Thursday, April 03, 2014

FB on FB?

One of the projects that I've been working on for the past couple of years has been related to George H. Kerr's writings about Taiwan in the aftermath of the February 28, 1947 Incident (aka 228). If you don't know Kerr, he wrote a book entitled Formosa Betrayed that was published, for a variety of reasons, almost 20 years after the events of 228. I've dug up some information about why that was the case, but I've also been curious about the effects of his earlier activities related to 228--activities like the articles he wrote that were published in Far Eastern Survey in the late 1940s (including an article entitled "Formosa: The March Massacres"), the letters to the editor he wrote to local and national newspapers, the speeches about Taiwan that he gave to various organizations, etc. Besides the Far Eastern Survey articles, in the pre-Internet era those kinds of rhetorical activities (particularly the speeches) seem to have been quite ephemeral, if not in substance at least in effect. (In fact, the publisher of the Far Eastern Survey, the Institute of Pacific Relations, had its reputation smeared during the McCarthy era for an alleged pro-Communist slant.) The only ways I have found out anything about these activities have been through archival searches and reading through his letters. 

So in the past couple of weeks, ever since the student-led occupation of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan began--and especially after the events of March 24--I've had in the back of my mind this question about what the 228 Incident would have been like if George Kerr had had access to social media. In a sense the question is problematic because if Kerr had had access to social media, it's quite probable that the Taiwanese (or the "Formosans," as he liked to call them) would also have had access, and they wouldn't necessarily have needed him to speak for them to the American people. One of things we've seen (those of us who have been watching from abroad, that is) from this Sunflower Movement is that the students and their allies have made extensive use of the Internet and social media to try to make their ideas known to a wider audience. Just yesterday students were answering questions on Reddit in English, for instance. In the early days of the occupation of the Legislative Yuan (LY), a young woman was broadcasting nonstop in English for hours on end on an online video feed. CNN's iReport has also seen its share of video news about the occupation of the LY. Facebook and Twitter have also been used to spread information about the protests. Much of this online material has been produced by the Taiwanese themselves.

But, as Eric Mader Lin wrote recently in the Daily Kos, this story hasn't had much traction with the mainstream US media, and this fact has made me wonder if livestreaming 228 or Formosa Betrayed-esque updates on Facebook would've had much different results than what originally happened without the Internet. Perhaps it would have prevented many of the deaths, which itself would have been no small feat. But in my less optimistic moments, like right now, I feel that perhaps Taiwan is just fated to live--or exist--in the shadow of China (whether that China is the PRC or the once-and-future kingdom of the Chiang dynasty).

I see that The Diplomat also has an editorial on this; while it notes that the Sunflower Movement and its allies managed to organize protests in 21 countries, it concludes on a less optimistic note:
Despite their efforts, foreign media outlets have been slow to pick up the story. Headlines from the New York Times and BBC’s Asia coverage focused instead on the recent anti-PX plant protests in Guangdong. Continuing coverage of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the situation in Crimea has seemingly prevented media attention from focusing on the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan.
I'd add, even less optimistically, that even topics like Kate Winslet's wrinkles and the final episode of How I Met Your Mother have had better success with US audiences than the Sunflower Movement.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Governor-General Chen Yi's statement in response to the 228 Incident

This was a public statement that Governor-General Chen Yi (陳儀) made as the killings were going on after March 8, 1947:
Brethren of Taiwan --

Yesterday I declared temporary martial law again. Now with the utmost sincerity, I want to tell our good and virtuous brethren who constitute the vast majority of the population of the island, that my declaration of martial law is entirely for your protection. You must not listen to the rumors of wicked people. You must not be suspicious or afraid. There shall not be the slightest harm to our law-abiding brethren. You must feel at ease.

I have declared martial law again solely for the purpose of coping with the very small number of the desperate and rebellious. As long as they are not annihilated there will be no peace for our virtuous brethren.

Since the occurrence of the February 28 Incident, I have broadcast three times. Regarding the Incident, I have had the Monopoly Officer who caused the manslaughter tried by the court, the families of the dead have been indemnified, and the wounded compensated and taken care of, and those who have taken part in the beatings [of mainland Chinese monopoly employees] are exempted from prosecution.

As to political reforms, I have promised that the Government General may be reformed to absorb as many as possible of the people of the Province, that mayors and magistrates may be elected by the people, and that other political reforms may be discussed and decided upon later, according to law. Thus, what is expected and requested by the majority of the people, as far as it is within the boundary of law, has nearly been accepted. Anyway, I believe that from now on order will be completely restored without further trouble.

