The launch of BRIDGES in the UNESCO Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST).

This summer has seen the launch of BRIDGES in the UNESCO Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST).

BRIDGES is the first humanities-led sustainability science coalition in the U.N. family of organizations and international / intergovernmental programs addressing global social-ecological and environmental change.

For more information check out the new BRIDGES page on the Humanities for the Environment site.

Pondering the Pacific: Passage to Pongso no Tao
Ysanne Chen and Shih-hao Huang


In early May, we took a short trip to Pongso no Tao (Lanyu) as part of Dr. Hsinya Huang’s graduate seminar, Pacific Cultural Production. After a two-hour ferry ride from Houbihu Harbor to Kaiyuan Harbor, we were greeted by the island’s looming fog-shrouded mountains. Our host, Syaman Lamuran and his wife met our group and drove us to their family-owned Lamuran Guesthouse (蘭嶼飛魚浪民宿) in Iratai (Yuren Village).

Left: Arriving in Lanyu.
Right: Lamuran Guesthouse. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.

Flying Fish Heritage and Relations

Along the way, we were greeted by the sight of racks and racks of flying fish lining the roads and the smell of drying fish carried by the ocean breeze all over the island. These are indications of the deep cultural significance that the flying fish have to the indigenous communities of Tao people. Not only is the Flying Fish Festival their most important tradition, their relationship with the flying fish also shapes the Tao people’s mentality and way of life.

Flying fish being sun-dried.
Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.

The Tao calendar divides the year into three seasons, determined by the activities and life cycles of the flying fish: rayon, the flying fish season when men go out to the sea to catch the flying fish; teiteika, the end of the flying fish season; and amiyan, the winter season when men wait for the flying fish to return. Rayon takes place approximately from March to June, when migrant flying fish follow the Kuroshio Current past Lanyu. During this season, the indigenous community of Lanyu solely hunt and eat flying fish (and other migrating fish), in order to give local fish species the chance to rest and replenish. Most of the flying fish caught during this time are sun-dried, smoked and preserved to last until the end of the fall season. This nine-month-long event is broadly defined as the Flying Fish Festival, throughout which many rituals, ceremonies and taboos are practiced in unison to the flying fish migration.

Historically, the movement of the flying fish also constantly reshaped the migratory route of the island Indigenes. Tao people are part of the seafaring Austronesian indigenous, thus due to annual/regular movements among the islands, the islanders conceive of an extensive, communal body of solidarity following the pathway of the current. As Tao people feed on the flying fish and center their rituals and calendars on the movement of the fish, both human and fish have traversed the Pacific, deterritorializing the ocean. The flying fish return every year, inspiring the islanders’ will to survive and serving as the fountainhead of their fighting spirit. The fish—indeed, the very waves—carry memories of Tao ancestors.

Though the Tao people no longer migrate, the flying fish that are featured in every meal are a living memory of their heritage. Our first meal on the island at 珊賜小嗑廳, where we got a taste of the amazing local cuisine, was no exception. The restaurant is a cozy establishment where the owners chatted with us about the food while they cooked in the kitchen. The star of the show was the deep-fried flying fish, and other courses included a flying-fish-egg omelet, sautéed flying fish eggs with vegetables, and flying-fish-egg sausages; as well as taro stems and other root vegetables that are staples in the Tao diet. We also got to enjoy some homemade fermented lemonade and tea jello. The walls of the restaurant were beautifully decorated with a collage of postcards, posters, maps and knickknacks of Lanyu.

Left: Fried flying fish.
Middle: Steamed root vegetables and other dishes.
Right: Our group eating lunch at 珊賜小嗑廳

For dinner we had flying fish soup and sautéed flying fish at 海岸線風味餐廳, after which we got a chance to chat some more with local residents. One of these special hosts was Shu-chen Chen (陳淑貞), a teacher at Lanyu Senior High School. She shared with us some interesting remarks on her teaching philosophy, explaining that she tries to break the mainstream mold by teaching the high schoolers through a localized perspective. For example, her biology class handouts start with a local legend of flying fish. The passage tells the tale of an old man who caught one of two flying fish. He originally cooked the fish with other seafood, but fell ill after eating it. The flying fish tells him in a dream that he must respect the fish by cooking it as its own dish. Ms. Chen goes on to teach concepts like biodiversity by using the species of flying fish and local plants as examples—continuing to pay homage to the flying fish and the Tao heritage.

We also got a chance to sit down at his home with the renowned Tao author, Syaman Rapongan, and his family. Though fishing is a job exclusively for men in Tao culture, cleaning the fish is a task where everyone pitches in. When we arrived, Syaman Rapongan, his wife and his son had just finished hanging up fresh fish in his yard, and there was even a huge bowl of fish eggs on the table. Previous batches were stored in a backroom, where we got a peak of the fish being smoked with longan wood. Syaman Rapongan explains that traditionally the fish would be smoked after being sun-dried, which gives it more flavor; though he laments that less people practice this nowadays. Syaman Rapongan’s family upholds the traditional ways of living with the environment, and he has recently been passing the knowledge down to his son.

Left: Flying fish smoked at Syaman’s Rapongan’s home.
Middle: Syaman Rapongan’s book, My Father.
Right: Gathering in Syaman Rapongan backyard.

In the trip to Pongso no Tao we witnessed how flying fish are the evidence of Tao people’s cultural lineage. Flying fish unite the generations of Tao people, carrying the collective memories from the ancient and beyond the future. Far from simply being a source of food, the flying fish share a connection of kinship with the Tao. They are a consistent reminder of the Tao people’s cultural heritage. The annual migration of flying fish unites the human and non-human, the Pacific community, and the Tao people. They carry the Tao people’s cultural history on their wings; and the Flying Fish Festival likewise reflects the community’s environment-oriented cosmology and continuation of tradition.

Tatala Aesthetics and Values

Almost as much as they are recognized for their connection to flying fish, the Tao people are well-known for their tatala, fishing vessels that are assembled from various types of wood without any nails, and traditionally decorated with red, white and black carvings. They cultivate forests and plant trees (Mi mowamowa), leaving the lands to their offspring as an invaluable inheritance. Forest timber is harvested from the interior mountains for their traditional boats, and the wood is selected and ranked as appropriate for building decorative (Mivatek) and non-decorative boats. Using their adroit boat-building skills (Mi tatala) and incorporating their rudimentary knowledge of waves, the Tao produce streamlined carriers of traditional beauty. They anticipate that their boats will become good friends with the fish. The Mi tatala, like waka in Maori’s vocabulary, bespeaks a symbolic order of the Tao’s intimate relationship with the ocean. Their assembled boats become the medium for significant connections between the Tao, the sea, and their blood relations in the sea.

Top left: A tatala in Iratai.
Top right: Syaman Rapongan’s tatala in Imourod. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.
Bottom: Tatala in Iranmeylek. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.

On our trip, we were fortunately given the opportunity to see the trees that the tatala were built from. Syaman Rapongan's son, Si Rapongan, graciously took us on a small hike to their family’s ancestral forest lands. He and his father had recently built their first tatala together, and he was able to share with us some of the boat-building knowledge he learned from his father. The entrance to the forest was just outside of their village of Imourod (Hougtou) and though we could see a few tourists on the main trails, Si Rapongan soon led us off the beaten path, through a dry riverbed, to a small clearing where it truly felt as though we were the guests of the ancient towering trees. He shares with us the process of tatala building, pointing out a few of the trees that make up different parts of the assembled boats. He also tells us that carrying the heavy lumber down from the mountain instead of conveniently using wood from their backyards is a symbol of diligence, one of the Tao people’s most emphasized values. He also talked about the importance of remembering where the traditional family lands are, as they can only use the trees that belong to them and were planted there by their ancestors. The ideals of respect and continuation are also present in tatala-building—each time they cut down a tree, they must thank it and grow new trees in its place.

Top left: Si Rapongan. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.
Top right: Si Rapongan and our group at his family’s forest lands.
Bottom left and middle: Hiking through the forest and a dry riverbed. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.
Bottom right: Imourod forest trees. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.

