Call for Papers for North American Taiwan Studies Association Annual Conference

The North American Taiwan Studies Association’s (NATSA) 19th Annual Conference will take place at the University of California, Santa Barbara, CA from June 21-22 (Fri-Sat), 2013. Co-assistance is provided by the Center for Taiwan Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara and the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica (中央研究院臺灣史研究所). Academics and scholars are invited to submit their papers and proposals now.


Submission deadline: January 4th, 2013
Notification of acceptance by: February 15th, 2013
Full papers due: May 13th, 2013

Conference Theme: Taiwan in Theory

Over the past decades, Taiwan’s astonishing economic development, its people’s peaceful push to democracy, and its continued political isolation due to a complicated multi-faceted relationship with China and things “Chinese” have left scholars and residents of Taiwan alike wondering what Taiwan itself is and what Taiwan, in theory, might be. Where is Taiwan’s place in the world? Is it an island? A nation? A democracy? A colonial regime? Is it a high technology powerhouse or one destined to be other countries’ OEM manufacturer? While the rise and opening of China has diminished Taiwan’s former status as an empirical proxy for things “Chinese,” scholars increasingly research Taiwan as a worthy object of study in its own right and as such have grappled to define the outlines and direction of a viable Taiwan Studies. With both comparative similarities and places of unique purchase vis-à-vis other parts of the world, Taiwan is a place of contingency and change. Within Taiwan this has meant a burgeoning of research into Taiwanese identities, Taiwan’s colonial history, its indigenous peoples, a proliferation of local histories, and new perspectives on Taiwan’s relationships with China.

Taiwan Studies has a continuing responsibility to remain relevant to the interests, challenges, and anxieties of all the peoples living in Taiwan. Yet, for it to remain a viable academic force in a world of currently diminishing funding for Area Studies, Taiwan Studies must also speak with a distinct voice to the wide variety of global debates and discussions currently raging within traditional disciplinary formations. This is not just something that must be done; rather it is something that Taiwan has the potential to excel at. Scholars whose research is based in whole or in part in Taiwan have the ability to not simply comment on these debates, but to contribute and, perhaps to shape their directions. The necessary distinctive voice will not be found in writing “theory” simply for the sake of theory, but rather theory that emerges from a grounded understanding of the ways that Taiwanese people’s social, cultural, economic, and political lives assert their own concerns and speak back to those prevalent in other academic disciplines.

If Taiwan and its transformations have historically provided fertile “raw data” for testing theories of economic, social and political development based primarily on Western (particularly North American) paradigms and concerns; we suggest, following several speakers from the 2012 conference, that Taiwan’s potential lies in being a “method” or “modality” that not only contributes to theory, but also, challenging the implicit power relationships partitioning the globe into spaces of theory creation and spaces of data collection, changes how we think about theory. How does Taiwan’s distinctive international situation challenge how we think about sovereignty, international law, colonialism and empire, security and new social/political movements? Collapsing what we mean by theory versus practice, what emerging social forms, styles of governance, legal practices, forms of affect, and new ways of thinking are developing within Taiwan itself? How can research in Taiwan contribute (and how is it already contributing) to both answering and asking these new questions as they appear in anthropology, film studies, history, legal studies, literature, sociology, and political science?

The North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA) invites scholars, particularly young scholars, to submit proposals for our upcoming annual conference on June 21-22, at the University of California, Santa Barbara with the co-assistance of the Center for Taiwan Studies at UCSB and of the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica. Following the calls of multiple scholars from our 2012 conference, we invite submitters to consider how Taiwan’s situation—its own by itself or in relation to or in comparison with others, perhaps as a gateway, liminal space, node, or even method—makes contributions that scholars who pursue answers to parallel questions in other areas would profit from hearing. We encourage students of Taiwan to return to and reflect on their research, to its basis in Taiwan’s experience, to discover insight into how these may, whether originally the main focus of research, a footnote in it, or a previously unfinished thought, contribute in novel ways to larger debates.

As a larger goal for the conference, NATSA hopes to begin to inspire the work and discussions that will continue to push Taiwan and Taiwan Studies towards critical, valuable engagement with the most pressing questions of the moment and of the future. NATSA 2013 challenges scholars to begin research that will place Taiwan (along with its people, their productions, anxieties, and challenges) at the forefront of theory. By joining this conference and speaking to your own discipline’s debates and discussions, we hope to create a node of exchange for disciplinary knowledge and advance. This will also give presenters the opportunity to place their work and conclusions before a group of other younger and experienced scholars intimately engaged with parallel issues, data, and events from quite different perspectives.

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