Retrospect for the 4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies and Beyond

Written by Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao.

Image credit: UW Taiwan Studies/ Facebook.

Right after the 3rd World Congress of Taiwan Studies in Taipei in September 2018, I sought a venue and a local co-sponsoring institution to host the 4th WCTS. The first place I had in mind was Japan because of its location. So, I turned to the Taiwan Studies Institute (TSI) in Waseda University, Japan’s first Taiwan Studies program, for help. However, after several communications rounds, my contact from TSI replied with regret in December that they could not be able to hold the next Congress due to the uncertainty of the Institute’s new directorship. I was disappointed but not frustrated. I then thought about the newly established Taiwan Studies Program (TSP) at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, as it successfully organized NATSA Taiwan Studies Conference in June 2018. With some personal persuasion and institutional encouragement, I received an official positive response from TSP’s Chair, Professor Bill Lavely, and his colleague, Professor James Lin, in May 2019 to graciously agree to host the 4th Congress in June 2021. I was so thrilled to hear this exciting news. Academia Sinica administration was also happy about UW’s enthusiasm about hosting the World Congress.

Then came the alarming worldwide COVID-19 pandemic attacks in early 2020. In late March, I agreed to UW’s plan to postpone the Congress to December 2021. By August 2020, we decided it would be safer to move further the Congress date one year later to June 2022. That was how the date was determined eventually. Meanwhile, I received a formal financial commitment from Academia Sinica’s Vice President Ching-shing Huang to co-sponsor the 4th World Congress. The original plan was to hold the physical Congress, but later again, due to the continuing impact of the pandemic, a hybrid Congress with virtual participation was an inevitable choice.

The previous three World Congress of Taiwan Studies have caught the attention of the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan, especially the members of its education and culture committee. I then filed an official progress report on this committee. On February 25, 2021, the executive committee of the 4th World Congress called for the online advisory committee to determine a few important matters, including the Congress theme, dates, and administrative as well as budgetary arrangements between Academia Sinica and UW. The executive committee members include Professors James Lin, Bill Lavely, and Michael Hsiao. The advisory committee comprises Professors David Wang, Dafydd Fell, and Yvonne Chang. The theme was set for “Taiwan in the Making” the dates were confirmed to be June 27-29, 2021, and UW will be responsible for local expenses while Academia Sinica will take care of all the international travel expenses and cost in maintaining the Secretariat office of the 4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies. After the financial division was decided, both sides began to do the necessary fund budgeting and raising. It is important to recognize the important financial contributions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, and CCK Foundation to the World Congress and the budgetary obligations from Academia Sinica and UW.

From May 2021 onward, UW (James Lin in particular) and Academia Sinica (myself) have begun to work very closely on many preparatory details. The UW local host then invited me for the job to be the keynote speaker of this year’s Congress. First, I told them to consider other suitable candidates while I need have some time to think about it. Ultimately, UW local host persuaded me to accept the keynote speaker task. So, the issue of the keynote speech was decided in June 2021. The Secretariat of the Congress was officially enacted in July with a full-time staff, Ms Evelyn Huang, as the sole administrative secretary. I also invited the Director of the Institute of Sociology, Professor Chih-Jou Chen, to be my co-Secretary General of the Executive Committee.

By mid-July, we have decided on a list of forty invited participants and sent out our official invitation letters by the end of July. The deadline for them to send back their acceptance was September 30, 2021. We received thirty-nine positive replies from the invited scholars to accept our invitation to attend the 4th World Congress.

Meanwhile, the secretary announced the Call for Papers (CFP) to invite scholars to submit their abstracts. The deadline for abstract submission was October 20, and the acceptance notification would be made on November 30, 2021. To our pleasant surprise, we received as many as 177 abstract submissions, and through the thorough review process by three review committees, we accepted forty-four paper applications. After the deadline of January 1, 2022, all 44 CFP scholars replied with their confirmed attendance.

After the confirmation matter of the potential attendees to the Congress, UW and Academia Sinica hastened their tasks to secure the necessary funding. As a result, both sides successfully fulfilled their challenges to ensure all needed financing.

The 4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies was finally held smoothly on June 27-29, 2022, at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA. The three days event was live streamed on both YouTube and Facebook, inviting audiences worldwide to attend this international and interdisciplinary academic feast online. This year was the first time World Congress was held in the US. Experts and scholars in various fields of Taiwan Studies were present at the Congress from Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Japan, Singapore, the UK, the US, and Taiwan (a total of ten countries). Eighty-eight presenters, fifty-three participating in person, and thirty-five participating online. A total of seventy-four papers were presented in eighteen parallel sessions, plus one keynote speech, two plenary sessions and three roundtables.

It is important to note that the participants were of different ages, gender, and countries. The topics in the program ranged from history and memory, religion and rituals, visual arts, gender studies, economics, democracy and politics, contested sovereignty, disinformation and propaganda and threats, indigenous studies, environmental changes, social movements, Taiwan studies outside the academy, new materials and new directions of Taiwan studies, Taiwan facing COVID, and launching of Encyclopaedia of Taiwan Studies. In addition, about 400 audiences have signed up to watch this year’s World Congress live stream. This year’s World Congress was successful according to judging the many participants’ responses and comments.

I want to add a personal note here. Besides being a co-organizer of the Congress, I was especially honoured to deliver the keynote speech titled, From Theorizing Taiwan to Taiwan Theories- Making: My Reflection, on the first day of the World Congress. I hope my epistemic journey over the past 40 years as a sociologist in Taiwan can provide some useful hints to my academic friends and audiences.

To look back, the 2022 4th World Congress, co-organized by UW in Seattle, USA, has continued the tradition that has featured successful events held previously in Taipei, organized by Academia Sinica in 2012, in London, co-organized by SOAS in 2015, and in Taipei again sponsored by Academia Sinica in 2018. The host of this year’s Congress, the Taiwan Studies Program, under the most able leadership of Professors Bill Lavely and James Lin, has fulfilled their promise to bring all attendees and audiences another exciting Taiwan studies intellectual gathering and platform. I want to take this opportunity to send my most sincere gratitude to Bill, James, and their wonderful local team, Jennifer Joy, Ian Oates, and Ellen Chang, for their gracious and tireless work in bringing the World Congress to fruition. I also want to thank my fellow colleagues of the Secretariat, Evelyn Huang, Carol Chen, I-Hung Chen, and Professor Chih-Jou Chen, for their assistance and admirable job. Finally, without the trust and support of Academia Sinica’s President James Liao and Vice President Ching-Shing Huang, the 4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies in Seattle would not have been possible.

To look ahead, I wish to invite all Taiwan studies scholars worldwide to join us at the next 5th World Congress of Taiwan Studies held in Academia Sinica, Taipei, in 2025. I hope to welcome all of you at the 2025 World Congress in Taiwan. After my experiences in organizing and co-organizing the past four consecutive World Congress of Taiwan Studies in 2012-2022, I also hope to offer some suggestions for possible changes in both administrative and intellectual aspects for the next Congress to make it an equally meaningful and exciting Congress.

Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao is the Secretary-General of the 4th World Congress of Taiwan Studies. He is an Adjunct Research Fellow of the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica, Chair Professor of Hakka Studies at National Central University, Honorary Chair Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at National Chi-Nan University, and Chairman of Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation. He also serves as a Senior Advisor to the President of ROC (Taiwan).

This article was published as part of a special issue on “Reflections on Taiwan Studies”.

One comment

  1. Read with much interest the article on the 2022 Conference on Taiwanese studies. Could you please let me know who to contact regarding participation in the 2025 conference


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s