Judy, Yaso attend Indigenous Communities, Indigenous Spaces conference

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Arriving at Pongso No Tao Island by ferry.

In early October, MODDD program manager Judy Rogers and Yaso Nadarajah, MoDDD Program Advisory Committee member and associate professor of international development at RMIT, presented the papers In the Field in Papua New Guinea: Initialising the Cultural Form and Walking and Listening as Decolonising Pedagogy during a plenary session at the conference, Indigenous Communities, Indigenous Spaces: Tradition and Change in a Globalising World. The conference was held on Pongso no Tao Island, Taiwan, from Oct. 1-5.

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Yaso Nadarajah with some local women on Ponso no Tao Island.

Pongso no Tao (also called Orchid Island or Lanyu) is a small, mountainous island far off Taiwan’s southeast coast. The island has a population of around 4000 and is the homeland of the Tao, an Austronesian people and one of the ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Indigenous’ tribes of Taiwan. Geographically separate from and peripheral to the main island of Taiwan, the Tao have retained many traditional practices from the pre-colonial period. Increasingly, national and now global culture, economics, and politics are changing what it means to be a member of the Tao community and what the island of Pongso no Tao and its surrounding seas mean to the Tao themselves. The Island can be accessed either via a 20-minute ride on a 19-seater propeller-powered plane, or a 65 km ferry trip across choppy Pacific Ocean waters.

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An underground house on Pongso No Tao Island. An example of how locals have adapted to the threat of typhoons.

The conference progressed a collaborative body of work that explores the connections between Indigenous communities and place, and examines emerging questions and forms of non-situated and deterritorialising indigeneities.

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The port on Ponso no Tao.

It was co-organised by Yaso Nadarajah and Dr Adam Adam Grydehøj of the Copenhagen-based Island Dynamics, in partnership with the Tao indigenous community, the Tao Foundation and the Indigenous Science Studio of Pongso no Tao Island, as well as the National Taiwan Normal University’s department of geography, National Sun Yet-Sen University’s Center for Marine Policy and the Ilisimatusarfik/University of Greenland’s department of social sciences.