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4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies: Conference Report

WCTS attendees in front of library

September 14, 2022

From June 27th to June 29th, 2022, the University of Washington Taiwan Studies Program hosted the 4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies. The conference was a collaboration between UW-TSP and Academia Sinica. Hosted in North America for the first time, the event brought together the world’s leading Taiwan-focused scholars to present and discuss cutting-edge research.

The continuing complications of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the organizing team to hold the 4th World Congress in a hybrid format. Another first for the World Congress series, this hybrid arrangement brought over 50 international scholars to Seattle to participate in-person and allowed for another 35 scholars to join the event remotely. Live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, the 4th World Congress afforded unprecedented public access. Over fifteen hundred individuals tuned-in during the three-day conference.

The theme of this year’s Congress was Taiwan in the Making. To engage with such a rich theme, the scholarship displayed at the 4th World Congress encompassed a diverse array of disciplines. The University of Washington welcomed anthropologists, historians, political scientists, geographers, sociologists, ethnomusicologists, literature and film scholars, and more from 10 countries. With such a variety of experts, the assortment of topics at the 4th World Congress was vast. Presentation topics included domestic divisions and the effects of those divisions on foreign disinformation, historical narrative and memories of post-colonial Taiwan, the politics of pride parades in Taiwan, the economic and social impact of Taiwanese diplomacy, and many more. Taiwan’s dynamic character was on full display throughout the 4th World Congress.

We thank the Chiang-Ching Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, the Taiwan Ministry of Education, the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Academia Sinica for their generous support of the 4th World Congress. Their contributions made the conference a success.

Stay tuned for the presentation uploads onto our YouTube channel.

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Day One

Opening Ceremony

Chaired by William Lavely (University of Washington), the opening ceremony of the 4th World Congress expressed the dynamism and depth of this year’s conference in the diversity of the opening speakers and the expansive access the hybrid format provided to the world. Lavely was joined by Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao (Academia Sinica), Ana Mari Cauce (University of Washington), Daniel K.C. Chen (Taiwan Economic Cultural Office-Seattle), Sophie Chou (Taiwan Economic Cultural Office-San Francisco), and Paul R. Katz (Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and Academia Sinica). Each member of this prestigious panel highlighted the milestone which the 4th World Congress represented for Taiwan Studies and academia at-large.

Person speaking at podium; panelists to his leftThe Opening Ceremony’s keynote speech featured Michael Hsiao (Academia Sinica). Introduced by James Lin (University of Washington), Hsiao addressed the contextual complexities of Taiwan Studies scholarship, concentrating on how he has dedicated his career to establishing a theoretical framework based on Taiwan Studies. Hsiao’s “Taiwan-based theorizing” directly reflects the theme of the 4th World Congress, “Taiwan in the Making.” His framework incorporates a diverse interplay of topics and methodologies all of which hinge upon the distinctiveness of Taiwan’s experiences. Hsiao’s research projects how Taiwan was “made” and continues to be “made.” Officially opening the 4th World Congress, Hsiao concluded with the challenges and joys Taiwan Studies affords, encouraging our audience how to succeed as a scholar of a nation, a region, and the world.

Session 1A: Democracy, Activism, and Organizations

Following the Opening Ceremony, three simultaneous sessions began in three rooms within the University of Washington’s Husky Union Building. In HUB 332, Session 1A: Democracy, Activism, and Organizations, chaired by Yuan Hsiao (University of Washington), opened with a presentation by Kharis Templeman (Stanford University), addressing Taiwan’s democratic development. Templeman’s new research explored the strength of Taiwan’s democracy and its lingering weaknesses, the Taiwanese electorate becoming increasingly distrustful of most Taiwanese political institutions akin to populations of democracies across the world. Chia-Shing Wu (Operational Development Office, R.O.C. Army) followed Templeman’s presentation with a study designed to promote the reformation of Taiwan’s military organizational culture. A sensitive topic, Wu’s research addressed avenues for positive change within the R.O.C. Army which would best benefit Taiwanese soldiers within the greater organization. Astrid Lipinsky (University of Vienna) next presented on marriage equality and women’s organizations in Taiwan. Lipinksy’s work showed the unequal involvement of civil society and the Taiwanese government in these spaces. The final presentation of Session 1A was a remote presentation by Łukasz Zamęcki (University of Warsaw) which explored youth activism and political participation in Taiwan. Zamęcki’s work argued that Taiwanese youth pursued effective political activism through the development of collective identity originated from perceptions of shared grievances and past protest experiences.

