The Invisible Armada

The Impasses of Ethnicism

Alain Brossat

Lecture given at the Department for Taiwanese literature, NCKU, 2022/12/21

1- I would like to begin by drawing your attention to the great variability of the vocabulary that I will use for this presentation, terms such as ethnicity, race, tribe, nation, people. This, of course, in European languages, it's up to you to see if what I say retains its relevance when you switch to Chinese. Until the Second World War, in France, the French were still quite commonly spoken of as a “race”, a use which, today, would immediately raise a storm; "tribe", despite all its ethnographic alibis, was interminably a notion belonging to the colonial vocabulary of the white powers, intended to designate the supposedly natural mode of organization of the colonized as uncivilized; I will show you later how the designation of the colonized as savages living in tribes, “the tribal way of life”, could be practiced interminably by European, North American, Australian (etc) colonial cinema. But these uncertainties and these variations also affect a notion such as that of nation: for us Europeans, the first evidence that sticks to a nation is its name: France, and its institutional extension, the French Republic. We can argue about almost anything, about the historical past and collective identity, in a country like mine, but if there is at least one point on which everyone agrees, it It is about the fact that the country's name is France and also, by association, that its emblem is the blue-white-red flag, with vertical stripes, and its national holiday, July 14... But I see clearly here that, contrary to what I could imagine, these properties of the nation are far from being universal: the more one insists on the fact that Taiwan would be a nation in its own right rather than a component of the Chinese people or nation, and the less people agree on what the real name of this nation would be, what its emblems, its memorial rites should be, not to mention its heroes and founding fathers...

I will be careful not to engage in the discussion of these thorny questions, what I simply want to underline in passing is the importance of the gaps between the way in which peoples or communities problematize their relationship to the national condition – from a French perspective, it is very difficult to imagine a nation whose founding fathers and emblems would be imported – which is however the case in Taiwan, as the official name of this entity is Republic of China, a political entity that was off the island. It is not because the Nation-State has become in the 20th century the yardstick for the organization of peoples in general, which has the effect that in principle international relations are based on relations between Nation-States , that the very notion of nation is fixed once and for all and invariant. The Taiwanese example and the fact that the very notion of a Taiwanese nation remains open to discussion demonstrates this well.

But what I have just said about the variability of the nation (the native populations of North America like to refer to themselves as a nation – the Sioux nation) applies a fortiori, of course, to that of the people. What characterizes this notion in the very first place, in modern and contemporary societies, is the irreducible character of the disputes which rage around the question of knowing what the people or a people is in truth . To simplify, I would say that we see a dividing line emerging here between two irreconcilable meanings: the people understood as the national people, the people of the nation-state, and the people understood as the people from below, the plebs, working people, as opposed to those above, the elites, the rich, the patricians, etc. These two approaches to the people are in conflict, sometimes hidden, sometimes open, in modern societies. The game of the state, insofar as it sees itself as the regent of the nation, in the modern figure par excellence of the nation-state, is to repress, minimize, deny the other people – the people from below, the mass people who, when they get angry and start resisting, take to the streets, escape the grips of the state, oppose the logic of statism, and so on.

And the ethnic group, ethnicity in all this? Let us say, as a first approximation, that it is a figure of the people about whom the accent will be placed on certain common traits in terms of language and culture. When we put forward the term ethnic group, ethnicity which, after all, simply means "people", in ancient Greek, we are implicitly or explicitly putting forward homogeneity - a human group that shares a set of customs, ways of doing things, traditions, and which is united by language. This question of homogeneity is important, since it is this which will lead us from ethnicity to ethnicism. But in fact, this definition of ethnicity, more than current, regulatory and mandatory today, hides or says something: a century ago and even less, it would also have included physical traits, phenotypic characteristics, such as in or with the famous photos by Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's favorite filmmaker, converted after the war into ethnographic photography with the famous African Nuba, Massai (and others) ethnic group . But for historical reasons, after the Second World War, linked to the racial exterminations committed by the Nazis, and then also to the context of decolonization, it became vital to decouple the notion of ethnicity from that of race . This is how the notion of ethnicity was redeployed on the side of culture and language. The post-genocidal and contemporary ethnography of the great decolonization movements notably impelled this rearrangement – on this point, I cannot advise you enough to read Claude Lévi-Strauss's brief seminal essay Race and History .

