2017 EATS Young Scholar Award Winner, 1st Prize: Klavier Jie Ying Wong
My research paper, entitled “Legacy, Habitus, and Repertoires: A comparative study of anti-eviction movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan”, received valuable feedbacks from the audience and gained high recognition from the EATS committee board. It is a tremendous honour for me to be granted the Young Scholar Award.
Having obtained my PhD and MPhil at Hong Kong Baptist University, I joined the Academy of Hong Kong Studies at the Education University of Hong Kong in 2016. I am currently working as a post-doctoral research fellow. My major research areas include cultural studies, social movement studies and mass communication.
My interest in Taiwan Studies, I believe, is dated back to almost ten years ago, when I was still pursuing my master degree in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I joined a study tour, which carried a theme “civil society and empowerment”, to National Chengchi University in Taipei. Not only offering me a precious tour getting to know organizations and people in Taiwan’s civil society, including sectors such as human rights of migrant workers, anti-nuclear movement, environment protection and LGBT issues, this trip was an enlightening opportunity for me to explore a brand-new face of Taiwan. I could not help but keep comparing this neighbour region with my home place Hong Kong. As I have been actively involved in social movement studies as both an observer and participant, I started to get myself known to the Taiwan counterparts. Thanks to the Taiwanese friends I got in touch with during the study trip, I soon expanded my network in different social movement sectors, learning more about the historical development of various organizations and their strategic plans in contentions with the government.
In the research paper I presented in the 2017 EATS, I take an attempt to go further beyond movement strategies, but mining the cultural indications, the roots of those strategies. Why Taiwanese activists frequently make use of funeral-style when they have complains to the government? Why Hong Kong people are less used to seeing bloods and tears during contentious actions? Activists, veteran and rookies, are perplexed and answer “this is the way we do”. Bearing in mind my sociological inquiries and a bit of ethnomethodological instinct, I debunk these strategies and “habits” by tracing the “biographies” of social movements and activists. Like Russian dolls, every movement case and activist individual is situated in a circle that carries a set of “habitus”. The habitus is learned from either previous generations or foreign experience, while at the same time is adjusted to the local context - the political, socio-cultural constrains and opportunities. Going through decades of authoritarian rule and the thundery storms of democratization, Taiwanese people have cultivated a set of repertoires that make use of religious and folk cultural symbols for wider exposure. The funerals, cries and lamentations, to certain extent, are “forced” to appear under the authoritarian political context. And such mood, taste and habitus embedded in movement strategies are carried down generation by generation.
This is my second year attending the annual conference of the European Association of Taiwan Studies which was held in the historical heritage city Venice. Last year in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Prague, I was greatly inspired by the sharing and discussion during the EATS, which led me into a vibrant community of Taiwan Studies in Europe. I am proud and glad to be a member of this community to continuously contribute my knowledge and energy.
Klavier Jie Ying Wong is Post-doctoral Research Fellow, The Academy of Hong Kong Studies, The Education University of Hong Kong.
2017 EATS Young Scholar Award Winner, Joint 2nd Prize: Vivian Szu-Chin Chih
I would first like to extend my sincere gratitude to the EATS Board for granting me the Young Scholar Award, which came with generous financial aid for my trip to the 2017 EATS Conference in Venice. It was a rewarding experience to have presented my paper and met fellow students and scholars doing Taiwan-related research in this magical and mesmerizing medieval city of water.
My interests in examining Chinese poetics in Sinophone cinema took its form while I was studying at UC Irvine as an exchange student from National Taiwan University in 2011. During that fruitful year, I enrolled in courses from different departments, among which include Chinese Cinema and Chinese Tang Poetry, both helped build the foundation for my future research regarding the Sinophone cinematic poetics. While writing a paper on a poem of the Chinese poet of the Southern Dynasty, Yin Keng (陰鏗), I realized that in this five-couplet poem, one line moves on to the next in a way that recalls zoom-out shots in cinema. This observation sparked my interest in the visual relationship between film editing and Chinese poetry. In the Chinese Cinema course, while writing my final paper on Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s A City of Sadness, I discovered a strong connection between the visual images designed in the structure of Chinese Tang poetry and the poetic atmosphere established in Hou’s film. Since then, I have been fascinated by Liao Ching-Song’s editing work in A City of Sadness, as I can trace the sources, which inspired his editing to Tang poetry and Du Fu.
To quench the thirst of delving deeper into the world of Eastern cinematic poetics, I applied to the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University. Under the supervision of Dr. Mark Morris and Dr. Susan Daruvala, I completed my M.Phil. thesis in 2015, which gradually evolved into the paper I presented at EATS Conference this year. The paper, “Taiwanese History and the February 28th Incident in A City of Sadness,” examines how, through the editor Liao Ching-Song’s poetic interpretation of the director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s elliptical and stylistic shots, A City of Sadness has been enabled to represent the historical tragedy of Taiwan back to the February 28th Incident, in a more sophisticated and compassionate way. In my analysis, I depart from the traditional focus on Hou Hsiao-Hsien and instead concentrate on the important role played by the editor Liao Ching-Song, as the agent to “trans-edit” the director’s inconsequential shots with his erudition in Chinese Tang poetry.
