label r shifted
Session A2
Cold War, Transpacific Sojourns, and Taiwan’s Role in America’s Cold War Sinology
楊孟軒 Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang
Department of History, University of Missouri-Columbia, USA

Before democratization and Taiwanization (bentuhua) gave rise to “Taiwan Studies” in the 1990s, Western scholars, especially American scholars, had been studying communities on Taiwan. These transpacific sojourners started coming to the island in the late 1950s and the early 60s to participate in what was later termed “Area Studies.” A majority of these researchers were funded by the US Federal Government in conjunction with influential private donors in America, such as the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. What prompted this was the need to understand and engage non-White and formerly colonized societies in Asia and Africa in order to compete with the communist bloc. For decades, American universities and research institutions sent a large number of scholars, graduate students, as well as investigators, military personnel, and intelligence operatives to these regions. Being touted as “Free China,” Chiang Kai-shek’s anti-communist bastion became a major destination for American sinologists during the Cold War. The island state became a surrogate for Western academics studying Chinese culture and society, but could not physically enter the real “China” (i.e. the PRC). When Washington and Beijing established formal diplomatic relations in early 1979, Deng Xiaoping opened the door to foreign researchers in the PRC. A majority of the American sinologists who previously did their language training and documentary research in Taiwan quickly migrated to the mainland. Some however continued to conduct research in Taiwan and maintained both personal and professional relationships with the local communities they studied and the academic circles on the island. Several senior anthropologists are among these people. Their experiences are the subject of an oral history project put forward by the North American Taiwan Studies Association in 2014 with financial assistance from the Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica. This paper provides an overview on the main goals, theoretical engagement, and highlights some key findings of this project. Among the sojourning Western researchers in Taiwan during the Cold War, anthropologists are the most interesting. Unlike political scientists, economists, historians, sociologists, literary critics, and others in the humanities and social sciences disciplines, the anthropologists, by the virtue of their research concerns and methodology, had to come in daily contacts with the local society. This paper argues that the observations and reflections they made on Taiwan’s local culture and people, though inevitably colored by their search for the essence of Chineseness or by their drive to build a universal social theory or a systematic taxonomy of human cultural differences, provide illuminating insights not only into the island’s diverse historical past, but also into the development of Taiwan Studies in the decades that followed. Moreover, in exploring these experiences, the paper shows that the research on transpacific migration has focused much more on immigrants, merchants, and students from Asia to America. The study of Asian Americans has been an integral part of the discussing on racial and ethnic politics and perception of “the other” in North America. By comparison, there was relatively little on the reverse traffic, in particular the role played by a small number of elite sojourners in facilitating understanding (as well as misunderstanding) between Taiwan and the United States.