My project is on the renovation of a memorial to the women victims of a 1973 ferry accident in Cijin, exploring it as a mostly invisible piece of the extensive urban renewal program that began under the tenure of Kaohsiung’s first female mayor, Chen Chu. I have aimed to explore how these forms of neoliberal urbanization and accumulation depended on women’s gendered capacity for constituting the material and social welfare of their communities and their city, while also contributing in many cases to their economic marginalization.
Being on-site in Kaohsiung has been incredibly fruitful for my research. Outside of newspaper reporting on the ferry accident and the changing history of the memorial over the course of several decades, which I have been able to access from print and digital archives, I was able to view the archives at the Kaohsiung Labor Museum, which preserved worker newsletters from the Kaohsiung Export Processing Zone. (Incidentally, the museum periodically reenacts the ferry accident in a short play put on by its volunteers). These newsletters made frequent reference to labor education programs for female workers living in dormitories. The larger context and significance of these programs, I believe, have to do with gender stratification and the KMT’s mobilization of women into a cheap labor force that also preserves the patriarchal family, amid a backdrop of state and global economic restructuring. I have been cross-referencing these newsletters with secondary source material on labor activism in the 70s and 80s. In April, I hope to attend the annual ceremony held on Qingming at the site of the memorial by the Kaohsiung Association for the Promotion of Women’s Rights (KAPWR).
- Amanda Su