However, the notion of ethnicity is far from being entirely stabilized, purely objectifying: it is constantly taken hostage by the struggles for the mastery of the narrative of the present and in particular conflicts, in contemporary societies, taken hostage in the confrontation of narratives between dominant powers, hegemonic narrators and “minority” or subordinate actors. I would like to give you two examples of this general condition in which the word “ethnicity” is the stake of merciless political and ideological battles in the order of storytelling.

When, in the 1990s, the dismemberment of Yugoslavia took place, consolidated as a federal state by Tito, unified by language (Serbo-Croatian) and a political regime that led the country down the path of non-alignment between the blocks, the perception of the terrible wars that followed was placed quite naturally, in public discourse and the analyzes of Western chancelleries and experts under the sign of the return of ethnic groups . The dominant cliché was then that socialist Yugoslavia had been a kind of prison not of peoples like the Tsarist Russia of yesteryear, but of ethnic groups and that it had therefore sufficed with the death of Marshal Tito to make that this sort ot natural regime in the Balkan space returns to the fore of the scene: the perpetual war of ethnic groups, this sort of state of nature of Balkan ethnicism, the war of all against all in ethnic version and in Balkan mode, a "natural" state of things very temporarily compressed or frozen by the authoritarian regime of Tito...

Is it necessary to insist here at length on the strength of the prejudice which inspires here this perception of the post-Yugoslavian wars as attributable to the fatalities of the atavistic ethnicity and ethnicism of the Balkan populations?

The same specter of fatalities attached to ethnicity is found in the folds of post-colonial discourse on sub-Saharan Africa, whenever the political conflicts involving the populations of the region are in question. Ancestral ethnic rivalries very often appear as a universal key allowing to open all the doors of the complexities of situations in which the populations are held hostage by the combined action of the sacred selfishness of the (mostly Western) foreign companies which exploit the resources of these countries. , corruption and poor governance of local political elites, not to mention the long-term effects of the legacy of the time of colonial empires, with the arbitrary sharing practiced by them both in the territories and in the body of the populations .

Ethnic rivalries are perceived by a common sense widely shared in the former imperial metropolises as the immemorial evil of sub-Saharan Africa, even of the Maghreb countries, as a kind of immemorial curse of this continent and its difficulties in "entering the History" as Nicolas Sarkozy, then President of the French Republic, stated straight away during a speech delivered in Dakar, capital of Senegal...(2007/07/26). The use of ethnicity is here a convenient way, for populations and elites of the global North, to avoid worrying about the relationship that is established between the spiral of poverty and the structural evils from which these countries suffer and the perpetuation of their dependence and exploitation (notably in the form of extraction of raw materials and the support provided by Western powers to local corrupt elites) by the countries of the Global North.

We must consider this problem from the perspective of the long term (duration), that is to say the transition from the colonial discourse, that which was intended, at the time of the formation of the great European colonial empires, in Africa in particular, to justify colonization, to the post-colonial discourse, that which is intended to explain why the former colonized countries do not manage to get out of the rut of what makes them, countries of the "Third World", "underdeveloped" countries - to use a conventional but highly questionable vocabulary. According to the evolutionary conceptions in force in what takes the place of science of history and human development, in the 19th century, in Europe, the primary justification for colonization is the notion of the hierarchy of races which places at the top of the pyramid the white race, European, and at the bottom the black race. From this stems the proclaimed vocation of whites to civilize and educate the so-called inferior races; which, on the ground, translates into the right of conquest that the European nation-states arrogate to themselves over all the spaces populated by inferior races. Africa, as the “dark continent”, will therefore be, as Hannah Arendt has magnificently shown in Impérialism , the second volume of her trilogy entitled The Origins of Totalitarianism, the privileged terrain of this colossal European expansion.

However, in terms of social organization, the two privileged markers of the civilizational backwardness of Africans over whites are the ethnic group and the tribe: where populations are perceived as made up of ethnic groups and organized in a tribal mode ( but this is a simplifying grid applied by Europeans to peoples whose modes of social and political organization and traditions can be infinitely varied), so whites can behave as conquerors and masters. Conversely, the mark of white, European superiority is the fact that the mode of organization which founds the superior power of the colonizers is the nation-state , as it has imposed itself as the unit of account of the system on which relations between peoples in the European area are now based.

In a word, where the ethnic groups and tribes, attributes of inferior peoples, are revealed to Europeans, the rights of the colonizer open up, an unlimited right of conquest.

