（這是我2006年5月26-28日在嶺南大學舉辦的Conference on Cultural Studies and Institution會議中發表的論文，後來收入Creativity and Academic Activism: Instituting Cultural Studies, ed. Meaghan Morris and Mette Hjort, Hong Kong and Durham, NC: Hong Kong UP and Duke UP, 2012. 55-66.）
Abstract: As an exemplar of interdisciplinarity, the survival of cultural studies within institutions that work to maintain disciplinary boundaries is both delicate and treacherous. The present paper uses the image of the parasite, a persistent irritating nuisance, to explain the existence and operation of certain critical gatherings of cultural studies within Taiwan’s institutions of higher education. Though almost always precarious, such existence penetrates deep into conventional disciplines and may, when the conditions are right, work to reorient the host departments beyond their original disciplinary boundaries. Of course, the precariousness of such “parasitic” existences also keeps the groups on their toes, striving to maintain their professional credibility within prevailing academic conventions while continuing to initiate unconventional intellectual activities as well as social activism.[i]
Opening the conference on “Cultural Studies and Institution” at Lingnan University, Meaghan Morris described cultural studies as a “gadfly,” as “something inconsequential and not taken seriously, though both deadly and charming,” for sure an apt description of the role of cultural studies as it irritates by challenging accepted frames of mind and established structures of power.[ii] My paper would like to use another organism also known to be a persistent irritating nuisance, i.e. “the parasite,” to help explain the existence and operation of certain critical gatherings of cultural studies within Taiwan’s institutions of higher education.[iii] Though almost always precarious, such existence penetrates deep into conventional disciplines and may, when the conditions are right, work to reorient the host departments beyond their original disciplinary boundaries. Of course, the precariousness of such “parasitic” existences also keeps the groups on their toes, striving to maintain their professional credibility within prevailing academic conventions while continuing to initiate unconventional intellectual activities as well as social activism. Our own Center for the Study of Sexualities at National Central University may serve as a good example here.
The emergence of the Center itself marked the tumultuous developments in Taiwanese feminist movement in the trajectory of the post-martial-law “democratization” process[iv]. Women’s groups had been somewhat insignificant among the new social movements pushing for democratization in the 1980s. Yet as the lifting of martial law in 1987 opened up political terrain for contestation, gender was increasingly taken as a potent social division that could become politically pivotal at election times. After all, rapid social change had already exacerbated existing and emerging social “problems”–domestic violence, divorces, extra-marital affairs, teenage rebellion, etc.–fanning anxieties that could be easily configured into election platforms, eventually not only mobilizing women into becoming concerned voting citizens but also enlisting women’s organizations as social service franchises in post-election governance. The prospect of mainstreaming and power-sharing quickly tapped into latent differences in class orientation among feminists, polarizing them through a successive string of debates in the mid-1990s over, respectively, female sexuality, lesbianism, sex work, pornography, surrogate mothering, teenage sexuality, and most recently sexual information and contact on the internet.
Differences in opinion had been commonplace within the feminist camp, yet, as sex-related issues tended to attract intense media attention, stakes suddenly became high when sex-positive feminist discourse on the subject of female sexuality sparked social controversy in the midst of an ongoing sex revolution in Taiwan in 1994.[v] Fearing that the hard-won respectability of the women’s movement would be compromised by such controversy, mainstreaming feminists made the public announcement at a press conference that feminism had nothing to do with such sexual emancipation stance. The statement at that historical moment amounted to no less than a disfranchisement that would deprive sex-positive views on female sexuality of any significance for gender empowerment and leave them easily relegated to the morally questionable and subjected to social condemnation. Such a political gesture would furthermore annihilate the legitimacy and credibility of sex-positive feminists as they try to speak on a variety of women’s issues. Faced with this venomous disavowal and its consequent disinheritance, sex-positive feminist scholars had no other recourse than to seek support elsewhere—most readily from the legitimacy of the education institution to which most of them rightfully belong. After all, aside from the women’s movement, academic gender/sexuality studies can still command social respect and credibility due to its elite status in the social hierarchy, and can thus provide the platform that the renegade feminists needed.
