A Brief History of the

North America Taiwan Studies Conference (NATSC)


    With Taiwan's rapid political, economic, social, and cultural transformation in recent years, Taiwan Studies has become a field that is attracting growing academic interest from both Taiwanese scholars and Western scholars.  Coupling this growing interest was a greater demand for a substantial scholarly exchange channel that could serve to facilitate the communication between Taiwanese and Western scholars so as to enrich the germinating Taiwan studies with a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective.  It was for this reason that 47 Taiwanese graduate students and scholars from 20 U.S. universities initiated the establishment of a "Preparatory Council for the Holding of the First North America Taiwan Studies Conference," immediately after attending a Taiwan Studies conference held at Yale University, on April 23, 1994.

    The Preparatory Council aims to promote Taiwan studies in general, to enhance interaction between the academia of Taiwan and the North America, and to facilitate communication among graduate students and scholars concerning and conducting Taiwan studies.  The primary two objectives of the Preparatory Council are the holding of an annual Taiwan Studies Conference in North America and the publishing of the research papers collected from the annual conferences.

    The First and Second Annual Conferences were held at Yale University on June 2-4, 1995 and at Michigan State University on May 24-26, 1996, respectively.  The Third Annual Conference was held at University of California at Berkeley on May 29 - June 1, 1997.  The Fourth Annual Conference took place at the University of Texas, Austin on May 29 - June 1, 1998. A total of 48 qualified papers were presented in the first two conferences, 45 papers were presented in 1997 and 35 papers were presented at Austin this year. The topics of the 1998 papers covered: (1) Taiwan's challenge of globalization, (2) democratic transition & party politics, (3) social movements, and social policies, (4) Taiwan-China relations and China studies related to Taiwan.  Approximately two hundred people have so far participated in the first two conferences, whose fields of specialty had included history, sociology, political science, economics, law, anthropology, cultural studies, religious studies, literature, education, etc.  The fifth NATSC is expecting to host approximately 120 participants on June 4 - 7, 1999 at University of Wisconsin - Madison.

    A content analysis of the 126 selected papers of the four years of conferences have revealed the following primary focus of contemporary academic interest in Taiwan studies.

