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Study Abroad in the Motherland: Taiwanese Literary Youths in the Left-wing Cultural Corridor (1920-1937)

Issue 4: Study Abroad in the Motherland: Taiwanese Literary Youths in the Left-wing Cultural Corridor (1920-1937)

This project is proposed by Shu-Chin Liu at the Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Tsing-Hua University. 


When tracing the historical resources of the left-wing intellectual thoughts in Taiwan, it is imperative to return to the era of Japanese rule. These resources that were introduced to Taiwan in the 1920s came with a multi-angled East Asian solidarity,  grasping profoundly the significance of peasant-worker issues and other crucial societal controversies in the colony. The routes of such theoretical guidance and dissemination are, first, from the Soviet Union to China and then to Taiwan, and second, from the Soviet Union to Japan and then to Taiwan. Unfortunately, after 1945, the former remained barely alive and came to an end in the 1950s, while the latter was officially banned even before the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. In other words, the first wave of left-wing movement in Taiwan that had formed together with a larger left-wing movement in East Asia lost its heirs in the postwar years. This research, with a historical framework of literary communication, intends to retrieve those trajectories and resources.

This project specifically attends to the following issues. First, it investigates those who studied abroad in China and paid attention to the cultural movements at that time, analyzing the reasons that they chose China instead of Japan. This project explores in what ways the consciousness of the survivors/remnants, the historical memories, or the subjective experiences of being colonized are related to their “fantasying the motherland” and “studying abroad in China.”  Second, it examines the ways in which these “Japanese-Taiwanese overseas students” moved and acted between China, Japan, and Taiwan with their special cultural identity, what kind of organizations and activities they had created, and what kind of trends of thoughts and advocacies they had delivered. Third, this project explores how the Taiwanese overseas students were articulated with the nationalist movement and the New Literature Movement in Taiwan.  It explores their overseas submission to Taiwan for publication and their participation in the local media in China as ways to propagate their discourse and standpoint. Fourth, from the point that history, culture, and power negotiate with one another, this project observes the ways in which “studying abroad in the motherland” had shaped national identification and political movements of the Taiwanese overseas students, and how  they influenced the views towards the motherland and the politico-social movements in Taiwan from the 1930s to the early postwar years.

Overall, this project is significant in three ways. First, the group of overseas students constituted a contact zone for the Taiwanese to be in touch with the “Young China” in the aftermath of the Xinhai Revolution in 1911. Second, these overseas students' understanding of China had impacted on the theory and movement of the “Motherland Faction” during the Taiwanese political campaign in the 1930s. Third, these overseas students' experiences in China and their connections had influenced the political development in the early postwar Taiwan. In terms of the result of this project, this project will proceed with publishing papers and holding workshops, with an aim to build up an analytical framework of  “East Asian left-wing cultural corridor” within case studies of Chinese overseas writers.