Erenlai - Nakao Eki
Nakao Eki

Nakao Eki

Formosan Melon|Endemic to Tafalong


週四, 24 三月 2011 21:54

The role of the Inbetweeners

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 work. Nakao, a PhD candidate in history at Leiden University, is one of these young scholars trying to break the academic boundaries, to produce experimental writing of Eastern Taiwan history from a new historical narrative, an Amis perspective and in doing this foster real cross-cultural dialogue. In her speech she presented the foundations of her groundbreaking research:

Alternative (for readers in China)

Working on Eastern Taiwan history, I found interesting similarity and difference between the historical writing of Eastern Taiwan and that of the Pacific world: Both have to do with the writing of the indigenous past; both face the dominant Western historical tradition which per se is a specific value system that is often incommensurable with the local ones. Today, many Pacific writers insist on their traditional way of writing about their Self, more or less at the price of isolating their writing from the rest of the world. In contrast, many Taiwanese historians (Han Taiwanese or Austronesian alike) attempting to write Eastern Taiwan history work within the Western historical tradition, with or without a clear awareness of the underlying cultural differences and conflicts that may eventually affect the written presentation of “history.”

As an Austronesian (Amis) yet Western-trained historian, I'm most concerned with the possibility of bridging the incommensurable: Is it possible to go beyond the debates of academic Westernism and Indigenism, decolonization and postcolonialism etc. and bring up something that is not conflictive in nature but that emphasizes mutual acknowledgement and respect in practice? It requires, I believe, a certain kind of “inbetweenness,” born (usually but not exclusively) by the “cultural inbetweeners.” At the first glance this “inbetween” position seems academically unpopular and disadvantageous, yet eventually it may prove to be promising in creating a real cross-cultural dialogue, which, amidst cultural confrontations, deconstructs none of the participating cultural traditions and remains constructive to all parties.

Photo: Cathy Chuang

週四, 20 一月 2011 16:51



週日, 23 一月 2011 15:21

A new world begins

“Where land ends, the world begins.”
This quotation sets the tone as we present our Focus on Taiwan in the Pacific, transcending land’s natural boundaries and turning our attention to the ocean, as we explore a world so unfamiliar to Taiwan. Most of the authors in our Focus are members of the newly established Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies, the creation of which is not inconsequential to Renlai. As the publication and website of the Taipei Ricci Institute, Renlai and eRenlai are key components of the research organisation originally set up by a group of foreign missionaries. Back then, these Jesuits were also navigating bravely beyond the boundaries of their own lands in Europe and America, to experience their own new world beginning.

週四, 20 一月 2011 16:51



週一, 13 九月 2010 11:29

An ear for Chopin

Among all the versions of Chopin's first ballade I have listened to, Rubinstein's interpretation sounds to me the most convincing one. There are other pianists who play this ballade with more passion or elegance... But only in Rubinstein's rendition do I hear something that must be very difficult for an instrumentalist to express - effort.

This is best exhibited in the middle of the piece when the climax is reached. Most pianists play this part with the intention to show liberation or success, thus notes are often hit with ease, smoothly, sometimes even elegantly or joyfully. But in Rubinstein's, the peak is not reached without effort, hesitation, and even fear. Rubinstein gives one the impression that this climbing is supported by great courage and firm belief, and it really radiates once it's unfolded. But one also hears discernible efforts, great strength being poured into it - and the fear behind this calls for such strength.

Out of fear and hesitation, courage and strength are born - yes, this is what I hear. It is amazing that the expression of such state of mind actually can be achieved. And, in less than one minute, it tells more than one thousand words can say.

Rubinstein surely can play it with ease, like many others do, but he plays it this way. At the highest, most exalting point he shows how difficult it really is. So difficult that it can even be noticed! This reminds me of Maria Callas - she once talked about how hard it was for her to "appear to be as tired" as she does when performing La Traviata. How do you sing with a voice that sounds as being on the verge of breaking away at any second while making the entire opera house hear you clearly? Callas describes it as "a dangerous work."

Both Rubinstein and Callas did such a treat beautifully. The intended imperfection in no case damages the musicality. On the contrary it gives it a real human touch. And this is exactly what moves me so much.

Photo: C.P.



週四, 29 四月 2010 00:59






週四, 29 四月 2010 00:40

Festina Lente!——城市生活,慢慢快步

初到萊登的那一日夏日正盛,我坐在城緣的運河邊,享受著歐洲西北角上溫暖但絕不傷人的陽光。綠色草坪和藹可親,運河中有噴泉,天鵝圍著噴泉悠遊戲水,我耳畔彷彿聽見法國作曲家拉威爾的鋼琴曲《水之嬉戲》(Jeux d'eau)——陽光與水,在新來乍到者眼中有著萬千姿態!眼前風景令我回想起大西洋彼岸我曾居住過的麻省劍橋,某個櫻花接替雪花而紛飛的早春,又想起迤邐瑞士日內瓦湖畔高大筆直的綠樹,和樹冠之上無盡的夏末藍天。

週二, 10 十一月 2009 01:01

Colonization without Colonialism?

