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Is Taiwan Studies in Decline?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2011

Jonathan Sullivan
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham. Email: jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk
Corresponding

Abstract

Taiwan studies is confronting several challenges from within and outside the academy to its vitality if not viability. The growing attraction of mainland China to researchers, the encroachment of disciplines and marginalization of area studies, and the closing life cycles of several of the most salient research themes on Taiwan, have all contributed to the sense of a field in decline. This article seeks to provide a more concrete empirical basis for assessing the state of the Taiwan studies field. Drawing on content analysis of journal publications, combined with citation data and a survey of Taiwan specialists, the article addresses a number of key questions about the field.

Type
State of the Field
Copyright
Copyright © The China Quarterly 2011

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References

1 Murray Rubinstein, “Is Taiwan studies dead? The death and transfiguration of a sub-field,” European Association of Taiwan Studies, Madrid, 16–18 April 2009.

2 Ibid. p. 1.

Ibid

3 Two notable exceptions are Cheng, T. J. and Marble, Andrew, “Taiwan studies and the social sciences,” Issues and Studies, Vol. 40, Nos. 3/4 (2004), pp. 957Google Scholar and Rigger, Shelley, “Political science and Taiwan's domestic politics: the state of the field,” Issues and Studies, Vols. 38/39, Nos. 1/4 (2002/3), pp. 4992Google Scholar.

4 The question of what constitutes Taiwan studies is naturally more complex and contested than this. For instance, the question of whether it is a field in its own right or a sub-field within broader China studies has implications that extend beyond the academy; See Cheng and Marble, “Taiwan studies and the social sciences.” I should also note that the concept of Taiwan studies is largely a Western construction (see ibid.). For instance, in Taiwan social scientists engage in social science research about Taiwan, but this does not necessarily constitute “Taiwan studies.”

5 See for example, Hix, Simon, “A global ranking of political science departments,” Political Studies Review, No. 2 (2004), pp. 293313CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Cheng and Marble, “Taiwan studies and the social sciences,” p. 30.

7 Chan, Anita and Unger, Jonathan, “The China Journal and the changing state of China studies,” Issues and Studies, Vols. 38/39, Nos. 1/4 (2002/3), pp. 327–31Google Scholar; Marble, Andrew, “The China Quarterly's creation of communal identity – lessons for defining the China studies field,” Issues and Studies, Vols. 38/39, Nos. 1/4 (2002/3), pp. 289317Google Scholar.

8 Rigger, “Political science and Taiwan's domestic politics,” p. 51.

9 With an institutional base in Taiwan, Issues and Studies aspires to become a focal point for Taiwan research; in which, as discussed below, it has been relatively successful. See Marble's, Andrew editorial, “The 40th anniversary of Issues and Studies,” Issues and Studies, Vol. 40, No. 1 (2004), pp. 110Google Scholar.

10 See Table 3 for survey responses on the latter.

11 In the ISI Journal Citation Report as of 17 June 2011, The China Quarterly had a five-year impact factor of 1.84, placing it 2/44 in area studies. The China Journal's was 1.36, placing it fifth in area studies. In terms of impact factor, these two titles are the major journals in China studies by a considerable margin.

12 Rubinstein, “Is Taiwan studies dead?”

13 Comparativists will in any case, rightly in my opinion, reject the argument that comparing Taiwan to other cases is damaging for Taiwan studies.

14 Edmonds, Richard Louis, “The growth of contemporary China studies and The China Quarterly,” Issues and Studies, Vols. 38/39, Nos. 1/4 (2002/3), p. 321Google Scholar.

15 Data available at the EATS (http://bit.ly/cTsKp2) and NATSA (http://bit.ly/bMuzjn) websites.

16 Based on ISI Web of Science data.

17 Pye, “Social science theories in search of Chinese realities,” p. 1161.

18 Cheng and Marble, “Taiwan studies and the social sciences,” p. 22.

19 Ibid. p.34.

Ibid

20 The appropriate use of theories and methods imported from disciplines is also, in my view, beneficial to Taiwan studies. For a similar argument, see Rigger, “Political science and Taiwan's domestic politics.”

21 A ten-item web-based survey was sent to Taiwan scholars, primarily via the email lists of two major Taiwan studies organizations, CGOTS and EATS. A total of 65 responses were collected. My thanks again to colleagues who took time to complete the survey and to Yuan-kang Wang, Ann Heylen and Jens Damm for facilitating its delivery. The profile of survey respondents is as follows. 24 were mid-career (assistant/associate professor), 24 senior academics (professor), 17 junior colleagues; 36 were political scientists by training, 11 trained in area studies, 18 had a mix of social science and humanities backgrounds; 28 are currently based in Taiwan, 18 in the US and 19 in a mix of European and Asian locations; 38 received their doctoral training in the US.

22 For example, Garand, James, Giles, Michael, Blais, Andre and McClean, Iain, “Political science journals in comparative perspective: evaluating scholarly journals in the US, Canada and the UK,” PS: Political Science and Politics, No. 42 (2009), pp. 695717Google Scholar.

23 As determined by five-year impact factor in the ISI Journal Citation Report as of 29 December 2009.

24 Certain data included herein are derived from the Web of Science (r) prepared by Thomson Reuters (r), Inc. (Thomson(r)), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters (r) 2009. All rights reserved. Published with permission.

25 For comparison, there were 617 articles on China in the same journals during this period. Again, if anything, Taiwan scholars appear to be “punching above their weight.”

26 The eight area journals are Asian Survey, The China Journal, The China Quarterly, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of East Asian Studies, Modern China and The Pacific Review. This selection was dictated by availability in ISI Web of Science.

27 Shambaugh, David, “The China Quarterly and contemporary China studies,” The China Quarterly, No. 200 (2009), pp. 914–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 To date, authors based in Taiwan are more represented in articles published in area studies journals than in political science/IR journals, where 66% of article authors between 1998 and 2008 were based in the US and just 14% in Taiwan.

29 Rigger, “Political science and Taiwan's domestic politics.” Similarly in China studies, Shambaugh, “The China Quarterly and contemporary China studies.”

30 I thank an anonymous reviewer for reminding me of this.

31 Rigger, “Political science and Taiwan's domestic politics,” p. 81.

32 Marble, “The China Quarterly's creation of communal identity.”

33 Shambaugh, “The China Quarterly and contemporary China studies.”

34 Borrowing from Rigger, “Political science and Taiwan's domestic politics.”

35 For an online initiative that aims to provide such a platform, see Taiwan in Comparative Perspective at http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/taiwanProgramme/ejournalTaiwanInComparativePerspective.htm.

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