Keywording Taiwan

May 20-21, 2021 (Pacific time)



Hosted by 

North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA)

Important dates

Confirmation from last year: September 15-30

Call for Papers open: October 1 - November 30, 2020

Notification of first-round acceptance by February 1, 2021

Notification of final-round acceptance by February 20, 2021

Full paper (minimum 3000 words excluding references) or annotated slides due: April 1, 2021

Conference: May 20-21, 2021

Conference Theme: Keywording Taiwan 

The 26th  NATSA annual conference--Keywording Taiwan-- aims to identify core issues, historical turning points, critical populations, and fundamental theoretical arguments on Taiwan amongst transregional and interdisciplinary scholarship. As both a geographical margin of imperial orders and a political-economic hub between leading powers, Taiwan has witnessed diverse dynamism and key transitions at various levels. During the past quarter-century, Taiwan studies has demonstrated its vitality of contesting heterogeneous historical experiences and has attempted to bridge a diversity of disciplines for current issues.

The act of identifying keywords challenges scholars to synthesize decades of literature and, from there, offer cutting-edge research to answer fundamental questions: comprehension, debate, reflection, border-crossing, and/or channeling. We aim to not only define what keywords are but ask what they can do: how do selected keywords define one’s positionality within a certain discipline?  How does a keyword serve as a conceptual paradigm that articulates a certain spatiality and temporality? How do keywords favor some and leave others behind? A “keyword,” as we understand it, is therefore not a fixed concept, but a restless confrontation from within, as practices of deconstruction and recontextualization that frame the recurring issues for Taiwan studies.

We also hope to identify the under-studied keywords in Taiwan studies and interrogate both the contingency, hegemony, universality and the limitation of such exclusion within the academic framework. We encourage discussions including but not limited to approaching keywords based on its textuality, emphasizing the practicality of “keys”: what and how can the keys enable, or disenable, access to a certain route, space or regime? 

This year’s theme is an attempt to facilitate interdisciplinary scholarship. By structuring the discussion around keywords across disciplinary boundaries, we welcome panel submissions that examine a key issue from different and yet interconnected theoretical lenses or methodological approaches. The uniqueness of each field shall not be erased, but rather be critically reflected upon. Furthermore, we aim to center discussions on concepts of lingering historical importance (e.g., frontier) and heated debates of our contemporary time (e.g., new media and information warfare). We also aim to cross boundaries by examining occurrences of both local significance (e.g., White Terror) and transnational relevance (e.g., democratization).

Lastly, it should be noted that a “keyword” can be defined inclusively and expansively, including words, phrases, symbols, and events not typically found in standard dictionaries. We encourage panelists to define your world(s) using keywords. By incorporating personal experiences, we aim for critical reflections on the conceptual presuppositions, historical premises, and theoretical grounds of Taiwan studies to which self-created keywords can meaningfully contribute. We propose using keywords as an approach to bridging Taiwan studies and other (non-)dominant epistemologies.

*We encourage NATSA 2020 accepted scholars to revise their proposals to address the newly added themes (followed by an asterisk below) for NATSA 2021. In recognition of the work submitted last year, the papers accepted for 2020 are assured to be accepted for 2021.


Sub-themes include but not limited to:

  1. Pandemic:* COVID-19 has profoundly challenged every aspect of life and disrupted networks and systems, demanding change socially, politically, economically and geographically. It is in this context that the issues ranging from national border control to international health cooperation and transnational social movement deserve scrutiny and a better understanding. How to provide an interdisciplinary perspective on COVID-19 in relation to the ‘solidarity’ discourse and resilience on both local and global levels? 

    • #taiwancanhelp; (digital) surveillance; digital footprint and infrastructure; information sharing, gatekeeping and withholding; social distancing; quarantine; mask and masking; green recovery; platform economy

  2. Racism:* “Race” is a social category that conveys how people are socially categorized with fictional and reductive biological terms. Racialization - the making of racial identities - is a diachronic process that erases people’s histories, memories, and (inter)subjectivity since the dawn of modern/colonial expansion in the Americas. While “race” as an analytic tool appears as a relatively new and unfamiliar term in Taiwan studies, racialization has always already been with us as it is the engine of colonizations, nation-state building, globalized capitalist migration, citizenship making, and the white-washing/pink-washing gender discourse. To treat this analytic tool seriously means to sink in the very structure and texture of who we are, who we are in solidarity with, and whom we feel hard/easy to connect to. 

    • Racism; Taiwan and Black Lives Matter; anti-Asian racism 

  3. Artistic intervention: Art, as a form of expression and communication, has channeled the past, present, and future in literature, music, film, theater, anime, etc.  from within and beyond the boundary of Taiwan. How do artistic interventions construct narratives and articulate resistance in the socio-political sphere?

    • (Re)presentation; interpretation; embodiment; construction and deconstruction; reality, virtuality; meaning-making; medium, multimedia; curation; visual culture; architecture; musicology

  4. Civil society: Facing the political and socioeconomic turmoil, how does Taiwan (studies) contribute to producing parameters for analyzing contemporary social activism? How does the novel use of digital technologies serve as a double-edged sword, (de)territorializing the landscapes of social transformation? How does COVID-19 affect people’s attitude or cause incredulity toward the government and policy?

