2018 EATS Annual Conference in Zurich



The 15th EATS Annual Conference took place on April 4-6 and was one of our largest and most successful conventions to date. It was hosted by the University of Zurich and its local organiser was Dr. Simona Grano. During the several months preceding this event, Dr. Grano successfully combined her duties as local host with other demanding tasks: that of managing the Zurich Taiwan Studies Project 2017-2019, and that of preparing for her habilitation degree, which she obtained shortly before the EATS symposium.

This year’s conference was centered around the theme of sustainability. In environmental sciences, “sustainability” means “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance”. Although this concept has been so widely used recently as to seem a mere buzzword, it actually embodies a much broader philosophy and practice, and can refer to an ecosystem, a lifestyle, a community or a world that is capable of supporting itself and its surroundings indefinitely. It is this broad applicability that inspired us to employ it as a headword for our Taiwan Studies convention. Therefore, we proposed the following questions for consideration: How have the people on Taiwan survived political, social and cultural challenges?; How could Taiwan contribute to a more sustainable world in the future?; What are the issues the islanders have to face at present in order to maintain their lifestyles and what creative solutions arise during this process? How does the idea of sustainability apply to Tsai Ing-wen’s approaches to transitional justice, gender equality, cross-strait relations, economic growth, environment, and cultural development?

And indeed, we were happy to see this year’s theme enthusiastically adopted by many scholars. We received a total of 141 submissions, with 60 panelists selected after review, and a total of 120 participants attended the conference. Unsurprisingly, numerous presentations focused on issues related to the environment, agriculture, or urban and rural development. However, our annual meeting also provided a forum for discussion and exchange of views regarding the concept of sustainability as perceived from within other disciplines and theoretical frameworks belonging to both the social and political sciences, and the arts and humanities. The conference panels were as follows: (1) Literature and Literary Translation; (2) Cross-Strait and International Relations; (3) Colonial and Post-war History; (4) Social Movements and Civil Society; (5) Media and Popular Culture; (6) Cultural Policy, Public Diplomacy; (7) Population, Migration and Gender; (8) Law, Economy and Human Rights; (9) Food, Farming and Rural Community; (10) Urban Development and Environment; (11) Education and Linguistics (12) Waste, Pollution and Climate Change; and (13) Aborigines. According to an already established tradition, the above-mentioned topics were accompanied by a special panel organized by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, entitled “Sustaining Democratic Taiwan and Asia”.

The conference was inaugurated by Professor Shelley Rigger of Davidson College with a keynote speech on the sustainability of Taiwan as a self-governing entity that has been thriving despite a lack of widespread diplomatic recognition. She recapitulated on the last seven decades in Taiwan’s history, which witnessed this small nation’s success story against the odds: its economical, cultural, social development and political transformation from single-party authoritarianism to liberal democracy. Professor Rigger also discussed the challenges confronting Taiwan in the 21st century, and provided a tentative assessment of the sustainability of Taiwan’s achievements in the face of rising PRC power. On the second day of our meeting, we also had the honour to host a public lecture entitled “Democratization and Political Megatrends in Taiwan”. This lecture celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation and was held by Professor Michael Y. M. Kau, former Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and current CCK Board Member.

The great emphasis placed by the local authorities on this Taiwan Studies event was expressed through a reception drink sponsored by the Zurich City government, which took place on the evening of April 4. The conference dinner at the ETH Dozentenfoyer, sponsored by the Délégation culturelle et économique de Taipei, delighted our panelists with a magnificent view of the city spreading below the restaurant terrace. A two-hour optional tour of the old town of Zurich was available to the conference delegates on April 6, after our annual meeting came to a successful conclusion.

Each EATS conference is accompanied by a series of related events. This year’s key event was the long-anticipated launch of the International Journal of Taiwan Studies (IJTS), whose first issue was proudly introduced by Dr. Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley, its Editor-in-Chief. Moreover, in tune with our standing commitment to nurturing new academic talent, we offered three Young Scholar Awards which went to: Chen-Yu Lin from the University of Liverpool for her study of PRC censorship on Taiwanese Mandopop, based on ethnographic research among Chinese students living in the UK; Jess Marinaccio from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, for her discussion of the ways in which James Clifford’s articulation theory has been employed by Taiwanese scholars in their attempts to explain the socio-cultural circumstances of Taiwan’s indigenous and Han populations; and Magdaléna Masláková from Masaryk University in Brno, who presented the profile of George Leslie MacKay as a pioneer of sustainable Christian society in Taiwan. More details related to the three awardees are to be found in their personal reflections included in this edition of EATS News. During the conference, we also announced three Library Research Grants, supplemented after the conference with three further grants for conducting Taiwan Studies library queries. Please look forward to the grant reports in the next issue of EATS News.

The Board members who coorganized the 15th annual meeting were as follows (in alphabetical order of surnames): Dr. Niki J.P. Alsford (University of Central Lancashire), Dr. Simona Grano (University of Zurich), Dr. Chun-yi Lee (University of Nottingham), Dr. Astrid Lipinsky (University of Vienna), Dr. Lara Momesso (University of Central Lancashire), Dr. Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley (SOAS, University of London) and Dr. Adina Zemanek (Jagiellonian University in Krakow). The EATS auditor is Professor Carsten Storm (FAU Erlangen Nürnberg).

But 2018 was also a year of major changes within the EATS Board. After six years of great dedication to advancing Taiwan Studies through voluntary work for EATS, Dr. Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley was replaced in her position of EATS Secretary-General by Dr. Isabelle Cheng. Dr. Niki J.P. Alsford and Dr. Astrid Lipinsky also stepped down from the Board, and two new members were elected by this year’s General Assembly: Dr. Jens Damm from Chang Jung Christian University and Miss Beatrice Zani from Lyon 2 University.