The effect of European contact on social organization in Northeastern Taiwan during 17th century

Wang, Li-Ying. The effect of European contact on social organization in Northeastern Taiwan during 17th century. Pilot Research Award. 2016

My dissertation research will explore the effect of European contact on social organization in Northeastern Taiwan during 17th century. From the 16th century to the 19th century, many places in Asia and Oceania became trading centers and European colonies due to European expansion for spices and material profit (Prakash 1999; Reid 1993; Rothermund 1991). The imperial powers usually directly dominated or impacted indigenous populations and exerted control over their territories (Silliman 2005: 58; Voss 2012: 14). Much previous work has focused on the European impact on island Southeast Asian communities. However, in East Asia, where European colonizing activities were generally less successful, the reaction of indigenous people to these dynamic processes of colonialism is not well documented in historical records. Despite colonization of Taiwan by the Dutch from 1624 to 1662 (Israel 1989), little is known about the nature of interaction between indigenous groups and Europeans, the role of European contact involved in social change in local social organizations, and the role of local communities in resisting European colonization.

The Kiwulan site (600-100 BP) in Northeastern Taiwan suggests a relatively complex social system around the 17th century, which corresponds to the same time as European contact. My research will focus on the question of whether European contact and their effect on the local trade networks stimulated an increase in social inequality at Kiwulan, and eventually led to social change more broadly in Northeastern Taiwan communities. I expect that the distribution and circulation of imported materials will be an important proxy to measure social inequality. Depending on the context, the archaeological evidence will be divided into different time periods in order to examine the social changes during the European contact. 

Pilot research funds will allow me to collect chronological data and construct a chronology for occupation of the site. In this pilot research, I will examine previously published archaeological reports and imported materials from the Kiwulan site, especially noting data on beads and ceramics, to get better understanding of its variability. This will enable me to determine the chronological resolution that is possible from imported ceramics, and allow me separate different time periods for comparison. The data I collect during this pilot research will help me to plan efficiently for the substantive data collection phase of my dissertation.

People Involved: 
Status of Research or Work: 
In progress