    • Civil obedience; activism; art and technological intervention; transnational alliance; grassroots solidarity; social media; community building; democratic imagination; participatory democracy; recall*

  5. Crisis: Crises signify danger, conflicts, and chaos, but they also create opportunities. How do crises result from, and in, social-economic, political and technological changes? In the meantime, who gets to define the moments and impact of crises and who gets victimized? 

    • Rule of law crisis; refugees and humanitarian crisis; constitutional crisis;  global economic crisis; global protectionism; environmental crisis; democracy in crisis; the rise of populism; legitimacy crisis; public health crisis*

  6. Empire: Taiwan has been on the frontier and at the contact zone of competing empires and super powers. How does Taiwan (studies) position itself in relation to multiple imperial forces? How does it relate with some of the dominant hegemonic cultures, ideologies, and material practices?

    • Imperialism, (de)colonization, postcolonialism, neoliberalism, ghosts of empire, territorial disputes; global order; imperial difference; colonial legacy, colonial modernity; coloniality

  7. Gender and Sexuality:  How does Taiwan (studies) contribute to or challenge our understanding of gender and sexual normativity, on both domestic and international levels? How are normative gender and sexuality formed, understood and performed, and how are they maintained or subverted? 

    • Gender and sexual minorities; contesting kinship; domestic inequalities; sexual violence, body-politics; self-identification; homonationalism; trans-modernity; sexual dissidents; pink-washing; campy

  8. Legality: From international competition to local governance, from legal institutions to policy arrangements, law has been the decisive factor in sovereignty, jurisdiction and legitimacy. How has Taiwan encountered and addressed the issue of law? How has law shaped the legal status of Taiwan and its international relations? How would Hong Kong Security Law impact Taiwan and international relations?

    • law and policy studies; international law; legitimacy; constitutionalism; legal history; beyond legality; economic partnership agreements; jurisdiction; sovereignty; Hong Kong Security Law*

  9. Posthuman: The posthumanist turn has challenged the fundamental concerns of humanities, and human relationship with the environment and other beings. How does Taiwan (studies) speak for and to the environment, and further challenge the human-centered discourse through a posthumanist lens? 

    • Anthropocene; non-human; beyond human; ecology; object-oriented ontology; automatism; cyborg; ghost; monster; dehumanization; nature-culture division, animality; primitivity; consciousness 

  10. Power: The complex relationships between power and knowledge have been much explored, but how does dominant knowledge marginalize certain voices and produce ignorance and violence? In this light, what has Taiwan (studies) pursued and what has it excluded and thus ignored?

    • (In)visibility, (il)legibility; indigeneity; agency; rights; marginalization, empowerment; silenced voices, forbidden history; governmentality; decolonization of knowledge; epistemology, epistemic violence

  11. Religion: Religion evinces different world-sense and mediates relationalities of life and death. How do religions shape daily life for Taiwan locally and translocally? How do religions intersect with neoliberal, capitalist, and nationalist discourses? 

    • Spirituality; theology; ritual; shamanism; comparative religion; religion as weapon; secularization; folklore; religious violence; supernaturalism; new religion movement;  religion and politics

  12. Sustainability: Development and sustainability, when politicized, are perceived as two incompatible goals, such as the controversies of the Paris agreement and nuclear energy in Taiwan. How does Taiwan (studies) contribute to studying the dialectics of development and sustainability and its political nature?

    • Alternative energy, ecological economy; the common heritage of mankind;  historic preservation dilemma; revival of local economy; developmentalism; degrowth; environmentalism 

  13. Transoceanic: With its history of (im)migration and colonization, Taiwan has been not only a geographical location but a conceptual space connected to the worlds at various levels. How does Taiwan (studies) serve as a bridge or a disruption to different fields of study? What is in-between or beyond? 

    • (Im)mobility; connectivity; transpacific; migrant movement; diaspora; brain-drain; ethnicity and identity politics; inter-subjectivities;  high-tech labor;  leader-latecomer dichotomy

  14. War: In an era of restlessness and attempting new world order, wars in different forms are taking place in ways that are familiar yet morphing. How does Taiwan (studies) have a meaningful dialogue with the rest of the world to make sense of the wars that are haunting and troubling us? 

    • Information warfare; WWI and national self-determination, WWII and war responsibilities; inter-war and postwar; (new) Cold War; hot war; trade war; war memories; post-trauma 


Review criteria

Your proposal will be reviewed by two external reviewers, in addition to the NATSA 2019-21 program team, based on the four criteria below: 

  • Theoretical clarity (1-5 points) 

  • Proposal structure &  flow (1-5 points) 

  • Feasibility and contribution to the literature (1-5 points) 

  • Relevance to our conference theme "Keywording Taiwan" (1-5 points) 



Submission link: 

  • Individual paper submission: in addition to a 500-words abstract, you will be asked to provide up to six keywords and up to three potential discussants for your study. 

  • A panel submission consists of 3-4 papers. You need to combine your 3-4 abstracts (500-words abstract for each) with an overarching abstract (500-words) into one single PDF document. 

Any questions about this call could be directed to NATSA 2019-21 Program Directors (