The Newsletter 93 Autumn 2022

Anne Sokolsky, Chair of Taiwan Studies, Spring 2022

Anne Sokolsky

I was the Taiwan Chair and Professorial Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies at Leiden University from February 1, 2022, to June 30, 2022. It was a wonderful experience for which I am truly grateful. There were three major aspects to my position: teaching, research, and outreach.

The course I taught titled “Taiwan Women’s World: The Voices of Taiwanese Women in Literature, Film and Politics” was for the Chinese Studies program at Leiden University. In the course, I had students think about Taiwan’s position not just in East Asia but with the United States and other parts of the world through the voices of Taiwanese women. Through works of fiction, diaries, travel memoirs, film, and political speeches created by famous and not-so-famous Taiwanese women, we considered why most histories of Taiwan focus on the male perspective and how the narrative of Taiwan’s history and culture might differ if we study it through the lens of those who tend not to control a nation’s narrative. Some of my students’ favorite reading assignments were San Mao’s Stories of the Sahara, Shawna Yang Ryan’s Green Island, Yang Qianhe’s “The Season When Flowers Bloom,” and Li Hai-Yin’s short story “Candle.” A fun final project for my students was to interview someone who had grown up in Taiwan. Some of the interviews will be posted for the “Made in Taiwan” project hosted by U.C. Santa Barbara Professor Sabine Fruhstuck. Overall, I was very impressed with my students. They were a joy to teach.

My research project at IIAS examined the colonial journal Taiwan fujinkai (台湾婦人界Taiwan women’s world), which was written in Japanese and supported by the colonial Japanese government in Taiwan. The journal, published between 1934 and 1939, was founded by Koga Chiyoko, the wife of a Japanese industrialist who worked for the colonial Japanese government in Taiwan. Her vision was to create a magazine for the women of Taiwan that would be on par with the cosmopolitan women’s magazines coming from Japan. She felt that the challenges for women in Taiwan were different from those for women in Japan, and thus, a special journal needed to be created to address the specific issues faced by women living in Taiwan. My particular focus was on how the role of travel was depicted in the magazine and what part, if any, such a depiction played into Japan’s greater colonial agenda in Taiwan. Thanks to the time I had doing research at IIAS, I was able to revise an article titled “The World of Women’s Travel in the Japanese Colonial Journal Taiwan fujinkai” currently under review.

The final aspect of my fellowship was outreach. The major form of which was a workshop I organized for the final day of my stay in Leiden. The workshop titled “The Art, Politics, and Economics of Solo Women Travelers to, through, and from Taiwan” was an extension of my research and teaching. Aside from my presentation on how travel is depicted in Taiwan fujinkai, my colleagues Isabelle Cheng talked about the Women’s Army Corps, Faye Kleeman talked about female sojourners to and from Taiwan, and IIAS fellow Cha-hsüan Liu talked about her own experiences as a solo woman traveler. Thanks to their informative presentations, we had a lively conversation with workshop participants, who included Leiden University graduate students, colleagues from the Chinese Studies program, IIAS colleagues, as well as members from the Leiden community and beyond. It was a wonderful way to end my time at IIAS.

Other outreach projects included a trip to the University of Vienna, where I met Professor Astrid Lipinsky, who heads the Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies, and to Cambridge University, where I met colleagues in Japanese Studies to discuss my research on Taiwan fujinkai. In the Netherlands, I was able to participate in the CinemAsia Film Festival, for which I am truly grateful.

Although I have returned to the United States, I look forward to continued contact with IIAS through the Humanities Across Borders project directed by Aarti Kawlra. I am now preparing my courses for Denison University, where I will be teaching this next academic year. I will be offering the same course that I taught at Leiden University on Taiwanese women. I am also working with the director of East Asian Studies at Denison University to create a course about East Asian (including Taiwanese) women filmmakers thanks to what I learned from my attendance at CinemAsia. The time I spent in the Netherlands doing research and meeting colleagues at various European universities has given me a rich source of material and ideas to add to my courses on East Asia as well as inform new directions in my research on Taiwan.

I want to thank the wonderful staff at IIAS who supported my research, and the IIAS fellows who were great friends to have in a foreign land. I also am eternally grateful to the Ministry of Education of Taiwan for allowing me to have this amazing research and teaching experience in Europe. It will have a lasting impact on the way I teach about Taiwan in my courses on East Asia here in the United States.