The Kyushu Taiwan Studies Program


Established in October 2017, the Kyushu Taiwan Studies Program is the third such venture at a Japanese university sponsored by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Taipei, and the only one in Western Japan. It supports research into identity politics in contemporary Taiwan, offers a number of interdisciplinary courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and sponsors exchanges between Kyushu University and Taiwanese partner institutions.


The program is directed by Professor Edward Vickers, whose research interests encompass the history and politics of education in contemporary Chinese societies, and the politics of heritage and public memory in East Asia. Vickers’ Taiwan-related work deals mostly with the shifting representation of the island’s history in school curricula and museums since the lifting of Martial Law, and its relationship with official and popular discourse on identity.

The funding from the MOE in Taipei has made it possible to create a postdoctoral fellowship for Dr. Shiho Maehara, whose interests also lie in the area of identity politics. Dr. Maehara’s prize-winning doctoral thesis, for which she studied at National Taiwan University, analyses the changing definitions of community (or use of the pronoun “we”) in the speeches and public pronouncements of Lee Teng-hui during his presidency. While preparing publications related to her doctoral work, Maehara has recently also translated two books by President Tsai Ing-wen into Japanese. Meanwhile, she has been branching out into new areas related to culture and identity, researching the politics of “comfort women” commemoration in contemporary Taiwan, and its links to the recent international application to UNESCO for “Memory of the World” status.

From Autumn 2019, the program will welcome a new doctoral fellow, Alessandra Ferrer, courtesy of a Japanese Government scholarship. Ms. Ferrer, whose interests lie in the area of “multiculturalism” and its interpretation in Chinese societies, will be researching the history of the ROC’s “Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission” (蒙藏委員會; MTAC). Focusing on the period from the ROC’s move to Taiwan following defeat in the Chinese Civil War to the MTAC’s eventual disbandment in 2017, Ferrer will be investigating shifts in official definitions of the Commission’s role and in the actual tasks it has performed. She will also be asking what new light this story can shed on the evolution of understandings both of Taiwanese/ROC identity and the concept of “multiculturalism” as applied to ethno-cultural or religious diversity.

Taught courses:

The program offers two regular courses of lectures annually, one each at undergraduate and postgraduate level, each taught by Edward Vickers. The undergraduate course, East Asian Images of Japan – the case of Taiwan in comparative perspective, looks at how Japan has been portrayed in various East Asian societies from the mid-twentieth-century onwards, and how portrayals of the Japanese “other” have reflected and influenced conceptualisations of local or national identity. This draws on work by Vickers and others for the volume Imagining Japan in Post-war East Asia (Routledge 2013) and a related special issue of China Perspectives (December 2013). About one third of the course is dedicated specifically to discussing Taiwan, since memories of the Japanese colonial period have played an especially crucial role in identity discourse there over recent decades, and have been deeply implicated in efforts to distance the island from the Chinese “motherland”.

At the postgraduate level, Prof. Vickers offers an Introduction to Inter-disciplinary Taiwan Studies. This encompasses discussions of Taiwan’s political and social history; the island’s post-war economic “miracle”; the vicissitudes of foreign and cross-Strait relations; nation-building efforts in education and cultural policy during the Martial Law period, and the subsequent moves towards “localization”; patterns of migration and their effects on contemporary Taiwanese society; as well as heritage, tourism and the representation of the Taiwanese and Chinese past. The purpose of this course is to highlight the fascination of Taiwanese history, culture and society in their own right, and by the same token underline the attractions of the island as a site for research and fieldwork for students from the whole range of humanities and social science disciplines.

In addition to these regular courses, the Kyushu Program also offers three or four intensive courses every year, taught by invited scholars from our Taiwanese partner institutions or elsewhere. In 2017-18, these have included an undergraduate course on contemporary Taiwanese Politics by Naoya Yamazaki of Teikyo University; a postgraduate class on “Education in Taiwan: Systems, Policies and Current Issues” by Lin Tzu-bin of National Taiwan Normal University; and another class by Dr. Yin C. Chuang (also of NTNU) on “‘Cuteness’ and the reception of Japanese popular culture in Taiwan”.

Finally, once a year we also organise a two-day open symposium, in Japanese, on issues in contemporary Taiwanese society and politics. This is open to members of the public as well as to Kyushu University faculty and students. The first such event, held in January 2018, featured talks by Nojima Tsuyoshi (former Taiwan Bureau Chief for the Asahi Shimbun), Tony Lo (former CEO, Giant Global Corp.) and the essayist Hitoto Tae.

Collaboration and exchange with Taiwanese partners:

Kyushu University has partnerships with a range of Taiwanese universities, including NTU; NTNU; Tsinghua University and Tamkang University, as well as faculty-level agreements with a number of other institutions. The Taiwan Program uses these established relationships as a platform for expanding opportunities for Kyudai students and faculty to visit Taiwan and engage in short-term studies there, and for developing collaboration in teaching and research with Taiwanese colleagues.

Every year, we send around 8 undergraduate students to NTNU’s Mandarin Training Centre for intensive Chinese language studies. We also organise an annual Taiwan Field Trip for our undergraduates. In March 2017, this involved activities jointly organised with Professor Ako Tomoko of Tokyo University. Students from Kyushu and Tokyo Universities separately visited key historical sites in southern Taiwan, and the Kyushu group also visited National Chi Nan University in Puli. The two groups then met in Taipei for a number of joint activities. These included a guided tour around the Jingmei Human Rights Museum, a roundtable hosted by the 228 Peace Memorial Foundation, visits to the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and the headquarters of the DPP, and a half-day of discussion and debate with students from NTU and Tamkang University. A similar program is planned for the field trip in Spring 2019.

To mark the establishment of a new university-level partnership with NTNU, in 2018-2019 the Kyushu Taiwan Program, with financial support from Kyushu University, is also organising a series of activities with colleagues from NTNU (the College of Education and the Department of Taiwan Culture), culminating in an international symposium to be held in Fukuoka in January 2019 (on the theme “Multiculturalism in East Asia - the Taiwan experience in comparative perspective”). These exchanges will give a boost to plans already underway for collaborative research involving scholars at Kyushu University and NTNU.

For further information, please refer to the Kyushu Taiwan Program website.

Edward Vickers is Professor of Comparative Education and Director of the Taiwan Studies Program at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. He is also Secretary-General of the Comparative Education Society of Asia. His most recent books are Education and Society in Post-Mao China (2017) and Remembering Asia's World War II (forthcoming with Routledge, 2019).