Session 1B: NATSA Panel: Making Taiwan in Conflicts

While democracy and civil society was the focus of the first A session, Session 1B in HUB 214 featured the first panel of the 4th World Congress. The NATSA panel addressed the making of Taiwan in conflicts. Chaired by Dominic Yang (University of Missouri), the Session began with a presentation by Rita Jhang (National Taiwan University). Jhang discussed her dissertation project which investigated social conflicts surrounding LGBTQ rights in Taiwan. She provided a thorough analysis of tongzhi 同志 (queer folks in Taiwan). The process of “coming out” takes on a long, iterative process in Taiwan. Often, tongji spend years reconciling their identity with their families and trying to reach mutually accepting relationships with their family, which starkly contrasts the common conceptions of coming out in the U.S. (i.e., a “single-event” process of coming out). Chee-Hann Wu (University of California – Irvine) provided the second presentation which investigated video game avatars as puppets able to reenact memories, experience, and trauma suppressed by the user of a given avatar. Wu’s research targeted the 2017 release, “Detention,” a horror game which uncovers aspects of the White Terror, an event of mass violence and suppression by the KMT. Wu focused on the nexus of experiencing and interacting with the past through the game and to how this past would be reflected temporally upon a player. Presenting remotely after a recent battle with COVID-19, Yung-Ying Chang (Rutgers University) gave the final presentation of the session. Chang researched the reasons why people discuss politics in non-political spaces, divining how political beliefs develop from cultural space and areas of social life, specifically addressing the socio-cultural space of K-pop fandoms.

Session 1C: Taiwan in the Postwar Era

In HUB 337, Niki Alsford (University of Central Lancashire) led Session 1C: Taiwan in the Postwar Era. Janet Y. Chen (Princeton University) began the session with her paper on the use of Japanese and the linguistic changes on Taiwan from 1945 to 1955. Chen explored the triangular competition between Japanese, island vernacular speech, and the Mandarin-based language policies implemented by the KMT, arguing that although linguistic unification by the KMT was successful, there were cracks in the foundations of this unification as Taiwan remained linguistically diverse across society. Ting-Hong Wong (Academia Sinica) next presented a paper on private education and national-colonialism in Taiwan. Framing the KMT as colonizers of Taiwan, Wong’s research identified how the establishment of private schools evolved from a “necessary evil” tolerated by the KMT, to a leading institution of spreading KMT ideology. Emily M. Hill (Queen’s University) followed Wong with research exploring the evolution of Taiwan’s rice industry. Specifically targeting the early 1950s, Hill focused on the U.S.-KMT partnership in rice agriculture, how the U.S. supported expanded rice farming for financial stability, whereas the KMT encouraged expansion as a matter of military security. Hill argued that these plans failed, resulting in minimal to modest exports and local shortages regardless of good harvests. Sheng-mei Ma (Michigan State University) provided the session’s final paper remotely. Ma’s paper explored the retreat of the KMT to Taiwan and the origin of the identity of these individuals, arguing that their identity lives on in Taiwan through the writings and research of second generation waishengren, not through their own perspectives.

WCTS attendees

Session 2A: Roundtable: Publishing in Taiwan Studies

After a relaxing lunch, afternoon sessions began. In HUB 332, the 4th WCTS’ first roundtable was held addressing publishing in the Taiwan Studies discipline. Chaired by Shelley Rigger, the roundtable began with a remote presentation from Dafydd Fell (SOAS University of London), exploring the first decade of Routledge research on Taiwan Studies. Niki Alsford (University of Central Lancashire) followed Fell to present on the BRILL series of Taiwan Studies publications. UW’s own Lorri Hagman next presented on the UW Press, its future works in the Taiwan Studies field, and how current and future scholars should consider their research for publishing. Finally, Ming-yeh Rawnsley (University of London) joined us remotely to reflect on the International Journal of Taiwan Studies, established in 2018.

Session 2B: EATS Panel: Connecting Past and Present Taiwan: In the Eyes of Travelers, Migrants, and Citizens

Chaired by Scott Simon (University of Ottawa), Session 2B hosted the EATS Panel. Adina Zemanek (University of Central Lancashire) began the session with her research on the citizen diplomacy of Taiwanese non-state actors within Europe, arguing that citizen diplomats may be able to complement the activity of traditional ROC diplomats. Beatrice Zani (McGill University) expanded on the global themes presented by Zemanek, connecting migrants to Taiwan to the globalized commodities they produce. Through digital connectivity, Zani explored how migrants are contributing to new economic spaces and socio-economic transformations. Ann Heylen next presented remotely on digital resources and their relationship to historical narration. How Heylen and her team employed technology-based analysis techniques to historical news media allowed for new patterns of understanding the development of political narratives of the era, influencing historical diplomatic decision making and public opinion. Representing EATS, Isabelle Cheng (University of Portsmouth) presented on the development of TARGTS, a cross-regional research website combining the efforts of EATS, NATSA, IJTS, ATL, and other sources.