We saw some of these traditional assembled boats soon after we arrived, when our host, Syaman Lamuran, took us on a brief tour of the island. He explained some of the carvings on the boat, pointing out the recurring symbol for “eyes”. He also explains that the placements of the symbols are specific to different Tao communities, thus they could always differentiate which tatala belonged to their village. Along with the many rituals, the Tao have a number of taboos that are observed during the Flying Fish Festival. We were told not to ask fishermen about their activities before they go to fish at night for fear of alerting the fish of their arrival, and to be cautious when visiting the beach or seaside during this time. They also warned us that it is taboo for women to touch the tatala, not because they are lesser in Tao culture, but because men are responsible for fishing while women are in charge of cultivation. Thus, though women are not allowed to touch the boats, they are involved as equal members of a household in deciding to make a tatala and they also provide the taro used in the completion ceremony.

Syaman Rapongan and Sinan Rapongan after a tatala launching ceremony. Courtesy of Syaman Rapongan.

Before a family decides to build a tatala, the women must confirm that there will be enough taro for the completion ceremony. This is a testament of a family’s unity, work division and connection; at the conclusion of their work, they must simultaneously bring together the fruits of their labors and bless the tatala that will provide for them in the future. We got to visit Sinan Rapongan’s taro fields, where she talked to us as she tended to her plants. In Tao culture, growing food is the women’s job, thus Sinan Rapongan is responsible for overseeing all of her family’s taro and yam plantations. She tells us that these hearty vegetables are the Tao people's main source of starch, and are meant to give workers the energy they need to work all day. Sinan Rapongan is very down to earth, though toiling in her many fields every day seems like a Herculean task to us, she still firmly counsels us to be thankful for the food that God gives, and never get angry when He provides plentiful fish and crops. As we leave the plantation, Sinan Rapongan turns and says goodbye to her taro, again showing the Tao’s connectivity and respect for non-human things.

Left: Sinan Rapongan working in her taro fields. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.
Right: Si Rapongan and our group at the taro fields.

Earlier in our trip, we were very lucky to hear from Syaman Rapongan as well, who not only is a famous writer and advocate for the traditional Tao lifestyle, but also an extremely skilled tatala craftsman in his village. As we gathered on the beach and admired the tatala he and his son built together, he fittingly gave us a lesson on the traditions and cultural continuation of the Tao. He shares some of the tribal fishing knowledge, telling us that all fish, winds, moons and tides had an individual name in the Tao language. He also shared his childhood memories of waiting on the beach for his father to return from fishing at night. Syaman Rapongan also points out a tagagal that overlooks the sea; these are gazebos traditionally used for observing the tides and resting with friends after work, but were misnamed by outsiders as “發呆亭” (a derogatory name that means "idle staring"). He laments the seemingly inevitable loss of traditional practices as the modern tourism businesses on the island grow, and fewer of the younger generations stay behind to pass on the old ways.

Top left: Syaman Rapongan on the beach in Imourod. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.
Top right: Syaman Lamuran and our group in a tatagal.
Bottom: Our group with Syaman Rapongan and his new tatala.

The tatala are truly a vessel of Tao culture; though at first glance they are simply decorated fishing boats, every step of their crafting process speaks of centuries-old tradition and values. One of the stories they told us was about how their ancestors painted the boats with black charcoal, red clay and white shells. Though the ocean would quickly wash away the colors, the Tao people of old simply kept on repainting. The labor required from both the men and women to successfully launch a single tatala tells the entire story of the Tao people’s attitude towards life—they believe in hardwork, are deeply respectful of the land, and have pieced together a beautiful cultural legacy to pass on to their children.

Island Space and Time

Top left: Syaman Lamuran.
Top right: View of Lanyu and the main road around the island. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.
Bottom left: Our group with Syaman Lamuran at Longtou with Little Lanyu in the background.
Bottom right: A school in Lanyu.

Apart from the tatala, Syaman Lamuran took us to several significant sites on our tour around the island, and he tirelessly told us story after story about each location. On Lanyu there are six main Tao villages, separated by slight cultural variations and unique geological markers. Iratai, where we were staying, is located on the west side of the island, between Yayo (Yeyou Village) to the north and Imourod to the south. On the east coast of Lanyu is Iraraley (Langdao Village), Iranmeylek (Dongqing Village), and Ivalino (Yeyin Village). We also learned that each village has their own separate council, thus each village also has varying levels of integration into tourism. For instance, when we visited Iranmeylek, we saw that they even had a mainland-style night market and a tatala-building-experience business.

We also stopped by a school, a church, Kasiboan (a waste awareness center), the nuclear waste storage site, and two old Kuomintang monuments. Unfortunately, since we arrived on a Sunday, almost everything that wasn't outdoors was closed; but thanks to our guide, we got a detailed background about several of the sites. One that I found interesting was an abandoned Kuomintang podium, where the early government used to show propaganda to the locals. Also, everywhere we went, we saw goats roaming freely around the island. Syaman Lamuran explains that the goats belong to different families but are free to graze as they please; people take great care not to hit them; thus in a way they are the “traffic lights” of Pongso no Tao.

Left: Old Kuomintang podium.
Middle: Tatagal, tatala sculpture and goats.
Right: Goats grazing by the road.

Our main destination on the tour was the Taipower nuclear waste storage site in Longtou, near the very south of Lanyu. Syaman Lamuran points out the Tao’s natural landmarks in the area—Longtou Rock, a fishing bay below and Little Lanyu in the distance—and the nuclear waste storage site is situated ominously in the center of these. The site was built by the Taiwanese government in the late seventies, as a temporary storage location for nuclear waste since Lanyu’s location is relatively isolated. However, this was all done without local knowledge and they originally named it ambiguously as “Lanyu Storage Site.” By 1982, the site was at full capacity and became the permanent home for 97,672 barrels of radioactive waste. The local residents' protests are evidenced all over the island, in wall paintings and anti-nuclear banners. We even saw some trash art left by a group of Norwegian research students who stayed on the island for a month and worked with local schools to create reminders of the waste issue on the island. As Lanyu doesn’t have a waste disposal site, the trash accumulated from the growing tourism industry and brought in by the ocean tides has simply started to build up and pollute the formerly unspoilt natural environment. These sights were truly a stark contrast to their surroundings, and a sobering reminder of the costs of our modern conveniences.

Top left: Trash art installation by Norwegian students.
Top middle: The nuclear waste storage site.
Top right: Anti-nuclear protest art on the wall of a bar.
Bottom: Aerial view of the nuclear waste storage site. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.

Before we left for our ferry home, we visited a few more places around Iratai and Imourod. We all decided to eat at Rover (蘭嶼旅人) in Imourod, which Si Rapongan told us was the best bar in Lanyu and it also serves brunch. Its location overlooks the beach, and they also make amazing yam smoothies. A few of us decided to walk around and we saw Sinan Rapongan, still hard at work in her taro fields. She recommended that we get taro ice cream (雯雯芋頭冰) at a local souvenir shop; which turned out to be delicious. We had also planned to visit a bookstore (在海一方獨立書店); however, it was unfortunately closed for the day. When we got back to the guesthouse, we also visited Syaman Lamuran’s father's workshop again for some souvenirs. Syapen Lamuran is a pastor, but he has a workshop for some miniature tatala he crafts from wood or discarded buoys and fishing net floats.

Left: Lunch at Rover by the Imourod beach.
Middle: Syapen Lamuran’s workshop.
Right: Departing from Lanyu.

Although we learned a lot during our trip, it was still quite short and there is so much more left to see. As one of our classmates mentioned, the island felt like a constant loop through space and time; a place that feels like it will teach people something new each time they pass by, and stir up memories they had originally forgotten. Though the road around the island is always the same, it is somehow ever-changing, and even transforms those who traverse it. As we left Pongso no Tao, it felt like we had not only taken a part of the island with us, but also become a kind of island ourselves, connected by the sea to one another.

Pacific Connections and Encounters†

Following the trip, our class took inspiration from everything we learned, saw and experienced and combined it with our studies of Oceanic literature to make a poetry collection. Our themes included oceanic connectivity, environmental awareness, tradition remembrance, cultural continuity, and so on. Then, on June 16th (Taiwan time), we held a virtual seminar⁕ to present some of our poems, academic revelations, stories and even a few songs. We were very fortunate to have Syaman Lamuran join us as well as a few professors from NSYSU.

Top: Pondering the Pacific seminar poster. Design credit to Yiyun Huang.
Bottom: Online seminar group photo.

