Intensive Course by Overseas Lecturer – Taiwan: Island at the Crossroads

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Course name: “Taiwan: Island at the Crossroads”
Instructor/Affiliation: Dr. Evan Dawley, Gaucher College (USA)
Date: January 12-18, 2016
Code: GSP358 Syllabus

Over the last several decades, Taiwan has emerged as an economic powerhouse which has solidified its status as a major actor in regional and global economic affairs, albeit a territorially small one. Since the 17th century it has been a crossroads of empires where a cross section of nations and peoples have intermingled and initiated a process that has yielded the complex country that exists today. Through this historical path, how have the people created a sense of self? How does the country identify itself? According to Dr. Dawley, it is this diversity of backgrounds that populate the history of the Taiwanese people which makes the study of the identity of the island’s people such a fascinating and worthwhile academic pursuit.

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The AIU Invited Overseas Lectures Series, funded by the Global Human Resource Development Program, had recently offered a course that explored this topic. The intensive course (12-18, January, 2016) was titled, ‘Taiwan- Island at the Crossroads’, was taught by Dr. Evan Dawley, the Assistant Professor of East Asian History at the Department of History, Goucher College, USA. Dr. Dawley specializes in Chinese history and the history of the early 20th century Republican Period in particular. His research also focuses on the colonial history of neighbouring countries in East Asia. Over the last several years he has been conducting research in Japan and Taiwan.

This course aimed at increasing the students’ understanding of Taiwan’s history by analysing significant political and economic developments within the Republic of China.  Further, the class explored Taiwan’s position within the current global context by looking at the evolving nature of its relations with China, the U.S., and Japan. Through guided discussions held in the classroom, the students were encouraged to investigate the concepts of nationalism and international diplomacy in terms of their structure and function in modern Taiwanese society. The course concluded with a simulation exercise where groups of students represented China, the U.S., and Japan in the context of a hypothetical crisis in which Taiwan declared independence.

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Dr. Dawley said the students were engaged with the topic and the class discussions, providing creative ideas in the role-play discussion. The students enjoyed the active discussions which helped them to better understand the course’s key concepts. Their comments included: ‘the simulation of possible diplomatic conflicts was a great opportunity to apply what I have learned in the class’; ‘Now I can understand the significance about the recent elections results in Taiwan’; and ‘I felt I can’t find such a wonderful course anywhere else in Japan!’ Many students also appreciated the way Dr. Dawley was very attentive to students’ comments and questions, which helped them to better comprehend the course’s content. The AIU’s Invited Lectures Series wishes to continue offering such courses that are both challenging and inspiring.

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