From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fieldnotes from History (48)—Provincial Elections-i

[a] Provincial RF

Click below for other fieldnotes dealing with Taiwan's 1985 provincial elections:
Election 1         Election 2          Election 3          Election 4          Election 5          Election 6
Election 7         Election 8          Election 9          Election 10        Election 11        Election 12
Part of an occasional Round and Square series that follows the blog’s main theme (east meets west, round meets square, and past meets present), these snippets from my early fieldnotes are reproduced as they were written by hand—and then revised on an ancient desktop computer—during my first fieldwork stay in Taiwan (1985-1987).  All entries are the way that I left them when I returned to the United States in 1987—some nicely-stated and some embarrassing. Although the series began with my assumption that the entries can stand alone, I have found that separate comments and notes might help readers understand a world that is now, well, history. These are always separate from the original fieldnote.

The next several dozen entries in this series represent my memories—in the form of fieldnotes that were already well on their way to being letters—of Taiwan's provincial elections in November 1985. I had taken down what I call "jottings" at the time, and "now," two months later, I was ready to get a little bit more detail down in the form of fieldnotes. If you are somewhat unfamiliar with the five-stage process that framed my work habits even back then, it might be worth a quick look at the introduction to this series. Suffice to say here that in Taiwan in 1985 I was working from "jottings" to "fieldnotes" most of the time. Every month or so, I would write a letter that made it all into a more sustained narrative. Even early on, I realized how powerfully the knowledge that I would be writing letters influenced my fieldnotes. You may see it, too. It has remained my method to this day.

Like many fieldnotes, these were "written up" (a term I dislike, but am occasionally willing to use) after the fact. I wonder if most students of anthropology know how common this is. The implications for research, eye-witness authenticity, and historiography are numerous. It is a reality that has never gone away for field researchers of all kinds, though, and I suspect that it never will.
[b] Flurry RF
I wrote a flurry of fieldnotes during the afternoon of February 15, 1986. As afternoon faded into evening, I had to tear myself away so that I could meet the pressing weekly demands of English tutoring. One of the realities of living in Taiwan in the mid-1980s is that people came out of the woodwork (and temples and alleys and byways) to find English tutors. I was (literally) accosted on thet street and propositioned. Although I struggled to keep my schedule free, some of the teaching offers were overwhelming, and I buckled. Well, that is how I came to shut down my work session on the afternoon of February fifteenth. I had to run off to teach an advanced high school student conversational English. This was something Bronislaw Malinowski never really envisioned.

I slept late on February sixteenth, had a nice brunch of spinach, rice, and tofu/doufu, and got back to work. The provincial elections of November 1985 had "story" behind them, and I had to get it down. Looking back, I just wish that I would have written a lot more. This is something that I hear a lot when I talk to anthropologists. Everyone wishes s/he wrote more in the field. I am just beginning to understand that writing anything at all is the key point in all fieldwork. Get it down...and then get to work on other projects. Those paltry little fieldnotes have hundreds of pages of hidden ideas stored within them—or, more accurately, "called to mind" when we reread them.

That is the point of all fieldnote writing. 

[1] The various regulations that I mention in the fieldnote, below, are interesting in themselves. Oh, how I wish that I had taken them down in more detail. That is one of the challenges of fieldnote writing. We are not always sure what to document in detail. In this case, I assumed (accurately) that this information could be tracked down in detail later. Having said would be much easier to have done it in the first place. If you have been reading these posts, you will have noticed the repetitive theme here.

[c] Twist RF
[2] The 1985 situation had a peculiar twist—dangwai candidates could not run under a party label. This would change quickly, and subsequent elections allowed a real engagement between parties, as we see today. In 1985, though (and don't forget that it was under martial law, at least in a technical sense), the ruling Guomindang party accepted opposition from only "individuals."

[3] Please note, again, that I was already making pinyin assumptions in my fieldnotes, even though everything was written on signs (and names and everything else) in Wade-Giles Romanization. If this doesn't make sense (you haven't been studying Chinese, for example), don't worry—it is just the difference between "Chang" and "Zhang" or "Kuomintang" and "Guomindang." 

16 February 1986 
Local elections in Taiwan were held on 16 November 1985, and were preceded by ten days of electioneering. Five days of “candidate forums”—privately sponsored, but pre-approved, speeches at acceptable locations—were followed by five more days of public forums in which candidates had an opportunity to discuss, sometimes debate, issues face to face. Throughout the ten days of campaigning, the candidates were allowed two vehicles for advertising and broadcasting their platforms. Election spending limits varied, depending upon the county (Taipei highest, Penghu lowest) and the responsibility of the position (mayors were allowed slightly more than assemblymen).

All together, three hundred fifty-seven candidates sought one hundred ninety-one seats. Some seats were uncontested. Opposition (Dangwai) candidates were allowed to run, but only as individuals. They are forbidden by law from uniting into any form of alliance—they are not a party, merely individuals running in opposition to the government’s ruling Guomindang (Nationalist) party.
[d] Future RF
Click below for other fieldnotes dealing with Taiwan's 1985 provincial elections:
Election 1         Election 2          Election 3          Election 4          Election 5          Election 6
Election 7         Election 8          Election 9          Election 10        Election 11        Election 12

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