Syaman Lamuran also invited a last-minute surprise guest to our event. When we were in Pongso no Tao, I recognized his clothing and some guesthouse decorations to be from the Pacific Northwest, where I used to live. Upon asking, he explained that he had visited Seattle previously as part of Tao delegation to participate in the Canoe Journey event; and more importantly, to see two tatala that had been sold across the ocean in the late 1970s. I found his story about piecing together this transpacific history very interesting, and decided to write a poem about it. After hearing my presentation, Syaman Lamuran invited one of the key parties involved to come and share more about the two tatala. Mr. Michael Jacobson from Seattle was the person who saved the tatala from a warehouse of discarded restaurant decorations and donated one to the Burke Museum of the University of Washington; it was very enlightening to have him share more of the tale.

Left: Photo with Syaman Lamuran.
Middle: Tao delegation to Seattle. Source: Will Tsang, Facebook.
Right: Michael Jacobson with the Seattle tatala. Source: Jackson Main, KNKX.

In conclusion, I found the trip to Pongso no Tao truly inspiring and I believe we all took away a lot from it despite only being there for two days. I think the trip drove home many of the lessons we learned from Dr. Hsinya Huang this semester, through the works of Epeli Hau'ofa, Teresa Teaiwa, Robert Sullivan, Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, Aka Niviâna, Craig Santos Perez, Linda Hogan and more. Though we celebrate the uniqueness of our cultures, we also share a certain commonality that connects us, from island to island, all the way across the seas. After this experience, I feel that through our participation in Pacific cultural production, we have somehow become a part of the greater Oceania story.

Aerial view of ocean waves in Lanyu. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.


Connection is a recurring theme in Pacific literature. Writers and poets map out literary routes, exploring connections to nature, to the past, to culture and most of all, connections to the ocean which connects the world. As Hau‘ofa suggests, things should be seen in totality, and the Pacific Ocean can be seen as a “sea of islands” (31). At the start of the semester, it was not as easy for us to grasp this concept of the ever-expanding Oceanian community. We later found that this archipelagic web was something that should be understood through experience. Like Perez writes in one of his poems, his encounters with maps gradually expanded his concept of boundaries, and brought him to realize the deep bonds between Austronesian islands. “I examine the map closely, navigating beyond the violent divisions of national and maritime borders, beyond the scarred latitudes and longitudes of empire, to discover the cartography of our most expansive legends and deepest routes” (Perez 2017).

Through the oceanic passages, commonality is found. While Perez depicts the notion of removing borders through the recognition of shared ancestry, we are reminded of our place in this community through the simple experiences we had on this journey. The way the Tao people connect to the sea and the things around them somehow brings back the islander spirit in us, which was long-forgotten but undoubtedly essential. Things like the value of diligence, sincere gratitude for food, the telling of stories and even the calm moments of looking at the sea, all felt like important reminders of ideals that everyone had been taught but may have lost in the more modernized worldview. It is as Syaman Rapongan writes of the older Tao seamen, “the ripples made by the ever-shifting surface of the sea are like the folds and patterns of their brains” (「海面永恆波動的波紋宛如他們腦海裡的腦紋」); explaining that memories resurface with each ocean wave, and are likewise present in our blood. It is surprising how Teaiwa’s words could now resonate with us: “We sweat and cry salt water, so we know that the ocean is really in our blood” (qtd. in Hau‘ofa 41). The ocean in us is always there yet had been ignored, and it is revived through our realization of commonality.

Though we often forget it, our homeland, Taiwan, is no less a Pacific island; and as such we should see ourselves as a part of the sea of islands, rather than distance ourselves as if we were independent from the rest of the world. As we rediscover ourselves as people of the Oceanian community, we should realize a responsibility to have empathy and understanding, and a necessity to hold ourselves accountable for the consequences of our actions and the plight of our neighbors. “Into the new age the waka glides… we are united by culture, by psyche, of our cultures, our closeness even in this age turned against the sacred” (Sullivan 46). And the restoration of humanity and connection is by no means limited to Oceania, it is a mission to be shared by the entire world. In our online seminar, we talked about another kind of responsibility, one to pass on any story that we’ve been told. In doing so, we give the words of our cultures the power to ignite change, as myths and legends once did. As Jetn̄il-Kijiner writes, “My father told me that idik—when the tide is nearest an equilibrium is the best time for fishing. Maybe I’m writing the tide towards an equilibrium, willing the world to find its balance” (78).

Pongso no Tao. Photo credit to Haydn Wei-Chung Hsin.

† This segment was written by Ysanne Chen, "I" is used here to reference her personal experience.
⁕ Pondering the Pacific online seminar from June 16th, 2021:

Cheung, Han. “Maritime Tribal Connections.” Taipei Times, 18 July 2017,
“Disrespect of Flying Fish Festival Reflecting Marginalization Trend of Aboriginals.” Translated by Bing-sheng Lee, The News Lens International Edition, TNL Media Group, 3 June 2016,
Dorpat, Paul. “Haglund, Ivar (1905-1985).” History, 20 June 2000,
“Flying Fish Festival.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 July 2020,
Hau'ofa, Epeli.We Are the Ocean. U of Hawai'i P, 2008.
Hogan, Linda. People of the Whale. W. W. Norton & Company, 2008.
Huang, Hsinya. “Toward Trans-Pacific Ecopoetics: Three Indigenous Texts.” Sustaining Ecocriticism: Comparative Perspectives, special issue of Comparative Literature Studies, vol. 50, no. 1, 2013, pp. 120-47.
“James Stevens Paul Bunyan Letters Ivar Haglund Seattle.” Worthpoint,
Jetn̄il-Kijiner, Kathy. Iep Jaltok: poems from the Marshallese Daughter. U of Arizona P, 2017.
Kiley, Brendan. “The New Burke Museum Turns Itself inside out as It Prepares for Its Grand Opening.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 14 Oct. 2019,
“Low-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Site.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 May 2021,
Perez, Craig Santos. “The Fifth Map for Hsinya.” Dialogist, 2017,
Rapogan, Syaman. "Langtao Rensheng" 〈浪濤人生〉(“Life of Waves”). 2002. Taiwan eProse, National Museum of Taiwan Literature, 13 Dec 2007,浪濤人生.
Robinson, Chetanya. “From Hmong Basket Boat to Sacred Canoe, New Burke Museum Gallery Was Curated by Local Pacific Islander, Asian, and Northwest Native Communities.” International Examiner, 11 Oct. 2019,
Sullivan, Robert. Star Waka. Auckland UP, 1999.
Teng, Pei-ju. “Tao People Give Tips to Visitors on Taiwan's Offshore Orchid Island for Flying Fish Season.” Taiwan News, Taiwan News, 7 Mar. 2019,
Tsang, Will. A post about two tatala. Facebook, 31 July 2017.
Wing, Jennifer. “Almost 30 Years in The Making, a Seattle Man Gets Ahold of Two Boats from Taiwan.” KNKX, 7 Oct. 2017,
“飛魚祭.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 June 2021,
章 明哲. “挪威研究生遠赴蘭嶼 發掘環境汙染問題.” 公視新聞網 PNN, 公視新聞網, 4 Oct. 2017,
陳 欣渝. “挪威學生蘭嶼蹲點 關注核廢.垃圾問題【客家新聞20171004】.” YouTube, 客家新聞Hakka News, 4 Oct. 2017,
“蘭嶼貯存場.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Apr. 2021,

Pondering the Pacific - An Online Seminar

You are cordially invited to “Pondering the Pacific” Online Semina

Time: June 16 (Wed.) 9:10-12:00 am (Taipei); June 15 (Tue.) 6:10-9:00 pm (PST)

Google meet:

Food Futures—
Humanities and Social Sciences Approaches at the Asia-Pacific Observatory

Hsinya Huang, American and Comparative Literature, National Sun Yat-sen Univerity
Yih-ren Lin, Humanities in Medicine, Taipei Medical University
Chia-hua Lin, English Department, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Ysanne Chen, International Business, National Sun Yat-sen University

