East Asian Studies

Past Conferences and Workshops

Linguistic and Interactional Units in Everyday Speech: a Cross-Linguistic Perspective (June 21-22 , 2013)

Please click here for the workshop website.

This workshop focuses on ‘units’ as the main topic of discussion. We will have presentations by each of the participants on this central notion in linguistics, coupled with discussion and collaborative examination of everyday speech data from typologically diverse languages including English, Finnish, French, Japanese, Javanese, Mandarin, Miyako, and Nuuchahnulth. Some of the general questions which we would like to address in the workshop include:

What is meant by the term ‘unit’ in linguistics?
Are units a useful way of conceptualizing language?
Are units identifiable in everyday speech data?
If so, what are they and what do they do?
Are those units related and do they interact with each other, and if so how?
What are the implications of (the lack of) units in theorizing about language?

Everyone is invited to attend the workshop, but if you would like to present and/or have questions regarding the event, please contact Yoshi Ono at tono@ualberta.ca 


Taiwan in Dynamic Transition Conference (May 25-26, 2013)


The international conference “Taiwan in Dynamic Transition,” hosted by the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Alberta, will take place on May 25-26. At the conference, distinguished scholars from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States will present original research on some of the most salient aspects of Taiwan’s social, political, and cultural transformation in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The experts participating in this interdisciplinary conference represent a range of academic disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. Their presentations pertain to such topics as the influence of political discourse and education on the imagination of Taiwanese history and identity; democratization and political reform at local and national levels; cultural, racial, and gender tensions as seen through the lens of popular literature; Taiwan as a provider of foreign aid and developmental expertise; the influence of global norms on Taiwanese society and political institutions.


May 25, 9:00-9:30  Welcome and Opening Remarks

Ryan Dunch, Chair, Department of East Asian Studies

Lois Harder, Associate Dean, Faculty of Arts

Michael Y. K. Tseng, Director General, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Vancouver

“Why is the East China Sea Peace Initiative Important?”


9:30-11:00  History, Identity, and Political Discourse

Panel Chair:  Ashley Esarey, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Alberta

Rwei-ren Wu, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica
   “Nation-state formation at the interface: The Case of Taiwan”

Jennifer Wei, English Department, Soochow University
  “Familial Metaphors in Taiwanese Campaign Rhetoric: a comparative study of Mme. CKS and Annette Lu, and of Tsai Ing-wen in contrast”

I-Hsin Hsiao, Department of Sociology, University of Essex
  “A New Form of National Imagination in the High School History Curriculum: On the Non-Linear Development of Taiwanese History Course during Lee Teng-Hui and Chen Shui-Bian Eras”

 Maukuei Chang, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica

11:00-12:30   The Political Dimension: Political and Legal Reform

Panel Chair:  Gordon Houlden, China Institute, University of Alberta

 Jiunn-rong Yeh, National Taiwan University Law School
  “The Legacy of Incremental Constitutional Reform in Taiwan”

Benjamin Read, Politics Department, University of California, Santa Cruz
  “Urban Taiwan’s State-Structured Neighborhood Governance: Deepening Democracy, Partisan Civic Engagement, Inverted Class Bias”

Eric Setzekorn, Department of History, The George Washington University
  “Military Reform in Contemporary Taiwan: The Lafayette Scandal, National Defense Law and All-Volunteer Force”

Discussant: Bruce Jacobs, Monash University

14:00-16:00   Global and Local Interconnections

Panel Chair:  Thomas Gold, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

Szu-Chien Hsu, Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica
  “Constructing a “Common Field” across the Taiwan Strait via Environmentalism? Case Studies of Cross-Strait Environment NGO Exchanges”

Lee Chia-wen, National Cheng Kung University
  “Taiwan's Death Penalty in the Local-Global Dynamics”

Gerald Chan, Department of Political Studies, University of Auckland
  “Taiwan as an ‘established’ aid donor: creating space between traditional and emerging donors?”

Lee Hyunji, Department of Political Science, University of Calgary
  “An Uninvited Guest at the Policymaking Table: The Rise of Mass Opinion in Post-Developmental States”

Discussant: Thomas Gold, University of California, Berkeley


May 26, 9:00-11:00  Social Change, Gender, and Popular Culture


Panel Chair: Lin Jenn-Shann, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Alberta

 Shu-ning Sciban, Shu-ning Sciban, Department of Germanic, Slavic and East Asian Studies, University of Calgary
  “How to Do Things with Neologisms: A Study of Wang Wenxing's Language”

Isabella Cheng, School of Languages and Area Studies, University of Portsmouth
  “Bridging Across or Sandwiched Between? The In-Between Identity of Chinese Immigrant Women in Taiwan”

Lin Pei-Yin, School of Chinese, University of Hong Kong
  “Voice from the Margin: Gender and Ethnicity in the Works of Rimuy Aki”

 Jérôme Soldani, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa
  “Aborigines people are Strong, Chinese are Smart:’ Racial Stereotypes on Autochthonous players in Taiwanese Baseball”

 Discussant: Daniel Fried, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Alberta 

Many thanks to our sponsors:

Ministry of Education Republic of China (Taiwan)

University of Alberta China Institute

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of China (Taiwan)



