I'm not sure what this means for the timing of or attendance at the other two regular Taiwan studies conferences that typically happen about the same time:
- The European Association of Taiwan Studies annual conference was held this year from April 30-May 2 at University of Portsmouth, also in the UK;
- The North American Taiwan Studies Association annual conference was held this year from June 19-21 at the University of Wisconsin.
There are probably enough people working in Taiwan studies to support three different conferences in rapid succession, but it seems sub-optimal for a small field concerned about its viability to hold multiple events exclusively on Taiwan that will be in some competition with one another.
It is also not self-evident that Taiwan studies as a whole benefits from being detached from the larger disciplinary associations, which appears to be the model being promoted here. The Association for Asian Studies (AAS), for instance, used to have a strong Taiwan studies section with a highly influential newsletter (see an example here), but there's been a scant Taiwan presence there in recent years: by my count, there was one panel (out of 366) devoted to Taiwan at this year's AAS annual conference, and a total of 17 presentations (out of about 1300) with some link to Taiwan. Roughly speaking, Taiwan came up less than 2% of the time at the largest Asian Studies conference in the world. That's not much of an impact. And I doubt any non-Taiwan specialists who were at AAS will be paying attention to what happens at NATSA, EATS, or the World Congress of Taiwan Studies next summer.
There's a similar worrisome trend in Taiwan-related papers at the American Political Science Association (APSA) annual meeting, which is happening in Washington, DC this week. There has long been a vibrant Conference Group on Taiwan Studies at APSA, but the number of panels and papers on Taiwan has declined in recent years as well--from three guaranteed panels, CGOTS is now down to one. I don't know about other disciplines--I'd be curious what's going on at the annual meetings of history, sociology, and anthropology--but in political science and Asian Studies, Taiwan-related participation is on the decline.
I suspect these trends are due in large part to the growth of the separate Taiwan Studies conferences. Which, if you think about it, is really a self-inflicted wound. Given that Taiwan's citizens and public officials complain frequently about its official marginalization in world affairs, why actively pursue greater isolation from the disciplines in which Taiwan-related research has historically been conducted? The danger of building a separate "Taiwan Studies" field is that it will confine research on Taiwan to the margins in most of the major disciplines. And it doesn't appear that anyone promoting these conferences is thinking much about that downside.
So, might I humbly suggest that one of the panels at next year's "World Congress" on the "State of the Field" consider whether holding three separate overseas Taiwan Studies conferences in two months is really a good idea at all?
The main themes for the Congress are the State of the Field in Taiwan Studies and Taiwan Studies Revisited. We are particularly seeking papers that critically assess the existing field of research in a variety of disciplines. In addition, we will have a series of papers in which authors revisit their most important work in the light of recent developments and research findings. We will have a total 19 panels that address prominent topics in the field of Taiwan Studies and also a number of practical panels that look at themes such as institution building, publishing and teaching.
We have completed the initial round of invitations and now would like to invite abstracts on the following topics:
1. State of the field on Taiwan’s political communication research
2. State of the field of research on Taiwan film (not documentaries).
3. State of the field of research on Internet Politics in Taiwan
4. State of the field on gender politics in Taiwan
5. State of the field on migration research in Taiwan
6. State of the field on research on 21st century Taiwan literature
7. Assessment of Taiwan’s economic challenges after ECFA
Abstract deadline: October 1, 2014
Abstracts should be submitted to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstracts should be no more than 600 words long.
We will announce the accepted abstracts on November 15 2014.
The organizers will cover the costs of participants’ accommodation for three nights in London but not travel costs.