What I want to emphasize here are the discursive sequences, without interruption or break, which, thanks to the use of catch-all words such as "ethnic group", "tribe", ensure the passage from one era to another. : that of colonial conquest, that of post-colonization, an ambiguous era when the colonial empires are no more than ghosts, but still and always very present, very active and where this "spectral" presence contributes in a decisive way to maintaining the former colonies in dependence and maintains there the structural evils which are political instability, poverty even misery, corruption, civil wars, endemic diseases, malnutrition and famines, illiteracy, the growing role of dubious religions - obscurantist consolation, etc.

Under these conditions, it is infinitely easier and more advantageous for the elites, the media and Western public opinion to focus on ethnic factors in order to "explain" the crises or even the disasters in which these countries are plunged than to work on the “efficacy of the absent cause” – the aftermath of colonialism and the well-present efficacy of neo-colonial practices. Take today any article from the French press concerning the ongoing conflicts in the Sahel region which are undermining both the foundations of States and the lives of populations: most of it is reduced to conflicts related to ethnicity and what is attached to it (language, religion, modes of social organization..., Muslim Berbers against Christian Fulani...) and so little to the geopolitics of neo-colonialism: the support provided by the Western powers and supra-state organizations to corrupt regimes, the economic interests of the masters of extraction (Total, etc.).

If you want to find good visual evidence of the persistence of the ethnicizing and tribal imaginary of peoples from elsewhere (who usually happen to be former colonized peoples) in Western representations, watch at random any Hollywood movie or European taking "the colony" as a framework: you will see there how the divide is manufactured, in the representation of local populations between those who, by becoming the servants, the auxiliaries, the allies of the Whites, find themselves torn from their ethnic and tribal condition and those who, resisting colonization, persevering in their traditional mode of social organization, clinging to their traditions, remain devoted to ethnicism and the tribal way of life synonymous with backwardness, savagery and superstition. These are less ideas than images which, in the long term, are rooted in the depths of the Western, white-centric vision of the other, yesterday rejected on the other side of civilization by color and today by cultural or religious difference – ethnicity, plastic concept par excellence, is one of the operators of the passage between one regime and another.

2- I would now like to take up the same problem from another angle, that of the discursive issues tied around the notion of ethnicity (and of those associated with it, ethnicism, ethnocentrism...). In ancient Greek, ethnos is a word that designates a people, defined less by racial and phenotypic characteristics than by the sharing of a space, a language, customs, a people as a community of variable size and which differentiates by all these traits from other peoples – the Greeks as ethnos , by distinction and opposition with the Persians, for example. We, in the 21st century, can no longer content ourselves with slipping into this notion of ethnos for at least two reasons: on the one hand because we remain marked by the modern event par excellence which was the promotion of grand récit with scientific claims at the center of which was the notion of race – the human races, their characteristics, their hierarchies, etc. ; and on the other hand because we are still and always encompassed in the age of the national – be it in a more or less post- or disenchanted mode, in crisis – but the national, both in terms of the division of spaces of life (the nation-state) than collective subjectivity (the national feeling) remains the diagram in which, whether we like it or not, we are included – if only by our passport. However, that things are a little more complicated in this regard in Taiwan than elsewhere is something I am well aware of and which could be the subject of our discussion.

What characterizes a modern people, in the sense of a national or even supranational people, as one would speak of "Chinese people", is that it is, in its organic composition, something more complicated, more composite, even heterogeneous, than an ethnic group. A modern people is an entity, a human gathering that has been formed over the course of a history, by arrangement and composition of various elements, this as well on the ethnic level as linguistic, religious, cultural, geographical. The French are, par excellence, this type of composite people placed, from the point of view of provenance or origins, under the sign of the greatest diversity – I can come back to this point at length in the discussion, if you are interested. What makes the homogeneity of a modern people, always relative, but nevertheless immediately visible in the way national peoples distinguish themselves from each other, is the seizure of original diversities by the national State which will act constantly as a crucible in which differences and disparities have to be reduced and, for some, eliminated – it is the role of all the major institutions, the School, the Army, the Justice, the Administration which create a framework homogeneous by means of linguistic unification, the establishment of similar standards, codes and procedures throughout the territory of the national State.

In this context, the ethnic referent of the people takes second place in relation to the state referent and the constitution of a collective imaginary of the nation. This is what makes it possible to integrate and, up to a certain point, to assimilate into the national people all sorts of elements from elsewhere, resulting from successive currents of migration – a particularly determining phenomenon in the construction of the national identity, in a country like France.

