Introducing the three 2016 YSA WinnersAbout Us

2016 EATS Young Scholar Award Winner, 1st Prize: Magdaléna Masláková

Magdaléna Masláková

Receiving the Young Scholar Award 2016 for my paper, "Presbyterian Church in Taiwan as a Voice of Powerless Taiwanese Nation: Building Taiwanese National Identity within Public Statements of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan since Martial Law", is a great honour. Presenting even a fraction of my research in the Annual Conferences of EATS as well as receiving feedback from experienced scholars, not only helped me to improve my research but it has also been a source of encouragement for my PhD studies.

I believe it was during one of the EATS-supported workshops in 2012 when I started to be interested in Taiwan issues. Later, my research was improved thanks to the advice and recommendations given to me by scholars studying Taiwan that I received whilst presenting my unfinished research at the MA panel of EATS conferences. I consider being part of the EATS community, and having the opportunity to discuss my interests with other members, is a huge advantage and opportunity.

In the paper I presented at the 2016 conference in Prague, I discussed a part of my research concerning the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT). I have observed how and why the PCT created a new Taiwanese national identity within their public statements and important documents. The focus of these were those published by the church between 1971 and 1995. Within the context of contemporary Taiwan, the question of national identity is still a very current issue. But in recent decades, there has been a rise of a new Taiwanese national identity which is considered multicultural and multi-ethnic. What is more, it is one that unites the four different "ethnic groups" living in Taiwan—the Hoklo, the Hakka, the Mainlanders, and the indigenous peoples. According to some scholars the new multi-ethnic identity among the Taiwanese was forged during 1980s and 1990s; and some claim that indigenous peoples have only recently been included in the concept of the new Taiwanese identity. I argue, however, the PCT has been constructing this blended identity from at least since 1970s (with indigenous people included)—and therefore, the PCT was one of the very first to narrate distinctive Taiwanese identity based on civic nationalism and connecting people with different cultural, historical, ethnical, and religious backgrounds. Within the public statements, national Taiwanese identity was closely connected with a specific identity of the PCT. The church has suggested that Taiwanese national identity must be seen as an identity which connects people— because a united group would be heard by the government. Since the rich cultural heritage from mainland China has been claimed to have changed and diversified through the peculiarities of Taiwan‘s history, it is thanks to this narrative, that Taiwanese national identity (including that of the indigenous peoples) has been constructed as being distinctive from Chinese identity.

Another problem I have focused on in my paper was observing how the PCT connected the new Taiwanese identity with its own Christian identity. Even without any reference to Christianity, the church was still able to unite its own identity with Taiwanese national identity (as created within the statements). Christian missionaries have always emphasised the need to create a linkage with the culture they have operated in, and to remove a stigma of a foreign religion. The PCT not only shared the very same aims as the Taiwanese nation, but the PCT proclaimed to be a protector of the nation—the brave voice of powerless and suppressed Taiwanese nation.

The presented paper is part of my MA thesis titled "Taiwan as the Promised Land? The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and its Struggle for Inculturation". Currently, I am focusing on the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and its role in democratisation of Taiwan.

Magdaléna Masláková is a PhD student at Department for study of Religion, and a BA student at the Department of Chinese Studies, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic.

2016 EATS Young Scholar Award Winner, 2nd Prize: Hsiao-Chiao Chiu

Hsiao-Chiao Chiu

It was a great honour to receive the YSA for my paper "Economic trajectories of three women: Economic agency, kinship, and economic changes in Kinmen". I presented this paper during the 2016 EATS conference where I received helpful comments and questions that pushed me to reflect more on my own data and theoretical analysis. I appreciate very much all the feedback on my paper and the conference organiser‘s excellent work to make the meeting so successful.

This paper is based on one chapter of my PhD dissertation about how the life of ordinary people in contemporary Kinmen relate to the era of the Cold War and its aftermath. In its general usage, the term Cold War refers to a global division into two distinct paths of political modernity and economic development in the second half of the 20th century. But the various places involved in this bipolar world had very different experiences, such as violence in Vietnam and South Korean, and long-term military governance and mobilisation in Kinmen. These periods were distinct from the "long peace" that many western countries experienced. In line with researchers' call for an investigation of the divergent ways in which bipolar politics has subsided across the world, my dissertation argues that an analytical link to Cold War history brings to light an understanding of the current life of ordinary people in Kinmen. I am especially interested in how they have coped with the legacies of previous decades.

