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Robert Oppenheim, Director WCH 4.134, Mailcode G9300, Austin, TX 78712 78712 • 512-471-5811

Frames of Taiwan: An International Workshop

A Recapping of a Successful Spring Event

Posted: May 22, 2012
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Sponsored by the CCK-IUC, the Department of Asian Studies at UT-Austin, the Taiwan Grant, and the China Endowment, Frames of Taiwan: An International Workshop was held at the University of Texas at Austin on April 28 and 29, 2012. The workshop began with Margaret Hillenbrand’s (Oxford) keynote speech on the “liuxuesheng wenxue,” or the literature by overseas students. The speech covered a wide range of writers from Yu Dafu to Pai Hsien-yung, setting a comparative framework unrestricted by national literature and providing thoughtful remarks on the overlaps between the Sinophone and the Anglophone studies, the Sinophone and the Japanophone studies.

The keynote speech was followed by four panels, each one of which focused on a randomly selected pair of presentations about Taiwan. Tzu-hui Celina Hung (UCLA) and Peter Shen (Northwestern) respectively explored the changing ethnoscape of Taiwan with the growing number of South East Asian migrant workers and its politico-cultural implications. Peter Shen discussed Taiwan writer Liu Ta-jen’s “Chatham Square” in New York’s Chinatown, an ethnicized space, in relation to Liu’s ongoing concern with the Baodiao movement.

In the second panel, Joshua Neves (Toronto/Brown) discussed the notion of “media archipelago” in conjunction with film festivals in Asia, including the Golden Horse Award in Taiwan; E. K. Tan focused on Sinophone Malaysian writer Ng Kwang Cheng’s 黃廣青 poetry. The two presenters showed new “lines of flight” to consider the role Taiwan plays in the formation and transmutation of transnational film industry and world literature.

Shuang Shen’s (Penn State) talk on a comparative studies of Taiwan and Hong Kong modernisms by way of a Chinese writer Ma Lang 馬朗and Brian Bernards’ (USC) discussion of ecocriticism in works by Sinophone Malaysian writer Pan Yutong 潘雨桐 provides both a close reading of literary pieces by the two writers and a large critical framework of thinking about Taiwan’s contribution to the reconfiguration of China Studies and literary criticism. Taiwan as a transnational and transcultural site of literary production helps raise awareness of the “biodiversity” of Chinese literary and cultural studies, which China-centrism heretofore considers trivial or even impure.

In the last panel, Andrea Bachner (Penn State) discussed Taiwan writer Chang Ta-chun 張大春 by way of the Cuban writer Alejo Capentier’s magical realism. Bachner’s presentation highlights not just the comparability between Taiwan literature and Latin-American literature, but also how an archetypal motif of the jungle is manifested and played out in relation to the political economy of traveling theory and the history of cultural and ethnic migration. Kai-man Chang’s (Tulane) discussion explored the discrete roles the figure of child plays in contemporary Taiwan cinema. His genealogical studies of the child figure accentuated, from a Fouculdian perspective, the genealogy of power and discipline in Taiwan since the 1970s.

The random grouping of presenters sparked very intense discussion regarding the position Taiwan occupies in postcolonial and Sinophone studies, in multiethnic and multilingual translation and transvaluation, and in the tension between nativism and globalization. The workshop is very well-attended. Questions from the audience also contributed to the cross-pollination between many different topics and theories about Taiwan, from “Asia as method” to the “task of translator.”

The workshop on Sunday began with a roundtable discussion of Chien-hsin Tsai’s essay on “Formosa Betrayed, or Translating Taiwan” that explores new possibilities of understanding Taiwan’s vying for international recognition. With its many monikers—from “maiyuan” 埋冤, “dayuan” 大員, “penglai” 蓬萊, “mudball” 泥丸, to “Chinese Taipei” 中華台北, just to name a few—Taiwan and its people had demonstrated a unique perseverance, a determination, in the face of pressing political and economic challenges.

The workshop concluded with a film outing to the award-winning The Warriors of Rainbow: Seediq Bale by the Taiwanese director Wei Te-sheng 魏德聖, and a post-screening discussion. The participants discussed Taiwan cinema and its unique history of institutionalization and metamorphosis using Seediq Bale as a case in point.

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