One could say, drawing inspiration here from Benedict Anderson's famous book on the national imaginary, Imagined communities , that what, in the final analysis, constitutes the support of the common identity of a modern people-nation is is a story, a narrative , that is to say a shared collective imagination, as opposed to a racial destiny, a biological heritage, shared genetic traits... In France, it is called the national novel , a story woven from a set of markers referring to historical dates, sacred places, names of great men and heroes, festivals and celebrations, happy and unhappy events, rites, symbols, monuments, etc. All things with which every inhabitant of the country is supposed to be familiar for the good reason that they were inculcated in him from an early age at school and that they constitute like an environment or a pool of collective memory in which he lives permanently. If modern national peoples are imagined and imagining communities, as Benedict Anderson maintains, it is in particular because of the determining role of aggregating cement that collective memory plays there. Memory, here, is something very different from knowing the facts of the national past – it is an imaginary peopled with as many myths and legends as well-established historical facts – the classic case being, in the French context, the famous "Our ancestors the Gauls..." traditionally taught in the schools of the Republic populated by children of various origins, including countries far removed from historic Gaul... Myself who bears a name that smells of deep France, whose parents, grandparents and great-grandparents come, on both sides, from the most authentic terroir, which, as such, can define me as the most perfect of Franco- French, would be hard pressed to establish for certain that a single drop of Gallic blood circulates in my veins. It's really not that, any more than any ethnic trait whatsoever, that makes me a standard, ordinary, "native" Frenchman...

The question of ethnic group, ethnicity or ethnicism (understood as imagination and cult of ethnicity), comes back in force in nation-states when the founding narratives of these enter into crisis, under the effect of evolutions and changes that can be demographic as well as economic or cultural. It can be said in this respect that the ethnicism that wreaks havoc in many countries of the Global North is a disease of the nation-state and of national feeling, a disease that affects national identities. The factors that contribute to this crisis are of different types: there are of course south-north or east-west migrations which, both in Europe and in North America, which fuel fears of invasion or even of the "great replacement" of native populations (white, Christian, etc.) by newcomers belonging to other cultures (often declared "incompatible") with that of the natives), fears and fantasies that are strongly racialized or coded in religious terms (association from Islam to terrorism in particular).

Competent researchers and scholars have shown that the extent of these population displacements is disproportionate to the political effects they cause, in the countries of the Global North, due to their instrumentalization both by governments and by openly xenophobic parties (see the text of François Héran). On the other hand, the end of full employment, the rise in structural unemployment increase the tensions between native workers and newcomers, when both are in competition for the jobs that remain available: the motif of immigrants as "stealers of employment” is all the rage in far-right propaganda, in France for example. Finally, general cultural factors such as de-Christianization and the rise of popular religions, Islam in the first place, among populations of colonial origin, the crisis of republican ideology and the supposedly universal values that founded it contribute massively to the loss of the benchmarks and certainties on which collective identity was based, in a country like France – but, apart from more or less important variants, we would find the equivalent in almost all the liberal democracies of the global North .

It is in this context of general shaking of what was at the foundation of national identities and national feeling that occurs, among the populations who see themselves as holders of popular legitimacy linked to origin and seniority ( "Here, it's at home – our home!” - which implies that all the others, the different ones, the latest arrivals, those who don't speak the language well or practice a religion other than ours are not "at home here ”) the return of the repressed ethnicism . This consists of a regression, vindictive and resentful, towards the archaic, more or less imaginary forms of "rooted" identity and primitive autochthonism in search of an untraceable lost or mistreated purity of common identity. – what some have called the village or clocktower spirit, extended to the scale of a nation.

This ethnicism is reactive and aggressive insofar as its main spring is the ideology of rejection : it is based on hostility to all those who are considered foreign to the authentic body of the nation – the intruders, the parasites, the foreign trash, the unwelcomed pest and, of course, the dangerous Islamist/terrorist ilk. Indigenous ethnicism is not only xenophobic, it is also necessarily safety-, security-oriented . This is the reason why, in all the metropolises of the Global North, state xenophobia, or, more broadly, institutional, and security hysteria go hand in hand. The more one cultivates the allergy to poor foreigners, immigrants and migrants, the more one multiplies the police corps, the forces of repression: Menton as a paradigm.

