Organized Panel Session
My presentation focuses on the practice of gathering in colonial Taiwan, the topic that has rarely been picked up in the studies of agricultural history of modern Asia. Scholarly studies have mainly examined the negative impact of Japanese colonial agricultural modernization—the package of chemical fertilizer and new seeds--on local Taiwanese farmers. My dissertation research, which is recently completed, reveals more complex and resilient picture of Taiwanese women and children engaged in gathering. My contribution to this panel is to raise an important question of how to narrate the story of colonial exploitation and local resilience in the face of modernization without compromising the significance of each. While fully acknowledging the serious magnitude of exploitation, I also want to recognize the daily practices of gathering among Taiwanese women and children that made a positive impact on their immediate ecological environment. I am interested in exploring what kind of language and narrative I can employ to tell the story of colonial agricultural modernization that was exploitative to colonial Taiwan but in a way that would not take away the agency of these local women and children. The topic of gathering has posed a clear difficulty on scholars due to the scarcity of historical record, but I have collected during my two years of field work many life stories of Taiwanese elders as well as branches, seashells, insects, and potatoes and peanuts remained in soil after harvests.