Women and land privatisation, gender relations, and social change in Truku society, Taiwan
This research is based upon fieldwork carried out in 2005 and 2006 among Truku people, a Taiwanese indigenous group living in eastern Taiwan. It examines the transformation of the relationship between women and land, and explores meanings related to women’s ownership of land since the government introduced the privatisation of land ownership and cash cropping into Truku society in the 1960s. However, the imposition of these programmes of land reform and capitalisation has generated various types of conflict over land in Truku society. Since the 1960s, Truku people have suffered from loss of lands, arising from various governmental policies on economic development. Hence, many land reclamation movements have arisen, organised by Truku people in order to reclaim their land rights. Furthermore, the transformation of property relations has generated many conflicts over land and inheritance between different households and has created tensions between women and men in terms of land ownership in contemporary society. Most importantly, I reflect on the prevalent idea that women’s right to own land is not sanctioned by ‘traditional’ Truku culture, an argument which, I argue, is problematic, because the idea does not (neatly) fit into actual Truku practices of property transaction. Truku people strategically make use of this narrative of ‘tradition’ in order to strengthen their own tactical position in land disputes which arise between different households. Furthermore, I am critical of the emphasis placed on masculine or male Truku culture in this narrative, which is constructed by Truku activists in land reclamation movements in contemporary Truku society. Through investigation of the processes by which women obtain land in Truku society, I argue that women’s ownership of land cannot simply be regarded as a consequence of the implications of privatisation, but is also a result of kinship practices and their work in cultivating land and maintaining the economic well-being of the household in contemporary society. This research attempts to contribute to anthropological perspectives on property relations, economic anthropology, gender studies, kinship studies and studies of indigenous movements in Taiwan.