars session at the Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific conference held at the National Central Library, Taiwan gave three promising young scholars the chance to present their highly original work. Yedda Wang was part of a group of Asian students invited by Leiden University's Encompass program to study the history of Asia through Dutch colonial archives. She is a scholar trying to break through Western academic traditions and find her own way. In her speech Yedda introduced her past and current thesis projects and gave anecdotes lamenting the obstacles to her own historical direction.

Alternative (for readers in China)

Taiwan and Oceanian islands share quite a few things in common. In text-based fields such as history (archives) and literature (literary works), one is provided with ample examples of such points of convergence. Islands from both regions are plagued with colonial memories, though of different spans and under different powers; indigenous peoples from both regions consisting of many languages and cultures are mostly non-literate and thereby represented by others but themselves in written materials; and since mid-20th century, locally-born scholars, writers, activists et al. start to challenge in multiple ways the danger of stories produced not entirely from within but undoubtedly about them. The fact that these dots of land share such a diversity of both colonial and postcolonial experiences holds great promises to historical and literary studies especially on such themes as the transformation of indigenous societies, representation, identity, agency, the other, the writing of history et cetera. In other words, there is a promise land of convergence to be located. Based upon the same author’s previous studies in Leiden, this essay intends to show how history and literature in combination may contribute to the understanding Taiwan and Oceania, and how this understanding of Taiwan and Oceania, either taken as separately or symbiotically, may further enlighten about certain abovementioned themes.

The Stranger-King

In history, Wang’s research into Indigenous-Dutch relationships on 17th-century Formosa invites readers to reconsider a concept as the Stranger-King, developed in Oceania, for the explanation of colonial relationships:

Alternative (for readers in China)

Notions of time

Alternative (for readers in China)

In literature, Wang’s study of Patricia Grace (Maori) and Syaman Rapogang (Tao) stresses how contemporary indigenous writers, with their eyes on present post-colonial indigenous societies, have provided insights into the study as well as the writing and rewriting of the other. Their craft is worthy of consideration and their products can very well be the sources for historical studies. For an indigenous society, the past is never far from the present. A dialogue between colonial history and contemporary indigenous literature will therefore help us locate the promise land.

Photo: Lee Tian-hsiang



See Yedda's article about Lanyu author Syaman Rapongan, A subaqueous loner
Last modified on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 17:34
Yedda Palemeq

 Member of the Paiwan tribe based in Mudan, Pingtung County. Graduated from The Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures of National Taiwan University. Previously English translator for Taiwan Indigenous Television (TITV). Currently at Leiden University, Holland furthering her studies based around the history of aborigine relations with the outside world during the Dutch colonial era.

屏東縣牡丹鄉排灣族人,漢名王雅萍。畢業於台大外文系,曾任原住民族電視台TITV Weekly英文新聞翻譯、行政院原住民族委員會國際事務約聘人員,譯有《幸福推手》、《我願為妳祈禱》等兩本小說。目前於荷蘭萊頓大學歷史系進修,研究興趣為荷蘭時期原住民族部落對外關係史。

Website: yeddapalemeq.blogspot.com

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