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Taiwan: Multiple Histories


Admission requirements



This course seeks to highlight multiple and diverse historical narratives surrounding early modern, modern, and contemporary Taiwan which have developed in different periods and may take the form of academic articles, artistic work, literary texts, or films. The course will introduce different cultural and intellectual actors participating in the creation of these narratives and interrogate their involvement in the formation of a national identity and the formulation of cultural policies. Moreover, the course will discuss the democratization process of the 1990s, cross-strait relations, and the activities of various political actors in order to clarify the current political situation. No prior knowledge of Taiwan or proficiency in Chinese are required.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students will be able

  • to understand the main events in the history of Taiwan within a greater geo-political setting;

  • to interpret the events within a broader social and political context;

  • to identify prominent cultural influences in each historical period;

  • to understand the tools (theories, concepts, methods) that scholars in the humanities and social sciences have developed to come to this understanding;

  • to contribute critically to the debate about the geo-political situation across the Taiwan Strait by writing informed academic essays.


The timetable is available on the Schedules Chinese Studies (BA).

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Each session (90 min.) will be divided into two parts: lecture, including Q&A session (45 min), and seminar (45 min.). Attendance and active participation are obligatory. Students will each be asked to present a short report on a given topic (reading materials will be provided in advance) and submit an essay on a given topic (3,000 words).

Course Load

A total of 140 hours:
Lectures (13 x 2): 26 hours
Weekly reading assignments: 37 hours
10 questions and comments on readings: 7 hours
Preparation for presentation: 20 hours
Final paper of 3,000 words: 50 hours


Assessment & Weighing

10 Q&Cs (Questions and comments on readings): 20%
Presentation: 30%
Final paper: 50%


There is no resit for the Q&Cs and the presentations.
The paper is written in two stages: a first version will be presented in class; a final, revised version will be submitted for grading. Students will receive comments on the first version presented in class. Only the final version, which can be a substantially improved version of the one presented in class, will be graded.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • all compulsory and recommended literature

Reading list

Available through Blackboard.


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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Táňa Dluhošová


Themes for final papers:
1. Competing historical narratives:
Choose one historical event and compare how it is represented in various contexts (at least two different representations in film, literature, TV series, pop culture, and the like). Pay attention to the narrator of the story and the reasons why the event is represented in that particular way. For your interpretation use academic literature. Materials for the presentations are listed under the description of each lecture.

  1. Nostalgia for the Japanese Colonial Period
    Find example(s) of nostalgic attitudes in cultural production and consider possible reasons for their presence. You can consider attitude towards Japanese in Korea for purposes of comparison; or you can consider the abundant literature on colonialism as a cultural praxis.
  2. What can we learn about the Taiwanese past from films like A City of Sadness (dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien), Cape No. 7 (dir. Wei Te-sheng), or the documentary Viva Tonal (Tiaowu shidai, dir. Guo Zhen-di and Jian Wei-si, 2003/2004)?
    Compare your insights from viewing these films with existing scholarship on the history of Taiwan and on colonialism in general.
  3. Was the Taiwanese democratization process led by elites, and the pressure from civic society was secondary?
    Take a stance toward this interpretation of the democratization process and support your position with arguments derived from existing scholarship.
  4. Other themes might be accepted after consultation