Accepted paper:

Anthropology of moving house: the re-making of home among the mainlanders' diaspora in Taiwan


Elisa Tamburo (SOAS, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores how home is recreated after forced displacement through an ethnographic exploration of mainlanders’ military villages in Taiwan, known as juancun. It further examines how villagers live relocation and remake home in high-rise buildings 60 years after their first settlement.

Paper long abstract:

How is home recreated after forced displacement? And how do the same displaced people face a second relocation sixty years after? My paper engages with how experiences of forced migration refashioned constructions of home. By focusing on the dialectic between architecture, objects, memory and everyday practices I explore processes of home-making in a military village in northern Taiwan. After its retreat in 1949, the Nationalist government crafted these settlements - juancun - to shelter military personnel and their families who had relocated in great numbers to Taiwan during the Chinese civil war. Built with makeshift means and as a temporary solution, these juancun recreated a little China, which accentuated cultural difference and spatial separation from the Taiwanese. Sixty years later, with the makeshift houses deteriorating, the rich, lively and spontaneous social texture of juancun, which had been facilitated by the spatial organization of the self-help, unplanned, vernacular, single-storey houses, is threatened by redevelopment in standardized high-rise buildings. The Ministry of Defense's juancun reconstruction policy also resulted in a dramatic change of the city landscape: among the 800 juancun originally present in Taiwan, only a handful are destined to preservation. I thus explore how the inhabitants face relocation to modern high-rise apartments, and suggest that market-driven standardization of homes and vertical spaces change considerably sociality, neighbors' relationships and everyday routines. Following Lefebvre, I conclude advocating for a notion of progress not limited to technical development but rather directed to a qualitative improvement of sociality and everyday life.

panel Urba09
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