March 8, 2018/ 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Bunche Hall 10383

Caught between Empires: A Preliminary Observation of the Recent Rise of Nationalism in Taiwan, Okinawa and Hong Kong

Lecture by Rwei-Ren Wu, Academia Sinica

A new wave of polity-seeking nationalisms has emerged in recent years in the contiguous maritime peripheral areas of Northeast Asia—the overlapping “spheres of influence” of three contending imperial centers: Taiwan, Okinawa and Hong Kong. The nearly simultaneous rise of nationalism in these three geopolitical peripheries should be understood as a macro-historical sociological phenomenon caused by both the short-term penetration from centralizing colonial and geopolitical center(s) which triggered nationalist mobilization in the periphery and the long-term process of peripheral nation-formation which created the social basis for mobilization. The three cases also demonstrate some other traits of anti-center peripheral nationalism: they all adopted a similar ideological strategy of indigeneity, and all developed a differentiation between radical and pragmatic lines characteristic of minority or peripheral nationalisms. While the geopolitics of states in the region has been powerfully shaping the development of the three nationalisms, the interactions on the societal levels over time may create some kind of counter force from below. Wary of their subversive potential, the centers have been seeking to contain the peripheral nationalisms through various strategies. Subsided for the time being, the structural conflict between the three maritime peripheries and the centers persists and could be reignited by newer favorable conditions.

Rwei-Ren Wu, a scholar-activist from Taiwan, received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, and is an associate research fellow of the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica, Taiwan. He has published extensively in both Chinese and Japanese on the modern political and intellectual histories of Taiwan and Japan, with emphases on themes such as nationalism, state-formation, colonialism, postcolonial critique and left-wing movements. Some of these essays were included in his book Prometheus Unbound: Formosa reclaims the world (受困的思想:臺灣重返世界)(Taipei: Acropolis, 2017), which is being translated into Japanese and due to be published by Misuzu Shobo. He had been actively involved in the social movements of Taiwan during the past decade that culminated in the outbreak of the Sunflower Movement of 2014. As one of the authors of the Discourse on Hong Kong Nationalism (香港民族論, 2014), he has been banned by the HKSAR from entering Hong Kong since 2017. Besides his many articles in English and Chinese, he is also known for having translated Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism into Chinese (China Times Publishing Co., 1999, 2010).


The UCLA Taiwan Studies Lectureship is a joint program of the UCLA Asia Pacific Center and the Dean of Humanities and is made possible with funding from the Department of International and Cross-Strait Education, Ministry of Education, Taiwan, represented by the Education Division, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles.

Sponsor(s): Asia Pacific Center, Center for Chinese Studies, Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, Center for Social Theory and Comparative History