Accepted Paper:

Two balls for more excitement: transformations of volleyball among the Bunun of Taiwan  


Jérôme Soldani (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3)

Paper short abstract:

During the last three decades, Bunun people in Taiwan have deeply transformed the game of volleyball. Now they play with two balls and teams of more than fifteen players each on a regular field just next their Presbyterian churches. Doing so, they share common values and build their group identity.

Paper long abstract:

In Taiwan, Baseball is the national sport, but volleyball is the favourite game of Bunun people, an Austronesian group living in the Central Mountain Range. Introduced in this part of the country soon after WW2, Volleyball encountered a strong development around the Presbyterian churches and was deeply transformed by the Presbyterians Bunun during the last three decades.

On Sundays and for festivals, especially Christmas, they play volleyball with two balls at the same time. Each game opposes two teams of more than fifteen players and approximately the same proportion of men and women on both sides, aged between 15 and 60 years old. After the tournaments, every participants, even the spectators, receive the same reward individually.

This game is agonistic and non-agonistic at the same time. The main goal of these specific rules is to celebrate the unity of the community, sharing an enjoyable moment together. Strong emotions experienced through sports create a powerful link between the participants. Through an excitement pushed up by the using of two balls simultaneously, the Presbyterians Bunun replay the values of muscular Christianity, universal priesthood and egalitarianism. From this point of view, volleyball contributes to build the identity of the group among the Bunun from inside and from outside, reinforcing the perception of differences with their neighbours (moral or physical), especially the Seediq who prefer to play basketball.

This presentation will be supported by ethnographic data collected during a six months extensive fieldwork in 2014 and 2015 in Mahavun village (Nantou county, Hsinyi township).

Panel MB-AMS07
Socio-cultural anthropology of sports