Sunday, June 29, 2008

CFP: Matters of State, Leuven University, Belgium

Call for Papers

Matters of State: Bildung and Literary-Intellectual Discourse in the Nineteenth Century

Leuven University, April 23-25 2009

The American and French Revolutions are generally considered as decisive episodes in the emergence of what we have come to know as modern democracy. Their displacement of time-honored models of hereditary rule and of monotheistic conceptions of sovereignty inaugurated Western modernity. The fall-out of these ruptures made the 19th century an era of unprecedented intensity in the history of politics and the political. As a time of massive demographic change, new patterns of production and distribution, seismic surges in geopoliticization, and relentless social differentiation and specialization, the 19th century became a ‘condition’ demanding to be addressed. This challenge was met by a multiplicity of discourses, few of which can be decisively told apart: poetry, political economy, cultural criticism, historiography, philosophy, and science in their different ways all attempted to measure the impact of the displacements that defined their modernity and to shape an adequate response to them.

It is from this context that nineteenth-century discourses of the State derive their urgency. As strategies to imagine – and to actively pursue – forms of collectivity that can serve as a concerted response to the challenges of modernity, these discourses enlist (or reject) categories such as the nation, education, or the imagination in order to formulate a new rhetoric of community. What distinguishes the discourse on the State is its express ambition to contribute to an appropriate response to the modern condition by training its audience to become responsible citizens of the State. This typically involves the adaptation of models for the cultivation of the modern self, such as those inherited from the German discourse on Bildung, to contexts of increased scale and complexity that challenge these models to the core. Not only in Britain or Germany, but in every locality where the task of articulating the nation with the State is recognized as a discursive challenge, literary-intellectual discourse becomes an archive where many of the tensions and contradictions of the nineteenth century intersect in a particularly condensed way.

Because the imagination of the State, as a political and social unit, relies on rhetorical, tropological, and imagistic processes, disciplines that explicitly focus on textual and imagistic strategies are crucial in the analysis of the politics of the State. ‘Matters of State’ proposes to revisit significant instances of the literary-intellectual attempt to re-think the State, and relevant intersections of these attempts with related and/or competing political, literary, scientific, (crypto-)religious, iconographic, … discursive strategies to imagine the State. We are interested in papers that focus on explicit or implicit contributions to a public aesthetics of the State by way of new or modified rhetorics of community.

Possible topics include but are not restricted to the following:

  • What are the means of production, cultivation, preservation and reproduction of “moral sentiments” appropriate to an ethos of the State?
  • How do affective dispositions like sympathy and trust travel from the intimate sphere of personal encounter to the public sphere of citizenship?
  • Given the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment reassessment of the impact of religion on the individual, what are the discursive formations that take over, at least in part, the public administration of emotional investment traditionally monitored by religious institutions?
  • How do available or emergent routines of identity formation in terms of class, gender or race relate to models of citizenship?
  • How do concepts such as “region,” “country,” “nation,” and “Empire” find a place in a rhetoric of community centering on the State?
  • What are the effects of the interaction of organic metaphors and an increasingly industrialized nineteenth-century reality?
  • In what way do present-day discourses on governmentality, biopower, and sovereignty allow us to reflect on nineteenth-century conceptualizations of the State?
  • How do discursive constructions of the State differ in different countries, both in Europe and abroad?
  • To what extent do literary-intellectual discourses exploit not only the educational but also the imagistic denotation of the term Bildung?
  • How do constructions of the State construct the State’s other?
  • How did poetry, and literature more generally, operate as a privileged space for the embodiment, testing, and subversion of models of the State?
  • To what extent do imaginings of citizenship, equality, fraternity … inevitably entail the persistence, or even the promotion, of economic, ethnic, and/or gender inequalities? How do inclusive models (fail to) account for their exclusions?
  • How do scientific models taken from mathematics and the natural sciences influence discourse on community and citizen formation, and to what extent are these models (biological, psychological, sociological, anthropological, economic, …) accommodated in a prospective science of State or Staatswissenschaft?
  • How do nations and individuals come to terms with modernity as a growing dependence on the specialized, expert discourses of science and technology, and how are these ideas of dependence and expertise themselves constructed rhetorically?
Keynote speakers:

