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Taiwan & China

Taiwan and the Mainland of China are historically linked through the great migrations of peoples from the Mainland across the Taiwan Straits since the time of the Ming Dynasty onwards.  Successive waves of migration have given the island and its associated smaller islands (such as the Penghu Islands) its distinctive Han cultural characteristics, and since the arrival of Chiang Kai-Shek’s forces in 1949 and the establishment of the Republic of China there, Mandarin as an official language has been spread widely.  Japanese rule 1895-1945 also contributed greatly to shaping the cultural landscape as well as to the island’s economic infrastructure.  The Dutch East India Company established outposts from 1604 on and gained control for a time both in Keelung in the north and Tainan in the south.  All of these incursions by outsiders brought new, and at times coercive, relations with the much longer established indigenous Austronesian groups, who are related to the vast spread of Austronesian speakers in the Pacific Islands, South-East Asia, and as far as Madagascar in the west.  Taiwan therefore has an exceptionally complex, layered history. Most of the Han settlers who came were from a part of China that also contained diverse populations, Fujian Province, and they brought with them dialects that are distinct from Mandarin.  Diversity is completed by the presence of numerous pockets of Hakka people, migrants from varying parts of China in the past.

Our work in Taiwan has sampled numerous aspects of this cultural and historical complexity.  We have been affiliated as Visiting Scholars / Fellows at the Institute of Ethnology (IOE), Academia Sinica, Nankang, Taipei, continuously for periods of time since 2002.  We began this work by studying temple cultures, especially those surrounding the popular goddess figure of Matsu (Mazu), herself associated with a migration story from China.  We have visited many Matsu temples, including in Taipei(Guandong in Tamsui), Penghu, Tainan, Taitung, Hualien, and many other locations.  Subsequently, our work has broadened out to include study of Taiwan's indigenous recognized tribal groups of Austronesian speakers, especially the Paiwan speakers in the south-east and south-west areas of the country (Taitung and Kaohsiung are the major cities involved).  We look at movements for linguistic and cultural revival, autonomy, and development in these areas. We have studied these partly through the operations of Christian churches (Catholic, Presbyterian, and others), since many indigenous groups have adopted Christianity.  Most recently we have studied the ways in which Paiwan people have coped with resettlement resulting from natural disasters.  We have also visited Central Taiwan (Nantou), including Chi-Nan University in Puli, investigating craft production and long-term responses to disasters.

Our work in China has sprung from exploring links with Taiwan.  We have visited major centers of Matsu worship, for example in Meizhou Island.  We have given lectures at Xiamen University in Fujian.  We have studied lineage temple consecration and other ritual complexes in Jinmen (Kinmen) Island, which belongs to Taiwan but is closely linked to Xiamen. We have visited and lectured in Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing.

In Taiwan we have also taken a particular interest in the large Buddhist Tzu Chi organization, which is prominent in disaster relief, so that our work on "disaster anthropology" has been facilitated by contacts with Tzu Chi itself.

We have visited, lectured, carried out fieldwork, and run seminars and conferences in Taiwan continuously since 2000.  We have lectured at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, at Fu Ren University in Taipei, Dong-Hua University in Hualien, Tzu-Chi University in Hualien, the Institute of Austronesian Studies in Taitung, and the National University for the Arts, Taipei.  We co-organized a conference on Religious and Ritual Change at the IOE in 2005, and co-organized a three year cycle of research seminars on Shamanism also at the IOE in 2007-2009.  Stewart and Strathern have also made a number of visits to colleagues in Inner Mongolia over the last few years.


Publications resulting from our work include:

Stewart, Pamela J. and Andrew Strathern (2018).  Diaspora, Disasters, and the Cosmos: Rituals and Images.  Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.

Strathern, Andrew, Pamela J. Stewart, Laurence M. Carucci, Lin Poyer, Richard Feinberg, and Cluny Macpherson (2017). Second edition, Oceania: An Introduction to the Cultures and Identities of Pacific Islanders [Updated and Revised].  Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.

Stewart, Pamela J. And Andrew Strathern (eds.) (2017, originally published 2005).  Expressive Genres and Historical Change:  Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Taiwan.  For, Anthropology and Cultural History in Asia and the Indo-Pacific Series, London, U.K.: Routledge Publishing.  (ISBN 9780754644187)

Stewart, Pamela J and Andrew Strathern (eds.). (2016, originally published 2015). Research Companion to Anthropology. London, U.K.: Routledge Publishing. (ISBN 9780754677031)

Stewart, Pamela J. and Andrew Strathern (2014). Working in the Field: Anthropological Experiences across the World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Stewart, Pamela J. and Andrew Strathern (eds.) (2009)  Religious and Ritual Change: Cosmologies and Histories. For, Ritual Studies Monograph Series, Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.  (ISBN 13: 978-1-59460-576-5 paperback).

Stewart, Pamela J. and Andrew Strathern (eds.) (2010).  Chinese Version (updated and revised) of Religious and Ritual Change: Cosmologies and Histories.  [Co-Edited with Yeh, Chuen-rong]  Taipei, Taiwan: Linking Publishing (ISBN 978-957-08-3633-2)

Stewart, Pamela J. and Andrew Strathern (eds.) (2007)  Asian Ritual Systems: Syncretisms and Ruptures.  (Book version, updated and expanded of Journal of Ritual Studies 19.1)   For, Ritual Studies Monograph Series, Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.  (ISBN   1-59460-157-7 paperback, 978-1-59460-157-6 paperback)   https://gbooks.ARS

Strathern, Andrew and Pamela J. Stewart (2005) Rumours, Imagination, Body and History. Long-Long Book House 01-2005-3901. Chinese translation of the 2004 Strathern and Stewart lectures, "Contemporary Topics in Anthropology", presented in Oct., 2004 at Peking University, Beijing, China. Beijing, China: China Renmin University Press. (ISBN 7-300-06742-5 / C 291)

2010  Stewart, Pamela J. and Andrew Strathern.  Shamanic Performance and Cosmological Praxis, pp. 291-300.  In, Stewart, Pamela J. and Andrew Strathern (eds.).  Ritual. (The International Library of Essays in Anthropology), London: Ashgate Publishing.  Read about at

2008 Strathern, Andrew and Pamela J. Stewart.  Shamanic Performances: Issues of Performativity and Comparison.  Journal of Ritual Studies 22.1, pp. 53-66.

2008 Strathern, Andrew and Pamela J. Stewart.  Embodiment Theory in Performance and Performativity, Journal of Ritual Studies 22.1,  pp. 67-72.  Seminar presentation (2007) Available online at  (in Chinese)  and at (in English) 

2005  Stewart, Pamela J. and Andrew Strathern.  Topics in Anthropology: Witchcraft and Sorcery.  Sociological Seminar (University of Nanjing, China) No. 59 (August 18, 2005): 1-55.

2003  Strathern, Andrew and Pamela J. Stewart.  Divisions of Power: Rituals in Time and Space among the Hagen and Duna Peoples, Papua New Guinea.  Taiwan Journal of Anthropology 1(1): 51-76.  Available online at

Taiwan Photographic Collection

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The Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew J. Strathern Archive, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, Digital Research Library,

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Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew J. Strathern own the physical material presented on this website. We provide access to the digital images for personal, noncommercial, educational and research purposes only. Without written permission from Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew J. Strathern stating otherwise, prohibited uses include, but are not limited to systematic downloading of images using robots, scripts, or other software programs; commercial use and resale of the images; or redistribution, publication or retransmission of the images beyond what is allowed by the U.S. copyright code. Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew J. Strathern hold the copyright to most of the images.