Local History and the Legitimation of Protest in Taipei
Published as Chapter 26 in Echoes from the Poisoned Well: Global Memories of Environmental Injustice, Sylvia Hood Washington, Paul C. Rosier & Heather Goodall, eds.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork with community activists, this article demonstrates how urban residents use local history to justify demands on the city government, making a past they never experienced relevant to their personal biographies in ways more potent than appeals to law or representative democracy. It argues that scholarship on collective memory benefits from explicitly examining how, and why, group members make history relevant to their individual selves, a process I call the personalization of history. This examination inevitably encompasses not only the rhetorical tropes and ritual practices of the those who personalize history but also the values and expectations of the society they address. In this case, the community activist group seeking to affect its locality chooses the tropes of personalization because emotionally laden biographical experience, more than structural relations, historical realities, or legal strictures, legitimates political action in its society.
Taiwan, collective memory, community activism, legitimation
Environmental Law | Law | Law and Politics
Anya Bernstein, Local History and the Legitimation of Protest in Taipei , in Echoes from the Poisoned Well: Global Memories of Environmental Injustice (Sylvia Hood Washington, Paul C. Rosier & Heather Goodall, eds. Lexington Books 2006).