As all the leading sex-positive feminist scholars happened to be teaching National Central University, we decided to set up a Center for the Study of Sexualities and Difference (nicknamed the Sex Center) in 1995 under the English Department, which afforded the most liberal atmosphere and to which most of us belong.[vi] Though our science-and-engineering-oriented colleagues could not see the connection between English and gender/sexuality studies, gender happened to be becoming a state issue at the moment and a new gender equity education was just being brought into place at the urge of public outcry against rising crime rates against women in 1996-7.[vii] The rush in state policy created huge demands for so-called “gender specialists,” and, oblivious to the division within the feminist camp, the university was somewhat elated that some of its female faculty members rose to the task “out of their own initiative” to set up a center that the university could showcase as part of its own gender initiative. The Center was thus favorably received at this initial stage and quite successful in reconfiguring the marginal and unorthodox stances of our research and teaching into timely and creative responses to ordained state gender policy. In the following years, such innovative transformation of policy-induced institutional demands into self-determined forms of action would prove to be quite instrumental in the Center’s continued survival and its function as a potent platform for gender/sex non-conformity.[viii]
As history would have it, gender/sexuality issues and feminist discourses served as the terrain upon which conservative and progressive voices contested to shape social values and political power in Taiwan, with the sedimentation amounting to no less than a schism within the feminist camp toward the end of the 1990s. On one side were the state-oriented mainstream feminists who, in an effort to make the feminist agenda palatable for national politics, chose to maintain a safe distance from any issue or stance–starting with lesbianism within the feminist groups–that might cause social controversy or stigmatization. On the other side were the non-conformist feminists like us, insidiously referred to as the “sex liberation faction,” who, in response to emerging marginal sexual subjects and communities, worked to promote sex-positive views and question, or even dismantle, exiting gender/sexual deployment of power. The schism revealed its ferocity in two purges of the non-conformists from the feminist camp: in 1994 over the issue of female sexuality, and again in 1997 over the issue of female sex work.[ix] As the social activism of the non-conformists continued to formulate and articulate feminist positions on marginal gender/sexuality issues and subjects from newly forged locations of resistance, such efforts were entangled in direct and open conflict with mainstream feminists who aligned with the state in the latter’s effort to purify social space for “the protection of women and children.” Worried that the public was becoming confused about the starkly contrasting and contesting feminist positions in the dead heat of the female sex work debate in 1998, one prominent “state feminist”[x] tried to once for all expunge the non-conformist feminists from the women’s movement:
The sexual liberation movement and the [part of the] women’s movement that emphasizes gender politics have continuously come into conflict since 1994….the two [camps] inhabit the same political space and have struggled over the interpretation of the same and shared issues….the sexual liberation faction will not create its own organizations, and instead, puts all expectations in women’s movement organizations–especially the Awakening Foundation–hoping that these organizations will provide material resources and symbolic authorization for the sexual liberation movement. Therefore, the sexual liberation camp’s politics of sexuality and desire has closely stuck to/glued itself to the gender politics women’s movement organization, seeing in the latter a host-body.[xi] (emphasis mine)
Women who had fought side by side since the 1980s and 1990s to open up social space for discussions of women’s issues and women’s rights were, according to the mainstreamers, actually two separate movements, namely the feminist/women’s movement and the sexual liberation movement. Once ostracized to the outside of the women’s movement, the non-conformists would no longer have any rightful claim to any credibility and legitimacy that they had won for the earlier women’s movement.
In terms of mainstream feminist institution/organization, the non-conformists might have been expunged; but in terms of political stance, we were not about to give up what we began with–as feminists. From our professional posts, we would continue to articulate sex-positive feminist discourses to feed into the developing LGBTQI movements.
If professional academic status came to our rescue as we struggled to maintain our feminist presence and action, our efforts to conduct social activism from our posts in the academy, in the meantime, began galvanizing other tensions.
