Organized Panel Session
Like Southeast Asia, Taiwan is embedded in histories of colonialism, and played a profound role in facilitating maritime migrations of Austronesian and Minnan seafarers and disseminating their respective cultures. However, conventional Area Studies research still overwhelmingly views Taiwan from a (North)East Asian perspective. Taiwan Studies remains restricted to Taiwan’s domestic context, and is largely absent from comparative applications. Being an island on the edge of several cultural zones (coastal China, Japan, Southeast Asia and the Pacific), an alternative model for engaging with Taiwan should be considered.
This paper aims to discuss ways Taiwan can be viewed as a maritime borderland or frontier, which will allow for a wider range of comparative analysis across different contexts in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. By comparing secondary historical literature, this paper will chart the changes to Taiwan’s regional positioning throughout different periods of colonial rule by focusing on references to the construction of boundaries (physical and ethnic) and migration. It will also address Taiwan’s contemporary experience with hosting Southeast Asian migrants and the demographic and social implications this holds. This perspective also allows migration scholars who study Taiwan’s Southeast Asian labor and marriage migrants to view contemporary migration as part of a historical process rather than simply a ‘new’ phenomenon. Viewing Taiwan as a waypoint or borderland between South China and the Philippines or Asia and the Pacific may prove more productive than the dichotomy of North vs. Southeast Asia and can create opportunities for a new breed of Asian knowledge production.