China Centrum Tübingen (CCT)

Moving House: Facing Urban Relocation as a Displaced Community

My research engages with how experiences of forced migration refashioned constructions of home. Specifically, I focus on the settlements created to provide a temporary home to 600.000 military personnel migrated to Taiwan – the so-called military villages – and on the meanings of their disappearance from the city landscape in the 1990s. I ask what it means to relocate for the first generation migrants who settled in Taiwan and I investigate the social and political effects of relocation, particularly on the first generation. How is home re-created after forced displacement? How do the same displaced people face urban relocation sixty years after?

In this talk, I look at the temporality of the relocation and its politics through the category of anticipation. By looking at the crucial, unsettling moment of the move, I document the anxieties and desires of the residents during this transition time. By witnessing the coping strategies of the first generation refugees, I contend that new stories about the past and aspiration towards new prospects are both necessary devices to face an uncertain future.

Elisa Tamburo is a PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at SOAS and a Research Fellow at the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan of the University of Tuebingen (Germany). Her thesis is provisionally titled: “Moving House: place, identity and the politics of relocation in a Taipei military village”. For her PhD thesis, she has conducted ethnographic fieldwork for 18 months in Taiwan living within one of the last military villages in Taipei. She experienced the everyday life of the residents before relocation, which she witnessed during the last months of her fieldwork.