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Chen, "Acting otherwise: Institutionalization of Women's/Gender Studies in Taiwan's universities," 2004

USC Dissertation in Women's Studies.
August 24, 2009

Peiying Chen, Ph.D.

Abstract (Summary)
This study explores the role of intellectual activism in the institutionalization of women's/gender studies in Taiwan. A microfoundational approach is employed to analyze the interplay of identity-action with institutional structure in the evolution of this academic field in Taiwan. The field has emerged over the last 15 years through, first, the formation of a single research center, then a library, individual and team-teaching courses, to the more formalized structures of a teaching certificate program, a department-like graduate program, and a subfield in sociology and foreign literature eligible for national research grants. Two Taiwanese universities central to these developments, and in-depth interviews of thirty-five participants were selected to study how academic pathfinders utilized available opportunities and personal experience to reinvent identities and strategize action with the aim of establishing and promoting women studies at Taiwanese universities.

A sociology of becoming and strategies of action form the key conceptual tools of the microfoundational approach employed in this study. The women and a few men featured in this study forged multiple paths of becoming as they came to see the world in new ways through emergent and shifting gender consciousness. Furthermore, they brought about groundbreaking personal and public transformations through innovative strategies of action. Empowerment, networking, and confrontation comprise the strategies of action that are key to understanding the interplay between identity-action and structure. The pathfinders sought empowerment by creating new social spaces through various forms of institution-based women's/gender studies. By networking, they connected like-minded colleagues, bridged resources and their visions, broadened social support, buffered potential interference from the central authorities, and employed an advocacy strategy to formalize women's/gender studies. And through confrontation the pathfinders clarified the relationships among feminism, the women's movement, and women's studies, negotiated and affirmed their group identities, and re-conceptualized political alliances based upon common ideologies.

This study, in sum, demonstrates the ways in which these formations of feminist identities and strategies of action, together, have profoundly contributed to the process of institutionalization of women's/gender studies in Taiwan.

Advisor: Stromquist, Nelly P.