Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: focus
Tuesday, 27 August 2013 16:16

Embrace the Pacific

During the months of June and July 2013, the Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies held a series of forums on Fijian navigation culture and Samoan Dance, lead respectively by the young Fijian navigator Setareki Ledua and the Samoan dancer Tupe Lualua. Together, they participated in various educational and cultural exchanges, mostly with students on the East Coast of Taiwan. Thus they visited schools and villages in Hualien County, Taoyuan County, Taidong County and Orchid Island. For example, they met with the Formosa Aboriginal Song & Dance Troupe (原舞者舞團and Tao writer Syaman Rapongan.

This month's Focus gives you an overview of their trip in Taiwan as well as an insight of the way the two young pacific islanders carry and reinvent their heritage.

seta dulan knot


Wednesday, 05 December 2012 14:28

Mental Difference?

This month, eRenlai is focusing on the stigma surrounding mental health and mental disorders. For this purpose we've coined the term "mental difference" in the hope that this will encourage our readers to view the people around them not in terms of the binaries sick/well abnormal/normal insane/sane, but rather to approach everyone in the world with an open mind as to the way their mind functions and their personality traits, regardless of their mental health issues or lack thereof, or their deviation from our perception of the normal.

First we have two views from psychiatrists: the first gives us his view on what is normal, with an interview with Dr Wu Yuquan, the second is an interview concerning the effects of illegal and legal highs on the mind and body. Then Daniel reviews Anita and Shower, the two films cast mental disability in a more positive light. Paul Farrelly also has a film review for us, which deals with Reunion, a film about a teacher who quits to look after mentally disabled children and encounters resistance from the community, featuring two Taiwanese actors who later transitioned into careers in the spiritual world. Finally we have a short interview with Father Giuseppe Didone, he talks about his experience in Taiwan struggling to convince parents to overcome the stigma attached to mentally disabled children and get help for children in dire need of it, he also reflects on a shift in attitude from when he founded the school in the 1980s to the present day.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012 13:28

Passive Aggressive Much?

Let's face it, we've all written them at times, and at other times we have all pretended that they are not written about us, whether they be notes pinned to front doors, or slogans pasted across 5 stories of a building, passive aggressive notes are an unavoidable symptom of city life. Taipei is no different, being a city with a very dense population, people tend to get on each other's nerves. This mostly anonymous way of addressing the strangers that live around us is one of the easiest forms of communication to overlook, it tends to blend into the city scape except in extreme examples, but it also tells us a lot about what is acceptable and unacceptable about our behaviour, and the minute influences we have on the people who share the city with us. Here are a few examples of passive aggressive notes that I noticed around my neighbourhood, what about yours? Feel free to send any passive aggressive notes you find to eRenlai (conor_at_erenlai.com).

[Main writings] "Only animals pee here"
[Added writings on the right] "I am an animal"

 

2

 

 

[Message in black] Dear residents, please make sure the door is well closed in order to prevent unwanted people from entering. Our safety depends on your vigilance. Thank you for your cooperation!

[Message added on the right side] Some people often forget to close the door. If anything happens, these people should pay full responsibility! This is terrible and outrageous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

"Attention please:
The new residents are kindly requested not to throw their garbage here, not to mention cigarette butts as they may increase the risk of fire. Please show more consideration for our public environment. 
Thank you for your cooperation."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

"To the residents of the building:
In order to maintain the quality of our living environment, 
please do not throw trash here."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

"LITTERING AND POLLUTING BUSINESSES,
LEAVE MY HOME ASAP"

 

6

 

 

 

[Left] "SAY NO TO SMOKE AND NOISE"

[Right] "FOR A RESIDENTIAL AREA WITHOUT SMOKE AND NOISE POLLUTION"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

"SAY NO TO SMOKE AND NOISE"

9

[Left] "DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO A BETTER LIVING ENVIRONMENT"
[Right] "SAY NO TO SMOKE AND NOISE"

11

"LIVE TOGETHER, FLOURISH TOGETHER

SUPPORT THE SHIDA COMMERICAL CIRCLE"

12

 

"Why is it only the Shida Commercial Area being closed down?... Do you think its really fair?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

 

14

 

15

"Under video surveillance
Please do not feed dogs over here"

 

16

The white characters on the blue door say: 
"NO PARKING"

 

18

"Notice: In order to keep the arcades of this building clean, it is strictly forbidden to install any stand, to spit betelnut juice and to throw cigarette butts."

