Gender, Popular Religion, and the Politics of Memory in Taiwan's Urban Renewal: The Case of the Twenty-five Ladies' Tomb
The Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI) presents "Gender, Popular Religion, and the Politics of Memory in Taiwan's Urban Renewal: The Case of the Twenty-five Ladies' Tomb" a brown bag lecture, part of the Taiwan Lectures Series with discussant Anru Lee, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the City University of New York.
"The Twenty-five Ladies' Tomb" is the collective burial site of the female workers who died in a ferry accident on their way to work in 1973 in southern Taiwan. The fact that of the more than 70 passengers on board all 25 who died were unmarried young women, and the taboo in Taiwanese culture that shuns unmarried female ghosts, made the Tomb a fearsome place. This essay looks at the recent renovation of the Twenty-five Ladies Tomb, and examines the politics of the feminist movements and the politics of memory as they are expressed through different meanings of female ghosts. In Specters of Marx (2006), Derrida uses the idea of specters and haunting as consequences of historical injustice and tragedy metaphorically but powerfully. These two elements come together in our essay as well. However, the ghosts in our accounts are more literally ghosts with whom our ethnographic subjects interact. They appear, express their sorrow, and demonstrate their grievances. The reestablishment of peace and order essential to residents of both the living world and the afterlife thus hinges upon mutual understanding and close collaboration between them. Yet, as meanings are constantly contested, so is the nature of the deceaseds requests. The different interpretations that the (living) socio-political forces give to the deceaseds needs open up new terrains of contestation for the memory of the past and the rights and obligations at the present. Ghosts are agencies that inform changes in the social life of the living.
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