Labour, life, and language: personhood and relations among the Yami of Lanyu
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This thesis discusses the concepts of labour, life, and language among the Yami of Lanyu, Taiwan. In the local context, it is labour, life and language that comprise the concept of personhood among the Yami: tao, i.e. the ‘person’ in Yami language, is someone created labouring, and his labour in turn creates affluence, authority, and truth. I name this culturally particular image of a real or true person as Homo laboris or ‘Man the Worker’. This thesis aims to explore how labour, wealth, power, and knowledge are interrelated in Yami culture, and behind these relations, what material, social and epistemological conditions exist and render the relatedness possible. By analysing the contemporary economic predicament among the Yami, I attempt to highlight the effect of an episteme: when the Yami recognise and pursue wealth in the context of market economy they seem to be blind to the enormous invisible wealth in the market, because their category of wealth is constructed through numerous vis-à-vis relationships whose meaning resides in what a particular person is able to ‘see’. The concept of wealth is being re-categorised among the Yami, due to both their continuous trial and error in business management and the invincible power of abstract money. Accordingly, the straightforward relations between wealth, power, knowledge and labour are dissolving. The image of a real person is also changing now. In short, what money and commodities introduce to the Yami is not merely their use- or exchange- value but a set of new relations and a new way to see and recognise the world.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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