Within the world of Oriental scholarship, Sinology and Asian Studies, the academic discipline of Taiwan Studies is fairly new. This is not because of neglect or limited attention that has been paid to the island as an object of social knowledge, but because of an ideological corpus that tied the study of Taiwan neatly into the world of Chinese culture and civilization. Said otherwise, until up into the 1980s—and for some even beyond right up to the present day—writing about Taiwan was not conceived as part of a project of local discovery. Instead, it was written to describe modern Chinese society.
With the end of martial law in 1987 and the beginning of democratization, the focus was lifted from Taiwan as an exclusively Han Chinese society. The origins of Taiwan Studies are best situated in a scholarship that begins with its frontier history during the Qing dynasty or even before. By the 1990s, Taiwan Studies as a distinct field had been born. A Taiwan historiography began to appear that emphasized an emerging importance of the Japanese colonial period. Today, scholars from all over the world are regularly involved in discussion of the series of historical events that gave birth to this unique society. A large enough body of research has become available to support a growing number of overviews and surveys with Taiwan as their central theme and now involves a wide range of academic disciplines. In addition to historically informed scholarship (Taiwan History), there is a growing understanding of Taiwanese identity and ethnicity that draws heavily from theoretical considerations. These works also include an increased understanding of the role of religion in contemporary Taiwan politics, gender issues and studies on the place of indigenous peoples in a contemporary Taiwan. Another trend that heavily influences contemporary Taiwan Studies is linked with the critical analysis of literature and its recent expansion into venues like cinema, documentary and drama. Finally, scholarly work on politics, law, cross-strait and international relations is indispensable to a proper understanding of contemporary Taiwan culture and society.
Evidently, the consolidation of a new academic discipline goes hand in hand with publication venues that generate a sustainable circulation and distribution as well as fora that provide an opportunity to present scholarship. To this end, in 2004 the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London initiated the annual conferences of the European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS), held in cooperation with a European host university on a rotating basis. Each spring, the EATS Conference offers new and established scholars of Taiwan Studies an opportunity to meet in Europe, to present their own research and to learn about their peers’ Taiwan-related research and teaching projects.
Since its establishment, publishing work in academic journals and scholarly volumes is one of the key objectives of EATS. It is worth noting that there is a dedicated book series in the English language for Taiwan Studies, which is edited by Dr Dafydd Fell, the founding secretary-general of EATS: Routledge Research on Taiwan Series. Many EATS conference papers are revised after receiving comments from discussants and members of the conference audience and submitted to journals for publication. Please follow this link for EATS-related academic publications. Moreover, EATS is now publishing a twice-yearly newsletters, EATS News, to keep the Taiwan Studies communities around the globe closely informed of any new developments, activities, events and publications in the field.
With your participation and support, we believe that Taiwan Studies as a field will continue to thrive and evolve.