University of Zurich and the Taiwan Studies Focus Project

The University of Zurich, founded in 1833, is the largest in Switzerland and consistently ranked among the top 100 Universities in the world. The East Asian Department, comprising a Japanese and a Chinese Studies Department, was established in 1950. Since January 2013 the East Asian Department has become part of the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies (IAOS), comprising Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, Islamic Studies (with Gender Studies) and Indian Studies. As of a few years, our Institute has been committed to new, interdisciplinary approaches to Asian studies. Teaching focuses on the acquisition of language skills at an academic level including historical forms of languages as well as on comprehensive area-specific knowledge in culture, economics, history, literature, philosophy, politics, religion and society (BA-level). This is supplemented with training in theoretical approaches and research methods (MA-level).

In addition to offering a series of basic courses on the cultures of East Asia, the Middle East and India to our students, we also have many compulsory and elective courses in various aspects of contemporary life in these regions – culture, history, languages, society, politics – as well as oriental languages training from beginner to upper intermediate level. The curriculum of the Department of Chinese Studies includes courses in Taiwan history, society and ethnic issues, and is supplemented with lectures by academics from Taiwan, and with cultural activities related to Taiwan.

Our institute has already conducted a series of important academic and didactic activities in the field of Taiwan Studies. In June 2015, we hosted the Conference ‘Civil Society in Taiwan and Hong Kong: Looking Back and Reaching Out’, co-organized with the Taiwan Studies Program of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham.

In September 2017, we will host a two-day conference entitled ‘Civil Society versus the State? Emergent Trajectories of Civic Agency in East Asia in Comparative and Transnational Perspective’, which will focus on Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Mainland China and on these countries’ respective relationship vis à vis their civil societies, from a comparative perspective.

Furthermore, in April 2018 we will host the 15th annual conference of the European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS) by the title ‘Sustainable Taiwan’, which will be jointly organized by the EATS Board and Dr Simona Grano, Senior Lecturer at the University of Zurich, Department of Chinese Studies.

As for November 2016, we applied for a two-year project, to be funded by the Ministry of Education (MOE) of the Republic of China for sponsoring various Taiwan-related activities. This project aims to strengthen and expand our Institute’s didactic activities in the field of Taiwan studies, to lay the basis for further development of Taiwan-related academic events at our Institute, to promote Taiwanese culture in Switzerland and to advance our Institute’s cooperation with academic centres in Taiwan and in other European countries.

The organization of the two above-mentioned scientific conferences will fall under the scope of the project, which in the first year will focus on scientific and scholarly events and in the second on the acquisition of important databases and library resources and on inviting Taiwanese lecturers and scholars to hold seminars and classes at our institute.

The project will also aim at improving the offer of courses related to Taiwan taught by the academic staff at our Institute. All of these courses will be targeted at both undergraduate and graduate students. The estimated enrolment for each course is 10 to 15 students. With our varied and comprehensive choice of topics, we aim to attract students from several departments and backgrounds, e.g. from Chinese Studies, Political Sciences and International Relations, Gender Studies and Film Studies.

As of June 2017, an MoU has been prepared by the University of Zurich and is under review by the MOE. Official starting date for the project should be 1 September 2017.

Dr Simona Grano is Senior Lecturer at the University of Zurich, Department of Chinese Studies. She is also a member of EATS Board, 2016–2018.