 

19

"Please do not sit on this scooter unless you're a cat of the shop"

 

 

Published in
Focus: Living Together

Wednesday, 02 May 2012 18:39

Women and Nationalism

As more foreign workers and students come to Taiwan, the role of women in nationalist narratives has undergone a shift towards conservatism, so this month we want to look at how ordinary women embrace or subvert the roles provided for them in the nationalist narratives and how these imposed roles affect the way women are imagined by men, women and the mainstream media. We first hear from a woman working in a sport to which Taiwanese attach a lot of their national pride, Liu Bojun talks about her experiences as a female baseball umpire; Witek and Zijie look behind the stereotype of the betelnut industry's betelnut girls, an image perpetuated by domestic and foreign press as a lewd representation of the "local", and see instead a devout Catholic aboriginal woman running a small family business; then Wafa Ghermani looks at the shifting modes of how Taiwanese women are represented in Taiwan's national film industry as more passive in the 2000s and 2010s in contrast to the stronger female role-models of the 1980s and 1990s; Conor has translated a short story from renowned short story writer and cultural critic, Lolita Hu, which gives us an unfamiliar perspective on the familiar scene of Western guys and Chinese girls meeting in a Beijing Night Club; the nationalist undertones that lie behind the term Xicanmei (referring to Asian girls who date Western guys) are explored in a conversation with several Taiwanese girls and a Western man, highlighting the term's function in undermining female identity; the lead singer of Taiwanese band 'The White Eyes' describes her experience as an unconventional female role model, and the fight against being side-lined as more woman than musician; Finally, Daniel has written two articles, one concerning the recent candicacy of Tsai Ing-wen for president, and the second about his perceptions of a gender imbalance in Taiwan and the reasons for this.


Tuesday, 31 January 2012 17:17

Voicelessness and Disenfranchisement

Efe Levent is an icon of Shida Park, the heart of the student area in Taipei and a place of unexpected encounters and events near the eRenlai headquarters. This tall, long-haired, metal-head student of anthropology hails from Ankara originally and while finishing his PhD at Jiao Tung Normal University in Hsinchu, he has also been contributing to our magazine and is a regular visitor to our office. After many coffees and a couple of other stimulating drinks, we finally decided to tighten our ties to each other as Efe offered to take charge of one of our monthly focuses. For this, he brought in his finest team of writers, i.e. three other exchange students sent by the University of Paris VII. Being Turkish, Haitian or French students in Taiwan and having widely varying topics of research such as political history, the philosophical concept of emancipation and even the Marquis de Sade, it was not obvious to find a common subject to develop together.  Like a challenge or even a kind of “gibe” to their own situation in Taiwan, we asked them if they would be inspired by voicelessness and disenfranchisement. And they answered the call very enthusiastically coming up with five pieces aiming at remapping these two concepts in a multicultural and contemporary context.

First Efe tries to debunk the myths that the Western media, using its frequently overpowering voice, perpetuates about the Middle and Far East; He also brings us a documentary which tries to renegotiate the cultural relation between East and West by examining the mundane reality of everyday interaction in two industries, namely the food and music industry; Jean-Claude Noël attempts to wrest the true voice of Sade from misinterpretation; Francklin Benjamin analyses the legal process by which the French government essentially disenfranchised the Roma people living there; and finally Julien Quelennec displaces disenfranchisement from the usual interpretation of  the "deprivation of rights", using "Occupy Wall Street"movement and the film Punishment Park as examples.

Painting by Bendu



Friday, 28 October 2011 15:26

Internet as Body

The Internet has been lauded and criticized from all sectors of society in recent years, especially in light of the role of social networking and the internet in the Jasmine Revolution and the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement but also in in areas as diverse as anthropology, the music industry and documentary film-making . Recently, in an interview with Renlai, Taiwanese director Wang Molin gave his two cents on the discussion as below:

Young people see an open society, they'll very easily suppose themselves to live in an open society, a freer, more democratic society. What concerns them are issues surrounding their own individual bodily desires, it is the bodily desires that stimulate them. Youth subcultures have become increasingly centered around the individual, this is the inevitable path of capitalism. Individualism should in theory lead to a more rich and multifaceted world, but people of the younger generation seem to think that computers constitute the world, they try to cram the world into a black box, and their bodies start to shrivel, leaving them with less physical energy. In this kind of era, it is impossible to get the youth to identify with society through protest a they lack a "body" or a physicality.