To begin with, we belong to a generation of scholars who had completed their advanced studies at US-based or UK-based universities at a time when cultural studies was establishing itself as the exemplar of interdisciplinarity in various humanities and social sciences departments on university campuses. The paradigm shift allowed us to acquire ample training in cultural studies, not to mention familiarity with Marxist thought.[xii] As we returned to Taiwan at the post-martial-law moment in the late 1980s, most of us found employment in local universities, albeit teaching in departments that still abided by traditional disciplinary boundaries. Post-martial-law social milieu was volatile yet promising for cultural intervention and social change. Aspiring to become what Gramsci had termed “organic intellectuals,” many of us began writing social criticism in local newspapers and journals to intervene in whatever developing phenomena that captured our attention.[xiii] The fresh and provocative approach of such writings created a new cultural force that swept up a whole generation of young and restless minds, resulting in a critical mass that prompted the establishment of the Association of Cultural Studies in Taiwan in 1999. In the years that followed, the Association’s annual conference grew bigger and bigger while the more traditional disciplines saw the attendance at their conferences dwindle. Understandably, the stark contrast resulted in anxieties that would make the path toward institutionalization of cultural studies more treacherous.
The active and broad involvement of cultural studies in social issues naturally ranged beyond our original areas of academic specialization and often landed us on controversial turfs unfamiliar to the public and even to our colleagues in the English Department. For the Sex Center in particular, we have been active in engaging Taiwan’s specific formation of knowledge production and academic professionalism in the area of gender/sexuality studies. As we often found ourselves drawn into various marginal movements and coming into contact with marginal subjects through social activism, we also began taking initiative to expand and build upon new research areas and new conceptions and orientations. From queer politics to sex work to transgenderism to S/M to body modification, it was the issues and subjects rising from actual social struggles that helped us reframe our understanding of the feminist and the social. Our work has been driven by the emerging needs of emerging marginal sexualities, and whatever insights we were able to develop were made possible exactly by learning from the lives of such marginal subjects; in return, our academic research and teaching also lent support and legitimacy to such marginalities as they struggle for social presence and legitimation.
Sadly, as our own departments and off-campus research funding agencies still functioned within disciplinary boundaries, we sometimes found our most vibrant research and teaching efforts frustrated by colleagues and reviewers who saw our work as deviating from or even betraying the department as well as the field. For example, our applications for funding to host conferences on gender/sexuality issues suffered repeated scrutiny if not interrogation not only in our own department meeting but also in the university funding review committee in the late 1990s. We were openly questioned as to whether gender/sexuality issues constituted proper subjects for the English Department or for academic research as a whole![xiv] Disciplinary boundaries provided easy ground on which our efforts could be justifiably scrutinized and then curtailed.[xv] Our individual efforts in academic accumulation fared no better. At the height of the prostitutes’ rights debate in 1998, sex-work-related research proposals drafted by members of the Sex Center and our allies in other universities received scathing reviews at the National Science Council, a major funding agency for academic research. The proposals written by the three most outspoken supporters of prostitutes’ rights were flatly rejected for being “biased” by reviewers whose comments revealed their own blatant anti-prostitution stance. Fortunately, two out of our three rebuttals for repeal were approved and we eventually won back funding from the NSC.[xvi] Such hostile and revengeful peer reviews were not rare at all: the obstacles concretized not only reprimands from various levels of existing disciplines, but also retaliations directed at our efforts to link the academy with social movements. All in all, our clear identity as “the cultural studies people” in our departments and schools and fields often left us in awkward positions, a nuisance to the allegedly a-political academic institutions.
