Living and Dying in the Long War is explicitly conceived as a cross-strait history that argues that many people experienced not discrete political or global conflicts during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, but a “long war” of repeated continual displacements. Focusing on community formation and sovereignty claims, she uses local, national, transnational, and cosmological frameworks to analyze shifting patterns of motion and reordering in time and space. Working on both sides of the Taiwan Strait further highlights this social dynamic, one that has been obscured by the lingering influence of Cold War politics, chronologies, and geographies on historical analysis. This project draws upon archives, memoir, fiction, periodicals, oral histories, genealogies, and journalistic accounts to paint a cultural and social history of concrete and conceptual home-building amid disruption. Rebecca Nedostup investigates how the movement of populations living and dead, shapes community space and everydayness, utilizing a broad conception of “displacement” that includes displacement in place and the disruption among receiving populations and environments.

Geographically traveling between eastern and southwestern China, coastal islands such as Dachen, and various locations in Taiwan, the book addresses how the interplay between the communities built by displaced persons and their various support networks and those created by state actors, during a time when the “refugee” became an increasingly mediated commodity on the national and international levels. Finally, Living and Dying follows on works in the anthropology and sociology of Asia and the Asian diaspora that reckon with the historical silences of those who have experienced violence and displacement, including the field of critical refugee studies. Taking the point that ritual is just as constitutive of meaning as belief, this book shows that rewriting genealogies, moving corpses, and making offerings to wandering ghosts or to graves hundreds of miles away are all as much ways of living and reckoning with catastrophe as speaking about it and recounting it.

In the course of researching this book, Rebecca Nedostup has collected a substantial amount of documentation on local efforts towards historical repair, reparations, and memory work. These range from the training of secondary school students in oral history methods; to the connections between historical, cultural, and social service work in places such as Kaohsiung, Pingtung, and Taichung; to a range of debates and actions centering on the repatriation of Indigenous lands, belongings, and remains. She plan to assemble these materials into Ill-Gotten and Reclaimed, a short book that would put these Taiwanese examples in global context, and direct them to audiences with an interest in post-authoritarian regimes and transitional justice; public history and public memory, particularly among non-state actors; repatriation and reparations; and critical archive studies.