Event — Workshop

The Art, Politics, and Economics of Solo Women Travellers to, through and from Taiwan

Venue: Gravensteen Building, Leiden, room 1.11

Travel might seem like a luxurious word. Something non-essential that conjures images of decadent relaxation in places far from one’s normal daily grind. However, one lesson the pandemic has taught us is how precious travel can be when we no longer have access to it. What do we lose when we cannot travel? And why can some people travel and not others? What are the economic, political, and artistic costs when narratives of travel are told by a limited group of people who have the privilege to both travel and then have their travel stories published and hence heard?

This in-person workshop will consider the idea of travel specifically through the point of view of the solo female traveller to, from, and through Taiwan. Taiwan is an island nation that has seen its fair share of travellers to its land. While much scholarship has focused on travellers to Taiwan whose purpose was to explore, colonize, and rule Taiwan, what role have women played in narratives of travel to, from, and through Taiwan? This workshop will look at some famous and not so famous instances of the voices of Taiwan’s women travellers and how their travel narratives contribute to a more complex understanding of this small island nation of East Asia which is a critical player in the geopolitics of our world.

The workshop is convened by Professor Anne Sokolsky and organised by the International Institute for Asian Studies. Lunch (vegetarian sandwiches) will be available for all speakers and registered audience members.



Destination Taiwan! Empire, Travel, and (Post)Colonial Encounters 
Faye Yuan Kleeman, Professor Emerita, University of Colorado Boulder

“Wherever my voice carries, to whatever corner of the free world”: Women’s Voices and the Construction of a Travelling Soundscape of Ideology
Isabelle Cheng, Senior Lecturer, University of Portsmouth; Secretary General of the European Association of Taiwan Studies

The World of Women’s Travel as Presented in the Japanese Colonial Journal Taiwan Fujinkai (薹湾婦人界) 1934-1939
Anne Sokolsky, Chair of Taiwan Studies, International Institute for Asian Studies and Leiden University; Professor Emerita, Ohio Wesleyan University

Ten Thousand Books, Ten Thousand Miles (讀萬卷書 · 行萬里路)
Cha-Hsuan Liu, Research Fellow, International Institute for Asian Studies




Welcome and registration


Opening remarks by Philippe Peycam, director IIAS


Opening by Anne Sokolsky, convenor of the workshop


Speaker 1 - Faye Kleeman


Short break


Speaker 2 - Isabelle Cheng




Speaker 3 - Anne Sokolsky


Coffee break


Speaker 4 - Cha-Hsuan Liu


Discussion and wrap up





This workshop is in-person and free of charge. To register, please fill in the form in the column on the right of this page.


Talk abstracts and speakers’ bio’s

Faye Yuan Kleeman – Destination Taiwan! Empire, Travel, and (Post)Colonial Encounters

Colonial travel highlights conflicts between globalization and nationalism, ethnicities and authenticities, gender and colonial space, and reveals the ethical implications of the asymmetrical power dynamic of the tourist gaze and the native. At the same time, travel and the movement of people, culture, and material goods has a homogenizing function, helping promote the circulation, assimilation, and transformation of a modernity mediated by the colonial power that shaped the geopolitical configuration of East Asia in the twentieth century. My talk tries to tease out the politicization of space and the problematization of pleasure within this context by first outlining the formation of a cultural sphere that furthered an imaginative shared space for the colonial and the colonized, then focusing on a site-specific case study of female sojourners who traversed the empire, fostering cultural interaction between Japan and Taiwan. Finally, a brief examination of the current on-going (post) colonial interface of Taiwan and Japan will be examined though some recent fictional and non-fictional works.

Faye Yuan Kleeman 阮斐娜 received her PhD in East Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been a visiting scholar at Chūō University, Academia Sinica, the University of Tokyo, Friedrich-Alexander University Germany, National University of Chengchi University. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including funding from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, the Japan Foundation Research Grant, Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship, International Consortium for Research in Humanities Fellowship, the Ministry of Technology Research Grant and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Taiwan Fellowship.

Her research focuses on modern Japanese literature and culture, especially post-war fiction and film, women writers, minority (zainichi, buraku) literature and Japanese colonial and transnational literature and culture. Major publications include Under an Imperial Sun (2003), Dainihon teikoku no kureōru (2007), In Transit: The Formation of an East Asian Cultural Sphere (2014) and numerous articles in English, Japanese and Chinese.


Isabelle Cheng – “Wherever my voice carries, to whatever corner of the free world”: Women’s Voices and the Construction of a Travelling Soundscape of Ideology

The quote in the title is taken from Madam Chiang Song Mei-ling’s speech aired on 8 January 1950 in New York. She was hoping to rouse political support amongst her U.S. listeners for the Nationalist (Kuomintang, KMT) government, who retreated from China to Taiwan after being defeated in the Chinese Civil War. Song joined the rank of women radio hosts and loudspeaker announcers whose voices travelled in the air crossing state borders and pushing forward the boundary of ideology. Building a soundscape of ideology, women’s voices, either soft or stern, were meant to inform, deceive, deter or entice their listeners who were within the reach of their voices carried by radio waves or sound waves; how far their voices could travel was at the mercy of weather conditions and political obstruction.  Some of these women were those recruited from China in early 1949 and trained in southern Taiwan for a year. Upon graduation, they were grouped to form the Women’s Army Corps and were enlisted within the Department of Political Warfare. Their rotated assignments saw them dispatched to small islands in the Taiwan Strait and participating in armed conflicts between Taiwan and China during the 1950s. 

