Accepted Paper:

Transformation of matrilineal social logic and divination of the Amis in Taiwan  


Pi-chen Liu (Academia Sinica)

Paper short abstract:

The main subject of empirical fieldwork in this study is the Amis of A’tolan village in Taiwan, whose matrilineal and uxorilocal society has, in recent years, suffered from the severe impact of government tourism policy and development by financial groups.

Paper long abstract:

The aim is to investigate what kind of mutual responses are produced by existing internal male-guided mechanisms such as the mi'edaw (bamboo divination) when massive changes are imposed from outside? What is the correlation of these responses and the transformation of their traditional matrilineal social logic? (Amis females inherit land and houses, while a man is on the logic of personal merit).

This study compiles the motivation for cases of divination during 2011-2013 and their problem-solving results to build an interpretation system. The social process arising from divination brings all anxiety, disputes and adjustment associated with transmission of matrilineality to light. Divination is a mechanism that patternizes behavior and is also a social law practice that has become an important institution. Through the symbol system, mi'edaw deals with structural gender relations. Divination can even be described as an opportunity for the forming of concensus in the matrileneal order. It plays the role of regenerative mechanism for matrilineal logic in the contemprary.

The Amis mi'edaw interpretation system tend to blame the cause of illness on another individual and this "perpetrator" is often a faki (mother's brother) or mikadafo (son in law). Through divination, it can be seen how the people of the village stereotype, and fix some destructive, cheating or bad-intentioned behavior and link it to certain male relatives. In the process, the positioning and suspicion of matrilineal society with regards to men is displayed and, at the same time, the social subjects that men/women are expected to be are established.

Panel RM-KG03
Matrilineal societies in today's world