Much ado about nothing: alley life, dwelling ethics, and environmentalism of life in Taiwan

Ya Chung Chuang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines alley life in three Taiwanese cities, demonstrating that the investigation and interpretation of those mundane everyday practices and events in these alley-places lead us to think about the ethics of everyday dwelling. This ethics, though mostly forgotten now in the Taiwanese public realm, was actually the center of attention in the 1990s when a concept was proposed about urban environmentalism that is significantly different from the current public perception of it. This form of environmentalism related to a new momentum for placemaking that was happening at that time nearly three decades ago and propagated across the island and into its alleys during the new millennium. Delving into alley places, this article shows how ordinary landscapes of proximity have turned into extraordinary lifeworlds for dwelling. To materialize this dwelling imaginary, this paper first addresses theories that seek to spatialize culture in order to identify these unexpected lifeworlds in their ordinary urban settings. Theorizing those tiny little places, often hidden in plain sight, brings back to the attention of researchers what I call dwelling ethics that characterizes quotidian judgments, choices, decisions, as well as its consequences. This paper concludes that conceptualizing dwelling ethics in the contemporary circumstance of urban explosion provides a baseline for the idea of environmentalism of life through which a critique of everyday life becomes possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-283
Number of pages15
JournalInter-Asia Cultural Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 11 Apr 2023


  • alley life
  • city
  • dwelling ethics
  • place
  • Space


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