Session 2C: Environment, Energy, and the Public

Addressing public relationships to environmental and energy issues, Session 2C, chaired by Yen-Chu Weng (University of Washington), began with research by Nancy Guy (University of California, San Diego). Guy’s research investigated the relationship between music and waste in Taiwan. She argued that the institution of musical rhythms on garbage trucks as irritants to inspire progressive waste disposal practices by residents also influenced the awareness of the “slow violence” of global environmental degradation among Taipei residents. Following Guy was a collaborative project by Naiyi Hsiao (National Chengchi University), Kyle Yulun Kuo (National Chengchi University), Hen-Hsuan Huang (Academia Sinica), and Ying-Che Tang (National Chengchi University). Hsiao presented the team’s research on the relationship between public opinion and nuclear power in Taiwan. Rather than focusing on the sentiments versus policy relationships, the team endeavored to experiment with internet public opinion gathering as a means of analysis which may help social scientists in the future. Jeffery Hou (University of Washington) presented the third piece of the session. Hou’s research explored public engagement in Taiwan, utilizing a redevelopment project on the Shezidao neighborhood in Taipei, a historical neighborhood which remained relatively untouched for over 50 years due to a construction moratorium, as his basis for analysis. Ming-sho Ho (National Taiwan University) next presented a joint project between himself and Yun-Chung Ting (Academia Sinica) addressing “citizen power plants,” rooftop solar panels controlled by individual citizens. Ho and Ting argued that these citizen-led investments present an example for directly incorporating social participation in Taiwan’s energy future. The final presentation by Richard Boyechko (University of Washington) addressed Taiwan’s waste management practices in the face of our growing environmental crisis. Boyechko argued that to encourage better waste management practices, the disposal of garbage should be inconvenient, requiring individuals to pay attention to the waste that they generate.

Session 3A: Roundtable: Launching the Encyclopedia of Taiwan Studies

Entering the final sessions of Day 1, Session 3A featured a roundtable marking the launch of the Encyclopedia of Taiwan Studies. Begun in August 2020, the Taiwan Encyclopedia will be a leading resource for the field of Taiwan Studies, incorporating 14 fields of study. This session was chaired remotely by the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia, Michael Hsaio (Academia Sinica), and chaired in-person by Yen-Chu Weng (University of Washington). After Hsiao’s opening remarks, Uri Tadmor (Brill Publishers) began the roundtable with an overview of Brill Publishers and the publishing of the Taiwan Encyclopedia. Nancy Guy (University of California, San Diego) followed Tadmor, explaining how she chose entries for the music and performance scholarship to be integrated into the Encyclopedia. Explaining the selections for the anthropology and indigenous studies portions of the publication, Scott Simon (University of Ottawa) addressed the difficulty of making selections for this book and the importance of having the contributing scholars write in a way that was accessible to the public. Robert Weller (Boston University) defined the religious studies selections for the Encyclopedia, stressing the conceptual difficulties of crafting a publication of this nature. Dafydd Fell (University of London),  Ming-yeh Rawnsley (SOAS University of London), Ming-sho Ho (National Taiwan University), Lung-Chih Chang (Academia Sinica), and Kuei-fen Chiu (National Chung-Hsing University) followed our previous speakers addressing their portions of the Encyclopedia, highlighting the difficulties and joys of constructing and participating in such an ambitious project.

Session 3B: Literature, Identities, and New Trends

Chaired by Janet Chen (Princeton), the final B session focused on literature and identity in Taiwan Studies. Chien-hui Wang (Sorbonne Nouvelle University) initiated presentations with her research on how translation could be used in identity studies utilizing French translations of Taiwanese literature as her case.Chien-hui Wang speaking Jessica Fan (University of Texas at Austin) presented on the literary representations of Taipei through the works of novelist Wu Ming-yi, exploring the palimpsests of Taipei in reality and Taipei in literature. Shifting from literary analysis of one city or space, Shu-hui Lin’s (National Taiwan Normal University) research addressed travelogs of the authors Yin Hai-kuang and Lanboan Xiaman, identifying the historical context in which each author traveled and how these contexts affected the messaging and imagery presented by each author. To conclude the day’s B sessions, Kuei-fen Chiu (National Chung-Hsing University) presented remotely on the emerging trends in Taiwanese literature, arguing that the quest for post-colonial subjectivity was the principal theme in 20th century Taiwanese literature, cosmopolitan openness to the world and the emphasis on Taiwanese roots characterizes early 21st century literature.

Session 3C: Contested Sovereignty

Although entirely remote, Session 3C: Contested Sovereignty, brought a resounding conclusion to Day One’s C sessions. Chaired by one of the principal coordinators of the 4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies, Jay Chen (Academia Sinica), Contest Sovereignty portrayed the dynamic richness of Taiwan Studies as a discipline. Ekhong Ljavakaw Sia (Academia Sinica) led the session with his research on Taiwan’s endogenous origins in relation to nation-state building. Sia explored the conflicts within Taiwan’s statehood under the umbrella of U.S. and Chinese influence, as well as through the complications between KMT/ROC state actors and their own nation building project. Fu-Chang Wang (Academia Sinica) next presented on the transformation of ethnic relations in Taiwan compared to Taiwan’s sovereignty. Dynamic domestic-ethnic politics in Taiwan, including conflicts between Chinese and Taiwanese nationalist imaginations, have moved beyond the ethnic politics of distribution through the democratization process; however, Wang argues that the ethnic politics of identity remains Taiwan’s biggest challenge. Our third presenter, Jieh-Min Wu (Academia Sinica), continued the discussion of identity in relation to Taiwan’s sovereignty, investigating the changing meaning of Taiwan’s independence. Wu’s research explored how small state identity is shaped by large, authoritarian neighbors, comparing Taiwan and Ukraine, while also addressing the effect of external threat on national identity politics and the meaning of national independence. He argued that Taiwan has become “extroverted” in its orientation, defending Taiwan from abroad, having evolved beyond introverted national development. Michelle Fei-Yu Hsieh (Academia Sinica) concluded the presentations with her work on the Taiwanese developmental state and heavy industrialization in the 1970s. Her research presents a new approach to developmental state theorization: the geopolitics thesis of the developmental state. Hsieh argued that the geopolitical thesis of the developmental state better explains the dynamics of industrial innovation compared to nationalist accounts founded on state-society relationships.

