SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

SOAS CTS Summer School 2019 Student Presentations

Lucy Gilder, Carmen Westphal, Chantal Rietdijk, Gray Sergeant, Marie Joëlle Odile Baranger, Thomas Wilkinson, Lai Yu-Chen, Christina Vassell, Aoife Cantrill, Sam Robbins

Date: 19 June 2019Time: 9:30 AM

Finishes: 19 June 2019Time: 12:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4426 & 4429

Type of Event: Seminar

Student Presentations Seminar ( SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies Summer School Day 3: Wednesday 19th June 2019 09:00-12:30) Open to Everyone

As part of the Summer School, we have scheduled a student-focused research seminar open for all to attend. The session offers undergraduate and post-graduate students the opportunity to share their research, get feedback and gain valuable experience in presenting in an academic environment. If you are interesting in taking part please register your interest here and we might be able to fit you in as a last minute entry. 

Student Presentations Seminar Programme

Please note, this agenda may be subject to last minute changes
Panel A
Venue: 4426
Time Speaker Title
A-1 09:30-10:00 Lucy Gilder
A-2 10:00-10:30 Carmen Westphal "How effective is China in trying to influence Taiwanese democracy?"
A-3 10:30-11:00 Gray Sergeant “Explaining the Success of Post-Protest Political Parties After Taiwan’s Sunflower And Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movements”
A-4 11:00-11:30 Marie Joëlle Odile Baranger
A-5 11:30-12:00 Thomas Wilkinson “Limits of Self-Determination: A Comparative Examination of Taiwanese and Japanese Indigenous Politics”
12:00-12:30 Final Discussion

Panel B
Venue: 4429
Time Speaker Title
B-1 09:30-10:00 Lai Yu-Chen
B-2 10:00-10:30 Christina Vassell "Desinicization and the Poetics of Nationalism in the Taiwanese Literature Movement of the 20th Century"
B-3 10:30-11:00 Sam Robbins “The Democratization of “unsafety”: Framing Taiwan’s “Danger Wave” of 1996-1998”
B-4 11:00-11:30 Chantal Rietdijk "Social Housing as a Post-Political Project"
B-5 11:30-12:00 Aoife Cantrill “The politics of translating Yang Qianhe's kominka text Hanasaku Kisetsu (Flower Blooming Season)
12:00-12:30 Final Discussion

Panel A-1, Lucy Gilder (MPhil Student, University of Cambridge)

In light of the November 2018 referendum, my research concerns the strategies Taiwanese queer activist groups use to promote, among other things, marriage equality. I am interested in exploring the ‘horizontal ties’ (Weller, 1999) that queer rights groups make with other activist organisations and how this collaboration between informal organisations influences the course of civil democracy in Taiwan.

Drawing on Naisargi Dave’s (2012) work on queer activism in India, I will compare the methods used by Taiwanese activist groups with Dave’s theory of queer ethics, involving the stages of 1) problematization, 2) invention and 3) creative practice. Moreover, I will also investigate the different kinds of approaches activist groups take in promoting their cause. For example, why do some prefer the method of ‘cultural subversion’ (Wan Shah, 2000) to confrontational politics? Is one more effective than the other? How do queer rights group draw on traditional Taiwanese and Chinese culture to localise their cause?

A second key theme of my research will analyse the relationship between queer activism and the ongoing campaign for Taiwanese independence. Does queer activism serve a dual purpose in both promoting rights for sexual minorities and in seeking international recognition to help defend Taiwan from Chinese influence? To what extent does queer activism reflect a broader concern for distinguishing Taiwanese identity from that of China?

Panel A-2 Carmen Westphal

"How effective is China in trying to influence Taiwanese democracy?"

In the context of Asian regional development where a rising authoritarian China challenges East Asian regional order, Taiwan can once more serve as an exemplary case for the future challenges that democratic countries will face with regard to increasing and “outgoing” Chinese economic power and political ambitions. Presently there exists abundant academic and popular literature about the implications of the “rise of China”, but how effective is China really in influencing other countries? How effective is China in trying to influence Taiwanese democracy?

