Rereading Decadence in Taiwanese Urban Literature
Project: “Rereading Decadence in Taiwanese Urban Literature”
Libraries Visited: Leiden University Library
My research is entitled “Rereading Decadence in Taiwanese Urban Literature: The Intersection of Space, Illness and Lust”. It deals with decadence by exploring the three main themes in Taiwanese urban literature: writing of space, illness and lust. While staying at Leiden University, I mainly focused on one of the main themes, writing of space, by using Lin Yaode’s Dadongqu as a case study. The origin of decadence in Taiwanese urban literature can be traced back to the Taishō period (1912-1926) of Japan. At that time, decadence flourished with the New Sensation School, which proposed that the pain and sorrow depicted in literature added a dimension of beauty. Lin Yaode argued that Taiwanese urban literature is influenced by “decadent” ideas not only from Japan but also from China. The value of this research lies in its revelation that decadence in literature should not be treated negatively as an ideology of decay but neutrally as a phenomenon natural to a fast-developing city. To support the argument, in this research an analysis will be made of Lin’s work Dadongqu, which is found to contain four different writing styles: fast cutting, blankness, hyberbolic writing, and flat characters.
The Leiden University in Netherlands is well known for its commitment to Taiwan research. It has held several art events in cooperation with Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture. Also, a Modern East Asia Research Center is set up at Leiden University, providing a wealth of Asia resources. In 1996, the Ministry of Education in Taiwan started a collaboration with the International Institute for Asia Studies of Leiden University. Since then, many scholars have come to Leiden to conduct Taiwan-related research. Additionally, Leiden University holds many academic conferences on Taiwan Studies so that students at Leiden University have access to a better understanding of Taiwan.
Among the materials in the library, there are books and articles I found particularly valuable to my research. One of them is Faces of Degeneration: a European disorder, written by Daniel Pick. After exploring the decadent phenomenon in literature development of England, Italy and French, Pick concluded that decadence is associated with the term “degeneration”. Considering that such a statement seems to be dogmatic, the researcher decides to probe into the essence of decadence, thus leading to the finding that there are differences between West and East in defining decadence. The divergence in the end of century: Taiwanese literature theories in 1980s are a series of books written by Meng Fan and Lin Yaode. They can be found from the series that many new genres flourished in Taiwan of 1980s, ranging from modern poetry, novel, urban literature, to environmental literature. It was intended to deconstruct the history of literature development, which former scholars claimed to have been established with their efforts. Also, the writers of the series attempted to determine if there was a “mainstream” literature in the 1980s. This research echoes such an argument and disputes that Lin Yaode’s work can be explained only in postmodernism. Rather than sticking to the framed theories and rigid methodology, this research tries to analyze Dadongqu by adopting new approaches. The article “On Urban Literature and Shanghai-style Literature of Taiwan”, which investigates the connections between Taiwan Literature and Shanghai New Sensation School, is of great help in analyzing Dadongqu. After analyzing Lin Yaode’s work by mainly focusing on the narration, structure, and themes, I found that the New Sensation School’s influence on Lin Yaode is substantial. This finding consolidates Lin Yaode’s claim that the rise of Taiwan urban literature was influenced by China’s New Sensation School. With the study from this article, my research can further explain how Taiwan urban literature in the 1990s came to being.
As for further suggestions to young scholars, I would suggest that they contact the librarian first and fill out the library form so that they can gain access to Leiden University Library. After they register by providing the relevant documents of EATS and student ID, they will be given a free access library card; otherwise, they have to pay ten Euro per day for entering the library as a visitor. Furthermore, since some of the documents are only available for students who currently enroll in Leiden University, guest scholars are advised to check beforehand if the materials relevant to their research are accessible. As for other resources worthwhile to be looked at, I would recommend the link “Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies”, which offers extra data bases, including the materials on modern Taiwan and loads of ancient resources. The data can be obtained by using use the computers in Leiden University library.
Finally, I would like to show my gratitude to the European Association of Taiwan Studies. With the library grant the committee offers, I had the opportunity to witness the expanding research into Taiwanese literature in continental Europe. Reading these Taiwan-related materials at the modern Leiden University library not only provided different perspectives but also triggered my research inspiration. This certainly was a fruitful journey for me.
Yi-Chi Chiu is a Ph.D. candidate in Chinese Studies, University of Manchester.
