Research articles


2017. Taiwan's Truth and Reconciliation Committee: The geopolitics of transitional justice in a contested state. International Journal of Transitional Justice, 11(1), 92-112 (with Jamie Rowen)

This article examines Taiwan’s new president’s 2016 proposal for a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), and addresses the ways in which this TRC serves domestic, regional and international policy goals. For Taiwan as a contested state, the TRC is part of a legitimation strategy that includes consolidation of a collective memory about earlier authoritarian state violence, cultural and political distinction from the irredentism and authoritarianism of China, and demonstration of adherence to international norms of democracy and human rights. We argue that the Taiwan case reveals the instrumentality of a TRC as a geopolitical strategy, particularly for relatively stable democracies facing external existential threats from an authoritarian country. We further demonstrate the need for ongoing research on transitional justice in Asia, and emphasize that political transitions are not only situated within nation states, but also in regions where TRCs may have profound geopolitical effects.


2017. Touring in heterotopia: Travel, sovereignty and exceptional spaces in Taiwan and China. Asian Anthropology, 16(1), 20-34. 

This article uses the case of Chinese tourism to Taiwan to theorize the mutual constitution of tourism mobilities and exceptional spaces of sovereignty. Human flows between China and Taiwan have proliferated despite incompatible sovereign claims. Since 2008, China has sent millions of tourists across the Taiwan Strait even as it points over a thousand missiles in the same direction. Taiwan, itself a “de facto state” and therefore an “exceptional space” in the normative world order of sovereign nation-states, is partly defined by its relations with China. This relationship is being refashioned through cross-Strait tourism. Based on analysis of border-crossing regulations and ethnographies of tourist spaces, particularly at airports and protest sites, conducted between 2012 and 2015, this article argues that tourism mobilities are not only the effect but also the cause of transformations in the performance of sovereignty and territoriality. In other words, such mobilities not only articulate within exceptional spaces, but they can produce and reconfigure such spaces as well.


2016. The geopolitics of tourism: Mobilities, territory and protest in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 106(2), 385-393

This article analyzes outbound tourism from mainland China to Hong Kong and Taiwan, two territories claimed by the People's Republic of China, to unpack the geopolitics of the state and the everyday, to theorize the mutual constitution of the tourist and the nation-state, and to explore the role of tourism in new forms of protest and resistance. Based on ethnographies of tourism practices and spaces of resistance conducted between 2012 and 2015 and supported by ethnographic content analysis, this article demonstrates that tourism mobilities are entangled with shifting forms of sovereignty, territoriality, and bordering.

The case of China, the world's fastest growing tourism market, is exemplary. Tourism is profoundly affecting spatial, social, political, and economic order throughout the wider region, reconfiguring leisure spaces and economies, transportation infrastructure, popular political discourse, and geopolitical imaginaries. At the same time that tourism is being used to project Chinese state authority over Taiwan and consolidate control over Tibet and Xinjiang, it has also triggered popular protest in Hong Kong (including the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement and its aftermath), and international protest over the territorially contested South China Sea.

This article argues that embodied, everyday practices such as tourism cannot be divorced from state-scale geopolitics and that future research should pay closer attention to its unpredictable political instrumentalities and chaotic effects. In dialogue with both mobilities research and borders studies, it sheds light not only on the vivid particularities of the region but on the cultural politics and geopolitics of tourism in general.


2015. 遇見他者的閾限空間 Raising umbrellas in the exceptional city: Encounters with the ‘other’ in liminal spaces [In Chinese]. 考古人類學刊 Kaogu renleixue kan [Journal of Archaeology and Anthropology] 83, 25-56 (with Shu-mei Huang). 

Many of the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people who initially joined the Umbrella Movement had the relatively straightforward goal of “protecting the students.” Extensive media coverage soon represented protest participants as passionate, brave, and inclusive, although Hong Kong people have rarely been noted for their hospitality. In contrast to the pessimistic narratives of recent years, characterized by phrases such as “the city is dying,” the Umbrella Movement’s proliferation of citizen-journalism and artistic production raised the widely-debated possibility that “Hong Kong people have changed.”

Based on ethnographic observation of the movement from late September through November 2014 and content analysis of popular and social media, this article examines the ways in which Hong Kong people articulated such changes. It pays particular attention to the role of “hospitality” in shaping discourse and extending the time-space of the Umbrella Movement as social drama. The urban exceptionality of the Umbrella occupations, we argue, ultimately requires us to rethink the normativities of the everyday city. 


2015. Inside Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement: Twenty-Four Days in a Student-Occupied Parliament, and the Future of the Region. The Journal of Asian Studies74(1), 5-21

Comprehensive, eyewitness account of the 24-day student and civil occupation of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan. 

The occupation, which began as a protest against the botched near- passage of a services trade deal with China, went on to spawn the biggest pro-democracy protest rally in the island’s history, reframe popular discourse about Taiwan’s political and social trajectory, precipitate the midterm electoral defeat of the ruling KMT party, and prefigure unprecedented protest in nearby Hong Kong:

“SAY GOODBYE TO TAIWAN, ” wrote political scientist John Mearsheimer in a widely read article in the March-April 2014 issue of The National Interest.1 Threatened by China’s rising economic might and abandoned by a weakening United States, one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies was facing, in his “realist” analysis, an almost inevitable annexation via economic if not military force. “Time,” he wrote, “is running out for the little island coveted by its gigantic, growing neighbor.” But only days after publication, on March 18, activists and armchair analysts alike said hello to a new reality.


2014. Tourism as a territorial strategy: The case of China and Taiwan. Annals of Tourism Research46, 62–74.

This paper examines the cultural and territorial politics of the rapid post-2008 growth in tourism from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to Taiwan. Additionally, this paper presents an innovative theoretical argument that tourism should be viewed as a technology of state territorialization; that is, as a mode of social and spatial ordering that produces tourists and state territory as effects of power.

Based on fieldwork conducted in Taiwan in 2012, it explores the engagement of PRC tourists with Taiwanese hosts, political representations of Taiwan and China, the territorializing effects of tourism, the production of multiple sensations of stateness, and the possibility that tourism is aggravating contradictions between the different territorialization programs of China and Taiwan.