Democratic elite theory can help focus on the interplay between good governance and relative elite independence to answer this question. It examines the quality of governance in conjunction with (independent) elite groups in order to create a scorecard of a polity’s relative strengths and weaknesses. In the case of Taiwan, special attention will be paid to the way China uses its “Greater Chinese” economic and political superstructure in order to form client-patron relationships with diverse Taiwanese elites which could then be used to transform Taiwanese politics and legislation. Examples of targeted elites include the KMT-linked Farmers’ Association of Taiwan Province (FATP) as well as big business Taishang in conjunction with the China-nationalist faction of the KMT.

It seems that the collaboration between China and Taiwanese economic and political elites can exploit existing weaknesses in governing capability and may open the door for increasing Chinese political, social and economic influence on the island. However, independent social elites which express their political demands via social movements seem to have a fortifying impact on Taiwanese “defensive democracy”.

Panel A-3, Gray Sergeant (MA Student, SOAS)

“Explaining the Success of Post-Protest Political Parties After Taiwan’s Sunflower And Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movements”

Both Hong Kong’s Umbrella and Taiwan’s Sunflower protest movements energised a new generation of political activists. Following the occupations, many protest leaders and participants sought to compete for political power. In 2016, during Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan elections, their new parties were put to the test.

In Taiwan, the New Power Party, unlike the newly formed Social Democratic Party, defied expectations by gaining five seats and established itself as Taiwan’s third political force. A greater variety of parties, including Demosisto and Youngspiration, benefited from the localist surge in Hong Kong.

While the impact of both protests has received considerable attention since 2014, less attention has been given to explaining the success of the post-protest parties. This dissertation will use existing theoretical frameworks which have been used to explain the success of new and small political parties. In doing so it will consider societal cleavages and issues, institutional facilitators like the electoral system, and political factors such as the role of leadership and the response from established parties.

Panel A-4, Marie Joëlle Odile Baranger (MSc Student, SOAS)

Panel A-5, Thomas Wilkinson (MSc Student, SOAS)

“Limits of Self-Determination: Indigenous autonomy in Japan and Taiwan”

This project seeks to provide new insights into the indigenous struggle for self-determination through a comparison of the hunting and fishing rights of the indigenous peoples of Japan and Taiwan. Although there has been significant progress in indigenous rights over the last 30 years, the issue of hunting (and fishing) provides an opportunity to examine the intersection between the national rule of law and the entitlement of Taiwan’s Austronesian citizens and Japan’s Ainu to practice traditions and maintain cultural autonomy. For Northeast Asian indigenous peoples hunting and fishing are not simply subsistence activities but also ones rooted in historical and cultural identity and practiced in accordance to spiritual considerations.  Hunting and fishing present a clear situation in which indigenous practices can, and often do, conflict with the way state authorities conceptualise territorial use, environmental conservation, and even animal rights. Using the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework, the project intends to show how, although there are significant differences between Taiwan and Japan, both countries still lag behind the international ideal. Examining the contradictions between indigenous rights laws, legal precedents, provisions, and national and sub-national directives regarding land use will shine a light upon the clash between indigenous autonomy and the supposedly “civilised” rule of law. In doing so it will argue that in Northeast Asia indigenous self-determination is not “inherent”, but derived from the state; in other words, hunting and fishing rights demonstrate that both Taiwan and Japan conceptualise indigenous self-determination as an extension of the individuals right to autonomy within the legal/political boundaries of state.

Panel B-1, Lai Yu Chen

Panel B-2, Christina Vassell 

"Desinicization and the Poetics of Nationalism in the Taiwanese Literature Movement of the 20th Century"

With the end of the World War II as well as half a century of colonial rule, Taiwan entered a new phase of history. In the aftermath of the colonising of Taiwan by China and Japan, Writers of the Taiwanese localisation movement sought to establish a distinct national and cultural identity that was adjacent to, if not outside of, the social imaginary of China.

