Mazu Nation: Pilgrimages, Political Practice, and the Ritual Construction of National Space in Taiwan
Jacob Friedemann Tischer
Global Politics Review
Vol. 4, no. 2 (October 2018): 6-28.
GPR ID: 2464-9929_v04_i02_p006
Received: August 18, 2018. Accepted: October 2, 2018. Published: October 31, 2018.
ABSTRACT: In this article, I argue that folk ritual provides a privileged site for the creation of cultural intimacy in Taiwan, specifically during pilgrimages in honor of the folk goddess Mazu. Sharing cultural intimacy allows the participants to develop a framework of meaning with which they imagine – and put into practice – a community based on the geographical contours of the island. Following Sandria Freitag’s work on colonial India, I interpret pilgrimages as public arenas in which the participants experience a sense of their collective belonging and cooperate to sketch a vision of the national imaginary. Annual Mazu pilgrimages constitute the biggest and most popular such spaces, which is one of the reasons for why they have become stages for political representation and contestation. After situating the Mazu pilgrimages in the trajectory of Taiwanese history, I will trace their progressive integration into political processes and community imagination on the island. Finally, I will draw theoretical conclusions regarding the production of the spatially imagined community through shared ritual experience.
Keywords: Taiwan, Pilgrimage, Nationalism, Cultural Intimacy, Public Space, Practice Theory.