Female labour has always been my concern over the years, such as the gender separation in the public and private spheres, the fragmentation and invisibility of female labour in the private sphere, and the low wages of women in the workplace or different pay for equal workload. These issues are related to the more traditional female labour. But later, I gradually discovered that these issues tend to fall into the gender duality mind set. In fact, it is relatively inconsistent with phenomenon. The real phenomenon is a more complicated process intertwined with the aspects of class and ethnic groups, so I slowly turned my attention towards these aspects, more specifically on the observation of the weaving work of women in Taiwanese pan face tattooed ethnic groups. In the traditional gender division, weaving is a quintessential work for women, but how does it represent itself in contemporary society? What contribution do indigenous women make when they face traditional knowledge in contemporary society from the perspective of de-colonialize feminism? Although they did not clearly state that they were going to decolonize consciously, in the face of the new environment and the continuation of traditional craftsmanship, how could they give new forms and new nutrients to the weaving in the new era?
In recent years, I have been paying attention to the production and reproduction of the female weaving culture in the pan face tattooed ethnic group, mainly observing two cases in the Hualien area. The first is in the hill tribe of Zhuoxi Township in Hualien. The tribe is composed of a small number of East Seediq formed by the Duta ethnic group, a very high percentage of women in this tribe still perform traditional weaving. This type of weaving is not intended to be a cultural industry, but to conform to the custom of intergenerational cultural inheritance. I give it a concept called “Endogenous”. In my observation of weaving in recent years, there are two types of developments. The other is called “extrapolative”, which is a a type driven by external influences for industrial development, combining weaving with the market. “Endogenous weaving” is the weaving culture inherited from the early life styles of the elderly and the daily labor of the tribe. This weaving culture does not generate pressure from market goods, but because the labor of the previous generation continues, it passes down like this as the process of inheritance. There are certain conditions for their labor, such as a network to learn from each other, a marriage custom with fabrics as a dowry, or a belief in Waya, because such customs and beliefs have allowed them to continue the weaving from their inner culture habit. In the past few years, my observation concluded that weaving in many places is more extrapolated. However, in the hill tribes, I found that this group of elderly people continued to have a more endogenous weaving pattern.
In addition, the Shuiyuan tribe is the Taroko tribe near Hualien City, and its weaving style has both “endogenous” and “extrapolative” properties. There is a group of younger Taroko women in this tribe. They formed a group called “Mwaray da” that learns to weave from each other. They do not only continue the weaving pattern of the elderly, but also continue the weaving labor of daily life for their families, which demonstrates more possibilities in terms of diversities. For example, they negotiated with the National Taiwan Museum of Pre-History, went into the museum’s warehouse to observe old fabrics up close, and then weave back traditional clothes, as well as tracing back the long lost techniques with patterns. They also hold exhibitions. Generally, it seems that only artists do exhibitions. However, they challenge this stereotype, showcase and explain the objects they have woven, and tell the story of weaving with confidence. They are also weaving and inheriting in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, and even high schools and universities. At the same time, they are also creating micro-economic industries. Therefore, weaving in the young generations carries out multiple involvement and display. From this, I describe them as “micro-resistance aesthetic groups.” Through weaving, they do not only achieve cultural heritage, but also achived the completion of “beauty.” I have participated in the return of ethnic identity and skills/memory to resist mainstream social stereotyped impression of indigenous women, so I address them as “micro-resistance aesthetic groups.”
In the process of this research, cross-disciplinary research will be involved. Research topics like mine involve cultural assets, sociology, gender studies, and labor studies, which are also related to post-colonial feminist perspectives. What is the significance and potential of such cross-disciplinary and international connections? From the perspective of post-colonial women, this situation cannot be considered as monolithically, but from the global division of labor or the process of stratification. From different juxtapositions, they will have different situations and differences. For example, if women of the Taroko ethnic group engaged in weaving are to be culturally capitalized or commoditized, what impact will the process have on the global division of labor or global tourism? How we look at it from the context of globalization is significantly important. Even when I meet these tribal women, they all hope to see other different ethnic groups, not only different ethnic groups in Taiwan, but even different indigenous people internationally, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The culture of weaving by indigenous women in these areas, which can be learned or compared, to form a global connection of indigenous women all around the world, and to understand the differences between them in the process of this connection. A post-colonial feminist scholar, Nira Yuval-Davis, talked about “horizontal politics”, through rooting and shifting (rooting and shifting), confirming the differences of each other’s positions, and being able to put oneself in the other’s position, in order to imagine and achieve a balanced negotiation. The goal is to become a shared knowledge community. Through this process of continuous negotiation, women in different locations around the world can have the possibility of dialogue and negotiation, making the indigenous nature more open to the future, thus redefining and innovating, but still retaining its traditional elements. In the future, when the sisters of the tribe engage in weaving practice, and to have such an international interaction is always what we expect.
On the other hand, let us talk about the challenges that may be encountered in the process of cross-disciplines research or how to overcome these challenges. When it comes to cross-disciplines, the first thing we pay attention to is the basic knowledge of each field, and it is what we have to overcome, and the connects with the personnel from various fields. The establishment of trust relationship is very important in the connection process. I have always considered that the most basic form of cooperation is the trust relationship. How to establish a dialogue mechanism on the basis of this trust relationship? What I do is cross-cultural research, so I have been deeply aware of the importance of language ability over the years, which is very essential. If there is no way to strengthen your ethnic language ability for a while, then translation is definitely the most significant. Therefore, in cross-disciplines or cross-cultural research, language is still a very important foundation. I encourage young people to have a lot of multi-lingual skills when you are capable, so you can be more comfortable and precise when doing cross-discipline or cross-cultural research.
More importantly, in conducting cross-discipline or cross-cultural research, what ethical issues or matters must be paid attention to? First of all, it is informed notification and obtaining consent. This will be discussed when it comes to research ethics. In actual experience, the method of obtaining consent will vary from object to object. If the object is an elderly person or a tribesman who is unfamiliar with the text, the consent and signature process may create more doubts. They might have doubts in this process or whether you are going to do something with it. Therefore, the establishment of mutual trust is much more significant; but for young people, such as the young weaver Girl, they would want to know what are you going to do with it, what they are going to do in this process, because the trauma of previous generations made them sensitive to whether this research will have a negative impact to their people, so we have to make this research very clear, and even clearly explain the cooperation, the interests, and power relationship involved in the process, also the feedback after the study is completed is also very crucial. In addition, there is a trend of co-authoring, which is no longer just the relative relationship between the researcher and the researched, but the relationship of co-creation or cooperation.
Lastly, the establishment of international indigenous partnerships and cooperation mechanisms. From my experience in tribes, I can feel that women all want opportunities for internationalization. They want to interact with the weaving culture of different fields, different ethnic groups, and even different regions, and to communicate and learn. They do not just want burry themselves in their own traditions, but also hope to have the opportunity to see the manifestation of different cultures, which can be used as nutrients and inspiration for their creation. When I was thinking about this issue, I realized that this requires an intermediary to connect the tribe with the international realm. There are many tribes around Donghua University, and as a school functioning as an intermediary in order to become a bridge in between, it is what we can work towards.