SEA Currents: News
March 27, 2018
Update on Current Elsaesser Fellowship Research
SEA Semester alumnus Michael Jacobson (W-72), the recipient of the 2018 Armin E. Elsaesser III Fellowship award, is currently in southern Taiwan documenting the indigenous Tao people’s traditional boat building and fishing culture. He recently sent us his second research update.
Update: I have left Lanyu and have been in the southern part of Taiwan. I learned so much about the current boat culture on Lanyu and how the tatala still retains a singular status for individuals and families. I was able to participate in four fishing summoning ceremonies, two tatala launching ceremonies, and even went out fishing for flying fish one night using lights to attract them. We caught 190 fish individually with dip nets! The next morning I scaled the fish on the beach with a stick and then watched as they were split, cut, salted, and hung to dry. Of course we had to have some fresh ones for breakfast! The heads all had to be oriented towards land so that the other fish would "follow" them.
After Lanyu, I spent about a week in an area prediminantly populated with the Paiwan tribe. This group historically had a very stratified social structure with a chief, nobility, warriors and common people. Even today some of this flavor is still retained and I met a woman who was the chief of her village. She invited me to participate in a shaman ceremony where her granddaughter was being inducted into learning about shamanistic traditions. It was a very rare opportunity, something I don't know if other foreigners have been able to observe before.
I am now in the mountains of southern Taiwan in a small town called Wutai. Here the Rukai tribe dominates and they are renowned for their slate buildings and beautiful wood carvings.
I still have about a month in front of me, much of it unplanned and finish up in Taipei before returning April 26th.
- Michael Jacobson