2005 Student-Faculty Fellows: Austin College
Mentor: Donald M. Rodgers, Political Science
Students: S.J. (Elle) Park, ’07; Karl Satterwhite,’06; Katie Scofield, ’07; Ross Worden, ’06
Donald M. Rodgers
The opportunity to bring four students to Taiwan to conduct integrated research under the ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty Fellows Program has profoundly affected my professional and personal development. Professionally, I was reminded that our role as educators does not stop at the classroom door, and that collaborative research experiences not only enhance the students’ skills, but ours as well. My research focuses on political reform in Taiwan, with particular attention to the ideologies and goals of the active members of the Taiwan Independence Movement. By collaborating with the students on their individual, but related, research projects I was able to broaden my knowledge and contacts, which will certainly strengthen my research. On a personal level I was inspired by the passion and professionalism of the students during the research trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the numerous hours spent with the students discussing their research, their impressions of Taiwan, and their personal concerns about their future plans. The students’ enthusiasm is contagious and has inspired me to continue to emphasize collaborative research projects as part of my professional development.
S.J. (Elle) Park
Women’s Voices in Taiwan
Prior to the trip to Taiwan I was mistaken in assuming that the opinion of Taiwanese women on gender equality and women’s representation in major political reforms would be similar to their counterparts in the People’s Republic of China, Korea, and Japan. The experiences of the trip cured me of these mistaken assumptions, and taught me various research and problem-solving methods that will indubitably last a lifetime. I am grateful to ASIANetwork-Freeman Foundation for the chance to experience Taiwan firsthand, and I have the express hope of inspiring interest in others to study the progress and effects of democracy in Asia.
My research investigates the issue of gender equity and women’s involvement and role in Taiwan’s political system. Taiwan’s constitution guarantees the pursuit of gender equality and equal opportunity for women in the political arena. While women in Taiwan have made great progress, there is much work to be done. Through a description and analysis of the current political realities, I argue that the advocates of gender equality must concentrate their efforts on the preservation of gender balance and creating an environment where men and women share the responsibilities of the domestic environment as partners in marriage. Sharing these responsibilities will allow them the opportunity to be more freely involved in career-oriented and time-consuming fields such as politics. The advocates and activists of the gender equality movement must educate the masses to realize there is a problem of inequality, and that these injustices will plague future generations if nothing is done today.
Youth Involvement in Political Change
The ability to study Taiwanese politics, which was granted to me though ASIANetwork-Freeman Foundation, has been a life altering experience that allows me to set a future career goal that includes Asia as its spotlight. The subtle difference in the daily routine between two cultures allows a person to recognize that humans are not so different after all. The knowledge learned through interaction with individuals of a different culture has expanded my worldview to not only include Taiwan and Asia, but also cultures and countries which I have not had the ability to experience.
It appears to be a global trend that youth do not actively and directly become involved in political movements and protests. The difficulties that Taiwan faced at the end of martial law, such as limiting those who could directly vote for the president, led the youth of Taiwan to become visibly active. However, the current generations of youth in Taiwan have not had to protest for the rights enjoyed by all Taiwanese. In Taiwan, there is no longer a vocal youth voice for demanding the extension of civil rights such as the right to vote by persons serving in the military who are under the age of 20. There has been a shift from nationally focused youth concerns to a more individually focused youth voice concerned with job stability. Both of the major parties have responded with new policies that better suit the needs of the youth in order to gain more support. Using interview and survey data, this research addressed the important question of how the interests of Taiwan’s youth have shifted in recent years, and how the political parties are responding.
Taiwan’s Minority Population
Before going to Taiwan, I had been exposed to two different world views through my interactions with family and my own previous trips abroad. The first, espoused by my grandparents, was that all places outside of the United States are somehow inferior. The second, which I gained in my travels to Europe, was that countries have lost their own unique culture and have replaced it with a monolithic Western one. However, in Taiwan, I was exposed to a different world view. Largely through my dining experiences on the island, I came to view not only Taiwan and Asia but the world in a different light. I realized that while Taiwan had adopted some Western foods and traditions, the island had managed to maintain aspects of its unique culture and traditions.
Through conducting interviews in Taiwan, I came to realize that the indigenous community almost uniformly disassociates itself from the concept of a New Taiwanese Identity. Instead, indigenous groups across the island are debating the merits of autonomy. An indigenous individual’s views about autonomy tend to depend on the size and location of that individual’s tribe, and on the individual’s level of political activeness. In this research I used interview and survey data to further explore the indigenous peoples’ differing concepts of autonomy, using the Amis and Saisiyat tribes as case studies.
Chinese Nationalism in Taiwan
My Taiwan trip gave me a new, broader perspective on Asia in general, and in particular Taiwan’s intricate history and culture. I learned a great deal from everyone’s projects in addition to my own. I learned as much about Taiwan as I did about conducting field-based research and particularly qualitative research methods. My future plans now include graduate school, most likely preceded by international work experience.
My research will use recent interviews of pro-mainland Taiwanese political elites to augment past rhetoric directed at mainland China from 1970. Attention will be given primarily to the dual internal/external threat posed by rising Taiwanese nationalism and the increasing permanence of the CCP, and how it has challenged pro-mainlanders to maintain both their power in Taiwan and their claim to Chinese identity with minimal amounts of cognitive dissonance.