Goodbye is a New Beginning
Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley
Six years ago when I first joined the EATS Board and became Secretary-General, I didn’t realise that I was about to experience one of the most rewarding opportunities in my career. As stipulated by the EATS Constitution, I stepped down from the EATS Board in April 2018 after the maximum service of three terms. Reflecting on my work over the past few years, I am filled with a profound gratitude to the EATS community, including all the board members, treasurer, auditor, web managers, interns, local organisers of annual conferences, keynote speakers, conference participants, our members, together with everyone and every institution that has supported the Association along the way. It is such a privilege and a joy to work with colleagues who are tremendously generous with their time, intelligence, and resources. For me, EATS is an academic organisation in which we can all strive for excellence and encourage diversity, a platform that enables us to be creative in practice, and a way of connecting friends within Europe and the world to generate research impact.
Every EATS annual conference was significant. In addition, there were numerous Taiwan-related activities throughout Europe, such as the various Taiwan Lecture/Seminar Series, cinema and cultural festivals/screenings/talks, and thematic workshops/projects/programmes, etc. Since it was established in 2004 in London, EATS has made a serious contribution to the Taiwan studies field and has attracted a great deal of talent from within the community. During my time on the EATS Board, I am particularly delighted that my colleagues and I were able to further institutionalise the association to more effectively foster interest in Taiwan among emerging scholars within Europe. The initiatives embraced by EATS between 2012 and 2018 include the organisation of an annual EATS Young Scholar Award (starting in 2011), Library Grant (starting in 2014), the publication of a biannual EATS News (starting in 2013), surveying and publicising academic publications as a result of EATS annual conferences since 2004, revamping the EATS Website, and the creation of the EATS Facebook page. EATS had only around 50 members in 2011. However, by the end of 2017 our membership reached 147.
Another characteristic of the recent EATS Board is that it highlights the importance of female scholars in our community. While I must stress the invaluable input of our male colleagues and appeal for more male representation on the Board in the future, I wish to pay a special tribute here to my sisters on the EATS Board as your enthusiasm, dedication, and collegiality is a testimony to our professional and intellectual ability. To paraphrase Hillary Clinton (1995), I believe that the achievement of the EATS Board can be considered “a celebration of the contributions women make in every aspect of life: in the home, on the job, in the community, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, learners, workers, citizens, and leaders”. We should be so proud that EATS has inspired so many fabulous female role models within the circle of European Taiwan studies.
When I look back at my own life trajectory, I realise that every goodbye has signalled a new beginning. Even though each turning point might not be engineered, as it turned out, every phase of my career development was meaningful in different ways. I worked on the media and democratisation in Taiwan and practiced journalism and creative writing when I was at the University of Nottingham in the early 2000s. I turned my attention to Chinese-language cinema when I was Head of Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) between 2005 and 2007. During my time at the University of Leeds between 2007 and 2013, I deepened my research on Taiwan cinema and got involved in science communications. Once I moved to Aberystwyth in 2013, I have devoted myself to Taiwan studies through my involvement in EATS.
The field of Taiwan studies is on the threshold of a new era. While the EATS founding secretary-general Dafydd Fell (2017) termed it the “Golden Age of Global Taiwan Studies”, Gunter Schubert (2017) cautioned us not to be complacent and has championed funding strategies to secure the “Golden Age of Taiwan Studies”. I trust that the new EATS Board under the leadership of Isabelle Cheng will no doubt bring fresh energy and innovations to help sustain the long-term development of our field. Although I left the EATS Board, I shall continue my contribution via the newly launched International Journal of Taiwan Studies(IJTS). Meanwhile I would like to spend more time with my family in Taiwan, working on my creative writing skills, and materialising a number of research and translation projects. Life is full of surprises and excitement. Let us look forward to new challenges.
- Clinton, Hillary Rodham (1995) ‘Remarks to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session’, delivered 5 September, Beijing, China.
- Fell, Dafydd (2017) 'The Golden Age of Global Taiwan Studies?', Taiwan Sentinel, 24 October
- Schuberts, Gunter (2017) 'Securing the "Golden Age of Taiwan Studies"', Taiwan Sentinel, 6 November
Dr Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley is Research Associate, Centre of Taiwan Studies, SOAS, University of London and the founding Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Taiwan Studies. She was also Secretary-General of the European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS) between 2012 and 2018.
From a Former Member, on Why One Should Join the EATS Board
As an EATS board member, you immediately feel as if you were in the middle of a European parliamentary discussion group. Board Skype meetings are as multicultural as the boards’ membership. You become accustomed to communicating in a non-native language, learning significantly about Taiwan Studies in other parts of Europe.
More importantly, you are introduced to a variety of ways to conduct Taiwan Studies as well as to the support and supporting actors you might work with at some point. By being a board member, you get to know your colleagues better, including those whom you might not have known before because of their different fields of research. You learn where to look, and whom to ask if confronted by unfamiliar content in your own work on Taiwan.
EATS is a formally registered association, and as such, must fulfill legal requirements. Being a German based in Austria, these legal affairs became my responsibility. And I learned that the legalities involved in an association registered under German law can be done only in Germany or Austria, but not in the UK or Poland. This was hard to understand from a non-German perspective, but for the board, it meant I received the complete trust of other board members when it came to this work and any information I requested.
