For the workshop "Democratic Transition, Political Culture and Social Change" five Taiwanese professors from different colleges of National Chengchi University joined colleagues from the University of Vienna's law faculty and from the Department of East Asian Studies. In addition, speakers from overseas Chinese University, Taiwan, from Heidelberg University and from Lund University, Sweden, were invited to present their research on Taiwan. The Museum of Ethnology in Vienna introduced one of its Taiwan collections. The keynote speech by Julia Strauss from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London summed up the first day's sessions, and gave participants lots to reflect upon during the next days, linking the post-49 Taiwan miracle to the efforts of state building in pre-49 mainland China.
Breaks were used for intensive discussions about future academic cooperation. This cooperation was formalized with a renewed and extended contract signed by Vice-Rector Arthur Mettinger at the end of the workshop.
At the University of Vienna, research and teaching on China covers all forms of Chinese-ness in what is called "Greater China" including Chinese-ness in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, but also among overseas Chinese communities. That is why the department is interested in intensifying the cooperation with National Chengchi University with the aim of enhancing its capacities in teaching and research on Taiwan.
During the founding ceremony for the Vienna Taiwan Studies Center in January 2009, participants and speakers listed numerous contents that Taiwan studies could possibly include. Except from detailing many of these topics in high-quality papers, the workshop also provided opportunities to define more issues for further cooperation and academic exchange.
Taiwan as a role model for participatory democratization
The ongoing public debate on the definition of a "Taiwanese identity" reaches back to the construction of a historical memory. Several presentations discussed the issue of history and memory against the background of the political transition Taiwan has been going through since the 1970s. As the Department in Vienna has been focusing on issues of collective memory and "transitional justice" for quite some time, comparative research on coping with the recent past in times of fundamental political change will be one of the topics of future cooperation.
A new gender culture in Taiwan
The immigration of thousands of so-called "foreign brides" from Southeast Asia and from mainland China to Taiwan is a phenomenon which has attracted a lot of attention lately. During the workshop, this question was discussed as a challenge to gender studies and to the local women's movement. Taiwan is confronted with problems many countries in Europe are encountering at this moment. Although a migration society by origin, Taiwan refuses to be regarded as an "immigration country" (Einwanderungsland) with a culture, a gender culture, and an ethnicity that is no longer uniform. Is diversity the solution or can society stick to the idea of a unitary identity? Which role can women play in this process and to which degree does the integration of migrants have to pay special attention to gender issues? This topic was also selected as an area of future cooperation.
Taiwan – a rights-based society in comparison
The Department of East Asian Studies/Sinology has selected Chinese law as one of its areas of specialization. Because of this reason, the workshop from the initial stage of its planning, tried to include professors from the law faculties of the University of Vienna and National Chengchi University. The workshop thus not only comprised a complete panel on legal culture(s), but also a section on legal aspects of a comparison of European and Taiwanese immigration. Participants from both law faculties used the workshop for the initial planning of future seminars focusing on questions of comparative law including participants from the law faculties as well as from the Centers for Taiwan Studies at both universities.
The workshop has already brought about several results: The papers of the gender panel were requested for publication by the Germany-based online Journal (refereed) of Current Chinese Affairs. The elaborate papers that most of the speakers provided were distributed to participants and currently form the basis for the precise outlining of future projects. The Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Vienna has already taken first steps in designing various Taiwan-related projects which will contribute to developing a more solid basis for the Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies. National Chengchi University has just announced to provide financial support for positions for a guest professor of Taiwan studies and for Chinese language training at the University of Vienna. These seminars are run in the Chinese language only, and the first of such courses that was conducted on Taiwanese history in January 2009 attracted some thirty students, most of whom wrote the requested end term paper in Chinese.
Dr. Astrid Lipinsky, M.A., works at the Department of East Asian Studies (Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies)