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Being Aboriginal and Taiwanese in the Pursuit of Community Well-Being: Examining the Janus-Face of Public Health Among Bunun Peoples


On the southeastern hillside of Taiwan where Bunun peoples, groups of Austronesian-speaking aborigines reside, the politically designed and designated Aboriginal Reserved Land (ARL) system is both a sociocultural source of livelihood and an ever-shifting context of public health. Departing from these points and following the sociolinguistic trajectories of Bunun/Han Chinese/English polylogues, I explore the medicalization of certain plant and animal species (e.g., ginger) as patients on farms and in the forests, as well as the asymmetric relationship between health- and wellness-seeking at local, national, and global levels. Next, this dissertation project follows the circulations and communications of disaster narratives in Bunun landscapes, Taiwanese media, and international health organizations to further examine the intersection of lived and calculated risks, economic opportunities, and diachronic/synchronic ethno-demography. In addition, I seek to understand injuries and discomfort that are associated with physical labor on the ARL as both the corpo-realities and their therapies emerge. This ethnography of care is further complemented by the care for the ethnographer at Bunun eldercare gatherings that did more than simply provide care for the Bunun elderly. Last but not least, I investigate the interplay between signifiers and well-being from two ethnographic turntables - the sequence of sounds made to care and the silence/utterance made to heal - then to turn the table on issues related to memory and post-coloniality. The Janus-face of public health among Bunun is a consideration and re-consideration of the ways in which Bunun peoples and their lands are includeded/excludeded the ways in which they are opposed/apposed in relation to the naturalizing and racializing practices and/or discourses of public health; and the change, the continuation and the conundrum of multiple and multiplying contexts.

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