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Session A1
Making Taiwan Relevant to Sociology: Turning Contingencies into Puzzles
李鎮邦 Chengpang Lee
Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, Singapore

The popular and influential small country thesis proposed by Taiwanese sociologist Su-Jen Huang predicts that due to the relatively smaller size, small countries have inherent weaknesses and difficulties in producing high quality scholarship in the global academic field. Based on the initial size difference, Huang develops an endogenous model of how a small country’s academic community develops. Following his insights, scholars have provided strategies and potential solutions to the small country dilemma—the big issue thesis. Although the solutions and strategies derived from the big issue thesis are both practical and insightful, we are not entirely clear how their solutions could better integrate Taiwan into the academic studies. In this article, I first discuss the small country and the big issue thesis and then I examine publications about Taiwan on the top sociological journals in the past decades. I compare the pattern of publications to similar countries such as South Korea. An ecological model is employed to explain the difference. I further discuss how Taiwan is studied in these publications. Then, I propose a potentially fruitful way to make Taiwan relevant to sociology in general and to the global sociology field in specific. That is to situate the historical contingencies observed in Taiwan into the larger universal social processes and explain the contingencies from a comparative angle. I argue that this method can avoid two common critiques faced by scholars who study relatively smaller and less studied cases—the significance of the research and the lack of academic supporters. To illustrate these points, I use my ongoing three projects to highlight how I turn those seemingly historical contingencies into puzzles in order to make them relevant to a larger epistemic community’s interests.