Rush-weaving in Taiwan : perceptions of the environment and the process of becoming heritage
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This thesis is based on fieldwork carried out among weavers of rush-woven objects in rural Taiwan. In this thesis, I argue that nowadays rush-weaving is good work, though not good labour, for the weavers, and the social logic of Yuanli rush-weaving lies in the process of craft production. It is an ethnographic investigation into the practice of rush-weaving in association with colonialism, the heritage movement, and museum operation. Firstly, this thesis examines the economics and history and practice of craft production, in order to understand how the craft industry has become what it is and what is embedded in the process of production. The skill-based knowledge required of weavers is embedded in the relationship between a weaver and her environment. While this fundamental characteristic remains, new meanings and uses are attached to craft practice and the objects produced. Secondly, this thesis explores the process by which craft production is involved in the heritage and museum movement in contemporary Taiwan, so as to understand the interrelationship between craft production and the movement. I consider how ideas of tradition, heritage, and museums are perceived and enacted in everyday life, and find that these ideas contain contradictions and have different meanings for insiders and outsiders. The analysis as a whole seeks to explain why artisans keep weaving in contemporary society, and that it must be understood in terms of their continuous reaction to the constant transformation that the rush-weaving industry has undergone, which is reflected in the relationship between artisans and their objects in the process of production. The thesis addresses current issues – which are both fiercely contested in events and policies, and marginalised in everyday life – in Taiwan, but also attempts to contribute to the anthropological perspective on knowledge in practice, technology and social logics, past and present, and tradition and innovation.