Amanda Anderson (Johns Hopkins University)
Karl Heinz Bohrer (Stanford University)
Eva Geulen (Universität Bonn)
Thomas Pfau (Duke University)
Tilottama Rajan (University of Western Ontario)
Joseph Vogl (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, to be confirmed)

We welcome proposals for panels and for 20-minutes papers in English, French, or German. Please send your one-page proposal (two pages for panels), together with your contact data, in a separate word document to matters.of.state [at], before September 30. For panel proposals, provide a general introduction and short abstracts for the different papers (3 or 4). Notification of acceptance no later than November 15. For more information, check The conference website will be updated regularly as more information becomes available.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Some changes in the works regarding (some) foreign scholars?

The former native Chinese speaker pointed out this article to me in the China Times that mentions a few interesting things about work permits and visas for foreign scholars. Some of them are a bit confusing (to me, anyway), so I want to write this out to see if I'm clear about it.

The article mentions that Taiwan University was having trouble getting a work permit for a foreign Nobel scholar they wanted to bring in to lecture, so legislator Ding Shouzhong is pushing for some changes to the Employment Services Act (就業服務法) to allow foreign scholars in to do research or teaching for up to six months, pending approval of the MOE. In other words, they wouldn't need to go through the process of getting a work permit through the Council of Labor Affairs, a process which includes getting blood tests for HIV and venereal diseases. (There's an interesting racial/class issue in this whole thing, by the way--particularly in this article, that suggests that it's too embarrassing to ask famous foreign scholars to submit to the kind of process required of foreign laborers.)

There's more to say about this article, but I don't have time to work through it right now. (Got other things to do.) Anyway, below is a copy of the article in Chinese:







Thursday, June 19, 2008

Comp/Oral I debate contest

I just finished judging a debate contest in which students from the Composition and Oral Practice I classes at Tunghai (first-year English majors) debated the resolution, "Mainland Chinese students should be allowed to apply to universities in Taiwan." We listened to three debates on this topic today.

I have to say I value the opportunity to hear what first-year students have to say about this issue. They brought up some interesting points, illustrating, perhaps, some of their own anxieties about education in Taiwan. They evidently frequently hear about how hardworking students in China are--several groups mentioned stories about Chinese students studying under streetlights when the dorm lights go out, for instance, and compared these stories with examples of university students in Taiwan who play computer games and chat on MSN all night long. (Evidently Mr. Ma has mentioned this at some point in his argument in favor of allowing Chinese students here.) In the end, I found my own point of view about this issue complicated a bit by what they said.

I found, not surprisingly, things to criticize about the students' debates, but also things to praise, like the way many of them arranged their arguments, rebutted opponents' arguments, and cited sources. One thing I forgot to say, that I wish I had the opportunity to say to them, is that we teachers sometimes forget that what we ask students to do is something that has taken us years to be able to achieve. (This is true at least in my case. I'm still terrible at impromptu speaking!) So my hat's off to the students and teachers of Comp/Oral I this year!

Michael Turton asked about the arguments students were making in the debates, so I thought I'd mention some of them here. I'm just listing some out here without comment. Also, some arguments might overlap.