However, since martial law was lifted on March 1, plundering of property, seizure of arms, and storming of government organizations and godowns has continued to occur in Taipei, and statements against the State were publicly announced. In other places looting, seizing of arms and arresting of government employees, and besieging of government institutions has also occurred. Please reflect whether such deeds are proper and legal. I believe that every one of you, my good brethren, will realize that such actions are far from legal, and are in fact rebellious.

Brethren, since the occurrence of the February 28 Incident, what you have wanted to settle is the question of manslaughter by the Monopoly personnel, and the question of political reform.

But a small minority of ruffians and rebellious gangsters have taken advantage of the situation to invent rumors, sow the seeds of dissension, tell lies, and make threats in order to attain the aims of their plot. All good citizens have suffered a terrible life during the past ten days.

Brethren, such suffering has entirely been created by these ruffians and gangsters. In order to relieve you from this suffering, the Government cannot but declare martial law so as to obliterate these gangsters who are harmful to you. This point I hope you will thoroughly understand.

The transference of national troops to Taiwan is entirely for the protection of the people of the province and for the eradication of rioters and rebels and no other purpose. There is an exceedingly small number of rebellious people in this province; most of the people are exceptionally good and virtuous, and they have provided various means of looking after those from other provinces who have been beaten. Such manifestations of brotherhood I have deeply appreciated.

To these good people of Taiwan I express my sincere gratitude. I further hope they will rally their courage and display their sense of righteousness, and love one another in order to build a new Taiwan.

From "The March Massacre," Formosa Betrayed, George Kerr. Kerr adds, 
The Governor's soothing words were printed up in pamphlet form and scattered by plane over the cities and towns of the island. This statement set the general framework in which both the local and national governments developed later public explanations of the February 28 Incident and its aftermath. "A few wicked gangsters had terrorized the island in the first week of March and had rebelled against the Chinese Government; Chinese Nationalist troops had come in to protect the righteous people, and were now soothing and protecting all honest and upright Formosans."

The roadways, the river banks and the harbor shores were strewn with bodies at that moment, and the Nationalist troops were spreading out through the countryside, to bring "peace and protection" a la Kuomintang.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Speak power to truth"

As I'm writing this, students in Taiwan are occupying the Legislative Yuan, the parliament in Taiwan, to protest the ruling party's attempt to run through a service trade agreement with China that many fear would harm Taiwan's economy. I have been keeping up with the events through Facebook, reading posts by various people I know and don't know who write or show pictures of the events of the protests, and I feel connected to these events and proud of the students who have stood up for their futures in a way that makes me proud to say that I used to live there. 

I started this blog 10 years ago today (well, actually yesterday) with posts about the 2004 Taiwan presidential election and the protests that took place after that. Now Taiwan is at another turning point in its history, and I hope that this is a time when more people in the world listen to the voices of the people rather than those of the people in power who don't have the interests of the people at heart. A former classmate of mine from Syracuse, Seth Kahn, mentioned to me tonight that rhetoric scholar Lee Artz wrote in a book about activist rhetorics that Seth co-edited that our job is not to "speak truth to power" because the powerful know the truth; the problem is that they don't care. The task facing us, he wrote, is to "speak power to truth." As Artz writes, "Rather than communicating with those in power who benefit from the already known truth of inequality, humanity could be better served by conversations for change among those who would benefit from creating new truths, new powers." This is what I hope is happening in Taiwan, and if it is happening and continues happening, I have hope for Taiwan.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

CFP: The 5th International Conference on Translation and Cross-Culture, Nov. 15, 2014

