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UCLA Supports Research by the Next Generation of Taiwan Studies Scholars

UCLA Supports Research by the Next Generation of Taiwan Studies Scholars

The UCLA Asia Pacific Center (APC) promotes Taiwan studies and scholarly exchange through its Taiwan Studies Lectureship (TSL) graduate fellowship program, with support from the ministry of education of Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles. The fellowships-which are a core component of APC's efforts to expand the field of Taiwan- provide travel and research support for up to six UCLA graduate students annually to conduct research there. While the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed travel between the U.S. and Taiwan in the past two years, some students were nevertheless able to make the journey and carried out critical dissertation research as Taiwan institutions and society remained open, while others made progress on their research through virtual resources. 

Since 2014, TSL has awarded fellowships to a total of 24 students in a diverse range of fields, including Asian languages and cultures, American Indian studies, anthropology, archaeology, comparative literature, education, ethnomusicology, geography, history, Near Eastern languages and cultures, sociology, theater, and world arts and cultures. These students have conducted research at a number of Taiwanese universities and institutions, including National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), National Chengchi University, National Sun Yat-Sen University, Academia Sinica, the National Central Library, and the National Palace Archives. Certain faculty from these universities have visited UCLA as visiting scholars and participated in UCLA conferences over the years, as well as served as mentors to these graduate students, strengthening the academic ties between UCLA and Taiwan scholars.

The student awardees have taken full advantage of TSL fellowships at different stages of their graduate studies, both at the predissertation and dissertation levels. Mei-Chen Chen (陳美蓁), a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology, studies historical music recordings from Taiwan, together with cultural policies and local practices related to intangible cultural heritage, in relation to traditional performing arts. Mei-Chen received a TSL fellowship for her initial fieldwork at NTNU in 2019, where she conducted research for two years. Her dissertation, "Heritagization of Traditional Performing Arts: Impact and Negotiation of Transmission Practices in Taiwan," is the first in either English or Chinese to holistically address Taiwan's current decade-long, state-funded cultural transmission project, as well as the distinctive features of the Taiwanese intangible cultural heritage paradigm. The access and research support provided by TSL funding and the affiliation with NTNU were crucial to her dissertation, which she plans to complete in 2022. 

Spencer Chen (陳昭龍 Chen Chao-Long), a linguistic anthropologist who will complete his Ph.D. degree in 2022, received four TSL grants to support his research in Taiwan that spanned a period from his initial pilot research at NTU in 2016 to his final follow-up dissertation research in 2021. His dissertation employs longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork to understand Tawanese peiyin (voice acting, dubbing) and its lingua-cultural and political-economic implications. TSL support has enabled him to develop and maintain close working relationships with professionals in the peiyin industry, greatly enhancing the scope and depth of his dissertation. In 2019, Spencer presented his research at the UCLA Taiwan studies conference, "Sinophone Studies: Interdiscplinary Perspectives and Critical Reflections."

"Thanks to the support from TSL, my dissertation will contribute significantly to the anthropological and sociolinguistic literature on Taiwanese language politics, as well as the general understanding of peiyin," he confidently states. 

During the difficult COVID-19 pandemic, the support provided by TSL eased the burden of many young scholars, including Faye Qiyu Lu (陸棲雩), a Ph.D. candidate in Asian languages and cultures whose research focuses on modern Sinophone and Chinese literature and culture (現代華語語系和中國文學與文化). Early in her Ph.D. program, Faye assisted with the TSL conferences on "Musha 1930: History, Memory, Culture" (2017) and "Indigenous Knowledge, Taiwan" (2018) as an interpreter from English to Chinese for several presenters. These conferences introduced her to the interdiscplinary methodologies that would come to inform her research, as well as to her mentor at NTNU, Professor Nikky Lin of the department of Taiwan culture, languages, and literatures. 

Faye received an initial TSL fellowship in summer 2019 to conduct immersive fieldwork in Taipei for a project on "New Confucianism After 1949: Diasporic and Cold War Negotiations" (1949後的新儒家:及冷戰中的協商) which investigates the work of New Confucian philosophers who exiled themselves from China and settled in Taiwan after 1949. Through close discussions with scholars in the field and exploring resources and archives at academic and national research facilities, she gained a much deeper understanding of the relationship between her research and academic and everyday life in Taiwan. The experience greatly helped the doctoral candidate conceptualize and develop her dissertation research on "New Confucian Humanism, Literature, and Popular Culture in Cold War Taiwan" (冷戰台灣的新儒家文主義,文學與流行文化). Faye is excited her research at the American Comparative Literature Association's annual meeting in June 2022. 

By now, some TSL recipients have successfully graduated from UCLA and begun their careers in academia. Andrew Nova Le, for example, received his Ph.D. in sociology in 2021 and is currently a tenure-track assistant professor at Arizona State University. Le's research examines the privatization of migration control and the ways in which aspiring migrants resist this outsourcing of state power, focusing on three countries: Vietnam, Taiwan, and Trinidad and Tobago. The recipient of four TSL awards from 2016 to 2021, Le says, "The TSL was an incredible opportunity to complete my research in Taiwan. I was able to have the funds necessary to spend much time in Taiwan to interview Vietnamese migrant fishermen and their Taiwanese fishing captains." Le's field research in Taiwan resulted in an article published in 2021 (Andrew Nova Le, "Unanticipated Transformations of Infrapolitics," The Journal of Peasant Studies, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2021.1888722). "Doing international research is difficult for graduate students. Usually there is not enough time or funds to do excellent work," he adds.

The TSL graduate fellowship program is making significant contributions to the scholarly research and intellectual development of UCLA doctoral students. The Asia Pacific Center is thrilled to be able to host the program and continue to support future scholars of Taiwan. 

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Published: Friday, June 24, 2022