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14th Annual NATSA (North American Taiwan Studies Association) Conference

The 14th Annual North American Taiwan Studies Conference at the
University of Washington.

June 27, 2008 12:00am to June 29, 2008 12:00am

Translating the Political, Re-envisioning the Social: What's the Next Turn for Taiwan?

Since the late 1980s, the socioeconomic and cultural landscapes in Taiwan have undergone cataclysmic realignment and transformation. The defining historical moments, inaugurated by the lifting of Martial Law in 1987 and culminating with the political transition from KMT to DDP in 2000, have reflected continuous, though uneven, processes whereby Taiwan struggles to assert its subjectivity.  Apart from the discursive investment in the domain of politics, we also witness the flourishing of various social movements that attempt to reform and reinvent everyday life.  These diverse and diversifying social movements provide an indispensable context in understanding political events that have occurred in the past two decades.

With a conference entitled "Translating the Political, Re-envisioning the Social," we do not aim to impose the distinction between "the political" and "the social".  Instead, we are interested in the ways these two categories mutually unfold onto each other. To address the changes that have been taking place in the course of Taiwan's democratic history, we need to consider the encounter and enmeshment between state power and social force, especially given that various civil rights have helped propel and give birth to Taiwan's democracy. Today, heretofore silenced and marginalized social lives have relatively more access to articulating their needs, exemplified by voices calling for human rights for gay men, prostitutes, indigenous people, foreign spouses, and imported laborers. However, as demonstrated by the recent debate on the relocation of Le-Sheng Rehab, we sense the urgency for inquiry and examination of  how the political has absorbed, appropriated, alienated, exploited and "politicized" the social movements in the New Millennium. At stake are our sense of community and the necessity of re-constituting the social back to the political.

Minor Themes

A. Taiwan 's Security and Democratic Governance

The practice of Taiwan's foreign policy and national security has an inseparable relationship with the island's ongoing democratizing processes since 1987. From the recent studies on international relations, we see that Taiwan tends to be portrayed as either a "foster democracy of the US" or a "dangerous democracy." Despite the reductive and dichotomous discourses, we might want to examine the tension and the contradiction between Taiwan's need in deepening its democratic governance and the regional interests of its partners like the United States. What are the possibilities of resolving the tension between Taiwan's democratic practice and the regional security? What are the potential repercussions for issues of security? Authors who are interested in this sub-theme are encouraged to ponder on the dilemma that Taiwan faces in negotiating international interests with its concerns for democracy and security.

B. Cultural Industry and Economy of Everyday Life

Besides the usual translational consumption of Japanese and American pop culture, a new market niche has been created over the past several years through revitalization of domestic histories and local identities. On
the one hand, Taiwan's cultural industry seeks to promote "choices" of lifestyles, as instantiated by the LOHAS movement or internet bloggers' civil involvement. On the other hand, the emerging subculture of Taike also highlights how economic class figures in the cultural production of identities.  Important questions arise from these bourgeoning phenomena: how does Taiwan's cultural industry define a pattern of "educated consumption"? What does this interface of business and culture say about contemporary Taiwanese society? What is the logic of the new economy based cultural practice?  In this sub-theme, we invite submissions that explore different facets in the intersection of Taiwan's cultural and economic lives.

C. Transnational Trend vs. Global/local Activism

After joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002, Taiwan has been "officially incorporated" into the force of globalization. A whole range of transnational practices have further synchronized social rhythm and  standardized our everyday life. At the same time, global economic restructuring has irrevocably diminished traditional industries and threatened the well-being of domestic economy. Today, local activisms have emerged in voicing their discontent with globalization. In this sub-theme we invite scholars to explore different ramifications of globalization in Taiwan: How do we define the relationship between the global and the local in the context of Taiwan? How does this development of local activisms relate to Taiwan's historical and social specificities? How might the local resistance enable the possibility for transnational solidarity and initiate a dialogue on global social justice?

Organizer: North American Taiwan Studies Association