Focusing on WAC, this paper raises a critical question: how do these women’s personal experiences and career trajectories shed light on multifaceted meanings of travel and mobility? Using oral history transcripts published by Academia Sinica and the Ministry of National Defense, this paper demonstrates that their ‘travel’ is not only a physical act but also a sonic one that defies women’s image of immobility and domesticity. They were not only on the frontline of military-ideological antagonism but also on the frontline of a mobile career whereby they travelled extensively around and beyond Taiwan. As an early generation of career women, their employment-driven travel came to an end because of marriage, childrearing, discharge, or reassignments to schools or universities as campus-based military instructors. In this light, although their voices fluidly expanded political-ideological boundaries, their life course continued to succumb to gender norms that restrict their physical mobility.

Isabelle Cheng is a Senior Lecturer in East Asian and International Development Studies at the University of Portsmouth. Her research interests are labour migration, marriage migration and the Cold War in East Asia. Using gender as an approach, she focuses on sovereignty, citizenship, motherhood, activism, identity, soundscape, and the use of women's voices for psychological warfare. Her research has been published by International Migration, Asian Pacific Viewpoint, Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, and Asian Ethnicity. She is currently the Secretary-General of the European Association of Taiwan Studies.


Anne Sokolsky – The World of Women’s Travel as Presented in the Japanese Colonial Journal Taiwan Fujinkai (薹湾婦人界) 1934-1939

‘Travel’ can evoke a variety of images from luxurious freedom to forced migration. The luxurious side of this imagery is dependent on racial, economic, and even gendered factors. During the era of European and British colonialism, Gertrude Bell, Freya Stark, and Isabella Bird became famous as female adventurers who due to their racial and economic privilege ventured through the colonized spaces of the Middle East and Asia, defying the Victorian era strictures of proper female behavior. But what about women of Imperial Japan? How does this idea of female colonial travel play out when we consider the dynamics of Japan’s empire? While at IIAS, I have been examining how women’s travel is depicted in the colonial journal Taiwan Fujinkai (薹湾婦人界 Taiwan women’s world), which was Taiwan’s only commercial journal written in Japanese for women living in Taiwan during the latter part of the 1930s. Considering that this magazine, as indicated by its title, was meant to create a community for both Japanese and Taiwanese women living in Taiwan, the concept of travel, both figuratively and literally, becomes important to connect the two countries into a single entity. In this presentation, I will discuss how women’s travel is evoked in this colonial magazine by its Japanese editors and through its covers, advertisements, travel columns, and short stories.

Anne Sokolsky is currently the Chair of Taiwan Studies at the International Institute for Asian Studies and Leiden University. Her research is on the colonial journal Taiwan Fujinkai, published from 1934-1939. She is also teaching a course for the Chinese Studies programme at Leiden University titled ‘Taiwan Women’s World: The Voices of Taiwanese Women in Literature, Film, and Politics’. She received her PhD in Japanese Literature and Gender Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Her book From New Woman Writer to Socialist: The Life and Selected Writings of Tamura Toshiko from 1936–1938 (Brill, 2015) is about one of Japan’s early modern feminist writers who spent two decades living in North America in the 1920s and 1930s. Other research projects include the translation of Shigemitsu Mamoru’s Sugamo prison diary. Sokolsky is the literature editor for the Journal of Japanese Language and Literature.


Cha-Hsuan Liu Ten Thousand Books, Ten Thousand Miles (讀萬卷書 · 行萬里路)

Taking a 40-minute nap during lunch break is mandatory at Taiwanese primary schools. When the clock arms dwelled the clock face during these nap times, I loved gazing at clouds through the wooden lattice of our school room. A bony little girl from a military village once told herself, “One day I will fly across the horizon and find out what is on the other side.”

She put on the honourable green-black uniform of the First Girls’ High School at the age of fifteen and spent a summer in Paris the year after. A-Ha was singing Take on me. Taiwan lifted the over 38-year-long martial law period. Very few citizens had the privilege to travel overseas. This girl with spiky hair cited Ten Thousand Books, Ten Thousand Miles” in the yearbook for our graduating class.

She travelled and travels not only horizontally, but also vertically. After spreading her wings, where has she been? What has she seen? Who is she? This will be the topic of this talk.

Cha-Hsuan Liu is a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden University. She initiated an international research group for the study theme ‘Wellbeing and Welfare’ and coordinates the dialogues with Asian scholars on IIAS Blog. She is an adjunct associate professor and a lecturer in interdisciplinary social science at several universities across borders, focusing on healthcare, social policy, education, culture and diversity, and innovation. At the same time, she is active in private and public sectors in business, diplomacy, and internationalisation. She aspires to create opportunities that encourage an inclusive and sustainable society. She believes that by translating, integrating and communicating knowledge, we can enhance the understanding of our world and inspire our living.