The issue of food incurs ever-growing concern around the globe due to deteriorating situations such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and numerous other critical planetary challenges. In response to these crises, the Asia-Pacific Observatory joined Dr. Joni Adamson, the Director of North American Observatory, to organize a roundtable titled “Building Caring Solidarity Economies: Food Sovereignty, Community Solar, and Gastronomies of Place” and presented it at the 2019 Annual Meeting of American Studies Association (ASA). This roundtable examined communities building caring “solidarity economies” around food and energy systems. Panelists talked briefly about their work with “build as we fight” communities, then open the discussion to the audience. Yih-ren Lin and Pagung focuses on the Tayal indigenous bands in Jianshi Township, Taiwan, who have created a seed bank for traditional millet varieties. They discuss how the Tayal are preserving traditional ethnobotanical practices in their mountain communities while navigating globalization forces, including their own embrace of Christianity. Syaman Rapongan, a prominent aboriginal (Tao) writer, describes the Tao Libangbang (flying fish) culture and the sea and island ecologies of Orchid Island, Taiwan. He explains how the Tao’s traditional fishing and cooking offers people and marine life the time and space to regenerate from the impacts of nuclear contamination. Chia-hua Lin discusses her research on Ka‘ala farm, in Honolulu, where the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) are growing traditional foods (kalo/taro) and raising fish as their kūpuna (ancestors) did. She explains how this farm is part of an Indigenous resurgence in Hawaiʻi that is pushing back against sugarcane and pineapple plantations which have caused food insecurity in Hawaii to the point that 85-90% of food must be imported. As a whole, the roundtable explores how local, community-driven movements are resisting eco-colonialism and neoliberal sustainability (green growth) while building solidarity economies or new “subsistence” perspectives based on sufficiency.

During the trip to Hawai‘i, Dr. Hsinya Huang took the opportunity and did a field study at the lo‘i kalo (taro farm) named Ka Papa Loʻi ʻo Kānewai adjacent to the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Together with a well-known Tao writer, Syaman Rapongan, Dr. Huang met with the director of the lo‘i, Makahiapo Cashman, during which the director shared Hawaiian worldview regarding the caring of kalo (taro).

Precisely, Chia-Hua Lin’s project focuses on the caring of kalo in the Native Hawaiian tradition. In Kanaka Māoli (Native Hawaiian) worldview, the growing of kalo is not merely a production of food or an economic source; it is the caring of their kin. In Hawaiian myth, the firstborn son of sky father, Wākea, and earth mother, Papa, gave birth to a daughter Ho‘ohokukalani. Later Wākea and Ho‘ohokukalani had a son named Haloa-naka. The firstborn son, however, was stillborn and buried. Out of the earth where Haloa-naka was buried grew the kalo that fed the second son, also named Haloa, who became the ancestor of Kanaka Māoli. Hence, Native Hawaiians consider kalo their ancestor. Based on this worldview Kanaka Māoli developed a reciprocal relationship with and traditional knowledge about the environment. It is, therefore, not difficult to see the significance of kalo in Hawaiian culture and in the fight for environmental justice and food sovereignty in the Hawaiian context. During the visit to Ka Papa Loʻi ʻo Kānewai, we also see how students are taken to the lo‘i to learn about Hawaiian culture, traditional knowledge, and worldview by actually working in the lo‘i. Through their physical work, the bodies of the students carry and practice the ancestral memory and knowledge of Kanaka Māoli. Kumu (teacher) as well as students working in the lo‘i, Chia-Hua Lin argues, can also be considered activists asserting the food sovereignty of Kanaka Māoli.

Syaman Rapongan, Chia-hua Lin, Hsinya Huang and Makahiapo Cashman
At Ka Papa Loʻi ʻo Kānewai
(Photo credit: Chia-hua Lin)

Panelists at the ASA annual conference
(Photo credit: Chia-hua Lin)

Walking Workshop in the Mountainous Tayal Villages of Tian-pu, Mei-yuan, and Smangus

At the ASA Annual Meeting, the Millet Ark project Dr. Yih-Ren Lin presented with the respected Tayal practitioner and activist, Pagung Tomi, received well deserved praises for their amazing effort to preserve one of the significant crops in Tayal culture—millet. They endeavor to encourage the farmers to grow millet by creating a co-op platform on which they can sell their products to sustain not only the material life but cultural heritage surrounding the millet.

The Tayal people traditionally source food through hunting, fishing, gathering and growing crops. Qutux Niqan, “a group that eats together,” is one of the core social values of the Tayal community. Nontheless, it also helps constitute an ecological network in which this human group possess a deep awareness of the interconnective relations with nature, and thus adopts a respectful attitude towards the land in regards to collecting food. Agricultural and hunting activities are paired with rituals and ceremonies to acknowledge the spirits of the land and ask for their blessing.

Tayal hunting culture is at the root of maintaining the stainability of the landscape and ecosystem. Hunting involves knowing the prey and its place in the food chain, and requires an understanding of not only animal behavior but also plants and phenology. Furthermore, Tayal hunters set snares using only materials found on site, so as to not disturb the existing environment. Another tradition observed by the Tayal is for all members of a hunting party to make peace with one another before a hunt, in order to ensure unity when facing adversity. A hunter who passes away is believed to cross a rainbow bridge accompanied by his hound as well as his prey; further testimony that the Tayal people view the creatures they hunt as equals rather than enemies.

There are many Tayal legends cautioning against wastefulness and selfishness when it comes to food. Several tales explain that food used to be gifted freely to the tribe by the spirits and the forest. It was only once the food was squandered by lazy and greedy tribesmen did they cease to have an abundance of millet, and the Tayal people were required to grow their own crops. Thus agricultural activity of the Tayal people is strongly governed by their morals of respecting, sharing and caring for their land. The Sbalay ceremony that is performed at the start of each cultivation cycle to reinsure harmony with all the creatures that have previously used the land is yet another demonstration of the Tayal mentality.

Millet is the main crop grown by the Tayal people and is an essential part of their diet. Milestones in the cultivation process are marked by ceremonies, including those for the plowing of the fields, the sowing of the seeds, the harvesting of the crops and many more. The Tayal people also plant cucumbers around the fields as a snack for hungry workers and hunters. After harvesting and storing the crops, the Tayal people will then sun-dry and husk the millet to prepare it for culinary use. Each variety of millet can be used for a different purpose, crops that are darker in color can be distilled into liquor, stickier millet can be made into traditional Tayal variations of cakes and mochi, whereas non-sticky grains are cooked as a staple in everyday meals.

The Tayal people have a well-developed knowledge of how to ferment and marinate food for many different purposes, such as travel, rituals, feasts, or even to ward off evil spirits. Ingredients for curing meat often include onions, ginger, chili peppers, black mustard seeds, paired with hornet pupae, poultry or other game meats. Pickling containers can be pots, vats, jars, etc.; and the various processing methods include salt rubs, brine curing, dry curing, marinating, steaming, mixing and so on. An example of this is tmmyan, the famed Tayal dish of cured game meat. The meat is rubbed with salt, fermented with millet and maqaw (mountain pepper) or ginger, then stored in an airtight jar to create a delectable savory snack.

Bamboo is crucial to the Tayal lifestyle; not only is it a source of food, but it can also be made into shelter and infrastructure, tools and utensils or even clothes and instruments. The cultivation of bamboo is yet another demonstration of the Tayal’s thorough understanding of their crops; for instance, farmers know to harvest bamboo earlier in order to stimulate better growth, because interconnected roots makes trimming down older stalks beneficial to the whole bamboo grove. Elders may caution against building homes with the bamboo that produced sweeter shoots, for fear of attracting pests. Bamboo and millets are grown in turn, with newly moved-in tribes burning old bamboo groves to make way for fields of millet, then leaving behind bamboo roots again when they leave. Thus the discovery of existing groves of the dominant and resilient bamboo also indicates to future dwellers the presence of their ancestors.

Keeping with the spirit of traditional Tayal agriculture, some modern-day farmers have incorporated the use of microorganisms. The microbes are harvested from different environments through detailed observation and gathered knowledge on the plants, bacteria and fungi found in nature. The use of microorganisms in agriculture help complete the ecosystem of the farm, with the microbes aiding in the decomposition of animal waste and other organic material. For example, the addition of certain microbes to chicken coops can prevent the foul odor and pests that come with excrement, and the improved surroundings breeds healthy chickens that produce cleaner eggs. Crops are also protected with fallen leaves instead of man-made tarps as another measure to maintain the natural environment and grow plants without the use of artificial products.

