Confucianism and Discontents: The Repertoire of Disobeying in Recent Taiwan's Protests

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Maukuei CHANG , Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
Confucianism is like a buzzword for the discussion of East Asia cultures. And yet people disagree on whether Confucianism is just a kind of state ideology, promoted by elites, or actual civil culture prevails in ordinary life. The paper thinks that the two layers of Confucianism can co-exist intertwinedly. In one levle, where elite intellectuals are prominent, Confucianism exists as a body of systematic knowledge, philosophical ideas, and moral standard. In the civil level, it exists as if the underlying logic of people’s daily practices, with an emphasis on folk wisdom and practical rationale, helping people manage their interactions and actions in daily life.

This paper will look at the relation between Confucianism, as state ideology and as civil belief, and the repertoire of protests.  By repertoire, follow Charles Tilly’s definition, an ensemble of contentious performances. This paper will study two particular kind of repertories that have public’s attention in recent social movements in Taiwan. One repertoire is Guibai or Kwotou, meaning to kneel down with one’s forehead touching on the ground, and the other is throwing objects, like eggs, animal wastes, and worn-off shoes at the high officials. Guibai and throwing objects all bring humiliation and embarrassment to the officials.  However, Guibai does not violate the traditional Confucianism’ notion of social order. How are the two possible reach the same meaning in protesting? How are their meanings being transformed in democracy and in the modern political system?

This paper will follow Tilly’s methods to document the trend of repertoire changes in past ten years in Taiwan.  I hope to demonstrate the repertoire changes can be understood in terms of rising discontents and the failure of institutional politics, and the ineptness of Confucianism to prescribe the norm in civil protests, and thus turned itself into political satire in streets.