Decay and Generation Gap in Chang Tso-chi's Cinematic Works
Project: Decay and Generation Gap in Chang Tso-chi's Cinematic Works
Libraries Visited: National Taiwan University Library
My research focuses on Chang Tso-chi’s filmography as a representative of contemporary Taiwanese auteur cinema. Most of it consists of film analysis, supported by critical articles, film reviews and interviews with Chang Tso-chi which help to get insight into this director’s background and personality. Chang’s films are not widely distributed outside of Taiwan, and only a few of them are available through online platforms. When in Europe, it is difficult to find main film sources. Chang Tso-chi’s latest full feature, Thanatos Drunk (2015), was screened only during few special events and film festivals in Poland, France, Sweden and Germany. A Time in Quchi (2013) was in regular distribution in France and Darkness & Light (1999) in Netherlands. Except for these three titles, the other seven are difficult to reach beyond the film archives and libraries in Taiwan.
My research objectives were as follows: 1) to find recurring motives and a characteristic film style; 3) to define which elements make Chang Tso-chi’s filmography a part of Taiwan cinema; 4) to place the director within the international film history and juxtapose his works with the works of other auteurs such as Peter Greenaway. Distortion of time and identity, operatic narration style, tragic death scenes, focus on the passing of time, food and organic decay as well as incorporating various intertextual references (movie posters, images) are some of the elements characteristic for several film auteurs across continents, Chang Tso-chi among them.
The reason for visiting National Taiwan University Library was that its Multimedia Center contains all films by Chang Tso-chi released on DVD. Moreover, at the NTU Library there are written sources such as academic journals (Sun Yat-sen Journal of Humanities, Yu Da Academic Journal) and books providing background information on audience responses, Chang Tso-chi personal statements during interviews and film analysis of chosen titles already conducted by other researchers.
Admission to the NTU Library is free of charge; a personal identification document is required upon registration. It is better if you provide a document other than your passport, as it will be stored as a deposit for a temporary library card. While there was no problem with getting access to the written sources that I was planning to look into, unfortunately one title on DVD was available for personal use only, exclusively for rental. It was not possible to watch the movie in the public spaces of the library’s Multimedia Center, which provides computers and DVD players. Since upon registration I could only acquire a temporary library card, I was not allowed to rent the DVDs and watch them at home.
The sources I managed to reach at the NTU Library were very helpful for my research. Books and journals can be photographed, photocopying is also possible on request. While filling in the registration form, users can ask for temporary access to a wi-fi connection. While entering the library, laptops are allowed, but no outside books and papers.
While in Taipei, it is best to try to get in contact with filmmakers themselves, which is quite easy during various film festivals often organized in the city, Taipei International Film Festival being the best example. During Q&A sessions or private discussion after the screening, it is possible to obtain firsthand information, so attending events related to your research is very helpful.
Moreover, it is also important to make contact with scholars and young researchers who specialize in your research area. I met a National Taiwan University student who mentioned a film studies conference organized by the Taipei National University of the Arts (The Third International Conference on the Film Histories of Taiwan and Asia Cinemas, October 6-8, 2017). I submitted an abstract, which was accepted; my presentation was entitled “Wen Yi and Grace Chang – the Construction of Post-War Modern Woman”. While participating the conference, I had the chance to speak to scholars who had previously done research into Chang Tso-chi’s works.
I am grateful for the support of the EATS Library Research Grant and the opportunity to gain access to the films and written sources available at the National Taiwan University Library. Thanks to the European Association of Taiwan Studies Library Grant, I managed to travel to Taiwan. Upon my stay in Taipei, I consulted scholars researching Taiwan cinema, which helped me to review my research methods and pointed me towards other subjects worth further analysis. National Taiwan University library provides excellent environment for research, its archives are constantly updated with latest releases. This travel greatly encouraged me to continue my research.
Maja Klaudia Korbecka is an MA Student in Film and New Media Studies, Jagiellonian University in Krakow.
