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Lost, found and troubled in translation: Reconsidering imagined Indigenous “communities” in post- disaster Taiwan settings

Minna Hsu


Post- disaster discourses emphasize the importance of community in fostering reconstruction, yet the focus on recovering from a “natural” disaster can obscure the slower- paced disasters of displacement, dispossession and marginalization. The pre- disaster circumstances of Indigenous peoples influenced reconstruction after Typhoon Morakot, which devastated Taiwan in 2009, and have shaped the relations in which Indigenous groups are embedded as well as the terms used to represent them. “Community”, already contested in its application within various settings, masks a multilingual complexity in Taiwan. This paper explores how the idea of community was mobilized in post- Morakot reconstruction between 2009 and 2015, drawing on ethnographic research within Indigenous Rukai domains and interviews with various institutions. Taking a historical approach to Rukai experiences in Wutai Township, it discusses how imaginings of community reinforce rather than address risk and vulnerability for Indigenous populations in hazardous landscapes, and how external agencies perceive as self- evident what they mean by “community development” and “needs”.


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Print ISSN 1177-1801 Online ISSN 1174-1740