For allowing Chinese students to apply:
  1. Will stimulate/promote cultural exchange between Chinese and Taiwanese students
  2. Will promote cultural understanding between Chinese and Taiwanese society
  3. Can give students from the PRC a chance to live and learn in a more open society
  4. Will help promote colleges in Taiwan that have declining enrollments
  5. Will help internationalize education in Taiwan by encouraging foreign students to apply
  6. If we accept students from other countries, why not accept students from China?
  7. Will help motivate Taiwanese students to work harder (the Mr. Ma argument)
  8. Will bring more elite students here from China
Those were most of the more frequently cited "pro" arguments the students made. As Sam Spade says, "Maybe some of them are unimportant - I won't argue about that - but look at the number of them. And what have we got on the other side?" Well, let's take a look:

For not allowing Chinese students to apply:
  1. Will require Taiwan to provide Chinese students with scholarships, causing a further drain on the educational budget
  2. Schools with declining enrollments are not high quality, so should be allowed to close
  3. Students coming to Taiwan from China might not be all that elite (especially if they're sent to low-ranked schools)
  4. Will result in a lot of illegal labor from China (workers pretending to be students)
  5. Could result in legal problems concerning whether students from China are to be considered "international" or "domestic"
There was some interesting back-and-forth related to a lot of these assertions, including citations (on both sides) of examples from other countries like the U.S. and Belgium. A lot of discussion centered around who was going to have to pay for their attendance in Taiwan's universities and why we should or should not (or even can) prop up schools with declining enrollments by 'importing' students from China. There was some grudging acceptance of the idea that bringing students over could contribute to cultural exchange and understanding, but the "cons" rejected the idea that bringing in students from China would encourage more international students to come.

One thing I wanted to hear that I didn't hear until the very end was a number: how many Chinese students are we talking about? No one had a clear number for how many might be accepted to Taiwan, but one "pro" debater mentioned that in Hong Kong, only 205 of the 2000 Chinese students who applied in 2005 were accepted. This eased my mind a bit--some of the "con" debaters' arguments made me think that perhaps we were talking about allowing millions of students in. (One person on the "con" side expressed concern about traffic problems that might be caused by an influx of Chinese students!)

[Update, 23 June 2008]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More pictures taken on Sunday

Here are some pictures we took of the Central Mountain Range on Sunday. They were taken from the fifth floor of the Humanities building at Tunghai. We had a good view of the mountains after the rain cleaned up the air.



The construction on the left is of "Moon River," a new apartment building (like we need any more around here...)


The tall tower is a building called, simply, "Hotel ONE".

The following two are "stitched" shots...



Monday, June 16, 2008

Trip to the Daodong Tutorial Academy

The weather cleared up a bit yesterday, so the former native Chinese speaker and I took a trip to Hemei in Changhua to look at the Daodong Tutorial Academy there. We went to the Huangsi Academy in Taichung County a while back and thought it would be interesting to see another of the traditional schools set up here.

The visitor's guide to the Academy describes it as follows:
Local gentlemen advocated and offered a land for building the Daodong Tutorial Academy in 1857, and it was completed the following year. It is a compound with traditional Chinese houses around a courtyard which sits north, and faces south.
Here are some of the pictures we took of the Academy. Most of these were taken by the former native Chinese speaker.

The main gate

The front of the school

Some lianwu (wax apples) growing on a tree said to be over 100 years old

The entrance to the school building--the guide told us that the center door was reserved for officials, elites, or other grand high muck-a-mucks. If you look at the picture of the front of the school, you'll see the two side doors have steps leading up to them, but the center door has a ramp. That wasn't for wheelchair access; it was for carrying someone up in a palanquin (轎子).

A newer painting, dating from 2004. This painting is found near the front door of the building.

An older painting, dating from 1884. I have to admit I like the older ones better than the newer ones, but a lot of the school had to be rebuilt after years of disuse. The most recent major work done on it was after the 921 earthquake in 1999.

Prayers from area students who want to get into particular schools (the local 'deity' is Zhu Xi, the "father" of Neoconfucianism)

This is interesting--they used this to burn paper that had been written on, as a way to honor Cang Jie, who, as legend has it, is responsible for the Chinese writing system. Since Chinese characters are, I guess, sacred, people were not allowed to throw away paper that had been written on.

I've got more pictures of the school here, in case anyone is interested. We had a nice time, and a staff member named Miss Tung was especially helpful in answering our questions. Here's a pic of her and me:


(Next time I'll shave before going out with a camera. You never know...)