Anthropology of Relocation: the Re-making of Home Among the Mainlander Diaspora in Taiwan
Project: "Anthropology of Relocation: the Re-making of Home Among the Mainlander Diaspora in Taiwan"
Libraries Visited: National Archives, City Hall Library, National Library (Taiwan)
My doctoral research deals with the politics of relocation of military villages from historical settlements to high-rise buildings. It focuses on the effects of the relocation of military dependents’ villages against the background of globalized modern urban development in Asian cities. Taking the lead from the massive migration of mainlanders to Taiwan in 1949, and the settlement of army personnel and their families in dedicated villages (juancun), I examine the impact of the 1990s reconstruction policies and urban renewal on the everyday life of juancun dwellers. How does moving house impact on the everyday life of people who have already faced forced displacement? My thesis will show how community is rebuilt, routines are re-established, and neighbors’ interpersonal dynamics are reinstated in the new, modern, high-rise apartment blocks. It will also shed light on how three generations of former juancun dwellers cope with relocation by negotiating their personal and collective memories, their sense of belonging as well as their social and political identities. Finally, I will consider these processes against the background of juancun preservation and memorialization in the broader context of Taiwan’s urban development.
On the one hand, my project contributes empirically to debates on the role of military villages and Mainlanders in Taiwanese society and history; on the other hand, by investigating the meanings and effects of relocation, I make a theoretical contribution to anthropological debates on cities, memory and modernity.
The follow-up fieldwork and archival research
My research is based on 18 months of intensive fieldwork in a military village in Taipei located in the district of Beitou. Besides engaging with the classical anthropological research methodologies of participant observation and interviews, I relied on visual methodologies (such as map-making and filming) and on archival research to collect my data.
Between September and August 2017, I carried out a follow-up fieldwork, aimed at the collection of qualitative data to complete my dissertation. I divided the follow-up field research into two parts: out of a total of one and a half months, I dedicated two weeks to visiting archives and libraries and collecting relevant material, and spent a full month following up closely on the residents’ life in new apartment buildings with interviews and participant observation.
National Archives (New Taipei City)
The most important archive for this follow-up trip was the National Archive, located in Xinzhuang in New Taipei City. The material I found there will inform the first chapter of my dissertation, designed to work as historical lead into the object of my research — the place of the military villages of Taiwan and the different phases of their historical construction. As some of the villages were built over colonial property, I was interested in finding material related to the acquisition of the Japanese military property by the KMT, which I knew was carried out by a particular working-group, the richan jieshouzu (日產接收組). I was particularly interested in the archival records of such acquisition, dispositions that allocate houses to the military and evidence that redefine these places as military villages. To this aim, in the National Archive I found the collection Guofangbu houbei silingbu (Ministry of Defence reserve forces command) particularly helpful.
Among the sources contained in this collection, one document is particularly interesting and here worth illustration. It is titled Taiwansheng junshi jieshou zongbaogao shu, in English “A comprehensive report of expropriation of the military property of Taiwan province”. The report contains a detailed description of the colonial properties acquired by the KMT, which in the report are divided by army division, land-forces, navy, air-force, auxiliary troops and so on. It was written as part of a field-research requested by Chiang Kai- shek with the aim of collecting first-hand information about Taiwan at the vigil of Japanese surrender in 1945. With this purpose the Taiwan diaocha weiyuanhui (Taiwan Research Committee) was created. The document highlights which properties were taken over and how they were administered. This source is very important for my research as it contains information about the expropriation of Japanese military airports, military housing and storage houses, places which will not much later become the first military villages.
Suggestions to other young scholars
While scholars can browse documents’ titles and short description from home, it is only in the physical space of the archive that the material can be viewed and examined. Advanced application to consult the archive is advised particularly for scholars planning to visit the archive over a short-term period. In fact, the archive will take about two weeks to prepare the requested material for consultation, and if material is requested for the first time, the process is very likely to take longer, especially in times of high- demand. I would advise early application a few months before the visit if the consultation of a high-volume of documents is necessary.
Regarding the duplication of material, there are different possibilities, according to the typologies of the documents. If the sources exist in digital version, you can require a CD with the material you need on it (fees are calculated per document page). If the documents exists only in paper, you are allowed to take pictures (free of charge) or to request photocopies (for a fee).
Library of the Taipei City Hall and the National Library
While in Taipei, I carried out interviews with some officials in the local government of Taipei City. After one of these meetings, I collected some relevant material at the City Hall Library, which comprised of old editions of books regarding specific juancun relocation plans. I also accessed the National Library (Taipei) to consult a dissertation written in the 1990s, unavailable in digital format.
