As the Second World Congress of Taiwan Studies commences today in London, two participating scholars discuss the state of the subfield and how China fits into the equation
Date: Jun 18, 2015
By: Dana Ter / Staff reporter
Besides being frequently asked what it was like growing up as a foreigner in “China,” a problem I
persistently encountered as a graduate student at Columbia University and the London School of Economics, was that the mere mention of Taiwan in conversations about my research to classmates or professors would automatically elicit a response along the lines of: “But are you also going to write about China?”
It was as if Taiwan as an area of study could not exist without China. Consigned to the periphery of studies on “Greater China,” topics such as Taiwanese politics and military affairs were permissible only if they were discussed in relation to China. And I could pretty much forget writing about music, arts or pop culture — some academics who had devoted decades of their lives to advancing the subfield of “Taiwan studies” had no clue who Jay Chou (周杰倫) or Jolin Tsai (蔡依林) were.
The mere thought of devoting a year and a half of my life to researching the history of cross-strait politics or military development was nearly coma-inducing. So in the end, I wrote my 15,000-word dissertation about China. It was on how Soong Mayling (宋美齡, Chiang Kai-shek’s last wife) used her charm, beauty and wits in 1943 to woo American politicians and win support for the Chinese war effort against Japan. Since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had brought all their documents to Taiwan when they fled China in 1949, this meant I could do most of my research in Taiwan. It was a fair compromise. [FULL STORY][