In the paper I presented at the conference I use the life stories of three women—one is in her early seventies and the other two are about sixty years old—to discuss how the military-driven economy during the Cold War affected the economy of ordinary households on Kinmen. The first woman never went to school and got married at eighteen. She learned oyster cultivation and sorghum farming on her husband‘s family-owned property. Her work on the sorghum farm was related to the military‘s policy of replacing the traditional subsistence crop of sweet potato with the economic crop of sorghum (which was used to make liquor). The policy also called for the modernization of local farms by adopting new knowledge, skills, and techniques. Therefore this woman‘s economic agency was framed by a kinship structure, but was advanced by technological support from the state. In contrast, the other two women both have junior high school degrees and delayed their marriages partly because of their ability to earn money without depending on the kinship system. Their economic agency was based more on their access to schooling and new working opportunities for women, which were linked to the improvement of living standards by agricultural modernization and the state's promotion of obligatory education.

In looking at the three women‘s life stories, I argue:

  1. A correlation between women‘s access to new economic capacities and the changing political-economic environment, in which the state‘s institutions replaced part of the role of family and kinship in guiding an individual‘s economic outlook;
  2. women‘s increasing economic agency beyond the kinship structure does not necessarily lead to their moving beyond the patriarchal model for women, but may enhance their decision-making power in the conjugal households; and
  3. we need to rethink the value of women‘s labour, which is less determined by the amount of money they can earn and use individually than by the confirmation of their family ties and their contribution to family projects.

This paper is a contribution to understanding not only how bipolar politics provoked changes to the life of ordinary people, but also helped maintain conventional values that resisted political-economic changes. This paper is connected to my PhD in singling out how the kinship-oriented rituals practiced routinely in everyday life consolidate certain values and social principles. These have allowed people to go through wars and military mobilisation across several decades, and to deal with the uncertainties of extreme politics.

Hsiao-Chiao Chiu is a PhD student at the London School of Economic (LSE).

2016 EATS Young Scholar Award Winner, 3rd Prize: Weichu Shih

Weichu Shih

After obtained my MA degree from New Sorbonne University Paris III where my research focused on the representation of history and memory in Alexander Sokurov's cinema, I started my PhD at Lumière University Lyon 2. Following my interests in the questions of history and memory, I want to find a new perspective to tell a history of Taiwan cinema. Hence I associate benshi, tâng-gi and kuso to surface a hidden history of an indigenized cinema which offers an aesthetic strategy that responds to the social, political, and cultural issues. I call this aesthetic strategy as a mediumistic body.

The paper I presented at EATS conference in 2016 is about the video work Hua-Shan-Qian created by Su Yu-Hsien. As a member of the kuso generation, the artist admits that the inspiration for his work extends from benshi; a character in the front of screen who comments and translates the silent film in the era of early cinema. In this work, Su uses one of the Taiwanese popular belief elements: the paper replica. In order to build a cinematographic scene, the video is commentated throughout by a narrator; a voice-over technique that is similar to benshi. This technique is used to multiply the audio-visual dimension of the image. What is more, the artist uses it as a function of delivering the diegetic situation and also to dominate the audience's narrative imagination. Yet, there are only figurines (the paper replicas) as actors who "play" in this immobile scene; the figurines do "talk" in the video with the help of subtitle. Thus, the linguistic communication is made by the alternation of silence (with subtitle) and voice-over in this video. The artist creates a historical and national metaphor by using some elements of cinematography, for example the eloquence of benshi; a capacity that can divert the unique signification of film given by the image. Furthermore, I found a possibility to create a mediated memory through this work; especially when there are many historical events that Taiwanese have ignored due to extended periods of colonization. Therefore, in my analysis of Hua-Shan-Qiang, I bring up Cheng Nan-Jung, who was a Taiwanese pro-democracy activist and set himself on fire in support for Freedom of Speech in 1989. If some pasts were not allowed to be known, or not to be known enough, the young artist has the capacity to invent a contemporary vision to evoke a past through their work, like Hua-Shan-Qiang.

It was a pleasure to participate in the 2016 EATS conference. It allowed me to share my study with many specialists on Taiwan. I received useful feedback and alternative perspectives through discussion. I'm also glad that this video generated interest from the conference participants. Finally, I would like to thank the committee who presented the YSA to me. It is a great honour and encouragement for my studies. I hope to continue this kind of intellectual exchange of ideas in future EATS conferences.

Weichu Shih was a PhD student of Lumière University Lyon 2 when she attended the 2016 EATS Conference in Prague. She passed her viva and received her doctorate degree in June 2016.