When did European colonialism start? What were its original objectives? How did it develop and shape the destiny of the nations that would later be established on its ruins? The question resonates in various ways in different parts of the world. In East Asia, the Dutch were one of the early colonizers – or were they? The question of the original nature and purposes of Dutch Asian settlements remains a hotly debated question. Presently residing at Leiden University, I am surprised to see how sensitive the issue remains, both for Dutch historians and for scholars of the nations where the Dutch staged their expansion. Much of it has to do with the intricate relationship between commerce, military force and nation-building….

It has been argued that the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC), the forefront of Dutch expansion, went through a transition from commercial power to territorial empire in the second half of the 17th century. Arguably, the transition was mainly caused by the local political situation in Java, where Jan Pietersz Coen had established the company headquarters in 1619. Such a change would be the watershed through which the VOC was supposed to have evolved from a “mere commercial powerhouse” to a power “colonial” in nature.

However, the rapid expansion of the VOC in eastern Indonesia and the Far East already undertaken during the first decades of its existence indicates otherwise: the change of character, if any, occurred well before it was embroiled into Javanese politics. Patronized by the States-General of the Netherlands, the VOC was – to borrow Leonard Blussé’s words – a “strange company” ever since the time of its foundation. It was meant to compete with other European powers for the Oriental riches – and not only through pure commercial means. Besides a 21-year monopoly on all Dutch trade in Asia, the VOC was also given quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, negotiate treaties, coin money and even establish colonies. That is to say, even in terms of the character determined by its founders at the very beginning, the VOC was more than a company of commerce.

In fact, attempting to characterize or qualify an enterprise set up in pre-modern times through our modern categories might be utterly anachronistic – and this applies to the question of determining whether the VOC was or was not “colonial” in nature, as the word chiefly refers to an array of phenomena linked to European expansionism during the course of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the rich literature on this issue reveals how much the “nature” of the VOC has aroused the historian’s curiosity. Such curiosity might be linked to the perplexities we feel when confronted with the mindset of a time when international trade was not supposed to be inscribed into a world order regulated by civil laws and concord. In other words, the question of the nature of the VOC is to be understood as an interrogation on the way colonization was interwoven with trade in the pre-modern era. When dealing with such an issue we are thus led to revise our understanding of how a certain kind of activity (in this case, trade) is defined and takes place in a given temporal context.

We may begin our investigation with a statement made in 1685 by Coenraad van Beuningen, one of the Heeren XVII. In expressing his serious concern about the company’s ever increasing expenses, he explicitly admitted that “it is commonplace and to a certain extent the truth to say that the Dutch East India Company is not just a company of commerce but also of state.” With this acknowledgement of the twofold character of the VOC he further stressed: “it would be very wrong... if from this it were decided that for reasons of State, and not just for commercial profit, cost must be made for occupation, conquest, fortification.” To Van Beuningen, the employment of violence itself was not a problem – as long as it was justified by commercial incentives.

That coercion and trade could go hand in hand had been demonstrated a few decades earlier, when the dazzling profit of monopolized spice trade necessitated violent intervention in the Moluccas: the bloody conquest of Banda in 1621 left the islands practically depopulated. The introduction of Moluccan slavery and the creation of a “plantation colony” on Banda (very much similar to the Spanish colonies in the New World but unique in the Company’s history) were the inevitable consequences of the conquest - though the conquest itself was not motivated by the idea of building up a colony. As Els Jacobs has indicated, the “entire Dutch adventure in Asia, the founding of the VOC, and the building of an Asia trade network had originally been initiated for no other reason than the extremely lucrative trade in spices.” What happened in the Moluccas, from the Dutch takeover of Amboina from Portuguese hands in 1605 to “the solemn submission of Ternate” in 1648, was not done for gaining political prestige but for securing a profit. Still, there was no way of achieving such a goal without using violence and legitimizing its use through state-granted powers and privileges.

The same can be said about the curious Dutch colony on Formosa. A “sudden, relatively uncontested expansion,” says Leonard Blussé, and a seemingly unnecessary one for a commercial enterprise. The Formosan conquest makes sense only when understood as a part of Coen’s construction work – building up an intra-Asian network for the company. Initially, the Dutch settled in Taoyuan for no other reason than creating an entrepôt for trade with China and Japan. It proved to be a worthy investment, as a regular trade relationship gradually took shape in the following decade. But before the island was lost to Koxinga, the company (just as happened in the Moluccas and Java) became more and more affected by local politics, which eventually led the directors to cast their doubts on the necessity of expansion.

The VOC expansion in Asia was undoubtedly colonization, in the sense that it included the seizure and control of lands on which the natives were subjected to Dutch law and mere coercion, and also because the whole endeavour was depleting the resources of these lands for the sole benefit of Dutch merchants. However, as exemplified by the Moluccas and Formosa examples, it was mercantile in nature rather than colonialist. The term “colonialism” is understood and used today with rather vague Marxist undertones: it has become roughly interchangeable with the one of “imperialism” and relates to the development of capitalism rather than to the mercantilist era. When referring to this complex web of meaning, it is indeed problematic to say that the VOC was a colonial power if we cannot prove that its endeavour was guided by a colonialist/imperialist ideology.

