Module III: Environmental Justice/Injustice


1. Roundtable: Decolonizing Multi-species Entanglements in Taiwan

Speakers: Scott Simon (Co-holder of the Chair of Taiwan Studies and Full Professor, Sociological and Anthropological Studies, University of Ottawa), Yih-Ren Lin (Professor, Graduate Institute of Museum Studies, Taipei National University of the Arts), Shih–Hsuan Yu (Doctoral Student, Anthropology, University of Cologne), Jeffrey Nicolaisen (Assistant Professor, Department of Religion and Culture, Hsuan Chuang University)

Colonization in Taiwan by the Dutch, Spanish, Han, and Japanese did not simply repress indigenous people as less than human, it also reconfigured complex ecologies on which indigenous peoples and nonhuman species relied, and even unwittingly dismantled relationships on which colonizers themselves relied. For the Atayal people, relationships with millet not only provided foodways, but also rituals that maintained relationships with ancestors. For the Rukai people, the clouded leopard has been understood not only as a fellow species but as a guide to a heavenly paradise. For the Truku and Sediq, hunting mediated complex relationships with ancestors that included rewards and punishments for moral behavior, reverence for ancestors, and communication with these ancestors through messenger birds. Harm to these relationships through “modernization” projects such as logging and industrialization have not only disrupted ontologies and damaged cultures, they have also caused species extinction, overgrazing, and human-animal conflict for both Han and indigenous peoples. This roundtable asks (1) how Taiwan’s indigenous peoples serve as protectors of non-human species, (2) how nonhuman species serve as protectors of indigenous peoples, (3) how colonizers fragment relationships between humans and nonhumans, and (4) how these relationships can be reconstructed for the flourishing of both human and nonhuman species. The panel will consider the multiple stake-holders involved in these questions—including international NGOs, local policy-makers, scientists, and Indigenous property owners—and think about inclusive approaches to real-world solutions, such as a living “Millet Ark” heritage seed preservation project, rewilding of the clouded leopard, land co-management, rights of nature, and hunting law reform.


Scott Simon (Ph.D., McGill University, 1998), Co-holder of the Chair of Taiwan Studies and Full Professor at the University of Ottawa, has lived in Taiwan for ten years and returns annually for field research. He is currently PI of a multi-sited, interdisciplinary research team (funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada) entitled “Austronesian Worlds: Human-Animal Entanglements in the Pacific Anthropocene.” Specializing mainly in Sediq and Truku research, he has written on human relations with dogs, birds, game animals, and millet; as well as on the construction of hunting as a human rights issue. He has also done multi-species ethnography in Japan, Guåhan (Guam), and on Ponso no tao (Orchid Island). 

Yih-Ren Lin (Ph.D., University College London, 1999) is Professor at Graduate Institute of Museum Studies, Taipei National University of the Arts. Trained as a cultural geographer, Prof. Lin uses participatory and action research methods and a political ecology approach to issues relevant to indigenous communities in Taiwan. He has recently published on such topics as disaster resilience of indigenous communities, mapping traditional territories, and establishing a living “millet ark” with Atayal people in Taiwan. 

Shih–Hsuan Yu (M.A., University Heidelberg, 2017) is a conservation anthropologist and community coordinator for the Clouded Leopard Association of Taiwan (pending regulatory approval), and a doctoral student studying under environmental anthropologist Michael Bollig at University of Cologne. She obtained her masters in the Anthropology of South Asia Studies at Heidelberg University, and has also worked as Human Dimension for Wildlife Project Manager for the Formosan Wild Sound Conservation Center.

Jeffrey Nicolaisen (Ph.D, Duke University, 2019), is Assistant Professor at Department of Religion and Culture, Hsuan Chuang University. His research uses Taiwanese traditions and teachings to rethink networks of human and nonhuman agency and the ethics of multi-species interaction between Han and indigenous people, dogs, and monkeys in Taiwan. Prior to pursuing an academic career, he worked as an environmental consultant with the global sustainability consulting group Environmental Resources Management. 


2. Seminar: Between Nature and You: Nature Technology and Augmented Body in Italy’s Postindustrial South

Speakers: Jasmine Pisapia (SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Anthropology, McGill University), Hsiu-ju Stacy Lo (Postdoctoral Fellow, International Center for Cultural Studies, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University)

“It is easier to imagine the end of the planet than the end of capitalism,” Fredric Jameson once remarked. But must the world end the way Jameson saw it? The fact that these words reverberate once again through many Zoom discussions on health and ecological crises today reflects the general state of human imagination—or the lack thereof? The concept behind this roundtable discussion “Between Nature and You” is formulated with Michael Taussig’s provocation that “most ways of writing and talking about environmental collapse are part of the problem.” By this, he means the prevailing discourses of environmental crisis circulating in the press have only perpetuated the form of the crisis. This conversation is premised on the assumption that the current “language” or mode of storytelling failed to stimulate and enchant humanity into action. Therefore, an alternative storytelling craft(s) to frame the victims’ experiences of environmental disasters and “to mimic in a different way that allows for mutuality” is being proposed. Our attention then turns to the remaking of our world through a kind of “fictocriticism” which blends fact and fiction, ethnographic observation, archival research, literary theory and memoir.

