口試通過，算是畢業了～ (followed by English version)
It is officially come to “the graduation” after the oral defense!
Three years ago, I was a fresh anthropology student. Very little was prepared before my admission to National Taiwan University. In fact, I almost gave up at the beginning. This is a native ethnography (may be not “reflexive” enough). I must deal with the neutrality of my research motivation, as well as my inner contradictions and emotions. Anyway, these contradictions will always exist until my next stage. Anthropology, like environmental engineering, is part of my life now.
Many have asked for the reasons of such a big professional change. I found some traces looking back to my past decisions. History has been my favorite since my childhood. My average scores of both UEC and SPM history once hit 99%. Somehow my second choice during my undergraduate application is sociology (Nanyang Technological University has no anthropology) after Environmental Engineering. Once, I planned to minor in history and signed up for the introduction module. However, I was frightened by the “Chiminology” and didn’t dare to speak up in class (lack of perspectives as well).
Slowly, I realized that my understanding in the Malay world is an advantage. I felt very interested when the Singaporean Malay female professor, who did not wear any “Tudung”, was leading collective reflection towards the Malay history of pre-Raffles period. When she asked if anyone in the class had heard of the “Hikayat Hang Tuah”, I was the only one who raised my hand quietly (afraid of being named).
The remaining Hakka manuscripts after my grandfather’s departure is a turning point for me to continue in this direction. Hakka research is my first trial, with the help of my friend, I met two professors from NTUsg. Although unprepared, I was surprised by the unawareness of Malaysian intellectual community towards Sino-Native issue. Therefore, I was encouraged to shift my focus from the mainstream Sabah Hakka research to the incomprehensive Sino research. Then I submitted a proposal to the Chinese Department of NTUsg. Due to the insufficient given scholarship, I decided to apply for Taiwan scholarship in the next year.
It is uncommon that my first contact with informant was in 2014, which is two years before my master admission. Studying anthropology in Taiwan is eye opening. The foundation of both Austronesian and Southeast Asian Chinese studies are strong. I was required to attend classes with undergraduate year one juniors. I grew up with B05 batch and have close relationship with some of them. I am grateful for the flexibility given by professors from my department, so that I could fit in curriculum and focus on my studies by then.
It is glad to have Prof. Tong as my instructor. We met in the first lesson of the first semester as her teaching assistant. She has brought me into the Oceania world (not yet an expert), so that I do not limit myself in the framework of the insular Southeast Asia. She also guided me in dealing with the inner contradictions as a native enthographer, and in turning to a researcher from a reporter.
My fieldwork course is directed by Prof Alik. I had to follow her footsteps into the Amis tribe of Donghe township when I still couldn’t distinguish both sociology and anthropology. The writing itself is a minor rehearsal of ethnography. I chose her Southeast Asian class as a student or teaching assistant almost every semester. She becomes my ideal candidate for my oral committee.
In the same fieldwork course, I read some Amis articles by Prof Huang Shiun-Wey. I did not expect that he is my instructor of the Writing Award from Institute of Ethnology. Our discussion is not frequent, but comfortable enough. He has a certain understanding of Sabah Hakka, and maybe these are the reasons for him to be part of my oral committee despite of his busy schedule!
Every revision of the thesis is a reflection. New theories and information are incorporated only in the later writing stage. Trilingual materials were acquired from Singapore and Hong Kong libraries. Somehow, I found that there are many hidden treasures in KK library near my aunt’s house as well. Although my information accessibility is low, I am fortunate enough having friends helping me in snapping those books or in lending me their student account.
Every informant regards me as close friend or family member. My dad is my personal driver along this journey, from Beaufort to Pitas, from Kiulu to Kuala Penyu. He also learned a lot during my study. It is sad to realize that we know very little about “the others” living together on the same piece of land. These findings cannot be learned through media and textbooks, but only through face-to-face interaction.
The writing process is much enjoyable, travelling among bookshelves of my bedroom and libraries. Trigger fingers reoccurred due to the excessive usage of keyboard. Eye fatigue was overcome by eye drops and a blue light filter from my aunt. The peers from discussion group, as well as scholars from Malaysia and abroad, have also given many constructive opinions, allowing readers to understand the complex social context of Sabah that is never taught in school.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone for your support on the day of oral defense. You may not understand what am I saying, but you are willing to spend time in photographing and recording. The Q&A session is of course the most exciting part, and sometimes I can’t understand or remember the questions. May be due to the low blood sugar level, my listening skill is not so functioning during the suppertime with some juniors.
Here is my announcement after calming down. The thesis still needs to be revised. The full version is not ready, if you want to read oral version, please help me spot at least twenty typos/format error/inappropriate words, thanks =P