Indeed, historical documents do not offer evidence that the enterprise was guided by such underlying ideology. Still, a last point needs to be made: the Company was founded also to finance the war against the Spanish Crown, namely, in the context and for the purpose of building the Dutch Republic. In that respect, though it cannot be described as a full-fledged colonial power, the VOC played a major role in the development of European colonialism: the contest of its creation provides us with the missing link between the formation of the European nation-state and the colonial expansion of the latter. Ultimately, the extent to which we use the term “colonial power” to define the nature and role of the VOC is closely related to our understanding of the Dutch Republic as an early case of nation-state building, long before the rise of nationalism in the 19th century.

Photo by N. Priniotakis

週四, 26 三月 2009 01:49

Imagining the world from my mother’s womb


It is already quite difficult to imagine what was our life when we were in our mother’s womb… So, imagining what I was imagining when I was an embryo… Still, slowly, there must be something like a sense of imagination that was awakening in me, right? I was living within the palace of the human body, I was progressively perceiving sounds, sufferings and, who knows, tenderness… Did I obscurely know that one day I would come out and enter a world far, far bigger than the one I was presently living in? Was I dreaming about it the way I now wonder what the afterlife world may look like? I was obscurely preparing for death and birth, united into one…

Maybe all the obscure feelings and perceptions that occurred to me during these months are the primal stuff that will feed up my imagination during my entire life: the obscurity of unknown rooms and castles, the life in the cavern that stirred the philosophical imagination of Plato, the fear and attraction towards water that is mine… Maybe, yes, all this has been awakened by my uterine life….

Imagining the world from my cradle
Here I am… I came out through the door that opens towards life and death... Around the little universe of my cradle (much bigger already than the womb from which I so painfully came out) I perceive shapes, sounds, moves, feelings, quarrels, chants and care… I am sure I understand them much better than they think, and even much better than I know it myself. I understand them as if from within… I know what they mean better than they do… I have still this sense of immediate perception that I had in the womb. And, at the same time, these things and these people are totally obscure to me... I have no words for: cat; milk; toy; bed… I slowly will have one word, one word for: Mom… and this one seems to encompass all the other ones… But who is my Mom? Someone I have to fancy and imagine from her voice, her breasts and her hands… I have to give a shape, a personality, a volition, a soul to this great confuse shape, to this presence so mysterious and immediate… Yes, I first imagine my Mom, I compose and recompose all I feel, fear and hope around the word “Mom,” and , from this point on, I start to imagine the world, as if the whole universe was emanating from the body of my Mom….

Imagining myself
Leaving my cradle, rummaging around the room, risking myself into the corridor, I explore my expanding universe… I can imagine how the doors open towards new space, I sense a hand when I see a glove, I imagine a visage from the voice I hear in an adjacent room... I know there is a world around me, a world that I learn to apprehend and to dream, to expand at my will within the other word that is my brain… I know much less about me… Who I am, what am I doing there, what do I look like, am I cute and lovable? I have to experiment in order to know who I am, I have to imagine experiments – hurting myself, crying or laughing out of purpose, exasperating the adults, seizing a piece of cloth… I have to imagine myself in order to assert my own existence…
One day, I meet with a mirror: Here I am! This is me! But does the image I encounter take the place of my imaginative powers? Not at all: the mirror gives new space to my dreams and my creativity: I take a hat, a scarf, the lipstick of my Mom, I stand naked, I ride a horse, I hide my face and still risks glances on the mirror to see who is watching me when I do not look… The mirror opens up new worlds, in which fantasy and reality become intermingled. Fantasy and reality are going to be mixed up during my whole life, but I still do not know it yet…

週五, 28 十一月 2008 03:04

When I look eastwards

Three generations of Amis women gather in Haruko's household (Tafalong village). They wear their traditional costumes to improvise dances and sing an Amis song.
週二, 25 十一月 2008 21:31


An excerpt of the "Ilisin" in Sado (Hualien County, August 2008): men from the same generation as the deceased come to his house and perform a dance of farewell and commemoration.

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週二, 25 十一月 2008 02:03


O pakayniay i Tafalong a kongko

Malaradiw i, caay kasiday ko kongko no mato’asay. Kongko a ccay, mapawan a mapawan; ano radiw i, caay kapawan. Sanay. Sa... Palaradiw hatonian; kina naradiw mato’asay, “Tafalong a niyaro’.” Sanay.

說話者是個九十二歲的老人。現在他的名字叫做林朝喜,但只不過六、七十年前,他的名字還叫做Sakuma Masaji(佐久間 正治)。這個島上的住民似乎總是難免名字變來變去的困擾,所幸這老人還有一個永久性的名字,叫做Angah Foday,無論任何時候,叫這個名字都絕對不會出錯。

Angah Foday很老了,這一天他應孫女的要求,唱了一首重要的歌。上一次他唱這首歌,是「原舞者」為了演出而邀請他教導歌曲之時,大約是1998年吧,當時他就已經八十二歲了。









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