Research on the Indigenous Communities in Taiwan

“Authority Structures and Single-Party Dominance across Indigenous Communities in Taiwan”

June 2022, Sociology of Development

ABSTRACT Researchers have demonstrated that local institutional contexts such as organizational networks and leadership cohesion explain the lasting support across developing countries for elite parties originating from former authoritarian regimes. But variation in the emergence of party competition in rural underprivileged populations that were once strong supporters of the regime party requires a thorough examination of local power structures. Analysis of aboriginal societies in Taiwan, based on interviews and ethnographic research, demonstrates that the type of authority structure guides how power relations organize communities and how local elites attain their status. In indigenous communities where inherited hierarchy determines social prestige, chiefs and headmen have retained control of contemporary politics. In contrast, in villages without preexisting hierarchies, big men need to build political influence on personal grounds, which creates room for contestation and the emergence of internal competition for political allegiance. Regression analyses provide further support for these findings and imply that authority structures mediate local communities’ linkage with the party and the state during democratization (link).

“Generic Authority Structures and the Emergence of Credit Unions: Evidence from Indigenous Communities in Taiwan”*

Accepted, Revue Française de Sociologie

ABSTRACT Anthropologists and sociologists alike have long identified the existence of two generic human societies – big man and chief – across indigenous tribes around the globe, but they are not in agreement on how and through what mechanisms these two societies adapt to modern economic life. In this paper, we analyze the establishment of credit unions across indigenous villages in Taiwan, where these two traditional authority structures co-exist, and find that villages with ascribed power and inherited hierarchy (i.e., chief villages) provide less structural support for the founding and operation of credit unions and are less likely to adopt credit unions than communities whose leadership is determined by individual merits and achievement (i.e., big man villages). Our findings indicate that the pre-existing authority structures within these traditional societies prescribe the incentive scheme and trust structure critical to the founding of nouveau organization and its durability.

*First author. Co-authored with Zong-Rong Lee, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan

In 2012-2016, I was an ethnographer studying social changed across the indigenous communities in Taiwan. Based on my ethnographic and statistical analysis, I have completed and published a set of studies on the democratization and financialization in the tribes.