Organized Panel Session
Since Wei Te-Sheng’s Warriors of the Rainbow (2011), the Seediq are known for resistance against Japanese colonialism. The film, made in collaboration with Seediq consultants, reflects many pre-occupations of Seediq political philosophy, or Gaya. Since 2004, I conducted annual ethnographic field research with the Seediq, learning about Gaya through conversations with ordinary people. Demonstrating strong cultural resilience, ordinary Seediq refer to Gaya as a living philosophy that informs how they make a place for themselves in contemporary Taiwan. Gaya remains an ethical framework through which all Seediq judge their colonial situation, the behaviour of their kinfolk, and their personal choices.
I discuss Gaya through five foundational notions: 1) Seediq, or “human,” especially the ethical striving to be seediq balae (“truly human”): 2) Alang, or the “community” of related folk; 3) Utux, or ancestral spirits; 4) Dxgal, or territory; and 5) Lnglungan, the “heart” that makes ethical judgements. These concepts are woven together into a political philosophy of egalitarianism and autarky similar to what James Scott found in highland Southeast Asia and Pierre Clastres called the “society against the state.” The Seediq and other indigenous peoples on Taiwan (an island for which they had no name) historically organized politics without states, in spite of living in the shadow of imperial Japan, China, and the Ryukyu Kingdom. They now debate Gaya as part of the future of indigeneity. For scholars, attention to Gaya relativizes notions of state and sovereignty, with important lessons for indigenizing political philosophy.