My area of expertise is historical sociology. I employ historical institutional analysis to construct a framework for the explanation and understanding of Taiwan’s long-term social change, especially state-society relations. At present, my research focuses on ethnic politics cum land rights and elite alienation of plains aborigine (熟番 shoufan, 平埔族 Pingpuzu) as well as social contentions in Qing’s Taiwan.
My previous research has found that the land tenure system between the plains aborigines and the Han people constituted an important mechanism the Qing court depended on for its rule over Taiwan. It also laid the foundation of Taiwan’s socioeconomic system. In the mid-eighteenth century, the Qing court used policies such as redefining plains aborigines’ land rights and reallocation of their land to effect a geographically discernable three-tiers distribution of ethnicities (mountain aborigines on the exterior, Han in the interior, and plains Aborigines in between), forming a solid (paramilitary) alliance with the plains aborigines in exchange for the protection of the plains aborigines' land rights in the sandwiched zone.
My current study further explores the boundary drawing and arrangements of ethnic land tenure along the frontier area to explicate the ethnic-spatial deployment by the state power in the mid-eighteenth century. It was state’s intention since 1745 to initiate a three-tiers ethnic-spatial regime, through creating a buffer zone at the foothill boundary separating head-hunting mountain aborigines and western coastal plain Chinese settlers with plains aborigines in between. The aim was to quarantine Chinese squatting of aboriginal land as well as preempt security harass beyond borderline. To serve this aim, a plains aborigine border guard (隘番 ai fan) system was implemented concomitantly, with the reallocation of plains aborigine land rights to the buffer zone for segmentation as well as providing rations to border sentry post. However, state’s effort to counter cross border reclamation and thus prevent Chinese encroachers from developing into unruly force proved in vain. Even worse, it backfired, as shown in the Lin Shuang-wen revolt (1886-1888). A comparison of the pre and post 1884 redrawing of purple borderline as well as reallocations and rearrangements of aborigine land rights, respectively blue-line in 1760 and green-line in 1790, indicates a transformation of the three-tiers ethnic-spatial regime, as witnessed in the shift of governance rationality from quarantine to active alliance with plains aborigines through fostering its militia forces (屯番 tun fan).
As surprising as the rebels erupted after the deployment of the three-tiers ethnic-spatial regime, under the institutional and legal protections provided by the three-tiers regime, the plains aborigines soon faced difficulties providing a livelihood and the subsequent disintegration of their communities. This outcome cannot be attributed solely to the incompetence of state power and local government offices’ (衙門 yamen) lax enforcement. Seen from its outcome, the three-tiers ethnic-spatial regime had backfired. With regard to state exploitation, the question of why the plains aborigines encountered difficulties ensuring their livelihood might best be approached from the “Janus faces” of the state’s favorite policy (恤番政策xufan zhengce) toward the Indigenous populations. Although they were already formally exempted from heavy taxes and hard coersive labor, rent-seeking behavior such as the extortion of fees and the abuse of power by local government offices had gone beyond that. Moreover, the appropriation of public rent and concentration of former communal land in the hands of political elite collaborating with and fostered by the state were witnessed. The accumulation and uneven distribution of wealth subsequently led to social stratification and the rise of the dominant fantongshi (番通事aboriginal interpreter/mediator) family. Upon further observation of the actual phenomenon, I found that at the same time inside the plains aborigines' society there emerged antagnism and conflict between the collaborating elite, newly propped up by the state’s favorite policy, and the general population, as specifically manifested in the inequality (stratification) of and controversy over internal interest distribution as well as in the process of power struggles (factionalism) for the strategic fantongshi position.
Through the implementation of so-called aboriginal interpreter/mediator (fantongshi), a kind of semi officer, the two types of state and local power—concentrating in the post of fantongshih officer—merged into one. Yet, not long after, due to the alienation of the fantongshih officers they split again, embodied in oppositional factions inside the community that emerged in the process of subsequent internal power struggles. The separation of the two powers stemming from different origins constitutes the main contradiction in the internal political processes of the aboriginal community. The latterr showed the aboriginal community’s processes of infighting, incurring its subsequent split and diaspora. The conflict between the two types of power constitutes the main substance of the aboriginal community’s infighting. Undoubtedly, it is also the key to the breakdown of social cohesion and the dispersion of the population in the aboriginal community.
Therefore, my main concern lies where the infiltration of state power increased the divisions and conflicts inside the plains aborigines’ society. The Qing court’s governing strategy created a heterogeneous division within Taiwanese society. Ethnic politics of “regulating the Han through the aborigines” (以番制漢 yi fan zhi han) and “regulating the mountain aborigines through the plains aborigines" (literally: “regulating the raw savages through the cooked savages” 以熟制生 yi shou zhi sheng) were used to manipulate divisions between ethnic groups. Coincidentally, divisions within groups were also escalated or instigated by the state in order to consolidate and expand its power either intentionally or unintentionally. From the standpoint of social actors, we might also ask the reverse question: While dominated under the regime deployed by state power, why is there no more opportunity for social cohesion? Or is social cohesion, and thereby collective action capable of challenging the extant regime, still possible? What conditions would be needed for the agency of social actors?
In terms of the richness and detail of written source material, the Pazih tribe (岸裡社 Anli she) can be regarded as the most comprehensive case of a plains aborigine community. However, source material was not the only reason why I chose the Pazih tribe. The Pazih tribe serves as an example for a powerful plains aborigines' community with strategic importance that received preferential tax treatment as a reward for their meritorious service in a key military conflict. A plains aborigines' community that—although actively won over and meticulously protected by the Qing court—was the earliest to see intense infighting and the first to disintegrate. Because its external exploitation was comparatively minor, the Pazih tribe’s internal divisions and conflicts present themselves more clearly, thereby helping us to find out how those factors led to its breakdown and diaspora. What gives the Pazih community’s indicative case such prominence is the fact that it provides ample evidence to elucidate aspects of internal causes, processes, and actions.
柯志明，2018，〈臺灣社會變遷研究的歷史轉向：對整體觀與貶抑歷史敘事的一點反思〉，《臺灣社會學刊》，第63卷，頁1-62。(TSSCI) (Chih-Ming Ka, 2018, “The Historic Turn of the Taiwanese Social Change Study: Rethinking Totalizing Holism and the Degradation of Historical Narrative”, Taiwanese Journal of Sociology)(全文)
Chih-ming Ka and Mark Selden, 1986, “Original Accumulation, Equity, and Late Industrialization： The Cases of Socialist China and Capitalist Taiwan”, World Development, 14, 1293-1310. (SSCI) (IF: 2.848; SSCI ranking: 9.2%,9.1%)
柯志明，1993，〈Crisis of the Colonial Sugar Industry and the Restructuring of Indigenous Class Structure -- Impact and Change in the Contradictory Relationship between Rice and Sugar (1925-42)〉，張秀蓉等編，《日據時代臺灣史國際學術研討會論文集》，頁311-381，台北市：國立臺灣大學歷史學系。
Ka and Chih-Ming, 1990, “Agrarian Development, Family Farms and Sugar Capital in Colonial Taiwan, 1895-1945”, paper presented at the Conference on Asian Societies in Comparative Perspective, Denmark: Nordic Association for Southeast Asian Studies, 1990-10.