Pagung sings stories of Tayal ancestors’ migration, land management, and food culture in her millet barn.
(Photo credit: Shiuhhuah Serena Chou )

Syax Tali’s eco-henhouse
(Photo credit: Syax Tali)

The Humanities for Innovation and Social Practices: A Workshop on Food Futures

After the field study, Dr. Hunag invited Syax Tali, Tayal eco-farmer, teacher, and practitioner, to share his natural farming methods and philosophy.

The path of natural farming, according to Syax Tali, is a process of unlearning and relearning. He had always been a farmer, but after his wife fell ill because of the pesticide, he decided to try natural farming. As he later found out, he had to unlearn everything he thought he knew about farming and relearn everything again. Is it not also critical for us environmentalists to go through the process of unlearning and relearning when working with different communities?

Not only did he have to unlearn and relearn everything, as Syax Tali indicates, he has to constantly learn from the Mountains, the forest, and earth. The humidity, temperatures, and even the make-up and condition of microorganism change every day, even every hour. As a result, he has to observe the environment closely and learn how to care for the land and plants in different conditions. In order to develop a sustainable nature agriculture, Syax Tali also has to learn how to make natural fertilizer out of microorganisms and kitchen waste. He knows how to turn eggshell into nutrient solution for his chickens.

Humanities Innovation and Social Practices (HISP) Group
(Photo credit: The Humanities for Innovation and Social Practices, NSYSU)

2021 International Conference on "Food Futures," Annual Meeting of Humanities for the Environment (HfE) Network

The field trips, walking workshops, and other scholarly activities anticipate solidarity and affiliation with indigenous peoples across the Pacific. These alliances displace national perspectives in favor of a Pacific Rim perspective that connects not only regions but bio-regions, connecting local and enlarged communities and environments. In face of crises in our civilization, indigenous farmers, practitioners, activists, etc. urge us to live with care and honor and to celebrate and share the planet as a commons in ways that are more ethical and just.

All this work is currently the focus of the Observatory and undergirds the 2021 The International Conference on Food Futures, annual meeting of the Global Observatories, and a special issue of the journal Humanities, planned by Humanities for the Environmental global network of Observatories (HfE) on the topics of Environmental Humanities, Critical Food Studies, Public Health, Sustainability.

The International Conference on Food Futures is now scheduled to take place in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, headquarters of the Asia-Pacific Observatory in November 2021. The Conference invites submissions related to issues surrounding “Food in the Anthropocene.” The global food regime is a matter of growing concern within the urgent horizons of climate change and biodiversity loss, among other critical planetary challenges. The conference will ask questions about humans, food systems, and the futures of food, including but not limited to:

What role can or does culture (and the humanities, in collaboration with the social and natural sciences) play in transforming the relations between societal challenges and environmental crises where food is a central factor?

How can new/future food systems be developed that hold greater promise of sustainability than dominant local/global systems at present?

Can new consumption practices be enabled at scales that make a difference globally? If so, how?

How are humanists working in collaboration with community groups, indigenous groups, and business, to pilot public-facing projects focusing on increasing food security and sustainability?

This conference will examine the growing interconnections between food sovereignty, land and sea rights, legacies of colonization and slavery, dispossession, and food insecurities. We invite academics, writers, activists, independent scholars, and artists to submit their work.

Exciting news from Professor Poul Holm, Director of European Observatory, for a leading award from EU research council on 4-Oceans:

On this happy morning when after four years our brains can begin to detoxify, I write to share the news that the European Research Council last week awarded a 10.4 mill. euro grant to the 4-OCEANS project led by Cristina Brito (Lisbon), James Barrett (Cambridge), Francis Ludlow (Trinity College Dublin) and myself. Our project is to look at the role of the oceans for human societies in the last two millennia. A short outline is now at: Kick-off will be July 2021 and the project will run for the next six years.

I am certain that this will be a boost to global environmental humanities. For now I just want to say that I look forward to increasing collaboration with you and HfE friends and colleagues in the coming years.

All the best
Poul Holm
Professor of Environmental History,
Director, Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
R, MAE Chair Humanities Class
Guest Professor, Department of Historical Studies, Gothenburg University
Honorary Research Associate, McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge ERC AG NorFish

2021 International Conference on "Food Futures," Annual Meeting of Humanities for the Environment (HfE) Network.
November 12-13, 2021
National Sun Yat-sen University
Kaohsiung, Taiwan

In January 2019, the EAT-Lancet commission released a two-year study on “Food in the Anthropocene,” arguing that “civilization is in crisis,” and that the urgent need for both healthy diets and balanced planetary resources not come at the expense of accelerating trends which are unprecedented in human history (Lucas and Horton 2019). The global food regime is a matter of growing concern within the urgent horizons of climate change and biodiversity loss, among other critical planetary challenges. Building on a forthcoming special issue of the journal Humanities focused on these issues, the Humanities for the Environmental global network of Observatories (HfE) will convene an international conference in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, headquarters of the Asia-Pacific Observatory. The conference will ask questions about humans, food systems, and the futures of food, including but not limited to:

What role can or does culture (and the humanities, in collaboration with the social and natural sciences) play in transforming the relations between societal challenges and environmental crises where food is a central factor?

How can new/future food systems be developed that hold greater promise of sustainability than dominant local/global systems at present?

Can new consumption practices be enabled at scales that make a difference globally? If so, how?

How are humanists working in collaboration with community groups, indigenous groups, and business, to pilot public-facing projects focusing on increasing food security and sustainability?

This conference will examine the growing interconnections between food sovereignty, land and sea rights, legacies of colonization and slavery, dispossession, and food insecurities. We invite academics, writers, activists, independent scholars, and artists to submit their work.

Postponing the HfE November Meeting on Food Futures Until 2021

On behalf of the Organizing Committee of the 2020 Humanities for the Environment (HfE) Annual Conference, we would like to convey our sincere gratitude to you for submitting proposals, and for being patient with us while the committee endeavors to decide the plan for the conference in light of the pandemic.

After much deliberation, however, the committee has decided to postpone the conference to Nov. 2021 due to pandemic restrictions and to protect all participants. We thank you profusely for your understanding. We will keep you updated as we go forward. Please do plan to join us in November of 2021 with the same topic—and all your food futures abstracts—on hold until then.

Please allow us to convey our heartfelt gratitude, again, for your interest in our conference. We look forward to welcoming you to Taiwan in 2021 and would like to send you positive thoughts for strength, courage, and health in these times of challenges.

In solidarity and in hope,

Organizing Committee

2020 International Conference on "Food Futures," Annual Meeting of Humanities for the Environment (HfE) Network. November 13-14, 2020

National Sun Yat-sen University
Kaohsiung, Taiwan


In a collaborated research initiated by #IndigenousESD, in which our member from National Sun Yat-sen University has been an active participant, an overview with 10 concrete policy recommendations to improve the education for Indigenous Youth has been published in the Journal of Teacher Education for Sustainability: Below are the publication information:

ESD for All: Learnings from the #IndigenousESD Global Research in Journal of Teacher Education for Sustainability: 10.2478/jtes-2019-0020

During the COVID-19 crisis, many countries need to transform their education systems to secure a safe reopening of schools, we endeavor to make sure that our efforts of educating children and youth in a concept of sustainability receives significant consideration when reopening and hopefully even reinventing formal schooling. We also strive to call upon UNESCO to support a safe return to school as well as to shift priorities to more relevance and appropriate teaching for Indigenous students.

Also, a research on 21st century competencies as well as a regional analysis for the Latin American Region will soon be published. An open access link will be announced upon the researches’ publication.

Link to download the file(.docx)
2020 International Conference on "Food Futures," Annual Meeting of Humanities for the Environment (HfE) Network.
November 13-14, 2020
National Sun Yat-sen University
Kaohsiung, Taiwan

In January 2019, the EAT-Lancet commission released a two-year study on “Food in the Anthropocene,” arguing that “civilization is in crisis,” and that the urgent need for both healthy diets and balanced planetary resources not come at the expense of accelerating trends which are unprecedented in human history (Lucas and Horton 2019). The global food regime is a matter of growing concern within the urgent horizons of climate change and biodiversity loss, among other critical planetary challenges. Building on a forthcoming special issue of the journal Humanities focused on these issues, the Humanities for the Environmental global network of Observatories (HfE) will convene an international conference in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, headquarters of the Asia-Pacific Observatory. The conference will ask questions about humans, food systems, and the futures of food, including but not limited to:

What role can or does culture (and the humanities, in collaboration with the social and natural sciences) play in transforming the relations between societal challenges and environmental crises where food is a central factor?