Day Two

Session 4A: Plenary: Taiwan Studies outside the Academy

Yuan Hsiao (University of Washington) opened the second day of the 4th World Congress, chairing the first plenary of the conference: Taiwan Studies outside the Academy. To begin the plenary, Russell Hsiao (Global Taiwan Institute) presented on the Washington, D.C. thinktank space through his experiences with the Global Taiwan Institute. Hsiao defined the importance of GTI within the policy space as the only Taiwan-focused thinktank, exploring how GTI circumnavigates Taiwan policy research and promotion despite D.C.’s constant approaches to Taiwan: the pattern of 4-year cycles on Taiwan policy aligning with presidential elections, Taiwan policy being treated as a subset of China policy, and the hyper focused nature of Taiwan policy in defense and military lenses. Next, Kharis Templeman (Stanford University) provided the Congress his perspectives from researching in a position “outside” of academia, working with the Hoover Institution. Rather than exploring his work with the Hoover Institution as truly “outside” the academy, Templeman framed his work as academia adjacent. His work is policy focused; however, being located at Stanford allows for a hybrid relationship between both worlds. Lung-Chih Chang (National Museum of Taiwan History and Academia Sinica) concluded the plenary’s presentations with his work with the National Museum of Taiwan History. First providing an overview of the museum, Chang argued that based on the museum’s diverse scholarly and public engagement, the institution functions as a key facet of Taiwan’s cultural diplomacy by translating Taiwan Studies to broader audiences. Chiting Peng’s (Academia Sinica) presentation could not be played during the Congress due to technical difficulties; however, her research accessing the thinktank space as an area for promotion of Taiwan Studies will be featured on our edited coverage of Session 4A on our Youtube page. Peng’s work champions the ability of the thinktank space to enmesh Taiwan Studies cooperation between academic, government, and civil society networks. The extended Q&A portion of Session 4A covered expansive topics from how policy bodies further engage with the public, other career tracks which graduate students may pursue outside of academia, and the surge of non-Taiwan experts setting narratives on Taiwan in the U.S. Profession

Session 5A: Disinformation, Propaganda, and Threats

Rejoining the A Sessions as chair, Russell Hsiao (Global Taiwan Institute) introduced the panel, highlighting the relevance of each presenter’s research with the CCP’s escalating disinformation campaigns and ahistorical narratives directed towards Taiwan. Denisa Hilbertova (Masaryk University) began the session with an exploration of propaganda focusing on Taiwan in Cold War-era Czechoslovakia. After presenting a cornucopia of propaganda imagery and narratives about Taiwan and illuminating the reasons behind such campaigns, Hilbertova explored how this imagery and the narratives therein affected dissidents within Czechoslovakia. Continuing with a contemporary examination of disinformation, Yuan Hsiao (University of Washington) presented a collaborative project between himself and Scott Radnitz (University of Washington). Hsiao focused on the intentional spread of disinformation, rather than the unintentionality of misinformation, pursued by Russia against Georgia, and China against Taiwan. Although ongoing, in their Taiwan case, the duo’s research demonstrates that disinformation claims are highly dependent on domestic political contexts, and that political partisanship amplifies negative sentiments: “political polarization affects the effect of disinformation campaigns.” Lev Nachman (Harvard University) followed Hsiao’s presentation discussing Taiwanese civil society responses to Chinese threats. Whereas China’s increasingly bold military actions yield little protest, neither do Chinese rhetorical threats; however, domestic cooptation, China’s use of Taiwan’s domestic institutions against Taiwan, yields serious protests, including the Sunflower Movement and beyond. To finish the presentations for Session 5A, Jesse Lu (National Chengchi University) joined us from Taiwan to bring discussion back to the disinformation space. Addressing the complications of free speech in the internet era, Lu’s research posited how the Taiwan government may address disinformation campaigns similarly to German and U.S. approaches.

