Global Frontline Reimagined
Not unlike today, Taiwan was a frontline of global tensions during the Cold War. In fact, at some points in the 1950s, artillery fire was part of the everyday reality for residents in Kinmen, a small archipelago of Taiwanese islands on the Chinese side of the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, just as Taiwan has been caught up in geopolitical struggles between rival power blocs, Kinmen itself has been caught up in the ever-evolving tension between the two sides of the Strait. Since Kinmen is just a few kilometers from the Chinese coast, if a military assault from China is ever launched, it will likely be the first place to fall. Yet, paradoxically, the war-torn and battle-ready Kinmen today is also the most pro-Beijing constituency of Taiwan, which has become a vibrant democracy after decades of authoritarian rule.
In this experimental and interdisciplinary project, we will venture into this very frontline of global tensions and study the human and nonhuman worlds of Kinmen. Instead of focusing on daily sightings of Chinese fighter jets and loud media talking heads, we will hear stories from locals. We will also listen to the dead engines of the rusting tanks half buried on the beach. We will study the history of empires against the grain and against the backdrop of the ubiquitous presence of anti-landing barricades. We will explore the ruins of the monumental reinforced concrete structure used to house Taiwan’s anti-China loudspeakers, and we will inspect the seawall designed to resist typhoons and the rising sea level rather than amphibious assaults.
Students will prepare for fieldwork by completing readings, participating in discussions, and contributing to knowledge sharing sessions (for example on photo/video/audio recording or other skills). The research group will spend several days on the main island of Taiwan and several days on Kinmen. Selected students will engage in group activities, including visits to notable sites and with local students, scholars, artists, activists etc. Students will engage in primary research, gathering ecological data and qualitative data (through interviews, field notes, and photo, video, and audio recordings). After completing fieldwork, the team will analyze their findings and produce a creative project deliverable, drawing on team member skills. We welcome applications from students in the humanities, social sciences, biological and natural sciences, engineering and architecture faculties, and so on. The selected group will be comprised of undergraduate and graduate students.