Commodification of Taiwanese Aboriginal Culture


In the lecture, the concept of culture being commodified is discussed.

This brings to mind the commodification of various traditional cultures. Specifically, I would like to discuss the commodification of Taiwanese aboriginal culture. Like many cultures, there has been a tension and conflict between industrialisation and the preservation (or passing down) of the cultures of the Taiwanese aborigines. Also, politically, there have been problems of recognition by the government for some lesser-known tribes as the government only recognises nine major indigenous tribes.

Commodificaton of their culture is evident from the creation of the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (which is really more like a theme park with roller coasters and all) and the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Culture Park. Culture is given a monetary value by the charging of ticket prices. Furthermore, their traditional cultural items such as totems are now mass-produced to be sold to tourists as souvenirs. In my opinion, although this might increase people's understanding of Taiwanese indigenous culture, such an understanding is superficial and devalues the sophisticated and complicated meaning behind their traditional practices. Their totems, for example, hold a much deeper meaning to the people in the tribes than tourists who might just purchase them as a keepsake or as gifts.

Other than the culture village and park, the wave of indigenous singers breaking into the Taiwanese and Asian pop music industry can be also viewed as commodification of their culture. In this case, their unique cultural background is used to market their image and their music/CDs (cultural products). Their performing ability is attributed to their background but the fact that they are singing in Mandarin Chinese instead of their indigenous languages can be seen as a commodification of their cultural heritage. Such commodification devalues and trivialises their cultural heritage and detracts the focus from issues that the tribes face such as education and aboriginal rights.

When discussing commodification of culture, it is inevitable that other factors such as the economic and political aspects will have to be brought into the dicussion in order to have a comprehensive view on the subject.

Also, commodification, especially when it's linked to culture, has often been viewed negatively. Many have called it exploitative, as in the case of the Taiwanese indigenous tribes. Then, I would like to ask, are there any upsides to commodification?


References

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village http://www.nine.com.tw/en/01_info/info_01.php

Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Culture Park http://www.tacp.gov.tw/tacpeng/home02_2.aspx?ID=4

Munsterhjelm, M.. (1999, Aug 18) Aboriginal Today, Taiwanese Tomorrow: The Packaging of A-Mei. Retrieved from http://reviews.media-culture.org.au/sounds/amei.html



Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village(Taiwan, OCAC, macroview)

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