How can new/future food systems be developed that hold greater promise of sustainability than dominant local/global systems at present?

Can new consumption practices be enabled at scales that make a difference globally? If so, how?

How are humanists working in collaboration with community groups, indigenous groups, and business, to pilot public-facing projects focusing on increasing food security and sustainability?

This conference will examine the growing interconnections between food sovereignty, land and sea rights, legacies of colonization and slavery, dispossession, and food insecurities. We invite academics, writers, activists, independent scholars, and artists to submit their work.

Tatala (Assembled boat) of Pongso no tao


THE SVARTÁRKOT CULTURE – NATURE (SCN) programme focuses on the diverse interactions between humans and nature, inspired by the Svartárkot farm in Bárðardalur valley, northern Iceland. The programme is managed by a group of independent scholars and scientists partly affiliated with the Reykjavik Academy, in cooperation with Svartárkot’s farmers. Most of the programme’s courses and lectures take place in the Kiðagil guesthouse and community centre in Bárðardalur valley near the Svartárkot farm.

The project has no secure funding but is supported by tuition fees and occasionally by research grants obtained by group members. The SCN courses offer unique learning experiences combining high-quality academic lectures with the spectacular local landscapes. The Svartárkot farm, the Bárðardalur Valley and the neighbouring Lake Mývatn region are situated in areas of diverse natural features: lakes with unique bird-life, wilderness, lava fields, glacial rivers, and waterfalls. The history, literature and folklore of the area are fascinating, containing stories of ghosts and trolls as well as a long history of human resilience and innovation. The climatology and unique ecosystems of the area are also presented.

The spring of life, a hidden secret in Bárðardalur valley. Photo Viðar Hreinsson
A well on the deserted farm Brenniás. Photo Viðar Hreinsson

Currently, SCN operates in two arenas with a third under development:

1. Offering summer courses to small groups of international graduate and post-graduate students, professors and scholars looking for new insights and inspirations in post-and transdisciplinary methods.

2. Offering lectures and services to professors and universities who bring their students as a part of their curriculum. This may include travels in Iceland that SCN organizes, and a stay at Kiðagil for a certain amount of time.

Lecturing at Aldeyjarfoss, 2007 demo course

SCN has held 6 annual academic courses: One in 2007, two courses in 2009 and one in each year of 2014, 2015 and 2018. Furthermore, SCN has received a number of student groups from the USA and United Kingdom in this period.

Originally posted by Svartárkot Culture — Nature

HfE Series: Recrafting Environmental Communication in The Circumpolar North

Joni Adamson, Director for Humanities for the Environment North American Observatory on speed-writing as a tool for humanists at the 2018 HfE leadership conference in Sweden.

By Joni Adamson, Professor of English and Environmental Humanities, Arizona State University Published 05 February 2019

Every year since the 2013 launch of the Humanities for the Environment network, representatives from HfE have met at Observatories all over the world. In October 2018, the meeting was held in Sigtuna, Sweden, hosted by the Circumpolar Observatory, the Stefansson Arctic Institute, the Nordic Network for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and the Sigtuna Foundation. Representatives came together for three days of presentations and updates about the ongoing work and projects from each HfE Observatory, along with strategic discussions about the development of the network.

The group also wanted to use the meeting to tackle some of the larger issues surrounding communication, knowledge and action that are emerging in all the HfE Observatories. Participants were asked to consider how knowledge from scientists, humanists, artists, indigenous peoples, and partners from civil society could be communicated and mobilised to greater effect in response to sustainability challenges. The assembled group was led in a speed-writing activity (adapted from the Book Sprint concept) by the meeting’s co-organizers, Steven Hartman, Director of the Circumpolar Observatory, and Dr. Lea Rekow. Each attendee was asked to write a short article about one project or issue important to their own Observatory, with the goal of learning strategies for producing effective communication in compressed timeframes. The participants were challenged to produce a feature story for publication by the end of the weekend.

Hartman and Rekow are co-curators of BifrostOnline, an international, open-access channel promoting education for sustainability and climate change awareness through short documentaries, interviews, feature articles, events and public interventions. Dr. Rekow brings a wealth of communications experience to her roles at both BitfrostOnline and the Circumpolar Observatory. She served as the founding director of Green My Favela, an urban restoration project based in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Over the years she has worked extensively in co-production with ethnic minorities, Indigenous peoples, and marginalized communities in several contexts around the globe, using media as a foundational component of her broader praxis. She has also drawn on her experience to curate and craft media-rich educational programs for several cultural institutions.

Rekow curates a rich selection of material for BifrostOnline’s media archive. To date these resources number approximately a thousand open access sources relating to climate change, including citizen science projects, podcasts, maps, academic papers, policy reports, personal stories and data visualisations, creating a broad, interdisciplinary resource where researchers, educators, academics and others interested in climate change-related issues can access information and ideas that may inform their practice. The goal is to build not only a science-based databank of information, but also to archive works that elicit emotion-based responses or help in the framing of action plans to meet regional and global socio-environmental challenges.

Rekow has learned from her work in environmental communications that people form their beliefs around worldviews held by their communities, rather than around facts they are presented with. Therefore, communicating information is often not enough to impact the way people think and act. Finding positive and active ways to help people realise their own agency and build resilience within different challenging contexts depends on building trust over time and responding to people’s needs, rather than imposing external or academic ideas upon them.

During the writing sprint activity in Sigtuna, Rekow established a structured environment for participants to produce short articles to be featured on the Bifrost website. Individuals were paired into writing and editing teams who supported each other throughout the weekend. Under Rekow’s helpful prompts and guidance they generated texts by harnessing free-thinking and focused freewriting approaches, laying out concepts and developing stories from them in real time, then working together to organize their ideas into edited texts.

The writing sprint was a unique experience, relying on commitment from all participants to collaborate within the limits of a non-negotiable timeframe and a set production schedule. The sprint provided a way of organizing a kindred knowledge community with diverse bodies of work to reflect the concerns and research practices that currently engaging HfE members. For many it was an energizing experience that encouraged cooperation and knowledge sharing within a challenging and unfamiliar situation. The process wasn’t perfect, but it enabled participants to push past the limitations of how busy researchers typically approach writing in a concentrated time frame. The edited articles from this exercise will be appearing throughout spring and summer on BifrostOnline. Some of those that have already appeared include Sea-ice Stories from Iceland and Labrador and Juliana v. United States: the unresolved case already making a difference.

Lea Rekow at Green My Favela

Rekow’s own sprint-written blog, Greening our Planetary Menu, explores the impact of agriculture and the transformational potential of “bottom up” projects. For example, in Brazil she innovated DIY media kits that hack old webcams and produce microscopes to study plants with functionally literate children, conducted farm-to-table workshops, and created children’s gardens from sites that had to be remediated by clearing of tons of garbage.  She offers insights about how these kinds of projects provide increased opportunities for humanists to work “from the bottom-up” as facilitators between formal and informal societal tiers with youth at key vulnerable ages “to help instill knowledge, skills, and a sense of possibility for living healthier, more fulfilling lives.” These projects also provide avenues, she observes, for “community leaders to emerge to recraft environments that are historically marred by conflict, oppression, poverty.”

HfE Observatory members decided that over the course of the next two years the global network will experiment with efforts to scale up projects led by humanists in collaboration with scientists and various societal stakeholders regionally and internationally for greater impact. Above and beyond focusing on their own regional projects, all Observatories will design a food-systems-oriented project and seek to collaborate across the network on the theme of food. The European Observatory has already been awarded a large grant by the Irish Research Council in support the FoodSmart Dublin project and a call for papers for a special journal issue guest edited by HfE members on Food Cultures & Critical Sustainability is expected to be announced in spring 2019.



Joni Adamson is a Secretary General of the HfE and Director of the North American Observatory.  She is Professor of English and Environmental Humanities in the Department of English and Director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative at Arizona State University.