Session 5B: JATS Panel: Historical Narrative and Memories: A Perspective from Japan’s Taiwan Studies

After the morning plenary, the 4th World Congress expanded back into its full conference space. Yuko Mio (Keio University) opened the B sessions as chair and the first presenter of the JATS Panel. Mio’s research investigated the relationship between Japanese colonial rule and the relationship Taiwanese colonial subjects had to Japanese gods, belief in them and the reasoning for enshrining them within Taiwan. Confronting Taiwan’s complex historical sovereignty as a Japanese colony, under KMT authoritarian rule—another instance of colonialism, and through Taiwan’s relationship to the PRC, Arata Hirai (Waseda University) presented various transitional justice dilemmas which Taiwan continues to struggle with. Unlike many other states, Taiwan is actively attempting to overcome these dilemmas, fulfilling transitional justice across temporality and sovereignty through bottom-up social movements and top-down national policy. Hirai explained that Taiwan has a long path ahead to resolve its broad transitional justice issues; however, the government’s active role in attempting to resolve these issues has fostered government legitimacy. The final presentation of session 5B was presented remotely from Japan by Ryuki Nitta (Waseda University). Nitta discussed Tai Kuo-Hui, a Taiwanese intellectual, and his relationship with postwar Japanese studies of Taiwan.

Session 5C: Religion and Ritual

Chaired by Evan Dawley (Goucher College), Day Two’s first C session began with an exploration of religiosity in Taiwan. Paul Katz (Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and Academia Sinica) presented a new case study incorporating networking theory to understand the impact of a specific temple in southern Taiwan. By examining the social history of this temple, Katz is investigating how the temple acted as a space which broke down ethnic barriers and how it represents the historical effects of urbanization upon religious pilgrimage and worship practices. Robert Weller (Boston University) stepped back in time to his initial fieldwork in Taiwan during the 1970s, investigating silence in ritual, specifically, during funerals. Through the procession of traditional Taiwanese funerary practices, Weller posited the relevance of silence within ritual, the fragility of silence, and how silence frames and unframes life. Jacob Tischer (Boston University) concluded 5C presentations with an analysis of pilgrimages as an experience to authenticate an individual’s place in Taiwan. Tischer discussed the introspection afforded by pilgrimage presenting an adaptable medium of experience, religious, environmental, and otherwise. WTCS attendees watch a presentation

Session 6A: Worlding Taiwan

After a refreshing outdoor lunch in the Sylvan Theater, the A sessions, chaired by Lev Nachman (Harvard University), began with a presentation by Ian Rowen (National Taiwan University). Presenting his forthcoming monograph, Rowen argued that PRC tourism on Taiwan aggravated tensions, pushing sentiment further towards national self-determination among Taiwan’s citizenry, rather than strengthening the “One China” ideals the CCP hoped tourism would facilitate. Two Taiwan’s evolved: one performing for PRC tourists, and the other experienced as everyday life. Digging deeper into Taiwan’s existence as a nation, Mark Harrison (University of Tasmania) engaged with the international system’s “worlding” through the Heideggerian sense and an international relations theory position simultaneously. Harrison conceptualized Taiwan’s lack of place in the international system by explaining Taiwan’s lack of institutions to symbolize its statehood within the international system (formal embassies, etc.) positioning Taiwan outside of the system’s development temporally. Understanding the world through realist or liberal lenses is made possible by the exclusion of Taiwan, Harrison asserts. When Taiwan is theorized as a part of the international system through these theories of international relations the system trembles. While Taiwan is “self-evidently and common sensically a state within the international system,” the current international system must be challenged to actively world with Taiwan. Huang Gang (Washington University in St. Louis) next presented a comparative study investigating Taiwan and Okinawa’s colonial and neo-colonial experiences. Working within Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies disciplines, Gang’s research posits decolonization of Taiwan and Okinawa through agentic means, elevating the state from the periphery. Wen-Chin Wu (Academia Sinica) joined us remotely from Taiwan for the session’s final presentation. Exploring how economic inequality affects a citizenry’s willingness to fight, Wu presented Taiwan’s case. Arguing that both wealthy and poor citizens are unwilling to fight for their countries for differing reasons, Wu also showed that national pride worked as a mediating factor which encouraged a willingness to fight across income levels. Taiwan is a unique case where perceptions of income inequality are fairly metered; however, national pride is very pronounced, and directly correlates to a willingness to fight regardless of income level.

Session 6B: Visual and Audial in Taiwan Media

Initiating the afternoon’s B sessions as chair, Ellen Y. Chang (University of Washington) welcomed Pei-chun Hsieh (SUNY-Binghamton) and her work on KMT-PRC audio propaganda campaigns encapsulated by artist Chen Ting-Jung’s installation “You Are the Only One I Care About (Whisper).” Hsieh addressed how Chen’s work represents the historical use of the female voice politically, and that Chen’s piece represents a form of aural resilience for the future. Presenting his dissertation, I-Lin Liu (Indiana University, Bloomington) discussed the relationship between Italian neorealist film and Taiwanese cinema in the 1980s. Through his study, Liu argued that any national cinema is inherently heterogeneous and transnational, explaining a nation’s film culture not defined simply by how films are produced, but the discursive framing of film production and reception. Evelyn Shih (University of Colorado, Boulder) next joined us remotely with a presentation addressing historical sound recording in Taiwanese film. Exploring “on-site recording” and the complications of dubbing, Shih explained that the evolution of sound recording in Taiwanese cinema was not a concrete process, nor the only path which artists could have followed. Concluding the session, Hsin-chin Hsieh (National Taipei University) presented her work on documentary filmmaking on migrant workers in Taiwan. Through the lens of biopolitics, Hsieh investigated how documentaries aid and harm migrant workers, including how post-screening Q&A sessions build social consciousness surrounding the plights of migrant workers in Taiwan.

