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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mark V. Cruises Through Taiwan: Ride Report

While I was in Seattle I stopped by Elliot Bay Cycles and was surprised to learn that one of their employees was actually visiting Taiwan for the Bike Festival. I was pretty excited about that (as everyone with connections to Taiwan seems to when a person in a foreign country can find Taiwan on a map), bought a few things and left my contact info. The employee was Mark V. at Bikehugger.

I have to admit that I am pleased with the reports that have been coming in. Mark Blacknell, Beverly Garrity and Mark V. have all done a wonderful job giving readers their impressions of visiting, while negotiating the minefields and pitfalls associated with reporting on Taiwan, especially on a government funded junket.

Here is Mark V's report from his trip.

The only part I had any issue was this little quote:

You see a lot more of the aborginal culture in the east than you do in the other parts of Taiwan, which are heavily influenced by the Han Chinese of mainland descent.
This passage is problematic in many ways. The foremost is that it makes the typically broad assumptions about Taiwan's diverse cultural heritage and loads it with the ideological term "mainland", while further asserting that somehow "Han culture" is uniform and monolithic. This view also fails to take into account the cultural drift that has occurred on Taiwan as the result of Taiwan's unique history of administration from indigenous, Dutch, Cheng, Qing, Japanese, KMT, and constitutional ROC. Each of these structures erected and eliminated borders, shifted economies and engineered new schemes for social mobility within their program. Lastly, this little blurb follows the Chinese nationalist method of conflating concepts of "Chinese/Han" with ideas of modernity and risks linking indigenality with traditionalism.

I know this is a little issue to comment on, and I don't want to detract too much from Mark's wonderful ride report, but I do think as writers we need to be aware that we can inadvertently perpetuate the ideological language of a political program that continues to be colonial in nature.

I probably still have a bee in my bonnet over our missionary encounter last weekend.


  1. I appreciate the nod, Andrew. Mark was probably the most culturally aware of the group, but I'll leave it to him to take this point up, if he feels like it.

    Just a quick note on: " while negotiating the minefields and pitfalls associated with reporting on Taiwan, especially on a government funded junket."

    I can only speak for myself, but think the only real challenge presented by the nature of the trip was that the pace of travel and volume of stops didn't allow for as many conversations/self-directed explorations as I'd have liked. I wasn't once asked for a particular slant or description of anything*, and I got what I think are some very honest answers out of Justin Huang and Dr. Mao about cycling in Taiwan. So I think that most problems with my coverage will be issues of omission, rather than misleading. And I hope that folks who know much more about Taiwan cycling - like you - will be willing to help correct me when I'm wrong.

    *Okay, there was a group with a rider that had painted some some old Giant frame with Colnago decals, and the riders were horrified at the thought that a picture of that might make it into a newspaper. And truly, no one needs to see a sin like that. :)

  2. you're putting subtext into where it was purposefully left out. it is not exactly a lie to say that "Han" as an identity is exerted over other parts of Taiwan in a more heavy handed manner, but it IS tricky to express the nuances behind the reasons for the Han identity in a report that will affect future relations with the government agency which paid for the trip.

    and maybe a mainstream cycling blog as a tool for educating the casual reader is a little like a cone wrench on a stuck pedal. a surprising number of people need to be told that phad thai is not generally associated with Taiwan; it is a triumph just to get them interested in the experience.

    it's hard to see that a travel endorsement would have success to benefit anyone when it leads off with the tagline "come see cultures get marginalized!"

  3. Anon,

    I hear you. Though I think the idea of "mainland descent" is inaccurate.

    I think you guys have done a wonderful job and I am grateful for the coverage. I hope you guys can make it back with better weather conditions for some independent bike travel.

    Keep it coming!


    I had a friend in the GIO who used to be there for the planning sessions when they'd put junkets together for foreign journalists... and the stories I can't tell. ;)

  4. Or rather... let me correct that... "mainland descent" could be in reference to the central ideology of the government, but is rejected by the majority of the population, which regard themselves to be Taiwanese.