Over the past few years, EATS has grown rapidly, as have board responsibilities and the need to set deadlines and meet them on time. The board has differentiated and separated tasks accordingly, so that board work has not overloaded individual members. At the same time, board members cooperate in a very familiar way, with mutual concern for personal issues (which still seems rather strange to me as a German, but is common in Taiwan).
As for the management of the Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies that will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year, the EATS board offered a fantastic opportunity for outreach around our activities. Each year, the board must agree on the topic of its annual meeting. The various concerns raised allow each member to learn what is important, how to be inclusive, and what is prominent in Taiwan studies at the time.
Astrid Lipinsky is Research Associate at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna, Austria. Since its founding in 2009, Dr. Lipinsky has also been the Managing Director of the Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies Including the Centers’ Book and Lecture Series. She was a board member of EATS between 2014-2018.
My Coming of Age Story: Life as a Board Member of EATS
It seems like a lifetime ago that I hunkered down to rest on the seemingly long train ride from Copenhagen to Sønderborg. It was 2012, being my first EATS Conference. I had met a number of participants and board members previously, and the Secretary General at the time, Dafydd Fell, was my boss at SOAS. Yet, in spite of this, I was still a tad apprehensive; I wasn’t sure how my paper would be received, or whether I would fit in. As I looked out of the train window and watched the Danish countryside pass me by, I slipped in and out of my thoughts.
I arrived three-and-half hours later, walking across the beautiful town to find my hotel. I was greeted with many smiles and hugs from friends I had not seen in a long time. The atmosphere was comfortable: more summer camp than an academic conference. I took the lift to my room, sharing the ride with another attendee that, at the time, I did not know. We introduced ourselves and would become close friends. As I opened the door to the room that I was assigned to share, I didn’t know if I would be alone to start. The room was empty, my roommate was an old classmate from my postgraduate degree years at National Chengchi University, so I was keen to catch up on everything and anything. I arrived to find a single double-bed. My first thoughts were perhaps that some changes had been made, and that I would be alone. I took off my shoes and was unpacking my case.
Shortly after this, Sebastian Biba entered. Thank god, I thought, that I hadn’t decided to do the usual around-the-house-in-my-undies performance. We said “Oh…” in unison, “it is a bloody (or something to that effect) good job we know each other” and so, my first night in Denmark and evening before my first EATS conference, I shared my bed. It was at this conference that I was voted a member of the Executive Board; a position in which I remained in for six years, having been re-elected twice more. As part-of-the-ship, part-of-the-crew, my journey has taken me to Lyon, Portsmouth (pttt!! – sorry, lifelong Southampton fan #wehatepompey), Krakow, Prague, and Venice.
Krakow was in many ways my favourite EATS Conference. It took the most time organising! The results were amazing. Great city, superb people, and absolutely wonderful students who went far and beyond. We visited a Bar Mleczny (milk bar) for an “authentic Eastern Bloc Poland” experience on the last night, many of us drinking into the early hours and talking shop, but getting to know each other better. My hotel experience was shared with two others, but I was awoken by one of the student helpers reminding me that the coach was waiting for me outside. I took my walk of shame to the back.
Venice was particularly interesting. My stay was at the Casa Caburlotto on Fondamenta Rizzi. Owned by a religious family of the St Joseph’s Daughters of Carburlotto, each room was adorned with its own Crucifixion of Jesus. The first night, as in any place, I have difficulties settling down to sleep. Shadows on walls differ from the usual, and such like. I woke to get some water to be greeted with a degree of shock by a glowing Jesus. By glowing, I mean in the glow-stick florescent green kind of way. The following breakfast, and by extension for the remainder of the day, I had difficulties convincing people that my Jesus was, in fact, glowing. That night I had to prove it. I had visitors, each of whom confirmed that I wasn’t going insane. Thank you Lee Chun-Yi and Dean Karalekas.
My last post as member the board was meant to be in Zurich, but due to other commitments I couldn’t make it. I have been fortunate to see this organisation grow. As a member of the second generation, I wait patiently to see how the field of study evolves as a new generation of young scholars takes its place. My summer camp feeling remains, however, and this is a good thing. I am proud to have been accepted as part of this community, and am forever grateful for the patience people have shown me.
My road from Sønderborg to the present has not been an easy one. I have been hit with personal difficulties and life has tried me as many will know. For your (the Taiwan Studies community) support, I am forever indebted. We are not small (as Bruce Jacobs will always remind us) and we shall continue to evolve in positive ways. As my time to step down has arrived, I shall enthusiastically enjoy watching from the wings. It will be strange not to be giving out name badges on the first day, and perhaps I will enjoy the chance of having the first coffee of the morning and seeing the beginning of the keynote speech. I will, however, miss that early morning gossip with Ann Heylen.
Thank you EATS.
Dr Niki J.P. Alsford is Reader in Asia Pacific Studies and Director of the International Institute of Korean Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. He is also Research Associate at the Centre of Taiwan Studies at SOAS, and Research Fellow at the Ewha Institute of Unification Studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea. He served on the board of the European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS) from 2012 to 2018, and he is currently one of the co-editors of the new BRILL Taiwan Book Series.