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Taiwan as Island Borders: Nature, Natives, and Virus in Relational Comparisons

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Organizer: Liang I-ping

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In recent years, borders have emerged as a critical terrain of power struggles and epistemic crises for engaging and rethinking the Post-Pandemic questions of race and multiculturalism, gender/sexuality, environmentalism, settler colonialism, and subjectivity, especially when these questions seem to be infinitely amplified and intermeshed by the vanishing and re-enforcement of borders due to the erosive COVID-19. As a literary trope and analytic tool as well, border-(is)lands enable an unsettling of the apparently fixed hierarchies between settlers and aliens, colonizers and the colonized, and the human and nonhuman divisions, thus making it possible to envision  new epistemic possibilities of a decolonizing and anti-oppressive future. Besides as a trope or emblem of multiplicity, thinking from the site of island borders such as Taiwan also encourages an innovative method of decoding and comparatizing, one that is itself a legacy of Western imperialist ambitions and rivalries since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Such border epistemologies performed by writers of minorities, alterity, (im)migration, island states, etc., according to Shu-mei Shih and Ping-hui Liao, co-editors of Comparatizing Taiwan, are important cultural texts to cope with the global Sinophone conditions, because “encounters are moments of comparison; comparisons are themselves enactments of encounters” (2).


With Shih and Liao’s insights in mind, this seminar seeks not only participants addressing a particular area studies (such as Taiwan Studies) but also writers and scholars speaking to, against, each other and across different disciplines and boundaries. We look for other possible affiliations and comparisons arisen out of the histories of (settler) colonialism, forced evacuation,  environmental exploitation, and the likes, so as to invoke “border studies," "island borders," and “border-crossing” as a new tactic for rethinking the ways in which the increasingly collapsing boundaries of racial, sexual, national, biological and other forms of ontologies have greatly impacted our lives in the Post-Pandemic Age. What might a politics grounded in relation to borders, nature, natives, memories, and more-than-human intimacies teach us about non-normative, insurgent subjectivities? How can we enact a subject position that may better account for the dissolution and contradiction of self-other/human-nonhuman/island-continent relations? This seminar welcomes but does not limit its scope of inquiries to themes and methods for thinking beyond island borders.

 

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