As our involvement in Taiwanese gender/sexuality politics grew deeper and wider, and efforts to contain us within the academic field were not always successful, retaliations moved to the arena of legal action. In 2001, when one of the pages on our sexuality website featured articles and records of panel discussions that we had organized to criticize and satirize police entrapment of net citizens who were merely trying to seek companionship through the internet, the Catholic Good Shepherd Sisters sent in a complaint to the Ministry of Interior that the Sex Center’s webpage included “wrong-headed” discussions of the popular practice of enjo-kosai (“compensated companionship” in Japanese) which may “mislead” youngsters into occasional sex work. The Sisters demanded that we be reprimanded and possible litigations considered for our alleged breach of the child-protection law. Under pressure from the Ministry but fearing further social controversy, the university decided to let us off with a slap on the wrist by demanding that our web databank be removed from the university academic network. The conservatives thus at least succeeded in forcing us to use precious funding to purchase commercial space in the business domain in order to keep our website on line. More directly in 2003, a total of 11 conservative religious, censorship, and parent-oriented NGOs jointly brought litigation of “dissemination of obscenities” against the Center’s Coordinator, Josephine Ho, for including on the zoophilia webpage in our sexualities databank two hyperlinks that could lead to overseas pictorial zoophilia websites. The conservative groups were hoping that the demonization and indictment that followed upon the litigation would once for all discredit and silence the Center and its sex radicalism. The university, instead of actively defending freedom of information and research within the academic domain, decided to leave everything up to the judicial system. Thanks in part to the concerted efforts of support by local academics and activists as well as a wide-spread international petition drive, as well as to the valiant discursive defense line put up by the defendant and her allies, the case received the not-guilty verdict both in the district court and the high court in 2005. The vibrant mutual penetration between the academic and the activist was kept in tact.
As our experiences have shown, institutionally-embedded activism has its advantage: we were able to use the legitimacy of the institution to strengthen and defend marginal issues and positions. Yet the precarious and fragile existence of such activism-oriented academic gathering is also quite clear: both disciplinary boundaries and conservative retaliations work to jeopardize our continued existence and operation. In the end, we were able to stay in the game only because the nature of the game was changing at the time as a result of the conjuncture of several important factors, and, consequently, it needed those of us whose academic performance suited its needs, as I shall explain in the next section.
Comprador Professionalism and Its Localization
After 20 years of economic prosperity on the back of the manufacturing industries, Taiwan suddenly found itself hard-pressed to upgrade its industrial production in the 1990s so as to develop a new competitiveness in the rapidly globalizing economy.[xvii] This time, the scale of upgrading was not limited to the economic sphere only: education and research geared toward the international scene came to be regarded as possible vanguards in boosting national pride and global standing for a prospering economic body with a problematic nation-state status.
Academic production and performance that could lay claim to international visibility thus suddenly took on nation-state significance. The National Science Council, the government agency in charge of promoting academic research, began to provide travel funds for paper presentations at international conferences held overseas as well as funding for international conferences organized and held right here in Taiwan.[xviii] Generously-subsidized visiting positions or lectures were offered to established scholars in the West.[xix] Integrated research collaboration ventures across national borders were highly desirable and well-supported. All of these measures have afforded an unprecedented influx of funding for those of us who are capable of carrying out international exchange and willing to put in extra effort to make it happen. Consequently, our Sex Center was able to bring in world-renowned activists/scholars for our conferences on such heavily-closeted topics as homosexuality, sex work, or transgenderism. We were also able to travel to conferences overseas as a team, or pool our research resources together to support the needs for staff for the Center. All in all, as long as we remained productive and competitive, we fared quite well in the general trend of professionalization.
As research rose above teaching as the key criterion in university reviews, new sub-disciplines were created to encourage faculty members to devote themselves to research. “Cultural Studies” was finally recognized as a sub-discipline. A separate “Gender Studies” sub-discipline was also created, as one top official disclosed at a meeting, because other advanced countries had presented very strong performances in gender-related research and Taiwan certainly could not be absent in that area, especially when gender issues make up an index of a nation’s status on human rights. Having felt out of place for quite a few years in their original disciplines or institutions, many practitioners of cultural studies began to breathe an air of relief as they now could opt for the new sub-division and have their work reviewed by peers who might be more receptive to the interdisciplinary approach. As the pragmatic policy of the national funding agency valued academic output over disciplinary boundaries, it helped remove some of our obstacles within the university. For if we could out-produce our critics and were more active on the international scene, our research topics, though marginal and problematic in the local context, could still enjoy some legitimacy, for we were, among other things, making valuable contributions to the competitiveness of our university.
