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2011 events

Generating Power in Taiwan: Nuclear, Political, and Religious Power

Dr Fang-long Shih, LSE

Co-Director, Taiwan Research Programme; Research Fellow in Religion and Society, Asia Research Centre

S0.12, Strand Building, Strand Campus

Thursday, 17 November, 4.00-5.30pm


In the wake of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in Japan, Taiwan’s presidential candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Ing-Wen Tsai, is currently campaigning for a nuclear-free Taiwan by 2025. Given the scheduled closure dates for the three older plants, the biggest debate in Taiwan today is over plans for a fourth nuclear power plant, which is due to become operational in Gongliao貢寮in northeast Taiwan. This paper addresses how religion is playing an increasingly important role in empowering anti-nuclear protests at Gongliao. It begins by describing how the anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan was originally dependant on the opposition political party, and then examines how growing disaffection with party politics at Gongliao has resulted in a local temple dedicated to the goddess Mazu coming to the forefront of the struggle. The paper frames the dispute as a struggle between three different ways of generating power: first, the generation of nuclear power by ruling bureaucrats and scientists working through the industrial sector; second, the generation of political power by opposition politicians and elite campaigners; and third, the generation of religious power by people rooted in local communities, creating an alliance between religious power and secular protest. In the clash between the science of nuclear power and the religion of spirit power, we can see the transformational dimension of religious power through its capacity to generate new relationships and connections between groups, individuals, and communities. By contrast, the informational dimension of nuclear science has generated not rational debate and consensus over agreed evidence, but rather division and disagreement over the question of risk.

About the speaker

Dr Fang-Long Shih is a specialist in the research of religion, gender, society, and politics within the context of Taiwan, and she is Co-Director of the Taiwan Research Programme at the London School of Economics. Dr Shih also convenes and teaches an MSc course on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective at the LSE. She is interested in theoretical and methodological problems in the study of religion and she has published several articles on the anthropology of religion in Taiwan; recent publications include a chapter on 'Feminisms and Religions', which was published in the New Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Religion (2010); ‘Addressing Injustice through State, Local Culture and Global Civil Society: The White Terror Incidents in Taiwan’, published in Global Civil Society 2011. In May 2011, Dr Shih’s research was identified as having a potential for impact on undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, and she was invited to give a presentation on Teaching Theology/Religious Studies and Gender in a conference organised by the Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies of the Higher Education Academy, hold at the University of Leeds. 




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