Stupas and Sacred Trees: Memorialization and Personhood in the Mountain Forests of Taiwan

Fall 2023 Center Grant Recipient

Natasha Heller (Religious Studies)

This project uses the many religious sites in the red cypress forest of Alishan to investigate conceptions of human and nonhuman personhood in twentieth century Taiwan. Through close reading of visual and textual evidence, I argue that the various Japanese commemorations attempt to establish the legitimacy of one model of personhood as they also contain the ambivalence around the destruction of old growth trees. In research this spring, I will explore the alternative perspectives absent from these commemorations, including those of Chinese workers, indigenous worldviews, and the animacy of the forest itself.