The 2017 EATS Conference was especially meaningful, since it had been dedicated to memorizing the 70 th anniversary of the February 28th Incident, as well as the 30th anniversary of the lifting of martial law in Taiwan. My paper, therefore, aims to excavate and discuss the possibility of re-understanding this part of Taiwanese history. The period was one of the longest martial law periods in the world, with the so-called “White Terror Period” from 1947 to 1987. After my presentation at the Universita Ca’Foscari Venezia, I have gratefully received thought-provoking questions and helpful suggestions regarding my paper.
During my upcoming Ph.D. studies at the Department of Literature at UCSD, I hope to further my inquiry into the Chinese poetics in Sinophone cinema, and to expand the scope of my research to a wider spectrum of Sinophone cinema. By scrutinizing film techniques, aesthetics and poetic styles in Sinophone cinema, my Ph.D. project will investigate how the concept of Chinese cinematic poetics has informed Sinophone cinema, as well as how Chinese poetic manifestations have distinguished Sinophone cinema from their Western counterparts. My doctoral project focuses on the dynamic relationship Sinophone cinema and Chinese poetics. My preliminary assessment is that Sinophone directors do not employ Chinese poetics to express their own emotions and concerns. Neither do they use it for the sole purpose of cinematic effects. Instead, they apply Chinese poetics as a mechanism to represent their interpretations of and responses to collective memories, historical events, and realities in the societies, in a subtle and humanistic way.
Vivian Szu-Chin Chih received her B.A. from the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in National Taiwan University, and holds an M.Phil. from the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies in Cambridge University. She serves as the editor-at- large for Taiwan for the online literary translation journal, "Asymptote." Vivian will begin her Ph.D. studies in the Program of Literature at UCSD from September, 2017.
2017 EATS Young Scholar Award Winner, Joint 2nd Prize: Naomi Kojen
It was a great honour to receive the 2017 EATS Young Scholar Award for my paper, ‘Translating Collective Memory: Perspectives on Taiwanese identity in the art of Chen Chieh-jen and Wu Tien-chang’. Presenting my research, receiving useful feedback and meeting many leading scholars in the field was a very rewarding experience in itself. Besides being a great opportunity for a young researcher, the 2017 EATS conference was also a fantastic display of diversity and abundance in the field of Taiwan Studies.
My research is a preliminary attempt to deal with several queries that have long preoccupied me; how elements of collective memory and identity function in art and how artworks critically address and reflect on such issues. This paper examines how two prominent Taiwanese artists, Chen Chieh-jen and Wu Tien-chang engage with elements of history and collective memory as a means of dealing with the question of Taiwanese identity. The island of Taiwan has been under different foreign rules since the seventeenth century; thus, official historical narratives were dictated by foreign forces, and for many social groups, collective memories hold stories of colonization, trauma and oppression. At the same time, this has prompted much discussion concerning Taiwanese consciousness and the multi-layered nature of Taiwanese identity. In the same manner, Taiwan’s historical circumstance affected cultural and artistic development, and questions of identity became central in cultural discourse and artistic production. For both artists, the use of collective memory is an artistic strategy through which they address broader issues relevant to Taiwanese society and identity. What makes these artists particularly intriguing is that the artistic strategy of incorporating elements of history and memory remained a prevalent feature throughout their careers, despite changes in aesthetics, style and medium.
For instance, in the early stages of his career Chen used historic photographs of torture and violence to comment on internalizations and reincarnations of institutional violence and oppression. Later, he transitioned to video installations in which he focused on collective memories and histories of marginalized communities, such as the women of Lien Fu garment factory or the residents of Losheng Sanatorium. On the other hand, Wu established himself as a painter, and initially looked at historic parallels between China and Taiwan and the legacy of authoritarian leaders, Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-Shek, Deng Xiaoping and Chiang Ching-Kuo. From the 1990s he abandoned grand historical narratives in favour of intimate scenes of local life, which allude to collective memories from the Martial Law period. He also developed a unique aesthetic that was heavily influenced by the local environment of his hometown Keelung, and has translated it into several mediums: painting, photography and video. Furthermore, my research aims to understand the role of art and how artists and artworks can contribute to the field of collective memory. Through an analysis of these two artistic perspectives, I illustrate how artworks have the ability to challenge conventional narratives, present new approaches to issues concerning Taiwanese identity, as well as shine a light on marginalized identities and unofficial histories, which are often excluded from official narratives.
At present I intend to continue the exploration of this topic, and possibly expand the scope of my research if I undertake doctoral studies. In the future, I hope to have an opportunity to once again participate in an EATS event, and continue to contribute to the EATS community.
Naomi Kojen was a Research Intern in National Chiao-Tung University. Currently she works as an independent researcher and art professional.