The hunter's gift in ecorealist indigenous fiction from Taiwan
Akademie Ved Ceske Republiky * Orientalni Ustav
Ecoambiguity, Ecorealism, Gift, Hunting, Marcel Mauss, Taiwanese indigenous fiction
The hunter's gift is a common motif in stories by indigenous writers from Taiwan. I interpret the hunter's gift as symbolic, both of a way of life in which gift exchange predominates and also of a mentality in which the fruits of the forest are regarded as gifts, not as raw materials to be extracted and sold. Yet the hunter's gift in Taiwanese indigenous stories is always in danger of being sold, so that a story about a hunter's gift can be read as a meditation on the indigenous encounter with capitalist modernity. The article begins by drawing on Marcel Mauss's monograph on the gift and Marx's writings on alienation to develop a model of social transformation from gift society to commodity society. I propose 'ecorealism' as a genre of fiction in which an omniscient third person narrator places individual action not just in social but also in ecological context. Then I interpret three stories by Taiwan indigenous writers as works of ecorealism. These three stories, Auvini Kadresengan's "Home to Return to," Topas Tamapima's "The Last Hunter," and Badai's "Ginger Road" are, on first reading, nostalgic and tragic. I argue they are also critical of the impact of capitalism on community and ecology and hopeful that the gift economy might complement the commodity economy in interpersonal and ecological interchange. The indigenous hunter has been seen as a threat to wild animal populations, but the cultural tradition he represents might guide our responses to environmental problems, a possibility I consider in an afterword on the sustainability of the bushmeat trade.
Copyright © 2013 Oriental Institute (ASCR), Prague
Sterk, D. (2013). The hunter's gift in ecorealist indigenous fiction from Taiwan. Archiv Orientalni, 81(3), 555-580.