Guest Lecture, Rosa Enn, PhD candidate, University of Vienna, Austria, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology:
The impacts of modernity on Orchid Island’s Tao people
The people living on remote islands have to deal with the advantages and disadvantages of their geographical isolation. The indigenous Tao of Orchid Island (Lanyu) have preserved their cultural traditions much more effectively than perhaps any of the indigenous groups on Taiwan, they were not influenced by mainstream Han Chinese society to the same extent as the other indigenous communities. However, the impact of modernity, such as rising tourism and the influences from the outside world have had far-reaching consequences for their traditional lifestyle and social structures.
The Tao have had to deal with various forms of injustice ever since Taiwan’s period of martial law. The remote location of their homeland from Taiwan became of great interest to the government in the 1970s. The appropriation of land on Orchid Island was to be used to deposit nuclear waste and that solved the government’s problem of finding a convenient and appropriate storage site. The Tao were neither informed nor included in the decision-making processes regarding this undertaking. Since 1982, 100,000 barrels of toxic waste from Taiwan’s three nuclear power plants were dumped on Orchid Island for intermediate storage.
The empowerment movement succeeded in stopping the delivery of nuclear waste barrels to Orchid Island in 1996. In addition, the islanders managed to obtain monetary compensation and social welfare. However, the Tao strongly depend on these compensation benefits nowadays. Due to having the dumpsite for more than 30 years and enjoying the respective compensation, the people had no incentive to develop a self-sufficient and sustainable economy in order to create income possibilities and, therefore, the dependency on monetary compensation remains unsolved.
This anthropological research deals with governance and environmental justice, indigenous peoples’ rights and empowerment in terms of social inclusion and participation in political and environmental decision-making. Furthermore, it looks at the transformation of ethnicity due to the influence of modernity and how the indigenous peoples interact with the issue of changing their way of life, as well as the representation of gender in ethnographic research.
Rosa Enn was born in Salzburg/Austria. She lives in Taipei and Vienna, where she is enrolled in a PhD program of the University of Vienna at the Institute of Social Anthropology. Her fields of expertise are indigenous peoples with regard to their social, cultural, and legal positions within national and international discourses, human rights, and various forms of governance. In her PhD she develops methods, together with indigenous peoples, NGOs, governmental, and international institutions, to implement environmental justice strategies among indigenous communities in Taiwan who live in remote areas and are exposed to ecological colonialism. She has conducted several field researches in Taiwan and Brazil. Beside her studies, she supports NGOs in Taiwan and Switzerland as a scientific researcher.