Humanities for the Environment (HfE) is a global Observatory network of researchers and projects seeking to answer questions about the role of the humanities in a time in which human activity is significantly reshaping the geological future of the planet. HfE seeks not only enrich our understanding of the human past but also help us understand, engage with, and address global environmental challenges. Rather than defining a single research agenda adequate to these inquiries, HfE has established eight research ‘observatories’ in Africa, Asia, Australia, Circumpolar North, Europe, Latin America, and North America.


Originally posted by Sydney Environment Institute


30 June–2 July 2018, Hohenkammer and Rachel Carson Center (Germany)

Environmental Humanities (EH) is a new and innovative field of study that engages interdisciplinary scholarship from across the humanities spectrum to study the relationship between humans and the physical world they inhabit. In summer 2018, the Rachel Carson Center convened a meeting of leaders in Environmental Humanities—those who have set up networks or taken steps to institutionalize the subject at their home universities—from across the globe to discuss best practice and find ways of cooperating and sharing expertise in our shared moment of planetary crisis. The summit was also attended by eleven international young scholars who are forging their academic careers in this new field.

At the summit, over two days of discussion in diverse ways and in many voices, participants acknowledged the following four principles for scholars in the Environmental Humanities:


As pioneers in our new and still-emergent field and with precarious university structures, we are especially dependent on our community of like-minded thinkers. What binds us together are our shared concerns, which arise out of the entanglement of our personal trajectories and experiences with our scholarly research. We care viscerally, emotionally, and politically about the topics we work on and feel a deep sense of responsibility to engage as global citizens. Our community is intergenerational and international and we need ensure it is resilient across space and across time.


Environmental Humanities is a new assemblage of interdisciplinary approaches and tools. Its diversity is invigorating, but we are all engaged in a process of questioning and changing existing paradigms, and this can create conflict with previous generations of scholars and uncertainty for young scholars who do not yet have established paths to tread. EH scholars need resources of humility, respect, and trust to work with scholars from different disciplines and from different generations.


Understanding interlinked environmental issues requires a holistic, networked approach: creating a broad front in Environmental Humanities that can enable cultural shifts in the wider world requires us to forge alliances with partners outside of academia. We want to cultivate relations with the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) sector, creative and media industries, community and activist groups, local government and political parties, private sector corporations/foundations, schoolteachers and children, religious organizations, and farms and botanical gardens; and also take opportunities to collaborate across disciplines and hierarchies within our own institutions.


The EH toolbox needs skills that facilitate interdisciplinary project work and outreach—digital and multimedia literacy, filmmaking, ethnographic methods, intercultural skills, fundraising and budget management—and also build our capacities to listen well, to tell stories engagingly, to speak multiple languages, and embrace diversity in all its forms. EH needs to do as much as possible to break out of its Euro-American comfort zone, to learn new languages and reach new places, to become truly diverse and inclusive.

To learn more about the event, and for access to the full report and participant list, click here .

Courtesy of Rachel Carson Center posted November 21, 2018

An Island Dynamics and Indigenous Knowledge –based International Conference

Indigenous Communities, Indigenous Spaces

Tradition and Change in a Globalising World

1-5 October 2018, Pongso no Tao/ Orchid Island, Taiwan

This international conference explores the connection between Indigenous communities and Indigenous spaces in an age when the very conceptions of space, place, and territory are undergoing a rapid change due to globalization. Is indigeneity only found in and through place, or can we envision non-situated and deterritorialized indigeneities? Can Indigenous rights and livelihoods be asserted without being simultaneously reinforced or played by the rules of the coloniality?

The conference considers tradition and change in the context of the Indigenous spaces where lives are lived and - globalization occurs: local communities and connections across continents, sacred sites and secular spaces, Indigenous villages and Indigenous cities, traditional territories and political spaces within and beyond the state. It also provides spaces to discuss and reflect on and engage with intercultural and trans-collaborative political approaches by indigenous and non-indigenous peoples and scholars. Many of these approaches are working towards ensuring long-term sustainability for indigenous people, increasing social and environmental justice in their respective territories, and decolonizing structures, relations and ways of being.

This conference is a collaboration of:

• The Community of Pongso no Tao/Orchid Island, Taiwan •Tao Foundation, Pongso no Tao • Island Indigenous Science Studio, Pongso no Tao • Lan En Culture and Education Foundation, Pongso no Tao
• National Taiwan Normal University’s Department of Geography & Graduate Institute of Environmental Education, Taipei, Taiwan
• National Sun Yet-Sen University’s Center for Marine Policy Studies & Graduate Institute of Marine Affairs, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
• Ilisimatusarfik/University of Greenland’s Department of Social Sciences, Greenland
• RMIT University’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, Melbourne, Australia
• Minstry of Science and Technology, Taiwan
• Council of Indeigenous Peoples, Taiwan
• National Prehistorry Museum, Taitung, Taiwan

Co-Convenors & Organisers

Adam Grydehøj, Huei-Min TSAI, Syaman Rapongan, Syaman Lamuran, Tibusungʉ'e Vayayana, Yaso Nadarajah, Tzu-Ming LIU, Su-Min SHEN, Sendo WANG


The participants came from 15 countries about 130 people, including Canada(4), Maxico (1), UK (1), France (1),Sweden(1), Denmark (1), Greenland (1), teh Netherlands (2), Germany (2), Switzerland (1) Australia (3), New Zealnd (1), Philippine (2), Japan (2) China(1) and Taiwan (40), plus over 70 people from local communities

The Conference Programs

1. Welcome
On October 1st, after a long ride of train and boat, the conference participants arrived at the island and were warm welcomed by the Tao Community,chaired by Si Maraos, Executive Director, Lan En Cultural Foundation; and there were greetings from Representatives of Township and Tao communities. Greetings from Syaman Lamuran (Director, Tao Foundation), Tibusungʉ'e Vayayana (Deputy Minister, Council of Indigenous Peoples), Sinan Mavivo (Tao Representative, Council of Indigenous Peoples), Syapen Kaleywan (Elders, singing and greetings), Adam Grydehøj (Director, Island Dynamics, Denmark & Associated Researcher, Ilisimatusarfik/University of Greenland, Greenland), Eric Clark (Chair, International Geographical Union Commission on Islands; Lund University, Sweden), Gerard Persoon (Leiden University, the Netherlands). Two dancing performances were followed.
2. Themes
Session 1: Indigenous Spaces and Development
Session 2: Indigenous Research and Methods
Session 3: Indigenous Rights and Representation
Session 4: Indigenous Voices and Presence
Session 5: Toward Indigenous Futures
3. 3. Studies in the Fields:

In order to be engaged with Indigenous knowledge systems on the island, the field studies involve immersion into the life world of the Tao (Yami). It encourages wisdom and local participants to recognize the value of traditional knowledge in environmental management. We observe the mountain, river, and oceanic environment around us and cultivate the ability to identify and solve problems. Actively caring about the original environment and exploring the prudence of traditional culture can bridge traditional knowledge and science.

Map of the conference venues and field study sites:

Conceptual Map of the Island: Indigenous Space-time, Indigenous Knowledge on Pongso no Tao (the Island of People)

(I) angit* – sky – 天空 (II) wawa – ocean – 海洋 (III) vanwa – beach – 部落灘頭 (IV) ili – village – 聚落 (V) kahasan – forest – 山林 (VI) soli – taro field – 芋田
*Tao Language 達悟語

(1) In the Field 1

Vanwa : Ceremony, boat launching and folk singing
Place: Iraraley Beach (Vanwa)
Lecturer: Syapen Meylamney)


As a meeting place between the ocean and the land, the venwa is a very important and sacred ceremonial field in the Tao culture. If the tribe has important public issues, members of the tribe gather here to discuss and -solve the problem together. The tribal beach head is not only the central point of tribal space, but also the core of the cultural, social system and public power operation in the Tao society. It is a sacred space reflecting the social culture of the Tao people.