In the countries of the global North, ethnicism, that is to say the withdrawal into imaginary indigenous identities (“native” French against “fake” (recent) French, “Judeo-Christian” traditions against imported cultures, white supremacism ( redneck spirit in the United States) against immigrant plebs, subversives, supporters of abortion, liberals, communists, "wokists", feminisms, etc., it is the ideology of withdrawal and consolation of the “little whites” and the representatives of parochialism who feel threatened by the transformations affecting their societies; who see their social positions and their jobs jeopardized, who lose their benchmarks in ever more multicultural societies and traversed by the flows of globalization - people who travel little, are locked into monolingualism, have few opportunities to speak with “different people” and see the world through television or social networks which provide them with a vision that fuels all their uncertainties and anxieties.

Ethnicism is the nostalgia for the lost world of a “between oneself” which for a long time no longer exists, except, and still does, in the global North, in the most remote rural areas. It is the pure illusion of a return to homogeneity, even a form of "purity" in terms of the composition of the population, both racially and culturally and religiously - a "we" which is no more than one Native fantasy, the fortress besieged by barbarians, invaders.

The characteristic of ethnicism, in these contexts, is to make the bad foreigner (a foreigner with a thousand faces – the migrant, the Islamist, the asylum seeker, the parasite who lives on social assistance, always poor, by definition) the scapegoat made responsible for all the evils which, in the present, assail the little white man - evils that are very real for many of them but attributable in the first place not to the latest arrivals or to the part of the population of foreign origin, but rather to the neo-liberal policies, to the ultra-liberal dogmas in force throughout the global North.

But the worst is that, in this general context, the rulers, whatever their declared political color, do not cease to flatter the autochthonist and ethnicist passions which agitate part of the populations of the global North. They never stop, failing to have anything else to “sell” them, to brush these phantasmagoria in the direction of the nap, with the obscure demands for “security” that go with them. Little by little, it is in Europe, the governments decried a decade ago as "illiberal", Orban in Hungary, his equivalents in Poland, which, in terms of the "fight against immigration", that is to say say of ethnicist overbidding, have come to set the tone on the scale of the European continent.

It is no longer a question of political color: in terms of the persecution of asylum seekers, the return of refugees to countries as "safe" as Afghanistan or Syria, Denmark, which is led by socialdemocrats challenges a country like Italy that recently fell into the hands of neo-fascists. And in the United States, when the Democrats returned to business after the Trump era when the agitation against migrants from the south was in full swing, they did not change their doctrine on the matter at all – the border remains closed and the hunt for illegal immigrants continues in full swing, as before. Ethnicism, whether proclaimed and claimed as a quasi-State doctrine, as in Hungary, or sly, subliminal in the speeches of the rulers, as when Macron, recently, evoked "dangerous" foreigners in a public declaration , has become the gimmick of all the populisms from above – those of the rulers, of the governing parties, of the media.

In summary, what is important to think about, in the countries of the Global North, is the close relationship that is established between the multi-faceted crisis of the nation-state and the rise of ethnicism and autochthonism which is fundamentally a flight into the imagination affecting both the rulers and the ruled.

It seems to me that in Taiwan, the problem is posed quite differently, even if one can find points of intersection with the picture that I have tried to describe. The common point, if you will, is the escape into the imaginary in a situation where it would be urgent, on the contrary, to stand up to the present (the real) in all its asperities and complexities. In Taiwan, today, the retreat into ethnicist and autochthonist representations of the people and of their own identity is taking a particularly derisory turn and is a path that is all the more hopeless in that what is at stake here is the separation , even the opposition with a people, a human community with which the vast majority of Taiwanese have everything in common, on the ethnic and cultural level – the Chinese of the Chinese mainland.

Flight into the imagination and fibbing can go very far here, when for example such a so-called academic authority claims to establish that, decidedly, from a genetic point, the Taiwanese differ from the Chinese of the mainland - the Taiwanese gene, as there could have been, in the past, for false Nazi science, an Aryan gene, the return to the racial myth in its most disastrous form, as if we had forgotten all about the disasters to which these scientific impostures have lead to the Twentieth century.