Session 6C: Gender Equality and Beyond

Proving the mettle of the 4th World Congress’ hybrid format, session 6C, chaired by Astrid Lipinsky (University of Vienna), hosted an entirely remote group of presenters.  Adam Dedman (University of Melbourne)  joined first to discuss the inseparable relationship between transgender issues and major political issues in Taiwan. Analyzing social movements and the interconnectedness of queer rights and legal rights therein, Dedman displayed how Taiwan’s pride movement is enmeshed in Taiwanese civil society. Howard Chiang (University of California, Davis) spoke about transtopia, a concept that describes “scales of gender transgression that are not always recognizable through the Western notion of transgender.” Chiang showed how a new keyword could be generated from Taiwanese history and culture to further decolonize queer studies in Asia, and to re-theorize expressions of transness away from an understanding of transness in a hierarchical system via “transgender” to an inclusive, fluid acknowledgement of trans existence across time and space. UW alumna, Hsunhui Tseng (National Cheng Kung University), joined us for the final presentation of the session. Tseng’s collaborative research work with Vietnamese hostesses in Taiwan described processes of making the Other within Taiwan, illuminating “dark corners” that we are often unwilling to see. Tseng argued, however, that women laboring in these spaces were not perpetrators nor victims, but ordinary women seeking a better life for their children. 

Session 7A: New Directions in Taiwan Studies

Day Two’s A sessions concluded with forward thinking discussions on new research within the Taiwan Studies discipline. Chaired by Kharis Templeman (Princeton University), the session began with a presentation by Eric Siu-kei Cheng (National Taitung University) on the global dispersal of Taiwanese aquaculture technology. Cheng’s working project argues that Taiwanese aquaculture engineers functioned as “grassroots diplomats” through technology transfers, reputation building, cultural exchange, business, and science diplomacy in their transborder business movements. Presenting on a collaborative project between himself, Adrian Rauchfleish (National Taiwan University), and Liang-Yu Sie (National Taiwan University), Lev Nachman grappled with the tension between area and disciplinary studies and how this friction is particularly pronounced within Taiwan Studies as a field. Rather than attempting to define what Taiwan Studies “is,” Nachman and his colleagues reviewed scholarship that self-defined as Taiwan Studies to assess communicative characteristics across the literature, asking how Taiwan-related literature has evolved over time in its interconnectedness, it’s coupling with China-related research, and it’s evolution within different disciplines. Following Nachman, Frank Muyard (National Central University) presented his research on the linkage of archaeology to the representation of Taiwan’s history in historical and nationalist narratives. Muyard provided possible directions for archeological work in Taiwan, highlighting the importance of establishing a “national prehistory” based on Taiwanese territory, fully encompassing Austronesian history and culture. To conclude Day Two’s A sessions, Yi-Cheng Hsieh (Academia Sinica) presented on a forthcoming, Chinese-language monograph led by A-chin Hsiau (Academia Sinica) discussing fishing culture and tourism in Taiwan. The two investigated the revitalization of fishing tourism promoted by successive governments, arguing that fishing-focused political projects were utilized as a narrative tool shifting national sentiment away from a sorrowful, authoritarian past, to a romanticized, democratic present and future.

WCTS participant discussion

Session 7B: Indigenous Taiwan

Exploring a portion of the broad spectrum of Taiwan Indigenous Studies, chair Jiun-Yu Liu (University of Washington) welcomed Chun-bin Chen (Taipei National University) as the first presenter of session 7B.  Chen spoke about perhoming, referring to Indigenous peoples in Taiwan who experience “diaspora in ancestral lands.” An indigenous youth group in Papulu Village annually perform traditional singing activities to people within and outside of the village to reconnect with their ancestors. Presenting this case study, Chen discussed how perhoming functions as a process of repeating, restoring, and remaking norms, redefining the concept of “home.” Following Chen, Scott Simon (University of Ottawa) presented a portion of his forthcoming monograph addressing the ontology of indigenous politics and the relationship of these political ontologies to Westphalian concepts of sovereignty. Simon argued that “we’re living in a historical unprecedented era in which humans have the ability to destroy the planet and, in fact, we’re doing so…” To circumvent our own destruction, the countervailing nature of indigenous ontologies must be championed. Yu-Yueh Tsai (Academia Sinica) discussed the rediscovery of Taiwanese ancestry in the final presentation of the session. The combination of genetic evidence of multi-origin ancestry and Taiwan’s political and social change, argued Tsai, has led to “co-production” of change within each phenomenon. 

