This paper argues that the concepts of “tribal herd (zuqun)” and "multidimensional culture (duoyuan wenhua),” which were originally translation of “ethnic group” and “multiculturalism,” have grown into uniquely Taiwanese ideas about ethnicity, indigeneity, and culture as they were used in the process of Taiwanization and democratization of politics in the 1990s and beyond. This paper also argues that these Taiwanized concepts of tribal groupings and multidimensional culture, the latter in particular, are not only universally applicable to other societies in the globalizing world but also helpful in advancing the discussion on multiculturalism and cultural citizenship.
In the process of diversification and pluralization of Taiwan Society and in the political discourse about this process, the concepts of “tribal herd” and “multidimensional culture” played key roles. Furthermore, as the discourse developed, both concepts have been “Taiwanized” reflecting the realty of Taiwan.
The western notion of ethnic group originally implied immigrant communities culturally and or linguistically distinct from the majority; the concept was then extended to cover various minority groups in a national society. The concept is distinguished from race, nation or indigenous population. When imported into Taiwan, the concept was further extended in two directions. First, it was applied to intra-ethnic distinctions such as Hoklo versus Hakka. Second, it was applied to collection or category of people who did not constitute a single ethnic group in the Western sense of the term, namely Waishengren and Yanjumin. Moreover, as the discourse of “Four Major Tribal Groupings (Sida zuqun)” matured, the four groups of Hoklo, Hakka, Waishengren and Yanjumin were horizontally placed on a same political plane. “tribal herd (zuqun)” therefore is a uniquely Taiwanese concept for denoting socially named categories of people similar to yet different from ethnic groups as they are conventionally understood.
The western notion of multiculturalism presupposes the existence of culturally distinct ethnic and indigenous populations in a given nation state; each ethnic or indigenous group is supposed to have its own culture, then the multiplicity of culture and ethnic/indigenous group is acknowledged. The Taiwanese concept of “multidimensional culture (duoyuan wenhua),” though initially a translation of this Western concept, has also developed in a uniquely Taiwanese way. The most important distinction in my view is the lack of correspondence between a culture and any particular “tribal groupings” in Taiwan today. Multiculturalism, if we keep using the Western term, can be observed at the individual level and may not be observed at the group level. This is the reason why I translate “duoyan wenhua” as “multidimensional culture” not as multiculturalism or cultural pluralism.
I shall propose that we can and should try to apply the Taiwanese concepts of “tribal herd” and “multidimensional culture” to other societies in the world today so as to universalize the Taiwan experience and enrich the conceptual baggage of international social science.