More subtly, autochthonism and ethnicism have developed in Taiwan over the past few decades in essentially two directions. The first has much in common with the proliferation of a very lively cultural and political imaginary, revolving around the figure of the aboriginal understood as an imaginary ancestor, with a whole intense discursive activity of refocusing the supposed Taiwanese identity (as opposed to all the others and in the first place the supposed Chinese identity) around the aboriginal fact, as if, in one way or another, all the Taiwanese of today were attached to this magnified origin. Of course, the rise of this imaginary, more political than cultural, cannot be confused with the self-affirmation of the aboriginal populations and in the position of minorities, a process which has been accentuated in recent decades, and which is articulated around legitimate claims in terms of rights and recognition (teaching of aboriginal languages, defense of traditional rights, ecological issues, etc.).

What I am talking about here is rather the way in which the very majority Han population of the island will be inclined to transform the aborigines, their world and their culture into a shared patrimony in such a way as to "manufacture" identity differences from the rest of the Chinese world, especially the mainland. A completely superficial process of interbreeding or hybridization, a sort of cultural tourism supervised and encouraged by governing elites who are fully aware of the benefit they can find in seeing one or two aboriginal profiles appear in a government or in the senior administration.

This recourse to the aboriginal is what makes it possible to promote what I call a “village culture” (on the scale of the island), more and more spasmodically self-centered, as if Taiwan formed a closed entity and withdrawn into its particularisms – whereas, precisely, the more the island leans towards this isolationism and this separatism in relation to the mainland, the more it enters, on the contrary, into dependence on other entities which, culturally and ethnically are infinitely more foreign to it – starting with the United States, of course. Village culture is based on the cult of a "same" or of a self that is homogeneous and different from all the others, perfectly illusory. For a living and inventive people, self-awareness or the promotion of living identity does not involve the looping repetition of the same narcissistic and egotistical me-me-me, the perpetual cultural (and political) selfie, but on the contrary, by the networking of what one thinks is one's own – a singularity which only exists in a vast set of relationships.

Which brings me to the second characteristic of the ethnicist temptation in Taiwan today. Both in public discourse and in the academic world, we have seen a whole cloud of discursive smoke rise, the main reason for which is that in truth, rather than an extension of Chinese civilization, Taiwan would be, from the ethnographic point of view, like geographical, the element of an oceanic world, of an essentially maritime and insular civilization, that of the Austranesian peoples of the Pacific – where we join the myth of the imaginary aboriginal ancestor. That the peoples who populated the island, prior to the successive migrations of the Chinese from the mainland and the attempts of the Europeans to get their hands on its wealth, maintained relations with other peoples living on islands in this region of the Pacific, this does not seem doubtful, but it is far from enough, given the massive fact of which, over the centuries, the island has become an extension of Chinese civilization, to be worth as a distinct and compact identity foundation, likely to define Taiwan as a cultural world separated from the Chinese world – everything in the language, mores, customs, beliefs, attitudes, way of life shared by the vast majority of the population demonstrates the opposite.

And above all, we cannot have both the butter and the money for the butter: we cannot at the same time want, for distinctly political and ideological reasons, to move Taiwan away from the Chinese mainland to relocate it in the middle of the Pacific at the heart of the Austronesian civilization, that is to say in an immense geographical and civilizational whole whose characteristic is to be archipelagic, composed of a multitude of terrestrial entities of infinitely variable dimensions linked together by the liquid element, the maritime expanse – and live in the autarkic cult of the molar and compact identity of the fortress, terrestrial above all, without much opening on the sea (the Taiwanese are all except a people of the sea), with, as its main line of flight outward, not a multitude of maritime paths leading to other islands but a mental highway leading to the Big Brother, the Protector and the Master – the United States.

In short, if you seriously think that you are Austranesians rather than Chinese, close cousins of the Chinese of China, then start by learning to swim and to face the high seas on fragile skiffs with outriggers, rather than ensuring the prosperity of Eva Air and China Airlines by spending your holidays with your cousins in Vancouver or Los Angeles. I know that ridicule has never killed identity phantasmagoria, but there should still be limits. You are no more Austranesians than I am the direct descendant of Vercingetorix, the brave Gallic warrior who inflicted a beating on the invader Caesar on the plateau of Gergovie, very close to the "little country" (Heimat!) where my family and me live when we are not in Taiwan...

It is not by becoming imaginary natives that you will escape the nightmares of the present, it is by trying to really understand what is happening to you, what is happening to us . An effort that requires a solid sense of reality and of the complexities of which the present state of the world is made. An effort that also calls for the courage to swim against the tide and to be a lasting minority.