[Updated 17 June 2008]

[Update 11 June  2016: I just came across a more recent post on the Daodong Academy on Alexander Synaptic's blog. It includes a pretty creepy story about an event that took place at the temple after our trip there in 2008.]

Friday, June 13, 2008

End-of-the-school-year activities

I've been getting my picture taken a lot lately, not because of my killer good looks (though I'm sure that's one reason), but because my Freshman English students took me out for dinner this week. In return for their feeding me, I stared into the lenses of their many cameras and gave the "Y" finger gesture (known as the "V" for "victory" in the US) many times. Here's some of the evidence.

I had a great time with my students this year and will miss them. They're like the children I don't have (and, hence, whose tuition I don't have to pay). Seriously, though, it has been especially poignant for me this semester because two of my students, a current student from International Trade and (her boyfriend) a former student from Public Management, were in a serious traffic accident in April and have both been in the hospital since then. Sometimes I feel like the world is such a dangerous place...

This afternoon we also went to a going-away party for two teachers who are retiring, Olivia Chang and Paul Harwood. Olivia and Paul (and Jan, too!), we'll miss you and wish you the best!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Dragon Boat deliciosities

Mmmm.... good... Nothing like homemade zongzi...

What philosophy do I follow?

I'm evidently quite confused...
What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with
You scored as Utilitarianism

Your life is guided by the principles of Utilitarianism: You seek the greatest good for the greatest number.

“The said truth is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.”

--Jeremy Bentham

“Whenever the general disposition of the people is such, that each individual regards those only of his interests which are selfish, and does not dwell on, or concern himself for, his share of the general interest, in such a state of things, good government is impossible.”

--John Stuart Mill

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...



Justice (Fairness)




Strong Egoism










Divine Command


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

CFP: Tamkang International Conference on Second Language Writing: Issues and Concerns

Tamkang International Conference on Second Language Writing: Issues and Concerns

Call for Abstracts:
Writing as one of the fundamental language skills has traditionally posed a variety of challenges for second language teachers and learners. Once the writing skill is placed within particular contexts, these challenges multiply. These range from addressing writing skills within exam-driven traditional curricula to navigating the proliferation of technologies, to creating meaningful contexts for the learning of writing and managing the workload created for teachers when students write and expect feedback. This conference is intended as a forum for addressing the full range of pedagogical and research issues on second language writing. Abstracts are invited for papers on any aspects of foreign or second language writing learning and pedagogy. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Cognitive perspectives in L2 writing
  • Learning Strategies
  • Critical Literacy
  • Identity in Literacy Instruction
  • L2 writing pedagogy
  • Reading/writing connection
  • CMC in literacy instruction
  • Academic writing
  • Foreign language writing within school curricula
  • Writing instruction integrating other language skills
  • Second language writing integrated with other content areas (content-based instruction and writing across the curriculum, for example)
  • Emerging literacies and issues of register (including technology-enabled influences on literacies and register exerted by the proliferation of e-mail, mobile devices and messaging, and the rise of the blog)
  • Issues of feedback on student writing
  • Research issues in writing pedagogy
  • Voice and issues of empowerment
  • Writing within standardized/institutional exam systems: (TOEFL, GEPT, etc.)
  • Writing and technology
  • The composing process

Important Dates:
Abstracts due: July 20th, 2008
Acceptance Notification: August 20th, 2008
Camera-ready papers due: November. 30th, 2008
Conference dates: December 5-6, 2008

Submit abstracts via email to: Wendy, miracle [at]

Or mail to:

English Department, Tamkang University,
151 Ying-chuan Road, Tamsui, Taipei County Taiwan 25137, R.O.C.
Tel : 886-26215656 ext. 2344

Abstracts should not exceed 350 words in length (including references) and should include a clear description of the issue(s) addressed and a sketch of results. Include the author’s name, affiliation, and postal and email addresses.