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Ethnographies of Contemporary Taiwan


Admission Requirements

Priority for students in the MA Asian Studies programme.


Taiwanese culture has changed rapidly since the end of martial law in 1987. These changes have affected gender, kinship, popular culture, Indigenous culture, people’s relationship with the state, as well as their relationships with Chinese immigrants. This course will look at these various issues through six recent ethnographies, each published since 2015. While Japanese colonial ethnographers in the 1920s were primarily interested in Taiwan’s Indigenous “mountain” cultures, and American ethnographers in the 1970s treated Taiwan as a stand-in for “China,” today’s ethnographers study contemporary Taiwan on its own terms, each through their own unique theoretical and methodological toolkit. Topics to be discussed include: digital knights-errant puppetry, Indigenous wayfaring, police-community relations, Chinese marital immigrants, queer kinship, and the role of cuteness in popular culture.

Course objectives

Students in this course will:

  • Learn about contemporary Taiwanese culture and society

  • Learn about the ethnographic research methods

  • Be introduced to basic theoretical concepts in contemporary cultural anthropology

  • Develop their skills in reading and analyzing nonfiction texts


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught in a seminar style, with students taking turns presenting each week’s readings to the class, and responding to each other’s presentation. Everyone not doing a presentation on a given week will be expected to post an online journal with their reactions to that week’s readings. (And to comment on each-other’s journals.) There will also be weekly lectures and a general discussion. All of these will count towards the “participation” component of the final grade.

A final paper will be due at the end of the semester, with a prospectus due around midterm, and an annotated bibliography due before the last week of lectures. Guidelines and exact dates will be provided at the beginning of the semester. These assignments will all be considered as part of the “term paper” component of the final grade.

Due to the COVID-19 situation, it is unclear if the course will be taught online, in person, or some combination of the two. Any changes regarding the mode of instruction necessitated by such a shift will be announced at the start of the semester and posted to the online platform for this course.

Assessment method

Participation: 50%
Term paper: 50%

Reading list

Note: this list is subject to change before the start of the semester.

  • Silvio, Teri J. 2019. Puppets, Gods, and Brands: Theorizing the Age of Animation from Taiwan. University of Hawaii Press.

  • Simon, Scott. Truly Human: Wayfaring towards Indigeneity on Formosa. Forthcoming from UT Press. (Preprint courtesy of the author.)

  • Martin, Jeffrey T. 2019. Sentiment, Reason, and Law: Policing in the Republic of China on Taiwan. Cornell University Press.

  • Friedman, Sara L. 2015. Exceptional States: Chinese Immigrants and Taiwanese Sovereignty. University of California Press.

  • Brainer, Amy. 2019. Queer Kinship and Family Change in Taiwan. Rutgers University Press.

  • Yueh, Hsin-I Sydney. 2016. Identity Politics and Popular Culture in Taiwan: A Sajiao Generation. Lexington Books.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.