JSIS 583A: Taiwan Society


Professor Bill Lavely

Course Description

Despite its small size, Taiwan society is a significant and worthwhile object of study. An island nation of 23 million people, Taiwan punches considerably above its weight in global trade, “soft power”, and geostrategic significance. For the social sciences, Taiwan’s experience presents signal examples of social change in the course of industrialization, integration within a global economy, the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, and identity formation under a succession of political regimes. Taiwan’s status is a pivotal issue in the Asia-Pacific region, and has some potential to precipitate a military conflict, because Taiwan’s very existence as a polity poses a challenge to Chinese political orthodoxy of national reunification under an authoritarian state. This seminar will consider broad developments in Taiwan society since the 17th century, emphasizing historical turning points and icons that still figure in contemporary discourses about Taiwan. The course readings are arranged in roughly chronological order with respect to subject matter, however, the main focus is on the events of recent decades and on current trends.