Friday, July 03, 2015

Summer activities

I spent some time in June at the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum going through the records of the George H. Kerr collection there. Here's the text of a short talk I gave at the opening of a special exhibit at the Museum on June 24th. Thanks to Su Yao-tsung for inviting me to the opening, to the administrators of the Chiu Scholarly Exchange grant program that funded my trip, and to the museum staff for helping me out while I was at the museum!
大家好,我叫Jonathan Benda。首先,我要謝謝臺北文化局和二二八紀念館讓我有機會來這裡做相關的研究。我目前在美國波士頓東北大學英文系任教。去東北大學之前,我在臺灣教了16年。

像很多對臺灣產生興趣的美國人一樣,我透過了葛超智寫的 “被出賣的臺灣”(也就是Formosa Betrayed) 開始認識臺灣當代歷史。也像很多讀者一樣,我被書中有感染力的故事所感動。看完了這本書以後,我便進一步想瞭解Kerr是在什麼樣的背景之下寫了這本書。在許多美國人和臺灣人之間,對於Kerr是如何寫成這本書,一直有一些誤解,而這些誤解產生了更多的誤解,以至於後來對這本書的可靠性產生了疑慮。譬如說,有一個美國學者認為Kerr 在1958年寫 Formosa Betrayed 時,只用了一些隨手的資料。可是,在臺北二二八紀念館還有沖繩的縣立文書館的資料顯示,Kerr其實早在1947年就開始著手記錄臺灣的近代史,後來出版的 “被出賣的臺灣” 就是那本歷史的一部分。臺北二二八紀念館搜集的資料也顯示,Kerr所使用的資料其實又廣泛、又豐富。雖然Kerr自己承認Formosa Betrayed的語氣有點情緒化,可是我們也不能否認這本書的內容是根據許多客觀的官方資料所寫成的。有興趣的人,可以自己透過這些文獻資料來瞭解。

研究Kerr的資料讓我們瞭解到Formosa Betrayed其實是很多人的著作。Kerr因為搜集了許多聯合國善後救濟總署的報告、書信跟其他的檔案,所以他用了這些很多人寫的資料來撰寫這本書。因為聯合國善後救濟總署的歷史還沒有被許多人涉略,所以我覺得相關的學者可能還沒有機會發現這些豐富的史料。Kerr的檔案也包括了第二次世界大戰時,美國海軍為了預備侵略、佔領臺灣所準備的研究報告跟計畫書。

館內的文獻資料也包括Kerr跟很多人的往來書信。從這些書信我們發現,有許多看完Formosa Betrayed的讀者都深深受到感動。這些信函也顯示了這本書出版前,Kerr在美國透過他的投書及演講,四處在學術團體之間宣傳他對臺灣人權跟台美關係的看法。大部分研究者會感到興趣的是Kerr與海外支持臺灣獨立的臺灣人士,他們之間的往來。譬如說,對蔣經國刺殺案有興趣的人,可以查閱Kerr跟台獨運動人士以及黃文雄的律師團的文書往來。這些信函可以看出Kerr對臺灣人權跟獨立的熱心和關注。不同的人對Kerr的動機有不同的見解;有人說他是要以臺灣獨立的藉口讓美國控制台灣,還有人說他是因為要讓臺灣人擺脫一個當時腐敗的政府才鼓動美國支持不同的對台政策。學者可以透過紀念館裡的文獻來瞭解Kerr的動機。

前美國在台協會的處長卜睿哲曾經稱Kerr是一位二二八事件的參與者和觀察者,也是一位對二二八事件記憶的重要人物。館內收集的George H. Kerr檔案也顯示了Kerr在冷戰時代是台美關係跟台獨運動的重要角色。臺北二二八紀念館一直保存了可能會面臨消失的重要臺灣近代歷史,它可以提供重要的歷史知識給參觀者,不論他們是臺灣人或是外國人。在紀念館裡面的George H. Kerr檔案是個重要的知識寶藏,我鼓勵更多研究臺灣的學者來這裡做詳細的研究。


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Conference presentation done; back to work on GHK

I finished my conference presentation on Saturday. There weren't a lot of people in the audience, but what they lacked in numbers they made up in enthusiasm. (Possibly because over half the audience was from Northeastern!) My presentation was titled "'Brain Circulation' and Writing in the Disciplines: Giving Students Opportunities for Multilingual Writing in a Business Writing Course." I already talked a bit about the topic here. In my presentation, I cited a couple of blog posts by Julie Meloni that originally got me thinking about this idea:
I think these two posts are worth a read if you're thinking about how you might work writing in other languages into a writing class for multilingual students (as "we" translingual types sometimes like to do)--in an assignment that is different from the personal essay. (Not that I have anything against personal essays.)