  1. Taiwanese history: 7 articles cover Taiwan's political, social, religious, military and cultural history, from the years of the Ching Dynasty, the Japanese colonization, to the post-war period.
  2. Ethnicity and nationalism: 22 articles focus on ethnic identity of Mainlanders, Taiwanese, and overseas Formosans; social elite, political leadership, and national identity; the 2-28 Incident, collective memory, and nation-building; social classes and ethnic conflicts; democratization, stateness, and nationalism; civic nationalism vs. ethnic nationalism, Taiwanese nationalism vs. Chinese nationalism; baseball and national identity; national imagination in global era.
  3. Taiwanese aborigines: 3 articles discuss politics of coalition and confrontation between aborigines and the Han immigrants; construction and deconstruction of aboriginal origins; Presbyterian representations of Taiwanese aboriginality.
  4. Language and culture: 7 articles are related to characteristics of the Taiwanese language; the gender-marked pronoun "Lang" in Taiwanese; language and national identity; language policy and political control; the influence of Hanji on people's linguistic perception; Vietnam, Korea, and Japan's experience of abolishing Hanji; indigenization of Taiwanese culture; the development of Chinese painting in Taiwan.
  5. Social structure and social movements: 9 articles are related to state corporatism and labor movement; gender and labor's social history; married women's working patterns; physicians and the civil society; social classes and political liberalization; generations of Taiwanese; the operation of independent unions; environmental movements; and activists of overseas Taiwan independence movement.
  6. Gender and woman studies: 10 articles discuss woman's place in politics; gender in Taiwan's industrialization; married women's working patterns; Taiwan's women writers; gender roles and housing arrangements; critique of Taiwan's feminism; the non-obliteration of Taiwanese women's names; feminist urban research and housing studies; the concept of slenderness; the body images of female students; study of modernized homosexuality.
  7. Political institutions and political organizations: 11 articles concentrate on electoral systems, party nomination, and local factionalism; social cleavages and party competition; political elites and democratization; economic development and regime change; constitutional design and democratic consolidation; equity and democratization; founding elections and party realignment.
  8. Regime, state, and development: 6 articles cover the nature of the KMT regime and the authoritarian state; applicability of the bureaucratic authoritarian model and the developmental state model; the state and the professional power of medicine; the state and central-local relations; state-business relations.
  9. Welfare state and social policies: 6 articles focus on state transformation and the system of national health insurance policy; democratic transition and old-age welfare program; non-profit organizations and child welfare policy; historical origin and political process of welfare policies in Taiwan; national identity formation and welfare state making.
  10. Economy and society: 12 articles are related to transformation of the export industry; dynamic analysis of the industrial structure; technology, social networks, and governance structures; foreign workers and labor practice in Taiwan; cultural formation of direct sales in Taiwan; women and industrial development; economic organizations in global capitalism; population growth, industrial structure, and economic development; moral discourse in economic restructuring.
  11. Religion and folklore: 7 articles cover the development of Buddhism in Taiwan; Yiguan Dao and Taiwan's capitalism; and Formosan Christians and Taiwanese self-determination; religious rituals and social life; social Psychology of fortune-telling; institutionalization of the Tzu-Chi Association.
  12. Education: 3 articles focus on Taiwan's elementary school textbooks; effects of goal setting on children's self-efficacy and skills; task value and self-efficacy on Taiwanese college students' effort and achievement.
  13. Literature and cinema: 10 articles cover Yeh Shi-tao's literary discourse and Taiwanese consciousness; comparison of Wu Cho-liu and Dong Fang Pai's work; anti-Communist literature in the 1950s; history of Taiwanese literature in the 1950s; Japanese and British Motifs in Taiwanese and Quebecois Fiction; contemporary literature of the 1990s; Chang Hsiao-Feng's essays; the positioning of Taiwan in contemporary cinema; movies of Lee Ang.
  14. Environmental polices and politics: 6 articles are on environmental movements and environmental protection; environmental regulation; participation of environmental interest groups; political institutions and environmental policy formation; environmental discourse; environmentalism and the state.
  15. Public policies: 8 articles focus on industrial policy; intercity transportation system and Taipei Urban Commuters; national parks; banking policy transformation; policy and politics of community-making; water transferring policy.
  16. Taiwan-China relations and foreign relations: 10 articles discuss Taiwan Strait crisis in the 1950s; the three Taiwan Strait crises; Taiwan's defense policy and national security; Taiwan's pragmatic diplomacy and China policy; the Taiwan Relations Act; Taiwan's "Name card" diplomacy at the UN; Taiwan's sovereignty in international law; economic interdependence; political confrontation between Taiwan and China.
  17. Resources for Taiwan Studies: 3 articles examine the role of academic libraries in Taiwan's continued development, the need for core and comprehensive bibliographies of Taiwan Studies; disputes of social science indigenization.

        The conference is made possible under the generous sponsorship of the Taiwan Research Fund, chaired by Mr. Huang Huang-hsiung.  The Taiwan Research Fund has been particularly enthusiastic in helping the forming of the NATSC from the start and has offered a long-term committed sponsorship to the NATSC.

    The current Constitution of the Preparatory Council of the Annual North America Taiwan Studies Conference was passed at the First Annual Conference on June 4, 1995 at Yale University, which specifies NATSC's organizations and functions.  So far, NATSC has roughly 100 active members.  We keep an up-to-date homepage (http://www.natsc.org)
and can be reached through e-mail at

    According to our Constitution, a Preparatory Council for the following year's conference is to be elected at each annual conference, whose primary responsibilities include calling for papers, publishing presented articles, raising necessary funds, managing human resources, and keeping an updated database.  The Presidents for the 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 conferences were Chia-lung Lin (Yale University), Jih-wen Lin (University of California at Los Angeles), Chung-hsien Huang (University of Wisconsin at Madison), and Mei-lin Pan (Duke University), respectively, and the current President for the 1999 conference is Wei-der Shu (Syracuse University).  Currently, there are 26 members in the 1999 Conference Preparatory Council, which include  Ph.Ds, Ph.D. candidates, and Ph.D. students.

Latest edition: March 4, 1999

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