Session 7C: Whether It Pays: The Economic and Social Impact of Diplomatic Switches between Taiwan and China

The projects in Session 7C were all portions of a collective research project describing the evolution of diplomatic behaviors by various global actors and the socio-economic impacts experienced by their decisions to either engage with Taiwan or China. Chair Chien-Huei Wu (Academic Sinica) initiated the session explaining the flow of each presentation in relation to the project. He first welcomed Jinji Chen’s (CTBC Business School) presentation on joint research between himself and Ling-Yu Chen addressing economic engagement between Taiwan and China. Through expansive quantitative analysis, the partnership examined changes in economic growth based on shifts in diplomatic recognition of Taipei and Beijing by specific state actors, and the impacts of various Chinese initiatives (Belt and Road, etc.) on economic growth within partnering countries. Next Sra Manpo Siwidian (University of Hawai’i) presented a collaborative project examining Taiwan’s diplomatic relations with various nations in Oceania. The group researched the value of diplomatic relations with Taiwan, rather such a relationship proved economically fruitful for a given nation or otherwise. China and Taiwan engage with Oceania in markedly different ways, often resulting in nations becoming heavily indebted to China while their neighbors who fostered relations with Taiwan experience more positive outcomes. Derek Sheridan (Academia Sinica) followed the examination of relations to Oceania with a collaborative analysis of relations to African nations. The team’s research addressed four case studies of nations who either broke ties with Taiwan to become closer to China (Malawi and South Africa) or never fostered formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan (Nigeria and Angola). Focusing on people-to-people relations as a means for Taiwan to engage in diplomacy outside of the traditional diplomatic sphere, Sheridan commended these initiatives, yet also maintained caution as not civil society-based initiatives have been productive nor have they shed positive light on Taiwan. Yen-Pin Su (National Chengchi University) concluded C session presentations for Day Two with his work on Taiwan and Chinese economic development initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean. Perceived economic benefits were shown to be the primary concern for nations within these regions when siding with China or Taiwan. Su’s project evaluated the results of such decisions, particularly if switching ties from Taiwan to China yielded economic benefits and if China’s adoption of the Belt and Road Initiative led to nations switching relations away from Taiwan.

Day 3

Session 8A: Roundtable: New Sources for Taiwan Studies

The final round table of the 4th World Congress, chair Robert Weller (Boston University) welcomed Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang (University of Missouri) as the first presenter. Yang’s work focused on archival research of declassified government documents in Taiwan and how these documents may alter understandings of the White Terror. Arguing that our perception of historical truths is incomplete, Yang aims to prove that Taiwan’s military was not only the main instrument of state violence during the White Terror, but also the bulk of the victims during this gruesome period of Taiwan’s history. Yang hopes his research will help reimage Taiwan’s relationship to its military for the betterment of Taiwanese society in the face of ever more aggressive PRC action. Evan Dawley (Goucher College) followed Yang moving from archival research to illuminating Taiwan Studies source material to broader audiences. Dawley began with a definitive assertion that “research on Taiwan, as Taiwan, is indeed flourishing,” as evidenced by the growth of various programs and centers across the world, including UW TSP. Taiwan Studies practitioners, however, face a series of continued difficulties. Principally among these, Dawley argued, is the dearth of English-language source material which can be used in the classroom. Thus, Dawley presented his website, “Primary Sources on Taiwan”–a working project he aims to establish as a leading resource for all Taiwan Studies educators. Niki Alsford concluded the roundtable presentations with his work on the reorientation of Taiwan as a Pacific Island. Alsford argued that understanding Taiwan as an island helps to understand Taiwan’s history of coloniality and Taiwan’s indigenous history, connecting the Indigenous peoples in Taiwan to the broader framework of Austronesian Indigenous peoples in the Pacific. So too, he  explored the teaching of Taiwan through indigenous and colonial connections, displaying how these elements can help to engage a broader range of students and the public with Taiwan.

Session 8B: Taiwan Facing COVID-19

Chaired by Mark Harrison (University of Tasmania), the final B session opened with a presentation by Chun-yi Lee (University of Nottingham). Lee’s project was a joint effort with Yi-Hsin Hsu (Taipei Medical University),Ya-Ting Yang (Taipei Medical University), Yuching Kuo (Independent Scholar), Weixiang Wang (University of Nottingham), and Yiqiao Lin (University of Nottingham). The team addressed Taiwanese citizen’s trust in their government and the relationship between this trust and COVID-19 responses. Key to their research were inquiries on the effects of political affiliation to trust in the government during the COVID-19 pandemic and if Taiwanese society complied with government measures to combat COVID-19, particularly the “track and trust” digital system. Continuing presentations on public sentiment in Taiwan compared to various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shelley Rigger (Davidson College) presented a joint effort between herself, Nathan Kar Ming Chan (Loyola Maramount University), Lev Nachman (Harvard Fairbank Center), and Chit Wal John Mok (University of California, Irvine). The cohort’s work assessed Taiwanese opinion on Chinese-sourced Sinovac vaccines. Through their research, the team identified that Taiwanese citizens are skeptical of things coming from the PRC, even objects of great value like life-saving vaccines. The conclusionary presentation of the B sessions was delivered by Poyao Huang (National Taiwan University). Huang investigated Taiwan’s path towards COVID-19 “normality” across society. Arguing that understandings of “normal” are out of the ordinary, Huang asserted that “normal” is not a simple thing, and that we should not hope to return to a pre-COVID “normal,” but reimagine what “normal” is.

