|Abstract:||The Land Expropriation Act of Taiwan, enacted in the year 2000, has been abused by the local authorities without proper oversight from the public, and this abuse has often caused displacements without reasonable compensation. The abuse of land expropriation can be devastating to those who live in the rural areas of Taiwan, where agricultural land for development is abundant and farmers are the culturally disadvantaged group of the society. This research specifically focuses on the land expropriation experience of Wanbao Community, a rural farming community located in the middle-west part of Taiwan that has successfully resisted land expropriation through a grassroots movement. This paper strives to offer the following: a comprehensive understanding of the legitimization of land expropriation from the local as well as the global perspective; background information on the rise of land expropriation in Taiwan; and the effects of such processes on farmers’ social status. Moreover, based on field research in Wanbao Community, this thesis analyzes the keys to successful resistance to land expropriation and discusses possible planning solutions to prevent it.
Research shows that arbitrary land expropriation in Taiwan can be propelled by the state’s pursuit of current trends in global capitalism, also known as globalization, and the urban citizens’ pursuit of a modern lifestyle. Along with the normalization of what Agamben (2005) calls “the state of exception” and Sassen (2014) refers to as processes of “expulsion,” the extreme top-down strategy that deprives citizens of their private property without proper compensation becomes a fast and easy way for governments at all levels to acquire land. This brutal planning process is legitimized by the authorities through the Land Expropriation Act, embedded in the mainstream planning structure. Among citizens, however, the value of land is defined differently, according to different life experiences. To the elites and the authorities, farmlands are seen as underdeveloped, with potential to be “upgraded” for more economically profitable use. To farmers in Wanbao Community, land is viewed as a livelihood instead of a commodity that can be measured by a monetary system. The mainstream planning system, however, does not appreciate the latter value when land expropriation decisions are made; nor does it provide formal space of communication for farmers to express and participate in the decision-making process. Contrary to the pro-appropriation discourse of authorities, which seeks to discredit communities’ resistance to the state’s land expropriation policies by calling it emotional and irrational, this research drawing on the experience of Wanbao Community, suggests that farmers’ resistance to development is in fact reasonable and carefully planned and organized. Interviews with the members of government planning agencies as well as detailed account of the farmers’ successful mobilization in Wanbao Community offer evidence that citizens’ insurgent planning practices can be a possible solution to government’s unjust land expropriation policies in Taiwan.