Category: (Re)Assembling Asias through Science

Ways of Looking: Alternative Encounters with Art and Artifacts

“When we encounter something beautiful, we usually experience two kinds of reactions. One may be moved by learning the background of the work or the artist, while the other one is an emotional excitement we feel for no apparent reason.”— Suntory Museum of Art. One would guess that this quote is based on theories of lateralization, stating that the right hemisphere of the brain controls emotion, while the left hemisphere is dominant in language expression. While there is evidence that discounts the left/right brain concept, many people still believe in this distinction and that their preference for reason or emotion may be genetic. Held at the Suntory Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan, from April 27 to June 2, 2019, “Information or Inspiration? Japanese aesthetics to enjoy with the left side and right side of the brain” plays with this debate in brain science and invites visitors to experience art via two routes: the information route and the inspiration route. (read more...)

Making the Invisible Seen: The Infrastructure of Modern Groundwater Governmentality in Taiwan

In 2009, the Taiwan High Speed Railway Company (THSR) claimed that severe land subsidence in Changhua and Yunlin counties was compromising and damaging the structural integrity of the railway. The THSR urged the government to regulate the over-pumping of groundwater in the region, which was seen as culpable for the land subsidence, in order to guarantee the safety of the rail users. Since the agricultural wells constitute a significant proportion of the total wells in these two counties, the safety issue became an issue of “water-justice” – local farmers have accused the Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant owned by the Formosa Plastic Corporation of exploiting Yunlin’s surface water thereby forcing them to pump groundwater. To tamper farmers’ sentiments, the central government announced that according to a relevant survey, land subsidence was caused by deep wells, rather than farmers’ shallow wells. Therefore, the government would not forbid the pumping of groundwater by farmers in Changhua and Yunlin county. (read more...)

When Cash Rules: A Local Researcher/Activist’s Fieldnotes on “Passive Locals” Living Around Mailiao’s Petrochemical Complex

Yunlin is a coastal county in Western Taiwan famous for its agricultural produce, also known as “the barn of Taiwan.” However, the exchange value of agricultural produce has plummeted significantly since the 1970s. This has led to the outmigration of the underemployed able-bodied rural workforce to the cities, leaving behind the old and the young. As a consequence of this migration and Yunlin’s agricultural history, the county developed a reputation for being backward and poor. Residents of Yunlin have been eager to prove this stereotype wrong. (read more...)

Naming the Virus, Becoming the Virus: Affective Forces of Threat from Hà Nội to Atlanta and the Possibility for Anti-Racist Solidarities

“Chống dịch như chống giặc” (“Fight the pandemic like an invader”) has become Vietnam’s slogan in its battle against COVID-19. From the pandemic’s onset until April 2021, Vietnam performed exceptionally in halting the viral spread and preventing deaths from COVID-19. While COVID-19’s origin remains contested, Vietnam’s 1,306km border with China posed an acute risk during the first wave in early 2020. Defying odds, Vietnam kept the virus at bay. With a low case load and death count between Jan 2020 – June 2020, Vietnam stood out from its northern neighbor, China, as well as other European countries and the United States. Simply crediting Vietnam’s success to an authoritarian regime misses a deeper distrust of the Chinese government within Vietnam. This distrust stems from the historical colonization of China over Vietnam and imminent military and sovereignty threats posed in the East Sea (or the South China Sea) over the Spratly and Paracel Islands. (read more...)

Spotlight! “Global STS: Transnational Network Building – Asia, Oceania, and Beyond” hosted by the STS Futures Initiative

This week as part of our “ReAssembling Asias through Science” series, we would like to highlight an event held by the STS Futures Initiative last month. This panel (whose second part is forthcoming this fall) brought together a range of academics and graduate students to engage substantively with what might be termed a ‘global turn’ in STS scholarship, characterized by a greater attention to knowledge production and scientific practices outside of Europe and North America. Interested in both the theoretical possibilities of, as well as the practical aspects and skills necessary for transnational network building, the panel raised a range of questions around the possibilities for and challenges inherent to collaborative research and forms of decolonial practice and knowledge production across institutional and national contexts. As moderator Dr. Kathleen Gutierrez put it in her opening remarks, “Who is doing the work? And more importantly, who is building the networks with other STS inclined scholars in the world areas in which we work?” [0:01:18]. (read more...)

Data Activism and Petro-Public Knowledge “Across Borders”: The Formosa Plastics Global Archive

When our research group entered the Formosa Plastics museum in Taiwan, the first thing we noticed was a massive piece of kauri wood, sitting protected under a dome of glass. Wang Yung Ching, chairman of the company and formerly Taiwan’s richest person, had acquired the burl in 2002, after seeing it in an art gallery in the southern port city of Kaohsiung. As our tour guide explained with excitement, Wang was captivated by the wood’s radiant strength, representing the “immeasurable capabilities and longevity of the Formosa Plastics Group”, making it an ideal “centerpiece” for the company’s six-floor museum[1] . Exhibits celebrate the founder and spirit of the Formosa Plastics Group (complete with dioramas and wax figures) and a miniature replica of Formosa’s 6th Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant in Central Taiwan. The fourth floor has an Earth Conservation Theatre. The sixth floor conveys how Formosa has given back to society through investment in education, hospitals, and cultural heritage projects[2] . (read more...)

(Re)Assembling Asias through Science

Over the past two decades, a proliferation of critiques have emerged from a body of critical inter-asian scholarship to challenge, revise, and situate the conventional theoretical categories, frames, and founding assumptions of many humanities and social science fields, with notable interventions into trans studies (Chiang, Henry, & Leung 2018), queer theory (Chiang & Wong 2017; Yue 2017; Yue & Leung 2016; Wilson 2006), and the anthropology of science and technology (Ong 2016; Ong & Chen 2010). These projects are as theoretical as they are political, ethical, and methodological, posing fundamental questions about the politics of knowledge production, encouraging a critical awareness of the geopolitical positions and historical locations from which our analytic concepts emerge, as well as a heightened sense of the audiences they are intended for, how they may travel, and an epistemic humility that embraces and acknowledges contingency and limitation. With the expansion of academic presses, journals, and academic professional organizations in Asia[1], a growing number of graduate students and professional researchers now find themselves straddling and translating across an interface that spans continents, from academic centers in Europe and the United States to intra-asian networks and spaces of knowledge production. (read more...)