This might lead one to question then the value of medium like the internet, as it takes from us the physicality of our actions, and we enter the semi-real world of Baudrillard's simulation. So this month eRenlai re-examines this notion of 'reality' with a broad range of articles, some of which reinforce this impression, with the internet isolating them from society, giving them the compulsion to spend more than 8 hours a day on online games, and debilitating their social skills, for others it opens up the world, giving a voice to the disenfranchised within society and opening up new opportunities for love; others still suggest that online activity actually reinforces social norms, and as such should not be endowed with such a mystic reputation, that it is in fact the dynamic nature of human society itself and its institutions that are just harnessing a new medium of representation.

No matter where you stand on the issue, the internet has definitely changed the way we live our lives, whether we grew up before the advent of the internet proper, or if we were born digital natives and have grown up as the internet evolved and developed, and as the space requirements of maintaining the technology expanded exponentially.

Illustration by  Peri Shroom



Thursday, 30 June 2011 16:37

A Flâneur's peek at Shanghai

The term flâneur comes from the french verb flâner, which ever since Baudelaire appropriated the word and gave it the extended meaning as a way of truly experiencing, appreciating the city as one walks. Indeed when we have a bit of time to explore the world we are all flâneurs, and not least of all the eRenlai team are certainly flâneurs without frontiers. But rather than Baudelairean strolls through Paris, the old eRenlai team and their sister organization AZ Cultural Enterprise spent much time over the last two years going back and forth to Shanghai. Their adventures, however, were more than just aimless strolls latching on to pretty thoughts; the team came back to Taipei having completed not one but three outstanding documentaries on Shanghai which are excusively offered to you in this Focus - A Flâneur's peek at Shanghai.

Liang Zhun first takes us on a stroll down Lane 1025, Nicolas Priniotakis looks for the rarest pearls of Chinese ethnic music and instruments in Seaside Seranade and Benoit manages to get a way from the hustle and bustle of central Shanghai and finds the ultimate spot for peaceful contemplation in Suzhou’s gardens.

Ida also feels the nostalgia of a 21st Century flâneuse, in a state of liminality between her years of studying and appreciating the language, arts and glory of France and the French, and a return to the lost Mainlander heritage in Shanghai, where paradoxically, the glory of the France is reduced to magnificent leftover architecture in the French concession. She was moved, but confused in the melting pot of people and architectures that is contemporary Shanghai. Similarly, Mei Fang-tsai had many identity questions to face during her time living in Shanghai as a so called "Tai-ba-zi".  Even Paul was left with identity questions during the 2010 World Expo-lent Australian adventure as he observed his country's pavillion as a semi outsider, looking at people, looking at Australia, the way Australia wanted them to look...

Photo by Ida Yang


Monday, 23 May 2011 14:52

New Energy in Taiwan's Social Movements

From gritty Punk to technotronic Rave music; media savvy hoaxes to terrifying performance art; relaxing in activist cafes to energetic street parades; this months Focus we give you snapshots of innovation and creativity in Taiwan's social movements and in doing so a peek at the state of civil society in Taiwan. With local activist Zijie Yang as my trusted guide, I explored the recent history and the most dynamic of current social movement activity in Taiwan, choosing the increasingly active anti-nuclear power movement as a main focal point.

Having made the conversion to democracy from within the system rather than through outside powers, Taiwan can be an inspiring example for the aspirations of other democratic movements in Asia. Furthermore, Taiwan's advanced level of openness to outside ideas is unprecedented in Asia; the ideas they have brought in from outside have been modified and Taiwan-ised and may have a lot to offer the development of civil society in Asia, the Pacific and in China. The continuation of a robust civil society and social movements in Taiwan is all the more important due to the danger of relapses into more authoritarian governance that we are seeing in much of Asia, already known for being among the tightest regions in the world. Furthermore Taiwan itself is after all, still in a period of transitional justice; whether legally, systemically or in the collective psyche, traces of past terrors still remain, thus social movement aims can have a high relative value.

