Within just a year of its launch, the Taiwan Studies Program has already offered course curricula, hosted events, and become a center of knowledge for students, faculty, and the public. As one of only a handful of Taiwan studies programs in the country, it produces wide-ranging scholarship and prepares students with the insights necessary to understand how Taiwan has been shaped by its global connections and has influenced the rest of the world.
The program serves as an important cultural and academic hub for the Taiwanese diaspora. Between the UW’s Taiwanese student organizations, the Taiwanese community in the Greater Seattle area, and the growing Taiwanese UW alumni community, the program is a nexus of connection, inquiry, and identity. Moreover, the varied cross-section of disciplines represented in the program’s scholarship exemplifies the Jackson School’s spirit and helps us provide context for a complex, interconnected, and ever-changing world.
Taiwan’s unusual history, on the fault lines between competing cultural and socio-political systems, has made it an invaluable resource for students concerned with fundamental questions in social sciences, humanities, and policy studies. The Henry M. Jackson School has long recognized Taiwan’s unique contributions and has offered courses focused on Taiwan for many years. These courses, led by UW professors William Lavely, Steve Harrell, Gary Hamilton, Jeff Hou, Kam Wing Chan, James Tweedie, and Yomi Braester have spanned multiple disciplines and departments and have paved the way for the establishment of the Taiwan Studies Program.
In 2017, the Taiwan Studies Program took an exciting step forward, hiring a historian of modern Taiwan, Professor James Lin. Professor Lin earned his PhD in History from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017 and specializes in Taiwan’s interaction with the rest of the world in the 20th century. He offers annual courses in Taiwan studies, including “The Making of Modern Taiwan,” a graduate seminar in which students grapple with key issues of politics, society, and culture. He also teaches a popular undergraduate course on modern Taiwanese history and contemporary Taiwanese society. Expansive in scope and interdisciplinary, both courses ground students in Taiwan’s colonial legacy, geography, and peoples, enriching their understanding of how these forces shape Taiwan’s identity, democracy, and international relations.
In partnership with the Henry M. Jackson School’s East Asia Resource Center and the World Affairs Council’s Global Classroom Program, Professor Lin also led a workshop for K-12 educators on how Taiwan can be used to teach major historical issues such as migration, colonialism, industrialization, ethnicity and identity, the Cold War, and democratization. This partnership expands the program’s impact well beyond the higher education community and raises the visibility of Taiwan Studies to new audiences and professional educators.
Beyond the classroom, the Taiwan Studies Program is educating the larger campus community with lectures that bring Taiwan to the forefront of academic inquiry. In February 2018, Professor Lin joined UW Professor Jeff Hou in conversation with Chang Tieh-chih, a prominent Taiwanese political critic and former chief editor of Hong Kong’s monthly City Magazine. Lin, Hou, and Chang collectively discussed how they approach Taiwan in their scholarship and activism, why Taiwan is important to study, and how Taiwan can serve as a model for understanding important developments, such as transitions from authoritarian to democractic political systems. With over 100 people in attendance, the event raised awareness of the program and inspired rich cross-disciplinary conversations.
The lecture coincided with the U.S. debut of Chang Tieh-chih’s exhibit, “Beautiful Island—Taiwan’s Journey to Democracy,” hosted in UW Allen Library. The mixed media installation traced the history of Taiwan as a Dutch entrepôt, a Chinese frontier, a Japanese colony, and a Cold War redoubt for the Chinese Nationalist party, and its transformation to a prosperous democracy with a thriving civil society. Professor Lin led two tours of the exhibit for UW students and the Seattle community, enriching their understanding of Taiwan and garnering interest in future Taiwan-related classes and programming.
Additionally, the Taiwan Studies Program presented a lecture featuring the authors of “Making Money: How Taiwanese Industrialists Embraced the Global Economy”. The authors, UW Professor Emeritus Gary Hamilton and Professor Cheng-shu Kao, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Feng Chia University, explored Taiwan’s rapid industrialization from the 1950s and the leading role of bussinesses in Taiwan’s economic expanision.
In May, as part of an ongoing partnership with the Seattle International Film Festival, the program co-sponsored director Tung-yen Chou’s visit to Seattle and presentation on Taiwan’s unique contributions to cinema and media. The Taiwan Studies Program was also excited to collaborate with Taiwanese American Professionals of Seattle and co-sponsor the Taiwanese American Film Festival, showcasing screenings of Taiwanese and Taiwanese-American films. The festival ran for three days, June 29-July 1, and featured director talks from acclaimed film-makers Li-chou Yang and Charlie Chu. UW Professor Yomi Braester and Ph.D. students Ellen Chang and Qian He led a panel discussion after screening a series of Taiwanese short films on June 29 in Kane Hall.
These public-facing programs create an important bridge between the University and Seattle’s growing Taiwanese community, as well as sense of identity and belonging for Taiwanese students and alumni.