Ironically, though it originated out of nation-state interests, this over-valuation of academic output may still work for the benefit of marginal subjects. Kuan-Hsing Chen and Yeong-Shyang Chien (2005) have written about the impact of the Cold War on Taiwan’s academic scene,[xx] where the formation of the Cold War structure after WWII, the Chinese civil war between the nationalist party and the communists, and the former’s dependency on US to maintain political stability–all have helped to make US the sole dominating force in Taiwan’s academic and cultural frame of reference since the second half of the 20th century. In this academic hierarchy, US-trained scholars would rank higher than locally produced scholars; ideas and theories imported from the west would be considered more convincing than locally produced ideas and theories. And despite its colonial connotation, this favoritism actually provided some shield of protection for scholars of marginal or difficult topics so long as the topics could be demonstrated as academically viable in the context of the West. If sexuality studies is now the newest and the hottest field in the US academy and also considered related to human rights, then it is hard to dismiss it in Taiwan where keeping pace with world trends and keeping up a good record in human rights are key to the desired nation-state image. Academic professionalism, exemplified in sound research and published papers, still seemed to afford some degree of legitimacy that could resist moral panics. What had been once considered “comprador scholarship” was thus transformed into a useful structure under which marginal topics could still find some room for development. (The reality is of course never that simple, as I have demonstrated in the last section on the threat of litigation. The delicate tug-of-war between academic freedom and existing moral imperatives is constantly on.)
This protection, however fragile, is vital for our survival in a sex-phobic context such as Taiwan. As members of the Sex Center had already established impressive academic credibility in the field of cultural studies before getting entangled in local feminist debates, our track record offered some staying power as moral panics flared around our unconventional views on sexuality. As the new state policy of gender education worked only to ensure that changing sexual values and practices as well as emerging gender variance were met with the most stringent response and reaction, we were keenly aware of the importance of building up the gender/sexuality studies area in the most broad-minded fashion. So the Center organized more than a dozen major conferences since 1996 with themes that continued to broaden the scope of local gender/sexuality thinking, with papers drawn from local scholars as well as activists, with invited international speakers whose lives and theories demonstrated the possibility of alternative thinking and practice in gender/sexuality matters[xxi], and with a friendly milieu that eventually made the conferences famous occasions for empowering come-out confessions. The conferences not only fostered a critical community for marginal thinking, but also cumulatively helped forge the Center’s visibility and power of influence, which eventually consolidated the Center’s status as the most vibrant research collective in the gender/sexuality field in Taiwan. The Center also published more than 20 volumes of ground-breaking books on gender/sexuality issues, amounting to more than 5,000 pages and 3,000,000 words. With four active core members, no steady budget, and limited resources, the Center achieved the nearly impossible: challenging the public-health-oriented hegemonic discourse on sexuality, producing sex-positive discourses to defend various sexual minorities, winning a continuous string of research grants from national agencies, and intervening in almost every single issue that threatens to rigidify sexual and social space–all this while its members maintained outstanding teaching records and served various administrative duties.[xxii]
While professionalization may have provided some legitimation and support for marginal-minded academics, the cost of such neo-liberal accountability is also quite high. The pressure to publish and produce according to prescribed criteria, the endless paperwork that accompanies every sum of subsidy, and the need to make seasonal reports and presentations all took up more precious time and effort. In the early 1990s, many progressive academics regularly contributed to the literary supplements or other sections of local newspapers in order to join in critical discussions on various post-martial-law socio-cultural phenomena and ideas, thus creating a vibrant atmosphere for critical practices in cultural studies. But now, fewer and fewer intellectuals can afford writing on topical issues for the public. For one thing, such writing would not count toward academic credit at all; it might even compromise the professional status of the academics for “taking sides” on an issue rather than remaining “objective.” Consequently, such discursive productions are now first and foremost written in the academic format, which effectively insulates them from a wider readership and wider influence.[xxiii] Structurally speaking, it is increasingly difficult for activist-minded young academics to devote their time and effort to social movements–unless they could devise ways to package such activist involvement in academic clothing.[xxiv]
Pockets of cultural studies on various campuses more or less live with similar kinds of opportunities and frustrations, but it has become increasingly clear that we needed to move in the direction of institutionalization and reproduction if we were to sustain the momentum cultural studies has accumulated in this past decade in Taiwan. If not for anything else, we needed a more concentrated channel for reproduction; and we need to create a more favorable professional environment for those younger scholars and students who may not yet have the staying power to withstand the onslaught of disciplinary pressure or conservative retaliation.