I take this opportunity to thank EATS for entrusting me with this Library Research Grant. By visiting the archives during this follow-up stay, I could examine valuable historical documents, which complement the interviews and other qualitative material I had collected during my first fieldwork period.
Elisa Tamburo is a PhD candidate at the Department of Social Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS, University of London.
Representations of Cultural Heritage and National Identity in Tourism – A Case of Taiwan
Project: Representations of Cultural Heritage and National Identity in Tourism – A Case of Taiwan
Libraries Visited: SOAS Library, University of London
The research project I work on is part of my master's dissertation at the University of Primorska, Faculty of Tourism Studies, Turistica. The thesis aims to recognize the representations of cultural heritage and their processes in the formation of national identity. The main goal is to ascertain how Taiwanese cultural heritage and national identity are reflected in the island's tourism. Each chapter presents processes of heritage-making with specific cases of different aspects of culture, such as architecture, film, tea and night markets, which all play an important role in national tourism.
Any relevant academic literature on Taiwan is almost non-existent at my Faculty. For this reason, I continued my research at the University of Ljubljana where I was fortunate to be introduced to EATS. Thanks to its Library Research Grant, I was able to visit the SOAS library at the University of London, which I chose because it specializes in Asian Studies and holds a comprehensive selection of reading materials not only on Taiwan but also on heritage, national identity, and tourism in general. An additional reason for my choice was simply that the material available is largely in the English language, which I personally found most helpful. In my two weeks stay, I was able to collect a good selection of references in books and articles I found in the library and in the University's online database.
The material I was looking for is divided into basic theoretical discussions and specific case studies in the field of culture and national identity in Taiwan. In reference to the first, I found Smith's Uses of Heritage most useful for presenting heritage as a process, and Montserrat's Identity of the Nations useful in terms of national identity. In addition, to summarize Taiwan's history, I referred to Davison's A Short History of Taiwan: The Case for Independence, and Copper's Taiwan: Nation-State or Province?.
In relation to Taiwanese national identity formation, I found two articles very insightful: one by Yeh, entitled "Using an Awakening Narrative to Leave Behind a Former National Identity: An Investigation of the Conversion of National Identity in Taiwan"; and a second one by Zhong, “Explaining the National Identity Shift in Taiwan”. Going from there I found a number of related articles to support some of my arguments, such as "Identity formation in Taiwan: How much difference, how many similarities" by Kaeding or "Heritage Tourism in Taiwan’s Desinicized Nationalism" by Morais et al. Focusing on specific cases of representations of cultural heritage and national identity in tourism, I found two of Lin's articles (1) "Collective Individualities: Cultural and Political Reception in Taiwan’s History, Architecture and Cities" and (2) "Heteroglossic Asia: The Transformation of Urban Taiwan" helpful for supporting a chapter on architecture and material consequences of heritage. As regards Taiwanese film and cinema, I found a number of relevant articles and books, among others Taiwan Film Directors: A Treasure Island by Yeh and Davis, and New Taiwanese Cinema in Focus: Moving Within and Beyond the Frame by Wilson. Furthermore, an article titled “Film-Induced Pilgrimage and Contested Heritage Space in Taipei City” by Chen and Mele, directly addressed the tourism viewpoint. I am yet to find more on culinary issues, such as night markets and tea culture, however, I managed to look into related issues in the work of Wu and Cheung, titled “The Globalization of Chinese Food”.
SOAS is also one of the leading institutions on Taiwan Studies and offers several programs, events, and seminars related to Taiwan. That alone provided me with an opportunity to take part in the summer school, where I had the great pleasure to participate in talks, film screenings and debates on various topics of Taiwan Studies. My advice to young researchers in this field who have an opportunity to visit SOAS, would be to participate in its events and talks, as well as contacting the SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies for further suggestions. Make sure to also look into the large section of library’s archives, which also holds related material – more information and details on the collection can be found on the library's official website. I would also advise to take advantage of the stay itself and look into the happenings in the city. London is a melting pot of cultures and different walks of life. Events related to Taiwan can be found all around. Those include culinary events and festivals, talks and exhibitions, as well as shops, restaurants and tea spots. Overall, I think London and SOAS both have a lot to offer in terms of Taiwan Studies, therefore it is a good idea to make a list of everything you want to do and visit, so you can organize your time of stay and make the most of your trip.
Daša Okrožnik is an MA student of the University of Primorska, Koper.