Hierarchy and Egalitarianism in Austronesia Taiwan: A Case Study of the Paiwan

November 20, 2018

This lecture reviews previous attempts to characterize the nature of social differences among the Austronesian Taiwan and the theoretical roots of these efforts, beginning with the contrast Marshall Sahlins’s drew between Melanesian Big-Men (achieved status) and Polynesian Chiefs (ascribed status). However, linguistic research over the past three decades has suggested that Proto-Austronesians may have already developed chiefdoms and social hierarchies and that Taiwan was one of the key sites for the migration of Austronesian speakers. Some scholars thus concluded that the “egalitarian” type of societies among the Austronesian Taiwan must have been the result of Japanese colonialism. Dr. Kun-hui Ku intends to re-think this dichotomy with ethnographic material from Austronesian Taiwan, especially the Paiwan; to distinguish the ideological and practical dimensions of this historical reconstruction; and to examine the viability of the analytical tools which have been widely adopted in the anthropological literature on other Austronesian societies.


Dr. Kun-hui Ku teaches at the Institute of Anthropology, National Tsing Hua University, and is the convener for the newly established Center for World Austronesia and Indigenous Peoples at NTHU and the convenor of the undergraduate interdisciplinary program on Austronesian Studies. 

Dr. Ku was educated in Taiwan (BA in Philosophy at NTU), Canada (MA in Symbolic Anthropology at Western Ontario) and the UK (PhD in Social anthropology at Cambridge). She specialized in Austronesian Studies, especially indigenous peoples of Taiwan; of late she also extends her fieldwork into Southeast Asia.  Her latest publications include 2016 “Austronesian Personal Naming Systems,” Pacific Studies 39 (1-2), co-edited with Lamont Linstrom and an edited volume on Hierarchy and Egalitarianism in Austronesia/Oceania (under review).


Tuesday, November 20, 2018


SFU Burnaby
Academic Quadrangle
AQ 6229
8888 University Drive, Burnaby

Please register here.

  • SFU David Lam Centre
  • Taiwan Studies Group, Department of History
  • UBC Department of Anthropology