full name / name of organization: 
Center for Cross-cultural Studies of National Chengchi University, Taiwan
contact email:,
Ours is an era of translation and cross-culture. Transportation and telecommunication technology have helped shorten the distance and increase contact between person and person, nation and nation. Spatial “movement” through travel, tourism, migration, diaspora, and communication facilitates the “interaction” between “the (individual/collective/national) self” and “the other/other culture.” Such “movement” and “interaction” depend much on linguistic and cultural translation to keep on “activation,” continuously negotiating, realizing, and vitalizing ideas so as to renew and open up multicultural space.
In November 2012, the Fourth International Conference on “Boundary Crossing and Transformation” held by Translation Center and Center for Cross-Cultural Studies of National Chengchi University, has triggered heated discussions among scholars from Taiwan and abroad. We accordingly have more fully recognized that “boundary crossing and transformation” is a global phenomenon. With the impact of ever-changing information, the diverse cross-cultural movements have marked the main trend in the contemporary society. Even the multi-directional nomadism might be transformed into new patterns.
The results of cross-cultural movements might not always be ideal reciprocal bi-/multi-directional interactions; they could become one-directional penetration and invasion, or even incorporation and assimilation. What is worth rethinking is that such “movement and interaction” are in the process of “boundary crossing and transformation,” whose (tentative) results are subject to various interpretations. Take the example of various responses to “boundary crossing” from governments and peoples worldwide: they might monitor, confront, suppress, collude with, or tolerate, identify with, or expel the groups involved—each with different kinds of transformation that are too complex to homogenize.
Translation Center and Center for Cross-Cultural Studies of National Chengchi University will host the Fifth International Conference on “To Move/To Interact/To Activate: Exploring
Multicultural Space” in 15th November 2014. We cordially invite domestic and overseas scholars and experts in various languages to present papers on topics related to the conference theme. The theme includes but is not limited to:
1. Translation and multiculture
2. Travel, tourism and migration
3. Post-colonial/diasporic literature
4. Exotic/transnational food culture
5. Teaching “translation/cross-culture”
6. Language and “translation/cross-culture”
7. Transnational ethnic/religious/cultural movements
8. Religions and festivals under globalization
9. Clothes, gender, and cultural signs
10. Intertextuality/adaptation/translation: literature, films, arts, and music
11. Other related topics
*Conference date: November 15, 2014 (Saturday)
*Conference venue: National Chengchi University
*Conference languages: Chinese, English
*Abstract submission deadline: March 2, 2014 (Sunday) (Please refer to the website attachment for the submission form.)
Section 1: Current position, affiliation, and contact address
Section 2: Title of paper, abstract of 400-500 words, keywords (Papers written in languages other than Chinese or English should submit Chinese or English version at the same time.)
*Abstract acceptance notification: March 24, 2014 (Monday)
*Draft submission deadline: November 1, 2014 (Saturday)
1. Submitted draft should contain at least 2000 words in Chinese or in English, no particular format required.
2. This draft will only be provided to moderators for their reference; there will be no printed copies of drafts on conference date.
*Please send your submission form as an email attachment to Center for Cross-Cultural Studies of National Chengchi University (email address:, with “Abstract submission to The Fifth International Conference on Translation and Cross-Culture” in the subject line.
*After the conference, full-paper manuscripts will be considered for inclusion in the journal volume or conference proceedings through blind peer review.
【Important dates】
Abstract submission deadline: March 2, 2014 (Sunday)
Abstract acceptance notification: March 24, 2014 (Monday)
Draft submission deadline: November 1, 2014 (Saturday)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Notes on "Benefits and Costs of Exercising Agency: A Case Study of an English Learner Navigating a Four-Year University"

Ronald Fuentes, "Benefits and Costs of Exercising Agency: A Case Study of an English Learner Navigating a Four-Year University." Linguistic Minority Students Go to College: Preparation, Access, and Persistence. Eds. Yasuko Kanno and Linda Harklau. NY: Routledge, 2012. 220-237. Print.

Fuentes focuses on a female Iranian immigrant he calls Nasim who studied at NGU. He traces her use of accommodation and agency as she negotiates between the university's culture and her own goals as a LM student. Nasim sees NGU as inhospitable toward LM students, calling into question the school's commitment to diversity:
One thing they say is that they value diversity, but I think this is not true (to some extent) because I as an ESL student think that the fact that I have to take ESL classes, or in writing classes, my writing is being compared to an American student is not fair. (qtd. in Fuentes 228)
Fuentes reports that Nasim exercises agency, circumventing the heavy academic demands at NGU (part of NGU's "university culture") by taking some more difficult science courses at a community college instead of at NGU. She does this in order to be able to maintain a GPA high enough to allow her to get into optometry school after graduation (232). She also avoids courses with demanding writing requirements in order to avoid lowering her GPA and generally stays quiet in class in order to avoid publicizing her linguistic difference, which she felt would generally be seen as a deficit.

Fuentes concludes that Nasim's exercise of agency helps her successfully attain her goal of graduating, although it's at the cost of her feeling alienated from NGU's university culture.

Notes on "Citizens vs. Aliens: How Institutional Policies Construct Linguistic Minority Students"

Kanno, Yasuko, and Linda Harklau, eds. Linguistic Minority Students Go to College: Preparation, Access, and Persistence. NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.