Before we can truly understand the current movement setting, we must first introduce the historical context and understand the background to activism in Taiwan. We therefore begin by abstracting Professor Ho Ming-sho's papers on social movement history in Taiwan. We also ask why much of Taiwan's youth seem so apathetic to social change. Is freedom no more than the 'right' to buy a Gucci bag? And yet we nonetheless witnessed many examples of highly motivated activists becoming ever more confident in their actions. What motivates these young activists to get involved in social movements? When looking at developments over the past few years it is impossible to sidestep the Wild Strawberries student movement which erupted in November 2008. We analyse two of the most comprehensive evaluations of these movements from two very different participants, to try and understand why the Wild Strawberries went mouldy, by looking at the organisational phenomenon and problems of new social movements in the post-modern era.

From there we can begin to question, what are the factors that will dictate future movements and what new energy is needed in social movements? One of the legacies of the Wild Strawberry student movement and its perceived failures, is what Sean Hsieh called "the opening of new spaces" for increased dialogue and stronger intra-organisational links. He introduces us to one of these spaces, Café Philo, and in particular its 'Philosophy Friday' which far less abstract than it sounds, focuses on concrete social, political and judicial issues, cultivating a much deeper and mature understanding in the socially active citizens that attend. A balancing act between knowledge, and practice.

demonstration_01

Another 'space' which is fermenting stronger, more informed activists is Go Straight Café, which inherited the legacy of the WildBerry House but rapidly reinvented themselves and is now home to the most innovative of movement activity, in particular the No Nuke Cultural Activism Group. They use music, art exhibitions and event organisation to open a dialogue with the wider public. Gong-li She use the medium of punk and rave, to channel the anger and frustration of the youth into action and activism, supporting social movements with music events. The communal fruits of these various groups can be seen with the 4/30 manifestation against nuclear energy in Taiwan, sparked partly in reaction to the Fukushima Nuclear disaster in March and in the exhibition 'Don't brush off what you see' where Esther Lu brought together 10 artistic works concerned with nuclear power and energy resources.  In a tribute to the Yes Men, the Jammers, printed 10 000 fake copies of Taiwan's major newspapers declaring, as a hoax, that the proposal for the controversial KuoKuang Petrochemicals factory had been rejected by the government. The stunt achieved its desired media attention and eventually the government removed its support for the project which could have endangered the survival of the last remaining Chinese White Dolphins. Another group concerned above all with nature and their natural rights are the Langyan Action Group, who every year since 2007 have lit pyres, setting off smoke signals that call for all indigenous peoples to unite and fight for what they see as incomplete transitional justice. This year they collaborated with No Nukes calling for a non-nuclear homeland.

In academic theory, its accepted that the development of social movements, the consciousness that group organisations can affect social change arose with education and the freedom and dissemination of information. Mainstream education and media in Taiwan is often criticised for being too didactic, and foreign teachers lambaste that rote-learning is the norm. Indeed, eRenlai is also a 'space' - our mission is to train people to truly reflect, question and form their own opinions rather than recycle the morning editorials that tend to polarise opinions, fashion a culture of blame and rarely present constructive dialogue. In this spirit we invite you to peruse our selection of the spiciest activism in the Taiwanese social hotpot...

Photos: N.C.

 


Thursday, 30 December 2010 11:27

Challenged but not disabled


I met Fr. Bob Ronald when I started to work at eRenlai in 2007. I was then the network animator of the website and he was our English editor. Although we shared the same office and we were seeing each other everyday, I realised only after his passing that I had just begun to know him.

Monday, 01 November 2010 00:00

I Shot My Love (2010) Tomer Heymann

This film won the audience award at the Taizhong Biennial Documentary Film Festival. It is an Israeli film which is compiled of a series of home videos, but not in the conventional sense that we regard "home videos". Heymann uses the camera to initiate serious discussions with his mother and his boyfriend, as well as recording their present lives, and bodies. His boyfriend is German and what I liked about the film was that it refused to focus on the "gay" relationship, instead focusing on the gay "relationship"; Tomer and his boyfriend, Andreas, discussed their relationship as two people and their families are both accepting of homosexuality.

 

The difficulties and the focus of the documentary was love across two different cultures, especially across the sensitive bounds of Israel and Germany - with Andreas pursuing a policy of ignorance is bliss in terms of his possible Nazi heritage.