The Taiwanese literature movement, then refers to the effort of writers and publishers in Taiwan to recognise a distinctly native Taiwanese body of literature that was linguistically as well as thematically centred on the definition of the ‘Taiwaneseness’. By the early 1930s, the movement was composed of four poets: Kuo Shui-tan (郭水潭), Wang Teng-shan (王登山), Hsu Ching-chi (徐清吉), and Wu Hsin-jung (吳新榮), who were central to producing a body of hsiang-tu (鄉土) or "native-soil" literatures.

This paper, then, will explore the identity politics within the poetics of the poems of the Taiwanese literature movement, and how they provide an ideological framework albeit allegorically to the process of ‘de-Japanization’ and Desinicization during the 20th Century.

Panel B-3, Sam Robbins (BA Student, SOAS)

“The Democratization of “unsafety”: Framing Taiwan’s “Danger Wave” of 1996-1998”

In 1997, crime rose on the political agenda in Taiwan. Terms such as “the deterioration of law and order” (治安惡化) became used frequently in publications; crime was a common theme in 1997 local elections; and anti-crime protests erupted in Taipei. Whilst studies have examined how political parties discussed crime (Schafferer, 2003) few have systematically and holistically analysed changes in Taiwan’s law and order discourse across different claims makers.

I examine this discourse from two angles. Firstly, which groups made claims about law and order? How did discourses of law and order vary among different claims makers? Central themes include the causes of crime issues; which groups are the perpetrators and victims; and the provided solutions. Secondly, how and why was such discourse reproduced? How was the discourse used to push differing agendas of a variety of groups? I explore the interaction between the relative motive and social position of groups and the discourse they produce.

To answer this, a discourse analysis is undertaken focusing on political advertising of the DPP and KMT; news and print media coverage (focusing on United Daily News and Liberty Times); as well as publications and statements from newly emergent feminist organisations.

Theoretically, this paper draws on, and expands, current criminological research on “crime waves” (Sacco, 2005) by applying these concepts to a non-Western context. Although the murder of Pai Hsiao-Yen in 1997 in undoubtedly the short-term cause for a renewed discussion law and order (Chin, 2003), the specifically “transitional” nature of Taiwan’s society is central to the longer story. For example, the transition from state-run to profit-seeking media as well as rapidly changing patterns of party competition are explored as factors in both the change in discourse and to explain why Taiwan’s experience is different from those in existing literature.

Key words: law and order; heidao; crime waves; criminology; media studies.

Panel B-4, Chantal Rietdijk (PhD Student, National Taiwan Normal University NTNU)

"Social Housing as a Post-Political Project"

 It seems that the post-political has become an accepted term when discussing the relation between urban development and politics in democracies. However, the focus of research lies in democratic countries in the West. This study examines how politics and urban development practices in New Taipei City, Taiwan, are interwoven. Since the political spectrum in Taiwan does not show a typical left-right divide as seen in most western countries, Mouffe’s theory on consensus politics is elaborated in order to be able to apply the theory to Taiwan’s expressions of the post-political. The emergence and development of consensus politics in urban development is explained by a historical analysis of the connection between politics and urban development during the authoritarian era and the democratization period that followed. Also, the post-political is elaborated as a factor in the stagnation of democratization in former authoritarian countries.


The post-political is defined as a dynamic of politics in the urban development and social housing policy of New Taipei City. With careful examination of the new social housing policy it can be demonstrated how uneven development is consolidated in current policy, and therefore, the question can be asked if social justice is the first objective in this policy or is this seemingly social policy used as a political instrument to consolidate neoliberalism and keep the elite in power.


post-political, uneven development, social housing, democratization, urban politics


Panel B-5, Aoife Cantrill (MPhil Student, University of Oxford)

“The politics of translating Yang Qianhe's kominka text Hanasaku Kisetsu (Flower Blooming Season)"

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies

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