First off, Kanno and Harklau's definition of "linguistic minority students": "students who speak a language other than English at home" (vii). Also called "language minority students or non-English language background (NELB) student[s]" (1).

Yasuko Kanno and Linda Harklau: "Linguistic Minority Students Go to College: Introduction" (1-16):

Distinction between LM (linguistic minority) and EL (English learners) students: 
ELs are a subset of LM students whose academic English proficiency has not yet developed sufficiently to benefit from the regular English-medium instruction. Although these two terms are often erroneously conflated, they are, most emphatically, not the same. Many LM students are native or highly proficient speakers of English. It is common for LM students, especially among second-generation immigrant students, to be more dominant in English than in their home language. To assume that all LM students are somehow less than fully proficient in English is a highly reductive deficit orientation that ignores the complex linguistic landscape of the United States. (2-3)
Shawna Shapiro: "Citizens vs. Aliens: How Institutional Policies Construct Linguistic Minority Students" (238-254):
Chapter examines "the conditions and effects of ... institutional alienation [where non-US citizens "were subject to a distinct set of expectations for language proficiency" at "Northern Green University"], as well as its ideological underpinnings. In cases like Northern Green, the institutional response to linguistic minority students reflects an ideology of deficit: Linguistic difference is seen as a liability, rather than as an asset, to institutional excellence" (238).
Makes the argument that 
when policies discriminate against a particular group because of linguistic background (and, in this case, because of national citizenship), they not only hinder the institutional integration of those students, but also call into question that institution's commitment to equity and diversity. If linguistic minority students are recruited and admitted under the the assumption that they have something valuable to offer, then the institution must treat them as "promises" instead of "problems" (Van Meter, 1990, pp. 4-5). Language policies that are deficit-focused do precisely the opposite: They construct students as unwelcome aliens, rather than as institutional citizens. (239)
Argues that remediation programs are ways of admitting students like LMs without having to change institutionally--LMs have to change, not the programs into which they're accepted (240).
Shapiro is focusing in this chapter on LMs who are "permanent residents, most of whom were undergraduates to transferred to NGU from local community colleges" (241).
The institution she examined required all students who weren't US citizens to give evidence of language proficiency unless they were from an English-speaking country. That meant that in some cases students who had successfully gone through 2 years of community college in the US were suddenly required to give a TOEFL test result--not to be accepted into the institution, but to "prove" their language proficiency and avoid having to enter the remedial ESL program.
Some interesting (and, unfortunately, familiar-sounding) quotes from the language program's 2007 Operations Manual (which Shapiro says has been since revised): 
one of [the program's] goals was to help students improve their English so that they "do not pose an excessive burden to instructors." This would also "ensur[e] that students who graduate ... possess adequate English language skills that maintain the university's academic standards and reputation." (246, ellipses in original)
Shapiro uses this case study of NGU to point out the need for institutions to consider how language requirements or required language programs might be more of a burden than an aid to LM students, particularly if they're non-credit courses that cost extra money, and particularly if they discriminate based on a student's national origin. These programs alienate LM students and undermine the institutions' professed commitment to diversity and equality.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Notes on Ilona Leki's Undergraduates in a Second Language

Leki, Ilona. Undergraduates in a Second Language: Challenges and Complexities of Academic Literacy Development. NY: Erlbaum, 2007. Print.

Instructors of first-year writing courses for multilingual students aren't going to come away from Ilona Leki's report on her 5-year study of four L2 college students with a particularly high sense of their own role in their students' academic lives. As Leki notes in her conclusion,
The personal backgrounds, proclivities, desires, and talents of the students and the wide differences in requirements from course to course that they encountered translate expectations of making two or three L2 writing courses central in their academic lives into pure hubris. (283-4)
Of course, Leki is drawing conclusions based mainly on her longitudinal studies of four students; one might quibble with the generalizability of her results. But what her study lacks in breadth, it appears to make up for in depth. She has been able to capture a lot of moments in her subjects' lives as students, and therefore see some of the changes that they go through (arguably, Jan, a business student, goes through the most dramatic changes). She can use this to reflect on what worked for them, what didn't work--and overall what use they made of their education.

