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  • Tangled Up in Red: Textiles, Trading Posts, and Ethnic Bifurcation in Taiwan

    Paul D. Barclay

    Chapter from the book: Barclay, P. 2017. Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874–1945.


    Gifts performed multiple functions in the borderland economy of Qing-period and Japanese-ruled Taiwan. Travelers brought material offerings to the mountainous hinterland to pay for services rendered or expectations of future assistance. In addition, the presentation of gifts occasioned the recording of the emotional states and dispositions of little-known peoples, who were typecast in the colonial archive as either "greedy," "honest," or "uncorrupted." Gifts also fostered trade dependency among indigenes. As the Taiwan Government General intensified resource extraction from camphor forests circa 1900, it touched off violent border wars. Thereafter, it regulated gift giving as an arm of policy, to reform indigenous character, and to punish highlanders. One class of these gifts, red-dyed thread and textiles, took on additional meaning. These items were disassembled, reassembled, and repurposed into "traditional" Atayal textiles. Some were consumed locally, but many were exported to trading posts, museums, and tourist shops. Trademark Atayal red-dyed textiles thus became exhibits in discourses on authenticity, progress, and primitivism. By tracking their uses across these many functions, this chapter illustrates the productive—though problematic—interdependence of indigenes, settlers, and metropolitans in the production of global indigenism.

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    Barclay, P. 2017. Tangled Up in Red: Textiles, Trading Posts, and Ethnic Bifurcation in Taiwan. In: Barclay, P, Outcasts of Empire. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.41.d

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    Published on Oct. 24, 2017