The process of creating this mechanism for reproduction has again illuminated our status as annoying parasites. Since 2003, cultural studies scholars from three (four since 2010) geographically proximate and strategically allianced universities have been trying to build toward a cross-campus cultural studies graduate program.[xxv] We have made repeated appeals to our universities, telling the decision-makers about the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. The universities, well-known for their performance in the science and engineering fields, are only receptive to the idea of a limited non-degree-conferring program which they could easily cite to demonstrate their devotion to the humanities and social sciences, but could just as easily ignore or drop without much cost. The cultural studies people, on the other hand, would not accept such easy erasure. We continued to work closely in developing exchange and collaboration so as to build up a broad basis for cultural studies throughout Asia, and more pressure for the universities to listen.[xxvi] We had finally persuaded our universities to let us submit a proposal for a degree-conferring graduate program in cultural studies to the Ministry of Education at the end of 2009 after getting 16 different departments from these universities to approve the collaboration agreement in their departmental meetings. The Sex Center, likewise, sent in a proposal for a Ph.D. program in gender/sexuality studies at the same time that pulled together the efforts of 5 different programs from two different colleges in National University. Unfortunately, such collective efforts were not appreciated by the Ministry: both attempts at building up sites for intellectual reproduction failed. Again, the affirmation of existing institutional structures and hierarchies served as grounds for refusal. We are now regrouping for new ways to make our next bid.
Michel Serres has described the parasite as something that disrupts a system of exchange and exclusion by forcing the simple system to a new level of complexity and thus creating the diversity and complexity so vital to human life and thought.[xxvii] At this moment, whether our bid for institutionalization succeeds or not, we embrace the upbeat realization that marginal parasites work best when they work as parasites, not aspiring to infest the host too much, but sticking/gluing ourselves unto whatever institutional hosts available, and always maintaining a vibrant life force to keep ourselves alive and procreating, which is what we continue to do today.
[i] This is a significantly revised version of a paper written for the Conference on Cultural Studies and Institution, Ling-Nan University, Hong Kong, May 26-28, 2006. I want to thank Kuan-Hsing Chen and Meaghan Morris for their continued encouragement and generous support.
[ii] The term “gadfly” was used by Plato in the Apology to describe Socrates’ role of dissent in stinging the complacent establishment into action. Cultural studies, as a gadfly, could be said to direct its sting at the power block, the status quo, or popular beliefs.
[iii] These pockets, all active in the field of cultural studies, include, the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning at National Taiwan University (est. 1988), Center for Asia-Pacific/Cultural Studies at Tsing-Hua University (est. 1992), Center for the Study of Sexualities at National Central University (est. 1995), the Graduate School for Social Transformation Studies at Shih-Hsin University (est. 1997), and a vibrant group in the Department of Psychology at Fu-Jen Catholic University (est. 2000). Established or operated by left-wing scholars who had returned to Taiwan after the lifting of martial laws in 1987 but who refused to dance to the tunes of nationalist politics, such critical gatherings, scattered in many different fields, have maintained active involvement in Taiwan’s various social movements by not only sharing their own social respectability, thus legitimacy, with marginal groups but also producing critical discourses and research results, as well as non-conforming students, to challenge mainstream academic mechanisms of knowledge production.
[iv] “Democratization” has been considered a liberalizing, liberating restructuring of society, but I am putting the word in quotation marks exactly to point to the inimical dimensions of such a seemingly benevolent process.
[v] My own clandestine slogan of “We want orgasms, not sexual harassment,” uttered in the 1994 anti-sexual-harassment march in Taipei, followed by my controversial book The Gallant Woman: Feminism and Sexual Emancipation (1994), not only opened up discursive space for female sexuality but also resulted in a silent purge of my membership from feminist scholar organizations henceforth. As one weathered feminist put it in a private conversation: “It took us so many years of effort to reach this level of social acceptance, we cannot afford to have it tarnished by any controversy.”
