Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Gregory Veeck


Land rights claims remain the major focus of world indigenous movements. Lands relate to the formation of indigenous identity, religious practices, and the material base for indigenous cultural survival. From a spatial/geographical perspective, this dissertation explores the influences of Taiwan's state policies on indigenous peoples, their cultures, identities, and human-land relationship. The Li-shan area, in central Taiwan, is the focus of the research due to the fact that the most severe land disputes are in this area, as well as longest history of economic interactions among indigenous peoples, the dominant Han people, and the State, in the postwar Taiwan. The rise of indigenous movements in the mid-1980s in Taiwan indicated that the indigenous peoples remain the victims of colonialism. Appreciating this fact, the movements made demands against the State in struggling for "ethnic space." Although the movements drew significant concessions from the State, the majority Han people systematically fought back with appeals which deny the existence of any indigenous peoples in current Taiwan and requested the abolishment of Aboriginal Reservation Lands. Political economy, new cultural geography, and post-colonial theories provide the major theoretical framework for this study. The perpetual uneven ethnic power relationships between the dominant Han people and the dominated indigenous peoples are examined from the critical perspective of political economy. The new cultural geography offers the theoretical backgrounds for discussing cultural and identity politics, and multiculturalism. Post-colonial theories are especially helpful in explaining the social construction of a new indigenous/Taiwanese culture through the combination of the colonizing and the colonized cultures, as well as in deconstructing mainstream social values, and in illustrating the geography of resistance. Finally, I wish to summarize the impacts of indigenous movements on three aspects of mainstream culture. First, indigenous movements shatter the mainstream definition of social justice and question the superficial multiculturalism. Second, the indigenous claim of "natural sovereignty" challenges the ideological myth enshrined by modern nation-states. Third, indigenous ecological wisdom injects a new and different ethic between society and nature. The formation of respect of the indigenous "situated" knowledge through an appropriate application in eco-tourism will uphold the improvement of ethnic relations.