Lisa Bauer-Zhao and Her Remarks
Receiving the Young Scholar Award for my paper “Minimal Art or Chinese Traditional Painting? Taiwan's art historical self-narration mirrored in the reading of Richard Lin's (林壽宇) oeuvre” has been an honour and encouragement for my ongoing research. The 11th EATS conference provided a great possibility to present my research to an audience that is familiar with the historical development, political situation and contemporary society of Taiwan; that – of course – forms the background of my paper. Such an audience in Europe is rare, especially in the field of the arts.
In my Ph.D. thesis, I work on the understanding of 'modern art' as 'xiandai yishu現代藝術' in Taiwan's modern and contemporary art critique against the background of the globalisation of art discourse. Embedded in this research is the paper that I presented in Portsmouth. It deals with the discursive reading of the work of Taiwanese-British artist Richard Lin in the 1980s compared to that after 2000. The paper investigates how and why Richard Lin's work is being placed between the poles of a reading as modernist on the one hand and representing a traditional, Chinese perspective on the other. I argue, that what becomes visible when locating these two main narrative threads in the reading of Lin's works on the map of the writing of Taiwan's art history, is a reflection of Taiwan's inner struggle of finding itself being placed in the dichotomies of modernity and tradition as well as East and West.
Through the analysis of Lin's solo-exhibition One is everything (一即一切) in Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts in 2010, my paper questioned the implications of the domination of the reading as traditional Chinese in today's context as a representation of a 'self' over the reading as Minimal Art as an 'other': In today's art discourse, which necessarily operates against a global background, it appears that what is being perceived as 'European (or Western) art history' still plays an important role in Taiwanese art historical self-perception as point of reference and demarcation at the same time. Through pointing out the interweavements and contradictions of the seemingly conflicting readings of Lin's work, my research opens the possibility to question Taiwan's artistic self-perception and placing it in a larger context of globalised art discourse and the postcolonial question of self-ethnisation as demarcation.
Lisa Bauer-Zhao is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Philosophy, University of Hildesheim.
2014 EATS LRG Recipient: Ti-han Chang
The Role of the Ecological Other in Contesting Postcolonial Identity Politics: An Interdisciplinary Study of the Postcolonial Eco-literature of J.M. Coetzee and Wu Ming-yi
SOAS and UCL Libraries, University of London
In the early spring of 2014, I received several emails informing me that EATS will start providing library research grants for young researchers who work on Taiwan Studies that year. Like most PhD candidates who live on limited financial resources, I know that opportunities to obtain research grants which focus uniquely on Taiwan Studies are very rare. This is why I felt very honoured and privileged when I learned that I had been awarded a 600 Euro library research fund after I submitted my research project to EATS.
My doctoral research studies the concept of ecological ‘otherness’ through examining contemporary continental philosophy and postcolonial eco-literatures produced in South Africa and in Taiwan. My thesis compares the literary works of J.M. Coetzee, a South African Nobel Prize winner, and Wu Ming-yi, a contemporary Taiwanese ecological writer.1 By comparing their literary writings, I intend to show that there is a growing consciousness of ecological subjectivity, which is significantly present in the recent publication of postcolonial literatures. It is therefore important to acquire different aspects of knowledge in relation to the postcolonial and ecological conditions of the two countries. I was aware that SOAS is widely known for its research in Asian and African studies and its extensive collection of publications about Taiwan and South Africa, and the SOAS library thus stood out among all my other choices of libraries in the European zone. Another reason I chose SOAS library for my research visit is its location. Since the library is located in central London, I could visit other libraries (such as UCL’s library or Senate House library) and participate in a related conference also held in London.
After some calculations in respect of my finances, the research duration was limited to a week. I chose to spend my week in London during mid-September, the week that coincided with an interdisciplinary conference held in UCL where I had a chance to present a research paper. For most of the week, I spent 7 to 8 hours a day at the SOAS library researching and studying relevant resources to my subject. Since my stay was limited to only a week, I had to use my time very wisely. Therefore, I chose to focus on researching publications that are mainly related to Taiwan Studies and theories of postcolonialism and environmentalism. For the first time, I’ve come to understand how important it is, as a professional researcher, within a given limited time frame, to read highly selectively, filtering and processing data and information that at first seems to be too vast for one to digest.
Relevant resources that I have found in the library can be roughly divided into the following four categories: (1) postcolonial Taiwanese identity, culture and politics; (2) political policies between Taiwan and China; (3) colonial history and theory of colonialism and postcolonialism; (4) Taiwanese ecological and environment studies. Regarding the resources related to Taiwan Studies, the library has an extensive collection of references in the field of social science. Some of them are useful for the development of my background knowledge, especially in understanding cultural or social identity construction in Taiwan. However, the majority of them are oriented quite narrowly towards quantitative analyses of political and social phenomena, which could be useful for students who study sociology, political science or anthropology. Unfortunately, they are not quite as important to my domain of research. On the other hand, though the library has only a small selection of references related to ecology and environmental studies in Taiwan, their content offers certain specific research data and results, which I wouldn’t have been able to find in any other European institution that also possesses a database for Taiwan Studies. The overall result is that I have made some good progress in developing new ideas for my analysis of ecology and the environment in Taiwan. I have also developed my bibliography in a useful way thanks to the books that I have consulted there.
Apart from my library research, I was very lucky to have the chance to present my paper—‘The Ecological “Voices” of the Animal Other’—at UCL. The conference was organised with a view to articulating the contemporary understanding of humanity and animality through changing philosophical, cultural, and theoretical thinking. The paper I had presented there was significantly tied in with my thesis research and I thus evoked the literary works of Wu and Coetzee. In the Q&A session, other participants and interlocutors who shared the same panel with me showed much interest in the literary analysis I gave during my talk, and particularly my analysis of the science-fictional text of the Taiwanese writer, Wu Ming-yi. I then had interesting debates and fruitful exchanges with several scholars and young researchers who work in the same field. The exchanges and thoughts that came afterwards have really helped me to outline the backbone of my thesis.
Thinking about the week that I spent in London, I now realise that I couldn’t be more grateful to the grant that EATS had offered. If I hadn’t obtained this grant, my environmental research on Taiwan would have remained problematically restricted and I would probably not have been able to attend the UCL conference for financial reasons. I would thus like to express my gratitude once more to the board members of EATS and to the organization as a whole. I hope that, in the future, other students can continue to benefit from this generous and rewarding grant.
1. J.M. Coetzee is a South African novelist and essayist, as well a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His early works concern subjects that are related to the colonial history in South Africa and South Africa’s post-colonial state. However, the subjects he discussed in his later works vary quite differently. From philosophy to ethics, he has discussed the rights and the “Being” of animals, the land, and nature. Ming-yi Wu is a contemporary Taiwanese ecological writer. Currently teaching at the University of Tong-hua in Taiwan, Wu is mostly regarded as an ecological novelist. Nevertheless, Wu also explores different mediums and forms of writings and representation in relation to ecological themes (including creative poetry, long essays, science-fiction, photography, painting, journal publication, etc.) More recently, his novel writing has a tendency to tie in memories of the colonial and postcolonial periods in Taiwan as a major theme.
Ti-han Chang is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Transcultural and Transtextual Studies (IETT), Lyon III Jean Moulin University (France).