Research Members: Te-Hsing Shan, Chih-Ming Wang, Shiuhhuah Serena Chou, Yu-cheng Lee, Wen-Ching Ho, Jia-You Sheu
1. History and Major Objectives
Originating in England in the 1950s, Cultural Studies emerged as a critical challenge to disciplinary boundaries by focusing on the political economy and ideology of cultural production. A part of the New Left critique of capitalist excesses and authoritarian states, Cultural Studies has since been recognized as an intellectual movement aimed at transforming the academia, despite its gradual incorporation into academic institutions. Attentive to emerging cultures and responsive to the crises of the time, Cultural Studies is particularly attuned to, and interested in, issues of popular culture, immigration, and feminism, as well as working class culture, and ever in search of means of resistance. In trying to arrive at a more holistic analysis of culture, and to emphasize the ideological character of culture, Cultural Studies goes beyond traditional disciplinary methods by focusing on pressing issues of the time and seeking interdisciplinary means to address them. Its seminal figures (whose concerns are closer to ours) include Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall of the Birmingham School, cultural Marxists such as Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser, as well as the Frankfurt School, whose analysis of the culture industry is indispensible to our understanding of capitalism today.
In 1994, the Institute hosted a conference on “Cultural Studies: History and Theory,” as a preliminary step to exploring the historical development and theoretical issues of Cultural Studies in the West as well as in Taiwan. In view of the spreading influence of this emerging intellectual movement, the Institute formed the key research project: “Cultural Studies” in December of 1998 and recruited research fellows (Dr. Shih-Yu Kuo in the Philosophy of Education, Dr. Yucheng Lee, and Dr. Te-hsing Shan in Literary Studies) of other disciplines within the Institute. Colleagues from other disciplines soon joined. The list came to include Jia-you Sheu (Sociology) and Norman Y. Teng (Philosophy), in January 2001, along with Richard Ruey-Chyi Hwang (Sociology) and Chin-Tao Wu (Contemporary Art and Culture), in August 2004. This multidisciplinary formation exemplifies both the strength of the Institute and the malleable and multifaceted character of the field. Our aim is to engage in in-depth interdisciplinary analyses of key issues of our time—migration, market, resistance, and capitalism—and thereby expand our academic vision and advance our research as we strive for intellectual originality and excellence.
2. Research Contents
The research cluster accentuates continuity and the importance of cumulative results. Thus, key points in past studies have been carrying forward in subsequent research. The research cluster studies the literatures and cultures of the US and Europe with emphasis on the following topics: minority literatures and cultures (especially Asian and African American literature), literary and cultural theory, sociology of art, environmental literature and ecological discourse, iconological culture and cognitive philosophy, critical sociology, and globalization. Recently, our research focus has also extended to Asian British literature, literary and cultural translation, material culture and consumer culture, privatization of art and culture, and ecological capitalism.
3. Research Highlights
1) Interdisciplinary Research
Cultural Studies is distinctive in its analytical and innovative approaches in challenging disciplinary boundaries. Since 2001, this research cluster has been expanded to include members from the fields of literature, philosophy, sociology, and art history. In the 2002 academic evaluation meeting, the evaluation committee suggested that the research cluster aim at creating a “truly interdisciplinary” research project, a goal we have worked strenuously towards ever since. Our effort was duly noted in the 2008 academic evaluation meeting, and recognized as spearheading the studies of Asian American literature and culture in Taiwan.
2) Indigenization and Internationalization
Our mandate is to strive for intellectual excellence in both international and domestic arenas. Within Euro-American minority literature studies, the Asian minority has acquired an increasingly important cultural role in Western society. Thus, given our resource constraints, we have decided to focus on a few select areas both to interact with international scholars and to raise critical awareness in Taiwan. From 2008 to 2013, we have hosted six international conferences focusing on the development of Asian American and Asian British literatures: “In the Shadows of Empires: The 2nd International Conference on Asian American and Asian British Literatures” (2008); “War Memories: The 3rd International Conference on Asian British and Asian American Literature” (2011); “Asian American and Other Literatures” (2013). We have hosted interactions between Asian academics – “Asian American Studies in Asia: An International Workshop” (2010) – and a reevaluation of European and American Studies: “Our Europe and America: Text, Theories, and Issues” (2012). In addition, we organized the inaugural summer institute in Asian American Studies in 2013, the first of its kind outside the United States.
Regarding Art History, for the past few years, we have organized workshops around invited internationally distinguished art scholars: “Feminist Masterclass – Griselda Pollock: Aesthetic Wit(h)nessing in the Era of Trauma” (January 2009), “Tamar Garb & Abigail Solomon-Godeau: The Politics of the Image” (September 2011), and “Carol Duncan & Andrew Hemingway: Faces of New Left Art History” (October 2013). Compared to Western history or Western literature, Western art history has relatively young roots in Taiwan, having been introduced by the Academia within the past decade. Thus, to familiarize workshop attendees with the research of the guest scholars, separate reading groups and study sessions were held two months before the events. Professors in related fields from various universities were invited to guide teachers and students through the texts of the guest scholars. We hope that, through these workshops on distinguished Western art historians and their visits to Taiwan, these influential scholars and the research topics they introduce will stimulate greater understanding of Art History as a discipline. At this point, the “Western Art History Workshop” has been running for years, has achieved wide recognition, and has become an important part of promoting Western Art History research in Taiwan.
We also organized three conferences on European social theories featuring: the work of Jürgen Habermas (October 2009); discussions of important works in contemporary social and cultural theory (November 2010); and focusing on green ideology and environmental politics (November 2011). The internationally renowned scholars invited include: William Outhwaite and Peter Dews (Habermas), Roy Bhaskar, who theorized critical realism and scientific realism (Contemporary Social and Cultural Theory), John Dryzek and Sharon Beder, who are famous Australian political environmentalists (Green Ideology and Environmental Politics). After each conference, several monographs were prepared on related topics: Communication, Criticism, and Objectives – Habermas Selections (2011), Collection of Theories (2013), and Green Ideology and Environmental Politics (2013).
4. Future Research Directions
The following are some of the topics we are currently working on:
1) British and American Minority Literature: This project looks at how minority culture engages with visual culture, and examines how the visual interacts with the literary aspect of minority experiences in the US. Examining Asian American, Asian British, African American, and African British literatures and how they are created – a project that reinforces the concept of theories.
2) Green Ideology and Ecological Culture: this project examines pressing issues of ecological capitalism, environmental justice, and Green Marxism, as they have been articulated in literature, film, and critical discourses.
3) Globalized Art World: this project analyzes the convergence of symbolic, economic and cultural capital from a sociological perspective, and investigates how they are related to the culture of art consumption. It also studies the vexed relations between high fashion and contemporary art, as well as the relations between Europe’s contemporary female artists, their relationship to the Western art establishment and the exhibition format of art biennials.
4) Visual Culture: This project engages with the ubiquitous existence and significance of icons as cultural images produced in circulation and multiple rearticulations, from the Che T-shirt to Hello Kitty. It also examines the symbiotic relationships between iconic culture and globalization.
5) Law and Cultural Studies: This project aims to facilitate interdisciplinary study of law and culture. By adopting the methodologies of cultural studies, the project plans to investigate cultural meanings of law and the power structures as well as cultural images behind the legal rules. It hopes to transcend traditional research methodologies that focus only on legal interpretation and/or case analysis. Future research topics include, but are not limited to, anthropology of law, law and humanities, law and development, and the dialogues between multiculturalism and global legal orders in the context of globalization.