Session 2: Transnational Indigeneity


Thursday, April 25, 11:00 a.m — 12:30 p.m.

Transnational Indigenism in Asia

Prasit Leepreecha

Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Thailand

The movement of indigenous peoples in Asia, especially East, Southeast and South Asia countries, has become a prominent and powerful phenomenon during the past few decades. On the global level, indigeneity–the fact of originating or living in a particular place–has been identified by marginalized peoples as a justification for claiming and accessing basic rights. The origin of indigeneity may be found in colonized countries where European settlers permanently settled and gradually dominated indigenous or native peoples, particularly on the North American, Latin American and Australian continents. Unlike many settler colonies in the West, native peoples in many former colonized countries and non–colonized countries are no longer dominated by recent settlers but still being internally colonized by the present national governments. This has resulted in various native and ethnic groups identifying themselves as indigenous peoples and joined the international movement of indigeneity. In recent years, indigenism has become a common ideological consciousness and transnational movement in Asia, particularly East, Southeast and South Asia, operating at different levels of networking. Considering this, my basic questions concern why indigenism is popular among various ethnic groups in the three subregions, what it stems from, and how it is being used to connect with indigenous peoples’ movement in the three subregions and other parts of the world.  It is my finding that self-identifying as indigenous peoples, among marginalized ethnic groups in Asia, enhances their opportunity for power negotiation, with national government and relevant agencies, and for international cooperation with regard to human rights claims. My article will focus on the roles of Asia Indigenous People Pact (AIPP), which bases in Chiang Mai of northern Thailand, in networking indigenous peoples’ movements in the three subregions of Asia. Information presented in this paper is based on existing documents, interviews and observations during the past few decades. The concept of transnationalism will be employed in my analytical framework.

Keywords: Indigenous people, indigenism, native people, ethnic group, transnationalism


Culture, Gender, and Care: A Study of Tao Indigenous Widow’s Social Suffering and Resilience

Lenglengman Rovaniyaw

National Dong Hwa University

In most of Southeast Asia, there is a sense that being widowed often begins a new period of independence. However, the widow culture of Southeast Asian communities is not a single culture. For example, villagers in the northeast of Thailand believed that a “widow ghost” (phii mae maai)  is regarded as a dangerous or unfortunate threat that may cause death. Similar studies are less well-documented in the study of elderly widowed women in Taiwan. This research explores the social suffering of indigenous cultural care, focusing on the Taboo of Tao widowhood on the gender relationship, especially in space segmentation, food preparation, and activity design. Through the fieldwork in Orchid Island (A.K.A. Lanyu), this research discovers that Tao indigenous widowhood is regarded as an impure carrier of bad luck. As a result, they are not allowed to be involved with public space and events, showing how the Anito belief system, a kind of malicious spirit, is deeply entrenched in their daily lives. Regarding long-term care, scholars have long neglected the discussion of cultural influences, indicating a significant theoretical gap. The widows’ suffering from personal loss to social loss has been relieved by establishing a cultural health station in their village, where the widow can reconstruct their tangible healthy space and intangible social support. The policies of culture care foster higher levels of social acceptance, belonging, and dignity in widow’s resilience and well-being. 

Keywords: Cultural Care, Widow, Indigenous, Social Suffering, Resilience.


Transnational Indigeneity in Taiwan and the Interactions with the Philippines

Margaret Tu

PhD Candidate, Department of Law, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

In the 1980s, the Indigenous movement in Taiwan flourished. Through connections with the Presbyterian Church, Taiwan’s Indigenous movement was influenced by the organizational movements in the Philippines, such as the training methodology from the Urban Rural Mission (URM) of the Presbyterian Church system. The network of the “Anti-KMT Dissident Editor and Writer Association” (黨外編輯作家聯誼會, dangwai bianji zuojia lianyi hui) in 1983 was closely associated with the Taiwan Presbyterian Church and facilitated the “Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Promotion Association (TIPRPA)” (臺灣原住民族權利促進會, Taiwan yuanjhu minzu cyuanli cujinhuei) in 1984. TIPRPA served as a focal point in the Indigenous movement at that time. Its activism encompasses the survival crisis of Indigenous communities due to socio-economic struggle and cultural-linguistic disconnection response to the series of policies of the Nationalist government and the Japanese colonial era. It mobilized various Austronesian-speaking Taiwan Indigenous peoples.

Recently, conversations concerning transnational Indigeneity again connect Taiwan and the Philippines, particularly in the Cordillera Administrative Region. Two institutions are the centers in Taiwan interacting with the Philippines communities: the “Science and Technology Innovation Center for Taiwan-Philippines Indigenous Knowledge, Local Knowledge and Sustainable Studies (CTPILS)” (臺菲原住民知識、在地知識與永續發展海外科研中心, taifei yuanzhumin zhishi zaidi zhishi yu yongxufazhan haiwai keyan zhongxin) of the National Chengchi University as well as the “Center for Indigenous peoples cultures, communications & Empowerment” (世新大學原住民族文化傳播暨發展中心, shixin daxue yuanzhuminzu wenhua chuanbo ji fazhan zhongxin). Through the Indigenous research methodology of storytelling, this research investigates the historical and modern interactions between the Philippines and the Taiwan Indigenous peoples– the Indigenous movement in the 1980s and the institutionalized Indigenous centers within the universities in the present time- and how we share a common Austronesian linguistic history and also similar struggles in land rights, environmental justice, and Indigenous identity in this present time.