2017 EATS Annual Conference in Venice

TRANSLATING TAIWAN: 1947-1987-2017

The 14th Annual Conference of the European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS) took place from 2-4 March 2017 and commemorated two significant anniversaries in the history of Taiwan: the February 28 Incident of 1947 and the lifting of martial law in 1987. It was hosted by the Department of Asian and North African Studies at Ca’Foscari University in Venice, an institution which was established in 1968 and is currently the largest and one of the most renowned departments in Italy that focusses on research and the dissemination of knowledge regarding Asia and North Africa. The local organizer was Professor Federica Passi, who took up the challenge of dealing with the complex logistics related to Venice’s specificity in order to make possible the great success of our annual meeting at this beautiful location.

In tune with the research profile of the Department of Asian and North African Studies, centred upon linguistics, Chinese and Taiwanese classical and more recent literature and translation studies, the theme of this year’s conference was ‘Translating Taiwan’. However, the scope of this concept as defined for the purpose of our meeting was not limited to linguistic practices, but was expanded to refer to any mode of communication and to Taiwan’s multiple colonial experiences, manifold cultural legacies, as well as its present ethnic and cultural diversity. The topic attracted a record number of presenters (72) and conference participants (148). The conference presentations, reflecting many different disciplines and theoretical approaches, which were grouped into the following panels: 1) Politics and Governance; 2) Indigenous People; 3) Economics and Workforce; 4) Art and Popular Culture; 5) Law; 6) Linguistics; 7) Civic Movements; 8) Discourse and Semiotic Analysis; 9) International Relations; 10) Literature; 11) Migration, Mobility and Government Policies; 12) History; 13) Multiculturalism and Identity; and 14) MA panel. Moreover, there are three special panels this year, including a panel sponsored by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (‘Interpreting East Asian Democratization: Taiwan in Historical and Comparative Perspectives’), and two panels sponsored by the Lim Pen-Yuan Foundation and Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History (‘Development of Dietary Life in Postwar Taiwan’ and ‘Taiwan’s Economic Policies and Financial Transformation during the Japanese Colonial Period’). These prestigious panels made a very valuable academic contribution that further increased the variety of our agenda.

The conference opened with one of the most successful and thought-provoking keynote speeches in recent years by Professor David Der-Wei Wang at Harvard University, aptly entitled Worlding Taiwan: Translation, Transgression, Transmigration, which functioned as a framework of reference repeatedly cited during the whole duration of the conference. The first word of the title, a concept put forward by Heidegger, situated Taiwan in a global context and emphasized the constantly shifting state of becoming that characterizes the condition of its being in the world. Professor Wang also highlighted Taiwan’s complex historical legacy and defined its relation to the Sinophone sphere; he also referred to the island’s ‘state of exception’ and the spectre of post-colonialism and post-loyalism still hovering above it – the demons of historical traumas and various forms of remembrance.

In accordance with our Association’s standing commitment to fostering young talent and integrating it into an international academic community, the 2017 conference continued the established traditions of creating a space for emerging researchers. Although we only hosted one MA panel this year, the competition generated by numerous abstract submissions yielded an outstanding series of presentations by representatives of several European universities, on topics ranging from literature and cinema to student activism and party politics. In addition, we expanded the eligibility of participants for this year’s Young Scholar Award (YSA). The top three prizes went to: Klavier Wong from Education University of Hong Kong for her comparative study of anti-eviction movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which highlighted their social and political specifics and cultural implications; Vivian Szu-chin Chih from Cambridge University, for revisiting Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s famous opus, A City of Sadness, in the light of Roman Jakobson’s theory of intersemiotic translation and the ‘qi-yun editing method’, a concept put forward by Liao Ching-Song; and Naomi Kojen of National Chiao Tung University, who focused on collective memory as a medium for conceptualizing Taiwanese identity in the works of two contemporary artists, Chen Chieh-jen and Wu Tien-chang. More details related to the three awardees are to be found in their personal reflections included in this edition of EATS News.

We are also proud to report another of this year’s novelties: the use of an online system for registration of EATS members and conference presenters which we had been setting up since the end of last year’s meeting. The introduction of a registration system based on online forms was closely interlinked with a rebuilding of our website aimed (among others) at the standardization of member information and at creating a virtual space for each of them through individual email accounts and personal profiles that highlight the visibility of their academic interests and research. We also successfully experimented with online queries which enabled us to efficiently establish conference participants’ preferences related to various organizational issues, and convinced us of the usefulness of such communication methods to be employed for future editions as well.

Apart from presenting yearly reports on various topics, the General Meeting held on the second day of the conference also addressed the necessity to make amendments in the EATS Constitution (mainly concerning the number of Board members, the Treasurer’s status and the Board’s authority to appoint special commissions for the completion of special projects) in order to keep up with the Association’s expanding memberships and the increase in number and diversity of its tasks. The meeting ended with two presentations from the Free University of Brussels and the Masaryk University of Brno, who presented their bid to host our annual meetings in 2020 and 2021. These candidates illustrated both a continued development of Taiwan Studies in Western Europe, and a regional strengthening of this discipline in Central Europe, with new academic centres dedicated to expanding their activities in this respect.

Although it posed organisational challenges namely from strict regulations concerning the historical building at Ca’Foscari University where the conference took place, the absence of large hotels and scarcity of neighbouring restaurants that could accommodate the 100+ conference participants, this year’s location rewarded our efforts with the beauty of university architecture and the views we could admire every day from its windows, as well as the adventures of making our way each morning to the conference location from several guest houses, through a maze-like network of charming narrow streets, bridges and canals, and by experiencing the unique character of public transportation in its historical area. Aside from attending to complex logistic issues prior to the conference and ensuring the everyday smoothness of conference proceedings, Professor Federica Passi also proposed two options of post-conference tours: a tour to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello, and a guided walk around the area of Dorsoduro, with visits to churches renowned for the artistic masterpieces they hold and the historical figures buried within their premises.

The EATS Board members who co-organized the 14th annual meeting were as follows (in alphabetical order of surnames): Dr Niki J.P. Alsford (University of Central Lancashire), Dr Isabelle Cheng (University of Portsmouth), Dr Simona Grano (University of Zurich), Professor Ann Heylen (National Taiwan Normal University), Dr Astrid Lipinsky (University of Vienna), Dr Lara Momesso (Portsmouth), Dr Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley (SOAS and Nottingham) and Dr Adina Zemanek (Jagiellonian University in Krakow). The EATS auditor is Professor Carsten Storm (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg). During this year’s annual meeting, we expressed our warm thanks to Dr Isabelle Cheng, who stepped down from the EATS Board, for her long-lasting dedication to EATS’ activities, and welcomed a new Board member: Dr Chun-yi Lee from the University of Nottingham.