This session is a casual and intimate conversation between two friends and anthropologists who recount some of the unfortunate events caused by recent human-made disasters when they visited the field site together in Italy’s South, speculate alternative futures in the hope of turning things around, and reenchanting humanity ahead of the post-pandemic era. More than the usual scholarly critique and historicization, “Between Nature and You” seeks to reconnect and reinvigorate by some kind of estrangement. The faint-hearted are also welcome.

Jasmine C. Pisapia holds a PhD in sociocultural anthropology from Columbia University in New York and is currently a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow affiliated with McGill’s Department of Anthropology and its Critical Media Lab in Montreal. Her research is situated at the intersection of visual anthropology, ecological crisis, and aesthetics. Pisapia’s artistic and curatorial attention to moving and still images saw her play key roles in Festival du nouveau cinéma, 2010-2013 and New York City Players, an independent theater company based in New York. She co-founded collettivo epidemia, a research collective and independent magazine invested in political ecology, art, and grassroots organizations mobilized around food and agroecological practices in Italy.

Stacy Lo received her PhD in sociocultural anthropology from Columbia University. She is a postdoctoral fellow at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan. Her recent preoccupations with artificial intelligence have resulted in several publications on the creative use of technologies and various “jianghu” tactics in Hong Kong’s “Be Water” movement as well as on new media art. Her ongoing work is concerned with fabrication and mimesis of “memes”—both online and offline—against the contemporary backdrop of heightened surveillance and censorship. Lo has a curatorial and artistic practice alongside her academic work.


3. Seminar: Rethinking Hygiene and Environmental Problems

Speaker: Daren Shi-chi Leung (Research Assistant Professor, Cultural Studies, Lingnan University)

The seminar focuses on the transformation of ancient farming techniques for human waste in socialist China. It discusses the “socialist toilet system,” a combination of the Maoist mobilisations of collective agriculture and the nationalist hygiene campaign that concern together agricultural production and public health. It also explores the environmental problems resulted by the disappearance of such toilet system in post-socialist China.

Dr. Daren Shi-chi Leung is Research Assistant Professor in the Cultural Studies Department at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. Leung received his PhD from the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney in 2021, with the thesis “Farming as Method: Contextualizing the politics of food and farming in South China”. His research interest focuses on new materialism at the intersection of the politics of food and farming, human waste, urban commons and sustainability. Leung is recently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled Excremental Modernity: Human Waste, Food and (Un-)Hygiene in China.


4. Colonising the Sea: Coastal Reclamations in Japan and the Threat of Global Warming

Speaker: Denis Byrne (Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University)

The land reclamations that provide extra space for industry, commerce and settlement along the Pacific coast of Japan’s main island, where they often take the form of artificial islands, can be thought of as technofossils of the Anthropocene. At a time when the scale of human movement of earth materials across the surface of the Earth now exceeds that of all the planet’s rivers, coastal reclamations illustrate the expanding human footprint on the Earth. They represent a colonisation of the sea by projects designed to extend human habitat.

The steel mills and thermal power stations located on many of the reclamations in Japan draw iron ore and coal from a global network of extraction sites, transporting these minerals in giant bulk carrier ships that are often built in shipyards located on the same reclamations as the steel mills and power stations. Meanwhile, emissions from industries located on the artificial terrain of Japan’s coastal reclamations contribute to the global warming that is causing sea level rise, such that by 2100 it is expected that storm surges accompanying typhoons hitting Japan will be between 0.5 and 0.8 metres higher than at present. Since government policy aims to prevent any of Japan’s coastal terrain from being flooded by storm surges, a massively expensive project is foreshadowed to replace or substantially raise the height of the country’s already extensive system of defensive seawalls. This scale of investment in ‘hard engineering’ is beyond the means of countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh that are also subject to typhoons, offering an insight into what promises to be a very uneven global distribution of the impacts of global warming. 

Denis Byrne is a professor at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. With a focus on Asia and Australia, he works across the fields of archaeology, critical heritage studies and the environmental humanities. He has a particular interest in migrant heritage-making and in coastal reclamations as legacy artefacts of the Anthropocene. His books include Counterheritage: Critical Perspectives on Heritage Conservation in Asia (2014) and The Heritage Corridor: A Transnational Approach to the Heritage of Chinese Migration (2022).