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Funeral Reforms in Taiwan: Insights on Change from a Discourse Analytic Perspective


Weber, Urs (2021). Funeral Reforms in Taiwan: Insights on Change from a Discourse Analytic Perspective. In: Berriane, Yasmine; Derks, Annuska; Kreil, Aymon; Lüddeckens, Dorothea. Methodological Approaches to Societies in Transformation : How to Make Sense of Change. Cham: Springer (Bücher), 257-276.

Abstract

This chapter examines how Taiwan’s written media justified the state’s introduction of funeral reforms in the second half of the twentieth century. Situating this case study within the broader sociopolitical context of contemporary Taiwan, it illustrates how discourse analysis can be used as a tool for studying change. The state-led reforms induced changes in a field in which religious rituals play an important role, as state authorities operated with priorities differing from ritual practice. Instead, they were concerned with measures for land saving and popularized practices such as cremation or natural burials. The discourse analysis reveals that the justifications brought forward for reforms appeared with a high degree of consistency starting from the late 1970s in Taiwanese press articles. Following Michel Foucault’s understanding of discursive formations, four sub-formations can be distinguished, which all have in common that they are aimed at problematizing ritual practices prevalent at funerals. These sub-formations consisted of considerations concerning the quantitative limits of available cemetery land for graves, arguments referring to the economic advantages of cremation, articulations of the ideal of green cemeteries designed in a park-like fashion, and a critique of geomancy in labeling it superstitious. The discursive voices emerging in the sub-formations were state and local authorities, as well as experts and journalists commenting on reform measures. These priorities and justifications for reforms appeared to be incompatible with religious funeral rituals and are analyzed as changes in terms of a secularization process of Taiwan’s funerary practice. An important finding is that the secular reform measures were, to a large extent, inspired by similar reforms in other regions in the world, and are as such part of a global pattern.

Abstract

This chapter examines how Taiwan’s written media justified the state’s introduction of funeral reforms in the second half of the twentieth century. Situating this case study within the broader sociopolitical context of contemporary Taiwan, it illustrates how discourse analysis can be used as a tool for studying change. The state-led reforms induced changes in a field in which religious rituals play an important role, as state authorities operated with priorities differing from ritual practice. Instead, they were concerned with measures for land saving and popularized practices such as cremation or natural burials. The discourse analysis reveals that the justifications brought forward for reforms appeared with a high degree of consistency starting from the late 1970s in Taiwanese press articles. Following Michel Foucault’s understanding of discursive formations, four sub-formations can be distinguished, which all have in common that they are aimed at problematizing ritual practices prevalent at funerals. These sub-formations consisted of considerations concerning the quantitative limits of available cemetery land for graves, arguments referring to the economic advantages of cremation, articulations of the ideal of green cemeteries designed in a park-like fashion, and a critique of geomancy in labeling it superstitious. The discursive voices emerging in the sub-formations were state and local authorities, as well as experts and journalists commenting on reform measures. These priorities and justifications for reforms appeared to be incompatible with religious funeral rituals and are analyzed as changes in terms of a secularization process of Taiwan’s funerary practice. An important finding is that the secular reform measures were, to a large extent, inspired by similar reforms in other regions in the world, and are as such part of a global pattern.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Institute of Religious Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:200 Religion
Language:English
Date:2021
Deposited On:09 Feb 2022 17:21
Last Modified:24 May 2022 06:41
Publisher:Springer (Bücher)
Series Name:Anthropology, Change, and Development
ISSN:2947-6968
ISBN:978-3-030-65066-7
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-65067-4_11
Related URLs:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-65067-4 (Publisher)
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)