[vi] Other members came from the Graduate Institute of Philosophy at National Central University and the Chinese Department of National Tsinghua University, but most of us concentrated in the English Department of National Central University. The title of the Center was chosen to demonstrate our resolve to discuss gender issues without losing sight of sexuality as well as other social differences, such as class, race, age, etc. We chose to put a slash inbetween xing-bie (性別, which means “gender” in Chinese, but taken apart, the two characters signify sex and difference) to mark our position. The Center’s English title was later changed to the “Center for the Study of Sexualities” not only for the sake of brevity but also to mark the stalemate in gender studies as mainstream women began sharing state power in 2000, as well as the rapid development in sexuality studies as activism in marginal sexualities took off.
[vii] Since the establishment of our Center in 1995, I have often been asked by the curious but friendly: “Has the university given you any trouble? Is there any opposition to your Center at your university?” The frequency of such questions is a constant reminder that although gender has marched unto the university map and national policy, we are still faced with the difficulty of dealing with a subject–i.e. sexuality–that easily evokes shame, guilt, fear, ignorance, and consequently anger and bigotry,. And our difficulties are doubled because of the against-grain approach we are determined to embrace.
[viii] To intervene in the rapid development of mainstream gender education, the Center organized a series of gender equity education workshops in 1998 and 1999 that not only provided platforms for progressive middle school teachers to address and influence their peers, but also, because the workshops were funded and certified by the County Bureau of Education, helped boost respectability and credibility for the Center. We also published various kinds of teacher training materials, as well as gender education material for middle school students in the form of a popular manga. All materials, in Chinese, are now available online. Website: http://sex.ncu.edu.tw/course/young/young.html
[ix] In 1997, at the urge of mainstream women’s groups, Taipei mayor Chen Shui-Bian revoked the licenses of the last remaining 128 prostitutes in order to demonstrate his resolve to purify the city of vice. Unexpectedly, the middle-aged, illiterate prostitutes rose in protest, and labor groups as well as sex-positive feminists came to their support, thus igniting a wave of fierce debates among feminists over the issue of sex work. The debates had other practical and tangible consequences. Staff members at the Awakening Foundation, the most prominent feminist group at the time, who worked tirelessly to support the sex workers as well as lesbian issues were fired collectively later that year for “ignoring their work assignment and disobeying the orders of the Board of Directors.” The discharged activists formed Gender/Sexuality Rights Association of Taiwan (GSRAT) two years later to continue their fight for marginal genders and sexualities. (http://gsrat.net/en/aboutus.php) In contrast, mainstream women’s groups that stood with the city government in 1997 have since been generously rewarded in funding and political power of influence as mayor Chen became the president of the country in 2000. As their assistance in consolidating governance is both effective and necessary, President Ma’s regime since also maintained good relations with these women’s groups to consolidate governance.
[x] The Chinese term “state-feminism” was first used by feminist scholar Liu, Yu-Xiou in a 1996 interview. Liu believes that feminist ideals are to be carried out by none other than housewives becoming political agents through entering the public realm of the state apparatus en masse. The sheer presence and number of women would then swallow up the public realm with the private realm, thus feminizing the state and forcing it to take up the job of caring, while the self-professed “philosophy queen” dethrones the “philosophy king” (Liu 23-24). It is with this vision in mind that mainstream feminists developed an unusually high interest and investment in the project of state-building.
[xi] Lin Fang-mei, 58. Lin herself became a cabinet member after the opposition DPP party assumed state power in 2000.
[xii] This leftist bend was later noted as our work was seen as continuously producing “a body of indigenous Marxist writings that mobilizes different senses of ‘queerness’ to demonstrate that the official celebration of diversity and human rights [in Taiwan] has actually further alienated and disempowered sex workers, promiscuous homosexuals, gay drug-users, and other social subjects that are considered to be a threat to the liberal-democratic order.” See Petrus Liu, “Queer Marxism in Taiwan,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 8.4 (December 2007): 517-539.