(2) In the Field 2

Ili - Living spaces and villages
Group 1 Iraraley Traditional Vahay (House) Lecturer: Tsai, Wu-lun
Group 2 Ivalino Traditional Vahay (House) Lecturer: Syapen Jihan
Background Tao people’s social life interweaves the geographical -and the blood relationships of the tribal community. The tribe is an independent unit composed of all members living in the same tribal area. The fisheries, pastures, and agricultural lands of each tribe are commons, not to be used by others. A complete Tao home must have vahai (main house), makarang (high house) and tagakal (hill table). The vahai faces the sea and is where people live, cook, store, and sleep. The makarang is the place where objects are manufactured. The tagakal is a- - place for daily life, leisure, chatting, children's play, and - singing.

(3) In the Field 3

Angut:‘Eyes of the Sky’ Indigenous ways of star observation
Meeting Place: Iratay
Place: Iratay Syapen Lamuran’s Art Studio
Lecture : Syapen Lamuran Background Flying fish season is the core of Tao culture. A year is divided into three seasons: the rayon, the teyteyka and the amiyan. As oceanic people, Tao is also sensitive to the changing wind, weather and currents. The names of wind show their knowledge on weather observation and risk responses.

The meanings of each season are as follows.


Season Traditional Name Name of Month Month's meaning Western calendar
Spring Rayon
Flying Fish
Kapowan (Paneneb) Closed door, abstinence FEB
Pikawkaod Separation and sharing MAR.
Papatow Fishing Dolphin fish APR.
Pipilapila Netting fish MAY
Summer Teyteyka
End of Flying
Fish Season
Apiavean Good Moon Month JUN
Omood do piavean Harvest festival JUL.
Pitanatana Making pottery AUG.
Kaliman Last flying fish SEP
Winter Amyan
Month of
Waiting fish
Kaneman Bead ash, ghost OCT
Kapitowan a fiesta in honor of a deity NOV.
Kaowan Coolest Month DEC.
Kasiaman JAN

(4) In the Field 4

Wawa: Ocean, currents, and fish
Place: Lanyu High School Conference Room
Lecture: Syaman Rapongan ( presented -via a film ) Background Libangbang (flying fish) culture is an important cultural feature of Tao. They believe that the flying fish is managed by tao do do (the people in the heaven). The time of fishing and the way of cooking should be in accordance with taboos and rituals. The tribe believes that as long as the various ceremonies and taboos in the flying fish season are properly performed, the flying fish will -swim to the beach of the tribe.

The Tao people establish the order and taboos of eating by the mythical story of flying fish. The essence is to grant marine life a chance to breathe and at the same time maintain the balance and sustainability of the marine ecology.

(5) In the Field 5 Kahasan: Forest, Taboo and Materials for Tatala (Traditional Canoe) building
Place: Iraraley tribe’s forest commons
Lecturer: Syaman Macinanao

The tatala, traditional housing construction and paddy farming are closely related to the use of forest plants of Tao. Each tribe has its own irrigation channel system, hillsides, forest areas and pastures.
(5) In the Field 5

Soli: Taro fields and women’s spaces
Place: Iraraley Taro Field
Lecturer: Sinan Manidong

Background The main crop of the Tao people is taro. In order to irrigate the fields, natural mountain streams are adapted and built into irrigation systems. Such major projects are usually completed by a large number of people. Therefore, the construction of canals usually involved mobilization of several families.


(Conference venue: Lanyu High School)

(Opening Ceremony at Lan-En Knderagarden)

(Conference - volunteers)

Humanities for the environment annual meeting at Sigtuna Sweden 2018

Six of the eight HfE observatories were represented at the NIES-arranged Humanities for the Environment conference in Sigtuna, including the African, Asian-Pacific, Circumpolar, European, Latin American, & North American observatories.

Picture of 6 members of the Board of Directors following the business meeting yesterday: (L-R) James Ogude Poul Holm Hsinya Huang Sally Kitch Joni Adamson and Steven Hartman.

Picture of attendees.

International Symposium on Humanities for the Environment

19 Nov. 2018
LA7006, College of Liberal Arts,
National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung


2018.11.18    Arrival/Registration


9:00-9:20 Opening Ceremony
TEE Kim Tong (Convener, Organizing Committee, ISHE)
Ping-Chen Hsiung (President, ANHN, Chinese University of Hong Kong)
9:20-10:10 Keynote: Adaptation of Assimilation:
Humans Facing the Challenge of Being Humans for the First Time Ever

Speaker: Luiz Oosterbeek (Polytechnic Institute of Tomar)
Moderator: Ay-Ling Wang (National Sun Yat-sen University)
Discussant: Chen-Hsing Tsai (Tamkang University)
10:10-11:00 Panel: East Asian Environment in Perspective
Speakers: Harold Sjusen (New York University)
                   Whei-Ming Chou (National Chengchi University)
Moderator: Mu-Chou Poo (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
11:00-11:15 Tea Break
11:15-12:15 Writers’ Workshop: 熱帶雨林與原住民書寫
Speakers: 瓦歷斯·諾幹Walis Nokan (Writer of Atayal)
                   田思Tian Si (Malaysian Writer)
                   田欣穎Xin-Ying Thian (Malaysian Journalist)
Moderator: TEE Kim Tong (National Sun Yat-sen University)
12:15-13:30 Lunch
13:30-14:10 Plenary: A New Order of Knowledge: The Anthropocene and the Environmental Humanities
Speaker: Hannes Bergthaller (National Chung Hsing University)
Moderator: Shu-Li Chang (National Cheng Kung University)
Discussant: Iping Liang (National Taiwan Normal University)
14:10-15:10 Panel: Transpacific Poetics and Environmental Humanities
Speakers: Anurag Bhattacharyya (Dibrugarh University)
                   Yu-Lin Lee (National Chung Hsing University)
                   LIM Kar Loke (Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman)
Moderator: Huei-Min Tsai (National Taiwan Normal University)
Discussant: Hsiu-Li Juan (National Chung Hsing University)
15:10-15:30 Tea Break
15:30-16:10 Roundtable: Asian Humanities
Moderator: Ping-Chen Hsiung (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Speakers: Harold Sjusen (New York University)
                   Luiz Oosterbeek (Polytechnic Institute of Tomar)
16:10-16:20 Closing Remarks
17:00-19:30 Banquet

2018.11.20 Departure

【Contact】Ms. IYun Huang, at

池上秋收 - 稻穗藝術節

Call for Papers
International Symposium on Humanities for the Environment
National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan
November 18- November 19, 2018

Never in human history as now in the 21st century has our species’ ability to cope with planetary change been so urgent. Although the Anthropocene as an official geological epoch is still under debate, the concept has been widely used to describe the pervasive human impact on the planet since Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutizen proposed that we were “living in the Anthropocene”. An Anthropocene Working Group has been commissioned to investigate the possibility of formally adding the Anthropocene to the Geological Time Scale. Referring to the Anthropocene and its most discussed consequence, climate change, the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty has suggested that humanities as a discipline needs to envision the way the human beings become an agent of historical change. Recently Joni Adamson, Poul Holm, and other scholars across the globe have established The HfE Observatories (Humanities for the Environment: Observatories for Environmental Humanities Researchers) through which to observe, explore and enact the crucial ways humanistic and artistic disciplines may help us understand and engage with global ecological problems by providing insight into human action, perceptions, and motivation. They have collectively publicized “Humanities for the Environment: A Manifesto for Research and Action” as an invitation to the “Humanities for the Environment” open global consortium of humanities observatories. This Symposium presents cutting-edge researches and voices from the HfE Global Network to examine how the humanities and arts contribute to understanding the challenges of global environmental change. Through observing and exploring human actions and motivations, values, priorities, and habits, we propose an agenda that focuses on global humanities research in response to the challenges of planetary environmental change. This Symposium explores the role of the humanities in a time in which human activity is significantly reshaping the geological future of the planet. It demonstrates our continuous effort to expand the network and develop a shared agenda for research and action.

The deadline to submit abstracts is May 20, 2018, and it should be no longer than 500words . The length of your full paper should not exceed 8,000 words.

To submit your abstract, please click on the following link:

Important dates:
Deadline for abstract submission: May 20, 2018
Notification of acceptance: May 31, 2018
Deadline for full paper submission: October 1, 2018

Center for Humanities Innovation and Social Practices, NSYSU, Taiwan
Center for the Humanities, NSYSU, Taiwan
The Humanities for the Environment, Asia-Pacific Observatory
Asian New Humanities Network

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