Session 8C: History, Memory, and Knowledge

To conclude the 4th World Congress’ C sessions, chair Paul Katz (Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and Academia Sinica) welcomed Hao-Wen Cheng’s (University of Minnesota) presentation on historical memory during the 1950s. His work argues that WWII and the Korean War are two related memories which construct an imagined community against Communism within the region, and that the relationship of WWII memories between Chinese nationalists and Taiwanese islanders led to the construction of shared memories, rather than a disparate understanding of the period. James Gerien-Chen (University of Florida) followed Cheng with his working project on Japanese colonial government research into Taiwanese customs during the first 20 years of Japanese imperial rule on the island. Gerien-Chen’s exploration of colonial-era archival documents illuminates the desire for imperial powers to understand Taiwan’s indigenous peoples and the difficulties they experienced in doing so. Pin-Yi Li (University of Wisconsin, Madison) took the podium as our third speaker. Li’s research grappled with Taiwanese identity and history on display across museums in Taiwan. Li argued that museums reflect Taiwan’s unique geopolitical status while simultaneously creating a sense of thriving Taiwanese cultural identity emphasized in Taiwan Studies. Yi Lu (University of Oxford) gave the final presentation of the C sessions on Taiwan’s political archives. Since 2016, the Taiwanese state has opened vast archival resources to the public; however, Lu questioned why the state took so long to open these archives, and why these archival openings have furthered the divisiveness of transitional justice in Taiwan. Lu argued for a reframing of archival openings not as the beginning of the end to historical debate, but as the “start of a new process of social learning” to better Taiwanese society.

Session 9A: Plenary: Taiwan Studies in North America

Concluding the 4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies, James Lin (University of Washington) remotely introduced our final plenary, exploring the current state of Taiwan Studies in North America. Chaired by Ellen Y. Chang (University of Washington), the plenary welcomed three speakers who have constructed Taiwan Studies programs across the continent. Hung-yok Ip (Oregon State University) initiated discussions with a presentation on her work in establishing the Chiu Program for Taiwan Studies at Oregon State University. Ip focused on complications relevant not just to Taiwan Studies, but to all area studies programs: funding and the desires of program donors compared to faculty hopes for program development, complications of administration with internationally-facing programs, and the importance of participation from colleagues at a program’s home university and those of other institutions. 

WCTS audience

Joining us remotely, Fei-hsien Wang (Indiana University, Bloomington) followed Ip with a presentation on her experience shaping a Taiwan Studies curriculum from the ground-up. Lacking a dedicated Taiwan Studies program yet eager to promote Taiwan Studies all the same, Wang guided conference attendees through her strategies for instantiating Taiwan Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her work provided an inspirational framework for scholars to shape Taiwan Studies curricula at their home institutions. The last plenary panelist, Ashley Esarey (University of Alberta), joined us remotely to present on his work in relaunching the Taiwan Studies program at the University of Alberta.  Esarey explored how he and his colleagues have been able to rejuvenate Taiwan Studies at the University of Alberta through the promotion of the intellectual justifications for the study of Taiwan, identifying strategies to promote Taiwan Studies with internet and communications technologies, connecting common ground elements between discipline and area studies programs, and utilizing Taiwan as a comparative case across disciplines. The Q&A period which followed the final presentations inspired serious discussion on Taiwan Studies’ path forward in North America and beyond.


Robert Weller (Boston University), Chun-yi Lee (University of Nottingham), and Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang (University of Missouri) made independent conclusionary remarks for the 4th World Congress. Weller addressed how Taiwan represents an area of study which holds the potential to reimagine theory. From the big questions of Taiwan’s political status, the identity of its peoples, and Taiwan’s multifaceted history to the minutia in between, Weller stressed Taiwan’s importance as a wholly unique area of study. Chun-yi Lee next underscored how Taiwan was in the making at the 4th World Congress. Stressing how collaboration between scholars, schools, and public and private networks has allowed Taiwan Studies to flourish globally, Lee celebrated what the 4th World Congress represented and what it would come to represent in the future. Dominic Yang took the path less traveled, discussing the peculiarities of the conference. With comedic flair, Yang made recommendations to all future World Congresses, including the importance of proper luroufan at future meetings. Ellen Y. Chang (University of Washington) concluded the 4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies, thanking our incredible volunteers, staff members, and sponsors for making the conference possible.

See you all in Taipei in 2025!


Written by Ian Oates, Susan Hou, Margaret Tu.