One of the problems with L2 writing classes, in Leki's view, stems from how they are often tied in to the interests and ideologies of L1 composition and English departments. This results in students being taught to write in genres that they might never use in other classes (such as "belletristic or argumentative/persuasive essays" [252]) and training in inventional techniques that might end up being irrelevant to students' needs. (Leki argues that the inventional techniques one of her subjects learned weren't useful because in most of her classes, the student wasn't being asked to draw on her own experiences or knowledge in her writing--she was being asked to write about what she was in the process of learning [252].) The association of L2 writing courses with their L1 counterparts also can potentially do a disservice to L2 students, Leki argues:
[P]art of the rationale for granting credit for L2 writing courses has been that these courses are the equivalent of 1st-year L1 writing courses. Being parallel to 1st-year writing has meant in essence applying 1st-year composition values, standards, and methods in L2 writing courses, including privileging English department genres. Atkinson and Ramanathan's (1995) ethnographic account of two writing programs, one L1 and one L2, demonstrates the potential injustice of requiring L2 students' literacy education to be dominated by L1 interests. (253)

More fundamentally, Leki's study calls into question the very conception that compositionists (L2 or otherwise) have of writing as being central to college students' academic experiences and growth. Judging from what she found from her interviewees' experiences of writing in a wide range of courses, writing assignments were only very rarely and in only a very broad sense important to their learning experiences. A lot of the time, assignments were ill-defined (particularly in humanities courses)--sometimes to the point of being incomprehensible to international students. At other times, emphases in the instructions on grammatical accuracy or page length led students to worry more about fixing the grammar or filling out the required number of pages than about saying something. And in other cases, the way that course-assigned group projects were conducted resulted in L2 students doing little or none of the writing for the assignment. (Jan, the business major in her study, contributed only one page of text to his group's 250-page [67 pages of text, plus appendixes and figures] marketing report [141]).

In one case, however, the writing load was overwhelming for one of her subjects. Leki describes the experience of Yang, a Chinese nursing major (who despite having been a practicing pediatrician in China was forced by circumstances to go through an undergraduate nursing program in the US). Yang's expertise in medicine was only occasionally validated by the nursing faculty (in fact, one professor disdainfully likened her Chinese medical degree to a chiropractor's degree), and her English difficulties were sometimes seen as signs of professional incompetence. Due in part to her difficulties with English, Yang had great difficulty managing the writing load she had as a nursing student--particularly with the Nursing Care Plans that she had to write during her clinicals. Whereas native English-speaking nursing students were able to complete writing NCPs in an hour or two by the end of their time as students, Yang continued to struggle with them, partly out of fear of incorrectly paraphrasing information or making grammatical or usage mistakes that would harm her chances of finishing the program. Yang's approach to completing NCPs and avoiding mistakes involved copying technical information verbatim from medical texts, a process that Leki notes "was not only acceptable to the faculty but even tacitly encouraged" (93). Yang saw this all as busy-work that was taking away from her (and her classmates') opportunities to learn. Leki concludes that at least in this case (or concludes from this case), L2 students need to be given time to learn and writing assignments should be carefully constructed to give students that time. Teachers of L2 students need to recognize "that writing in an L2 is dramatically more time and energy consuming than in an L1" (259).

For these reasons, what is often taught and required in first-year writing classes doesn't appear to Leki to be all that useful to L2 students. In the end, however, Leki doesn't conclude that instructors of L2 writing have no reason for being; she suggests, rather, that L2 writing classes "can be used to make space and time for students to explore the world into which they have stepped by, for example, examining and making a start at responding to the literacy demands across the curriculum" (284). She also recommends that L2 writing teachers give students an opportunity to address the challenges they face as L2 students, such as when their cultures are "essentialized by professors" or when they are "not selected for group work." Leki suggests that
[u]sing their developing L2 literacy skills as tools to work toward analyzing such situations, including their hidden ideological dimensions, and developing possible solutions communally not only honors their intellect and experience but also might make L2 writing classes be remembered for more than only the use of the comma. (285)
This is perhaps also a justification for keeping L2 writing courses separate from L1 courses--they can act as "safe houses" (as Mary Louise Pratt would call them) for multilingual--particularly international and immigrant--students to work out ways of dealing with the academic and social challenges and demands that they face and will continue to face as university students.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Final update on AcWriMo, 2013

The end of AcWriMo was a bit of a bust for me. Though we didn't go away for Thanksgiving because of the warned-of winter storm (which also turned out to be a bit of a bust for us, anyway), the process of writing was hampered by grading that needed to get done (and is still in the process of getting done).

I'll continue working on this paper, though, once the dust has settled from the final stretch of grading due at the end of the semester. Wish me luck!