Anru Lee

Feb 9, 2024

Haunted Modernities

Gender, Memory, and Placemaking in Postindustrial Taiwan

University of Hawaii Press 2023

On the podcast today, I am joined by Professor Anru Lee, who is professor of anthropology at John Jay College, the City University of New York. Anru will be talking about her new book, Haunted Modernities: Gender, Memory and Placemaking in Postindustrial Taiwan, which was published just last year in 2023 by University of Hawai’i Press.

Haunted Modernities interrogates the nature of shared expressions of history, sentiment and memory as it investigates the role of the tragic death of twenty-five unwed women who drowned in a ferry accident on their way to work in factories in Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Export Processing Zone. By exploring the ways in which the deceased young women were perceived to “haunt” the living and the diverse renovations recommended, Professor Anru Lee illuminates how women workers in Taiwan have been conceptualized in the last several decades. In their proposals to renovate a memorial tomb in honor of their death, the interested parties forged specific accounts of history, transforming the collective burial site according to varying definitions of “heritage” as Taiwan shifted to a postindustrial economy, where factory jobs were no longer the main source of employment. Their plans engaged with acts of remembering—communal and individual—to create new ways of understanding the present. Haunted Modernities is a beautiful piece of scholar work that elucidates how “history” and “memory” are not simply about the past but part of a forward-looking process that emerges from the social, political, and economic needs of the present, legitimized and validated through its associations with the past.

Dr. Suvi Rautio is an anthropologist of China.

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