Taira Conference: Loveable Losers: The Taira in Action and Memory (August 13-15, 2011)


   This conference was held in order to promote a better international understanding of one of the most important families in Japanese culture, the Taira. As is well known, the Taira lost the war of 1180-85 to the Minamoto, ending a five-year conflict that had divided much of Japan. Whereas the Minamoto thus were victorious, and went on to establish the first shogunate, an institution that would endure and play a central role in Japanese history until the Meiji Restoration of 1868, it was the Taira, the losing side, who came to be celebrated in literary and otherartistic works for centuries to come. The best known of these works is undoubtedly the war tale Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike, c. 14th century), which takes a sympathetic view of the Taira and which has had considerable influence on a number of later texts and genres, most notably Noh theatre. In short, the Taira have been seen as tragic losers, a popular theme in Japanese culture, who were at once too uninformed, and even pacified by their preoccupation with courtly matters and lifestyles, to realize that real power now rested with their own class of warriors in the provinces, not with courtiers in Kyoto.

This contradictory narrative of the Taira as successful imitators of court culture but unsuccessful innovators in the political, social and economic spheres has been sustained by a scholarly tendency to confine inquiries to traditional academic divisions, while overarching treatments have been woefully lacking. This conference significantly increased our cultural understanding of Japan through a careful and markedly interdisciplinary approach to the Taira. The conference presentations examined and analyzed not only cultural images of the Taira, and considered how tragic, but loyal and refined losers can become heroes in Japanese culture, but also showed that the Taira were instrumental in promoting trade with China and in importing copper coins. Both of these developments were crucial steps in Japan’s development into a medieval economy. Not only would this trade continue and develop over the centuries, it would also provide the foundation for the proto-capitalist economy of the Tokugawa age. This conference did, in other words, yield a far more nuanced and richer understanding than we had previously of the Taira as agents in their own time and cultural heroes in later ages, and of Japan’s early economic developments.

The conference featured scholars from the disciplines of history, literary studies, art history and religious studies, in addition to younger scholars and students who are just beginning their careers. The participation of these junior scholars ensures that further research on this important topic will be done outside the confines of the conference. The senior presenters came from institutions all over the world.

This conference was a collective effort organized by Mikael Adolphson, Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta, Anne Commons, Associate Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Alberta, and Joshua Mostow, Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of British Columbia.



Keynote Speaker

Takahashi Masaaki, Professor Emeritus, Kobe University
    "Facts and Fictions of the Heike Monogatari


Mikael Adolphson, University of Alberta
    "Fukuhara: Kiyomori's Lost Capital"

Heather Blair, Indiana University
    "Ritual Regimes: Kiyomori, Itsukushima and Fukuhara"

Anne Commons, University of Alberta
    "Taira no Tadanori as Poet and Warrior"

Monika Dix, Saginaw Valley State University
    "Heike Nōkyō: Taira no Kiyomori and kechien-gyō Practice in Kamakura-Period Japan"

Naoko Gunji, Augustana College
    "The Revival of Amidaji as a Mortuary Site for Antoku and the Taira" 

Sachiko Kawai, University of Southern California
    "Nyoin Power, Estates, and the Taira Influence: Trading Networks Within and Beyond The Archipelago"

Adam Kern, University of Wisconsin
    "Picturing the Classics: The Tale of the Heike in Early Modern Comicbooks"

Keller Kimbrough, University of Colorado, Boulder
    "Villains of the Stage?  Taira no Kagekiyo in the Seventeenth-Century Puppet Theater"

Lori Meeks, University of Southern California
    "Changing Views of Buddhist Nunhood in Kamakura-Period Japan: The Case of Kenreimon'in"

Joshua Mostow, University of British Columbia
    "Heike Bunka: Taira Literary Culture and Its Influence"

Elizabeth Oyler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    "Haunted Places: The Heike in the Noh Drama - The Shura Noh Tadanori and Shigehira -"

Paul Rouzer, University of Minnesota
    "Sinicizing the Heike: Rai San'yō's Historical Ballads".

Hitomi Tonomura, University of Michigan
    "Kiyomori and His Family in Postwar Japan: Mizoguchi's Shin Heike Monogatari (The New Tale of the Heike)"

Michael Watson, Meiji Gakuin, Tokyo
    "The Possible Worlds of the Taira: Vignettes of Three Generations in Heike Variants"

Charlotte von Verschuer, L’École des Hautes Études, Paris, France
    "Demystifying the Taira Trade Network"

X. Jie Yang, University of Calgary
    "A Miracle at Morihisa's Execution: On Legends about the Origin of Kiyomizu-dera Temple (Sec. 5, Scroll 3)"


Kondo Shigekazu, Historiographical Institute, University of Tokyo

David Bialock, University of Southern California

Hank Glassman, Haverford College

Thomas Keirstead, University of Toronto

Haruo Shirane, Columbia University



The organisers wish to express their gratitude to the following sponsors:

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Japan Foundation
Toshiba International Foundation
China Institute, University of Alberta
Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia
Department of East Asian Studies, University of Alberta
Prince Takamado Japan Centre for Research and Teaching, University of Alberta
Faculty of Arts Conference Fund, University of Alberta