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Not to Re-Construct but to Re-Present: social memories of the White Terror Luku Incident

With Dr Fang-Long Shih (London School of Economics)

Series: London Taiwan Seminar|

Date: Thursday 12 October 2006, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Room 116, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Chair: Mr Stuart Thompson (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)

Abstract

This paper looks at the White Terror Incident which took place in Luku in the mountainous area of Shiding. I analyse it in terms of social memory and what could be called social dismembering and remembering. During December 1952, the KMT, believing that there was a 'communist armed base' in Luku, arrested 183 villagers; 97 were imprisoned in total for 871 years and 36 were executed. Soon after, the village was re-named and the sign for 'Luku' disappeared. Eventually the village was abandoned. No roads were built and no jobs were provided, and one after another the villagers moved out. The terrifying Luku incident was dismembered, in the sense that personal memories of the incident could not be voiced publicly such that the records of it ever having happened were hidden in secret KMT files and in the private consciences of the victims and the perpetrators. However, since the lifting of martial law and recognition given to the 228 victims, the possibility for remembering Luku has been created. A left-unification novelist Lan Po-chou went to Luku to trace Taiwanese communist footprints. He attempted to re-construct a communist past in Luku. In contrast, historian Chang Yen-hsien interviewed the victims and their family members who claimed they were not 'communists' and 'innocent' of KMT charges against them. Chang re-constructed their life histories focusing on the difficult times of the Luku incident. They were later granted compensation. A Luku memorial was erected under the DPP administration in 2000, representing the public re-call of the KMT military dictatorship but the simultaneous dismembering of the Taiwanese communist past. In this paper, I will analyse how the Luku incident has been selected for remembering according to various social groups with different political agendas. I will also re-present the Luku incident focusing on the uncertainty, ambivalence and confusion in the ways the people involved with Luku dismember and remember the incident.

About the speaker

Dr Fang-Long Shih is Research Fellow at the Asia Research Centre at the London School of Economics, University of London, where she also acts as the Convener of the Taiwan Culture Research Programme. She has been the Convener of the London Taiwan Seminar since 2000. She is the co-author of the monograph Local Religion in I-Lan County (I-Lan County Government 2003), and the author of several articles on the anthropology of Chinese religious culture in Taiwan. She is also a Part-Time Lecturer at SOAS teaching Taiwanese culture and issues relating to religion, family, gender and modernity.

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