UBC Theses and Dissertations
Politics of the periphery : religion and place at a city's edge in Taiwan Chou, Hansen
This thesis explores the recent revival of popular religion in Taiwan through broader anthropological concerns regarding place and space. Swift industrialization and rapid urbanization of past decades have not dissuaded religious practice; instead they have flourished on the island. This study pays specific attention to their proliferation at the urban margins. Drawing on historical and ethnographic data based on field research conducted in 2007, the present work examines the spatial politics of place at a community on the urban periphery, just outside of Taipei in northern Taiwan. More specifically, it analyzes two key sites within the community that locals often evoke as crucial locations in their cultural and social imaginings of place: a cultural heritage district and the local communal temple. It documents various “spatial practices” (de Certeau 1984) of place, and focuses particularly on the divination ritual at the temple. This work draws upon some of the ideas advanced by Henri Lefebvre (1991) in his theorization of urbanization, particularly his notion of “abstract space”: the expanding spaces of homogeneity created in the wake of global capitalism’s spread. By addressing the everyday experiences of space, this thesis addresses the dynamics between histories, affect and place. In all, it argues that, amidst the uncertainties of change brought on by their modern(izing) surroundings, people resort to rituals like divination in hopes to mitigate their maladies and misfortunes. By turning to the past in their attempts to make sense of the present, they further engage in a form of local production.
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