nl en

Taiwan Studies seminar


Taiwan’s Geographies

Admission requirements



Asia’s orphan? Ilha Formosa? Yam, taro, or betel nut leaf? Why does Taiwan always seem to be approached by way of metaphor and metonym -- or else as a political conundrum? This course seeks to pry Taiwan away from the realm of the symbolic and the narrowly political, and argue for its historical significance as a complex site of overlapping geographies and geographic imaginations. These include indigenous geographies; non-human geographies; human movement and migration in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Northeast Asia; successive eras of European and Asian colonization and empire; and twentieth century regional and global communities of politics, labor, affect, and more.

What to expect during the semester:
This class is being offered primarily online at Brown University, and in person at Leiden University, the Netherlands. Part of your learning process will be sharing your ideas with students at the other university through common writing, online conversation, and exchange of resources like museum collections

Course objectives

  1. Students who successfully complete this course will have explored what it means to understand and write histories “otherwise”, not reliant on narratives of the nation-state, cultural unity, and global strategy. They will be able to explain different ways in which Taiwan fits into global, regional, national, and local geographies, and how its liminality and varying identities offer a valuable historical case.

  2. Students will be able to understand the different practices and histories of self-naming and naming by others among minoritized and colonized peoples and to analyze the interaction of knowledge and power in colonies and so-called “borderlands”.

  3. Students will learn how to identify and discuss scholarly arguments and how to delve deeply into how these analyses are produced, from their evidence base to their structure. They will also engage with public history and memory work. They will have the opportunity to refine their analytical skills in discussion, exercises, informal writing, and a final project.

  4. Students will have an opportunity to reflect on their work via assembling it into a portfolio, and based on their reflection, identify goals for their final projects and participate in self-assessment of their work for the class.

  5. Students will emerge with a portfolio containing a project that gives them room to produce historical information for an audience they think is important -- whether the wider public, some other group of students, family members, etc. -- and in a medium of their choosing. This will be an opportunity to question their own assumptions and positionalities and those of their assumed audience, with the goal of arriving at a collective and ethical practice of history.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Participation 25%

  • Weekly informal writing and culture reporting 25%

  • Final project and project proposal 50%


The final grade is given on the basis of all three components above.


There will be no resit for the course work, but individual submissions can compensate each other.

For the term project, only a previous submission for the first attempt qualifies students for the resit, and only if that submission scored a failing grade. First attempts that received a passing mark (5.5 or higher) cannot be improved through further revision.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Reading assignments are listed in the syllabus.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof