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Session A2
Assessing the State of Taiwan History and Historiography: An EATS Outlook
Niki Alsford
School of Language & Global Studies, University of Central Lancashire, UK

The quest to situate Taiwan, and its history, as a field of study continues to accompany a flow of dirges. Taiwan Studies has been argued to occupy ‘a marginal position’ within the field of Chinese studies. Whilst at the same time acknowledges that those who are interested in China cannot ignore Taiwan entirely. Some argue that the study of Taiwan is ‘an impossible task’ since ‘Taiwan is already written out of mainstream Western discourse due its insignificance’. This pessimistic outlook has continued for much of the early noughties. Murray Rubinstein’s keynote speech at the Sixth Annual Conference of EATS in Madrid, Spain in 2009, carried the title: ‘Is Taiwan Studies Dead?’ The following restless, edge-of-the-seat, Q&A session though was enough to re-energise him into believing that the field, far from being dead, had taken up a whole new life. The title of the conference paper in 2009, however, prompted Jonathan Sullivan in 2011 to publish an article in the China Quarterly on a similar question and whether Taiwan Studies was in decline. Sullivan, who is much more sanguine, argues that rather than lament the ‘vigorous growth of China and China studies’ those engaging with the study of Taiwan should seek ways to ‘adapt to these conditions and thrive’.

Thus, the following survey (though by no means exhaustive) is an effort to chart the evolution of Taiwan history and historiography through the submitted papers to the annual EATS Conference. Attention to this is important as scholars of Taiwan seek to define the field as thing unto its self.