Pilgrimage and Identity Formation in Taiwan

Colloquium | November 15 | 4-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Craig Quintero, Associate Professor, Chair, Department of Theatre and Dance, Grinnell College

 SanSan Kwan, Associate Professor, Theater Dance and Performance Studies, UC Berkeley

 Center for Chinese Studies (CCS)

In 1991, the Taiwanese experimental theatre company U Theatre started incorporating the Baishatun Matsu pilgrimage into their actor training. The actors joined thousands of Taiwanese pilgrims in the religious procession devoted to the goddess Matsu, walking 350 kilometers from Baishatun to Bei-gang in nine days. During the late 1990s, an increasing number of experimental theatre companies also introduced this traditional ritual practice into their performer training. Pilgrimage became a vital performative site and praxis in the native Taiwanese theatre community’s struggle to reclaim indigenous histories and construct a contemporary Taiwanese identity. In this presentation, I examine the incorporation of the Matsu pilgrimage into Taiwanese university anthropology, sociology, and theatre classes, and the manner in which this embodied learning continues to function as a dynamic vehicle for promoting direct engagement and dialogue with local Taiwanese communities.