Anyway, now that that presentation is over, I have to get back to work on GHK. I left him hanging for a long while. He's probably wondering what happened to me. I need to put together a list, too, of the sources I want to see at the archives because evidently they're stored off-site. So I need to get going on that. (In between grading, of course...)

Monday, March 16, 2015

What I have and haven't been doing lately

Today marked the first day back to classes after spring break. Over the break I graded a couple (or three? I forget) sets of assignments, did our taxes, realized that I was mixed up about the location of the May conference and bowed out of doing a presentation there (with some regret--I would have liked to present there), played with the little guy (my son, that is), and produced a reflective teaching portfolio. I also drank way too much coffee and probably gained a few pounds (though I wouldn't know for sure because I won't go near a scale). I didn't do much anything related to my research project or end-of-March conference, but I'm hoping that with classes back in session, I might be able to get back in work mode.

I do think that I did some important things over break, though, even if I didn't get to do everything. Spring break seems to be an occasion for instructors to do two main things: catch up on grading and get sick. I'm lucky that I didn't do the latter, even if I didn't completely succeed on the former. Well, at least the weather is getting warmer now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Recent research/writing activities

Well, besides commenting on and grading student papers, I've tried to fit in some time for working on some projects. The urgent keeps getting in the way of the important, though (sounds like something Stephen Covey would say). I've got a conference presentation at the end of the month to work on and another conference paper due in early May. I've also got to continue reading through and annotating the archival documents for this summer's trip. But right now I'm working on revising an assignment that students will be working on starting next week, and after that I have to work on the merit eportfolio that lecturers in my program have to put together every year. I guess I shouldn't complain, though; most professors seem to need to do an annual 自我批评 self-evaluation.

I did get some work done on the conference presentation for the end of the month. I'm going to be talking about an opportunity I extended to some students in my business writing class last semester to write one of their projects in their native languages rather than in English. Of course they had to supply me with a translation and a "context memo" that explained the particulars of their document, but I wanted to give them the chance to write in another language since their intended audience were government officials in their home country. I've been thinking about this kind of opportunity lately because I have been getting quite a few students recently who don't intend to stay in the US after graduation (at least not for long) and who will need to write professional or scholarly documents in their native languages--a task that is not easy to do even if they're practiced in writing those kinds of documents in English. I know I can't teach them how to write all those kinds of documents in their native languages (it's arguably not even my job), but I can give them an opportunity to try if they want to... for one project... if it makes sense in terms of their intended audience... if they provide a translation... (I have a feeling I'm going to hedge a lot in this presentation...)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Research update

I finished reading Formosa: Licensed Revolution and the Home Rule Movement last night. I took a few notes on it as well in the process. He mentions a March 10, 1931 letter sent to Washington from the American Consul at Taihoku (Charles Reed). I'll have to see if that letter is in his collection, or where he came across it.


He also mentions Bailey Willis, an 81-year-old (in 1937) Stanford geologist who visited Formosa and the Philippines and noticed some of the Japanese military preparations going on.

I need to continue reading and note-taking. No time to slow down now...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Getting into work

I've gotten started on the work to prepare for my trip to the archives this summer. I'm currently reading through GHK's Formosa: Licensed Revolution and the Home Rule Movement, 1895-1945 (a book I bought quite a few years ago that evidently had been given by Kerr to his nephew "Bill Kerr the 2nd"--wonder how that ended up for sale on Alibris...).

I've been taking notes on it and reading "around" it as well, going back to some of Kerr's earlier writings about the Japanese colonial project in Taiwan (a couple of articles he wrote during WWII for the Far Eastern Survey, published by the Institute of Pacific Relations). It has been interesting so far, and it's helping me to develop some questions that I want to pursue.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

First writing group meeting a success!

Although not everyone from our writing group was able to make it to our first meeting, we had three people there (plus one interested non-member who might end up becoming a member!). We talked about our projects, goals, challenges, writing habits, families, etc. We came up with some goals for the rest of the semester and made some plans. My main goal is to go through my GHK materials here (books, photocopied archival docs, etc.) and figure out specifically I have and what I need to look for when I go to Taiwan in the summer. I know that this will be a good use of my time. As will our writing group!