Dissertation Research

My dissertation looks at the explosive rise of "participatory design" (參與式設計) movements in Taiwan. In fields ranging from healthcare to environmental remediation and public housing, the government has been investing heavily in projects to recruit the participation of elderly, Indigenous, rural, or otherwise minoritized communities in the production of new technologies. Ultimately, these projects of liberal multicultural inclusion are tasked with the end goal of making historically marginalized communities "self-sufficient" (自給自足) —no longer in need of aid—through locally-suited technological innovation.

In dialogue with critical Indigenous studies and feminist science studies, my research asks why this strategy of inclusion has come to be the case. Through 21 months of ethnographic research on the daily tensions that emerge in the making of new medical and environmental technologies in Indigenous Taiwan, I study how the seemingly virtuous political category of participation defers questions of structural dispossession and ultimately obfuscates the non-equivalence between Taiwanese nation-building and Indigenous self-determination. At the same time, I assess how participatory policies are ironically producing gray zones of power for local communities to contest the ontological and political assumptions built into these government programs' claims.

I also ask why the idea of "self-sufficiency" (itself a gendered concept), and why the inclusion of marginalized communities in technological production, are gaining traction in the context of geopolitical dramas surrounding today's Taiwan and China. I turn to historiographical research as well as short-term ethnographic fieldwork done on Chinese participatory design projects to make this comparative case.

Follow-up Project

In my second project, I turn to "circular bioeconomy" (循環生物經濟) guided neighborhoods and residential complexes in Taiwan and China. I do so in order to continue asking questions on the concept of "self-sufficiency" as well as to investigate why particular human-nonhuman living arrangements in both countries are taking on newfound political urgency.