The film was interesting because of its openness and reluctance to cower away from an invasive honesty; this included the boyfriend's discussion of life after being abused by his priest, and the doubts and worries he felt entering into a relationship in which he was willingly giving himself as well as the bitter pessimism of the director's mother about love given her divorce. The boyfriend's curiosity about himself and his relationship with his parents and Tomer is intriguing again for its honesty to his experience of emotion. He also points out that Tomer often saves up the "serious" conversations for the camera; this was not only pointing out the artificial nature of the presence of the camera recording "normal life" but also hinted at Tomer's retreat behind the camera, a safe place from which to carry-out serious discussions, which suggested a lack of self-exposure, unlike the vulnerability of the mother and the boyfriend, constantly subject to the objective gaze of the camera. In this way, he plays the role of the director, as opposed to revealing himself.

 
The perspective with which Andreas examines his own role as "victim" and his rejection of the victim mentality stands in stark contrast with the caustic post-colonial self-victimization of Tahimik, who was also featured in the film festival as a focus director, throughout his films.

 

Film Rating: 5/5


Tuesday, 26 January 2010 00:00

Celebrating the Monsoon

By late July, stepping out into the pre-monsoonal weather in Bodh Gaya was akin to wrapping oneself in a blanket that had been soaked in warm water. The thick humidity was inescapable, conspiring to prevent you from being cool at all times of the day. Nights were the worst, especially when the power cut out—a not infrequent occurrence in under-developed Bihar—with the sound of thirsty mosquitos buzzing outside the tattered mosquito net only just masking the discomfort being completely covered in sweat. 

As a visitor to Bihar, I was fortunate. The sticky heat was something I only had to tolerate for a short while, and would not have to do anymore once I had moved on. However for Biharis, and those all over northern India, this is their reality, summer after sweaty summer. That is until the monsoon rains begin, sweeping across the Gangetic plains, cooling sweating brows, stimulating farmer’s fields and reviving rivers from dusty plains to surging watercourses.

 

Last year the rains began in earnest one night at about 10pm. After an hour in an internet café, I stepped outside to discover that not only had it started pouring, but the previously barren road was now awash with water, in some places already well above ankle height. The change in atmosphere was palpable; for the first time in weeks I was outdoors and didn’t feel the need to go somewhere cooler.

The waiter in the café advised me to take care when walking home as the deluge was likely to pick all manner of unhygienic items into the torrent running down the street, and I should take care not to step on something unpleasant. Walking down the street I caught sight of some boys playing in the water.

Paul_Farrelly_Moonson1These boys were demonstrating no such caution. They had stripped down to their underwear and were thrashing around in the deeper pools, playing in the newly abundant water, something that a mere day before had been just a dream. One of the boys in the shadowy pools had the contortedly arachnid limbs of a beggar – his legs most likely broken at an early age as an entrée into a life of pan handling. I had seen this same boy hours earlier, shuffling along the pavement outside the Mahabodhi temple, desperately seeking small change from pilgrims and tourists. The grim determination that had infused his previous expressions had been transfused by the sudden downpour. A luminous smile spread across his face as he rejoiced in the first monsoonal rains of the year, cooling and cleaning himself by the side of the road.

His joy was undoubtedly shared by everyone else across the state who was waiting for rain. Relief was at hand and there was hope for the future: water and food supplies looked that bit more secure. However, everyone would be aware of the power of these rains. In most years floods cause considerable damage to property, livestock and people in Bihar, with human death tolls of more than 100 frightfully common. And in August 2009 the rains ultimately proved to be deadly once again, with more than 50 people dying. [inset side="right" title="Paul Farrelly"]Paul is a graduate (MA/MAPS) of the Australian National University in Canberra. While there, he researched new religious movements in East Asia with an emphasis on those based in Taiwan. Paul is now studying in Taipei.[/inset]

Just as celebrations mark change and transition, so too do they indicate that the new situation is also nothing more than another fleeting moment, an instance that will pass, just as what it has come to replace has already moved on. Being lifted up in the ecstasy of the celebration can be fantastic; the respite and abundance brought by the monsoonal rains of Bihar are fair cause for jubilation. But the monsoon did not just revive the countryside and refresh residents, it ultimately brought about destruction. The tragic inverse is always lurking and should never be discounted as a possibility.

 

 

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