Looking at the local community as a “foreigner”

Moe Takahashi
Year: 2nd year of PhD candidate / RA2015
Belonging: Graduate School of Human Relations
Destination: Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
Duration: Oct., 2018 to March, 2019 (Six months)

1. First major research field

In Taiwan, where I am conducting my study, initiatives are underway to correct discriminatory attitudes toward immigrant workers and marriage immigrants from Southeast Asian countries considered to have less vibrant economies. These initiatives are taking place against a backdrop of rapid economic growth and societal aging in Taiwan. I am attempting to clarify from a cultural anthropological standpoint the communities that immigrants build. My study involves reconceptualizing immigration, which has been discussed as a social class-related issue in previous research, from the perspective of educational and cultural practices, and focusing on activities to pass on culture and language in homes, schools, and community organizations outside of schools.

2. Reason for choosing study destination

Academia Sinica is the most prominent academic institution under the direct supervision of Taiwan’s Office of the President. It has 24 institutes and seven research centers. Located in the suburbs of Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, it is a research center that promotes joint research with domestic and international interests. It is symbolic of modern Taiwan. My institute has a history and tradition of addressing various issues in cultural anthropology and folkloristics, and thus I had wanted to study there at some point in the future. It was attractive to me because people in a master’s program or higher can apply for acceptance, even for short-term study; overseas research students can use its facilities and libraries free of charge; and it has a comparatively well-developed research support program.

3. Achievements and difficulties experienced through international study

I had to learn Chinese in order to conduct my research, and I struggled to master the unique local pronunciation. I can only use English in some conversations within the institute, and therefore I conduct my research with daily appreciation for the importance of fully understanding the local community’s language from the basics. That a “foreigner” is studying a “foreign country” is not something easily accepted by the local people. While actually seeing, feeling, and understanding things that I could not understand by reading research papers alone and shifting to topic-setting that fits with the local context, I must have the patience to explain things to those around me and ask for their understanding in “their native language.”

In front of a mausoleum’s memorial hall that I visited for a study on rural village beliefs

A research presentation in the institute held in December

The institute’s exterior

A museum is attached to the institute.