Two Types of Moral Instruction in Taiwan

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Talk by Charles Stafford, London School of Economics

Monday, November 10, 2014
4:00 PM - 5:30 AM
Bunche Hall 10383

When I carried out research in rural Taiwan in the mid 1980s, the children I met were moving back and forth between two distinct – and yet interconnected – moral systems. On the one hand, there was the broadly “Confucian” system they encountered via schooling. On the other hand, there was the broadly folk or “Daoist” system they encountered outside of school: in their homes, on the back lanes and alleys of the villages where they lived, at spirit medium altars, and so on. In this lecture, I want to explore the (sometimes rather tense) articulation between these two systems, which I see as being characteristically Taiwanese. In brief, I want to argue that the “goodness” of Taiwan today is a complex kind of goodness, one that draws heavily on folk or Daoist understandings of the complexities of human nature.

Charles Stafford teaches anthropology at the London School of Economics, and has carried out field research in rural Taiwan and China since the mid 1980s. He is a specialist in the anthropology of learning and cognition. His publications include The roads of Chinese childhood (Cambridge), Separation and reunion in modern China (Cambridge) and the recent edited volume Ordinary ethics in China (Bloomsbury).

Part of the Civility and Civil Society in Taiwan Lecture Series, Taiwan Spotlight project

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Published: Thursday, November 13, 2014