[xiii] The influx of such writings totally transformed the Fu-kan (literary supplement) of major newspapers, turning the space for creative literary writing to that of critical expository writing. This was the key site for cultural studies during that period of time and helped popularize the approach and analytical style of cultural studies. Cf. Yin-Bin Ning, “Cultural Politics as‘Real Politics’and Cultural Studies as Applied Philosophy: Cultural Criticism in Taiwan” (paper read at the International Conference on Cultural Criticism, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Jan. 2, 1993).
[xiv] One review committee member insisted that our conference theme and content “looked very much like a conference for social movements,” which I myself would not have disputed at all. I am sure at one time or another some may have even considered us “parasitic” on the English department.
[xv] Ironically, the English Department of National Central University has since become well-known for its strengths in gender/sexuality studies and film studies. However, being recognized as a cultural studies stronghold, the department has suffered repeated defeat in its effort to launch a Ph.D. program, as reviewers were assigned by the Ministry of Education along traditional disciplinary lines and reviewers in English Studies do not look upon cultural studies kindly. A fourth attempt to launch a Ph.D. program is now under discussion within the department.
[xvi] The third proposal, drafted by someone who was more closely related to the actual organization of the sex workers in their struggles, still could not pass the appeals review despite a strong rebuttal.
[xvii] In that sense, the lifting of martial law in Taiwan in 1987 was likewise necessitated by the crisis that followed upon its booming economy. In other words, political liberalization was necessitated by a desperate need to liberalize the market as well as the capital so as to attract international investment while shifting the manufacture industries to regions with lower wages.
[xviii] Research teams making collective presences at international conferences are highly encouraged; conventions or congresses of international academic organizations are solicited to hold their conferences in Taiwan; executive positions in such organizations are deemed equal to academic merit.
[xix] Now, number of visits by international scholars constitutes one important figure on the quantified assessment table required of all research-oriented universities in their annual evaluation.
[xx] Chen, Kuan-Hsing & Chien Yong-Hsiang, 6.
[xxi] Our speakers included such illustrious names as Cindy Patton, Fran Martin, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Halberstam, Jose Neil Cabanero Garcia, Leslie Feinberg, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Jamison Green, Ann Bolin, Laura Kipnis, and Katrien Jacobs.
[xxii] The tendency of quantification in neo-liberal market-oriented professionalism may be faulted on many fronts, but it has helped the Center survive on its own impressive quantity of academic output. The university is then left with a sense of strong ambivalence toward us: we could be problematic in our public statements and involvements, yet we are too valuable an asset to do without. Our choice to remain administratively under the jurisdiction of the English Department where members of the Center make up the most senior faculty also ensures that the Center would be completely autonomous in its functioning. It is this delicate status, and our self-determined accountability, that has ensured the Center a rare combination of academic professionalism and social activism.
[xxiii] In the meantime, commercialization is rapidly dwindling publishing sites and spaces. This crisis has prompted the editors of newspaper literary supplements to define their pages in a purely literary fashion that would keep off cultural commentaries. All these developments have worked to a certain extent to discourage the crossing over of the academics and their progressive ideas into other social realms.
[xxiv] In the more practice-oriented disciplines, such as social work or urban planning, such packaging is widely practiced by the expatriated left-wing scholars. Among all the pockets of cultural studies, the Department of Psychology at Fu-Jen Catholic University has been the most effective in opening up the department to marginal students. Their graduate student pool includes members from the SM, sex work, and transgender groups, and the program has been training them to become professionals that serve marginal populations.
[xxv] The project is headed by Kuan-Hsing Chen, the tireless champion of inter-Asia cultural studies.
[xxvi] We succeeded in gathering delegates from 12 cultural studies programs across Asia to sign a Memorandum of Understanding of cooperation in the 2006 Teaching Cultural Studies Workshop held at National Central University, Taiwan. As the universities seemed to be slow in response, another Memorandum of Understanding of cooperation, this time involving 18 institutions spread across Asia, was signed at Tokyo University in the summer of 2009. The banding together of otherwise isolated pockets of cultural studies proves to be quite inspiring. At the moment, delegates from these participating institutions will gather in Seoul to launch the InterAsia Cultural Studies Consortium on July 2, 2010. This will be a monumental step toward regional collaboration.
[xxvii] Serres, 35.
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