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“Making God’s Country: A Phenomenological Approach to Christianity among the Sediq-Truku of Taiwan” in Taiwan’s Contemporary Indigenous People

“Making God’s Country: A Phenomenological Approach to Christianity among the Sediq-Truku of Taiwan” in Taiwan’s Contemporary Indigenous People, edited by Chia-yuan Huang, Daniel Davies, Dafydd Fell

Scott Simon

Routledge, 2022


https://www.routledge.com/Taiwans-Contemporary-Indigenous-Peoples/Huang-Davies-Fell/p/book/9780367553579

Religion is an inescapable part of Indigenous Taiwan. The presence of churches rather than Buddhist and Taoist temples is usually the first visible sign that one has driven into an Indigenous village. The Sediq and Truku peoples, as part of the greater pan-Atayalic family, formerly had a territorially grounded religion based in ideas of customary law (Gaya), ancestral spirits (utux) and clan-based political community (alang). They had rich narrative and ritual practices for the ‘becoming’ of relationships between the living and the dead as well as between the human and the non-human. Among these ritual practices was the much maligned practice of headhunting. Beginning in the 1930s and accelerating in the 1950s, they underwent a mass conversion to Christianity. Most Sediq and Truku people now belong, in ways that overlap largely with clan lines, to the Presbyterian, Roman Catholic or Pentecostalist True Jesus Church. A phenomenological approach to religion as embodied practices-orienting people in time and space reveals similarities as well as ruptures between old and new lifeworlds. Building churches and joining with others in the activities of congregations have become important means of building communities and affirming identities. The Sediq and Truku – as well as probably all Indigenous groups on Taiwan – may have adopted a foreign religion, but they did so in their own manner and on their own terms. 


Scott Simon, is a socio-anthropologist trained in both disciplines (anthropology and sociology). Co-holder of the Chair of Taiwan Studies at the University of Ottawa, he has lived in Taiwan for ten years and returns annually for field research. He has also done field research in Japan and Guam. His research interests include Indigenous rights, development, the contribution of Taiwan to the Indo-Pacific, Taiwan’s international status, and Canada-Taiwan relations. He has written three books and numerous articles about Taiwan. He does policy-oriented research as member of the Centre for International Policy Studies and the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa, and as Senior Fellow at Ottawa’s Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

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