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International Master’s Program in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, University System of Taiwan (IACS-UST) breaks with existing modalities of higher education and ventures into cross-university alliances. As the result of these alliances, IACS enable the integration of research and teaching resources, admits both local and international students. Each year, the four UST universities enroll students separately, but all students enrolled in the IACS program are entitled to inter-university curriculum.
The UST inter-school Cultural Studies program was first established in 2003. The program offers courses that encourage collaboration between cultural studies scholars based at the four UST universities. The program’s National Chiao-Tung University office was also established in 2003, the National Central University office and the National Tsing Hua University office followed in 2004, and National Yang Ming University joined the program in 2009. The Preparatory Office of the International Institute for Cultural Studies was established in March, 2010. With IICS officially established in 2012, the Ministry of Education approved the establishment of the International Master’s Program in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies in June, 2012. The first admitted students were enrolled in September, 2013. In July, 2015, the program awarded its first Master’s degree to Nila Ayu Utami, who is from Indonesia. Currently, IACS is supported by more than 70 scholars, working collaboratively within four focal research clusters from across the UST universities.
IACS promotes the use of inter-Asian cultural connections as a novel framework for approaching world history and global cultures. Taiwan’s geographic and historical specificities, unique in terms of the potential for linking the distinct sociocultural experiences of Hong Kong, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, India and Australia while benefitting from academic resources circulated in the Asia-Pacific region, provide the initial points for such exploration. The Master’s program aims not merely to invest in future research talent and support worthy research projects, but also to foster transnational scholarly exchange so as to expand the scope of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies and strengthen Humanities and Social Science research within the region. In addition, the program’s interdisciplinary orientation engages the global academic community by actively and flexibly responding to emerging intellectual challenges.
We expect every IACS graduate to have a good grasp of Asian societies, politics and historical commonalities. As they grow knowledgeable about the latest developments of interdisciplinary studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, we also hope to cultivate their sensitivity to everyday changes, both on the local and the global level. The students will learn to think and observe beyond disciplinary boundaries while also receiving proper training in the foundational disciplinary traditions. Our ultimate goal is to foster academic innovation in the face of fierce competition within the global knowledge economy. We anticipate that IACS graduates will be as willing as they are able to take up the most exciting challenges facing them when they step into this dynamic economy.
Using IICS as the operative platform to facilitate international collaboration as well as cooperation among the four UST universities, IACS is privileged to be able to offer a curriculum that simultaneously benefits from inputs by the global academic community and from prolific local scholars based at all four UST universities.
The core curriculum covers subjects as diverse as Critical Intellectual History in Asia, East Asian Political Thoughts, Chinese History and Culture, Taiwan Literature and Culture, History of Modern Japanese Thoughts, Critical East Asian Cinema, Contemporary Migrant Workers in Asia, Gender Issues in Asia, Comparative Studies of the Democratic Movements in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Contemporary Critical Theory, and much more. Courses are grouped into four highlighted course clusters, which correspond with the four focal research clusters formed by the UST faculty members. All four clusters are devoted to inspiring original thought that reflects the uniqueness of each Asian culture without negating the relevance of inter-Asian commonalities:
1·The cluster of “Critical Theory and Asian Modernity” emphasizes inquiries into contemporary mechanisms of knowledge formation, adopting theoretical as well as contextual approaches to inter-regional and inter-cultural issues. Major concerns include nationalism, colonialism, post-colonialism, subjectification, bio-politics, language (use) and identity, historiography, state violence, globalization, and labor migration.
2·The cluster of “Contemporary Thought-trends and Social Movements” studies contemporary thought-trends in an endeavor to get a handle on the empirical connections of these trends to inter-Asian cultural resources, historical experiences, and social realities. Through supporting concrete practices of social movements, it intends to explicate and advance the multi-layered, dialectical relationships between the “ideal” and the “real.” The cluster designs courses that cover three major themes: “East-Asian Civil Society,” “East-Asian Ecology,” and “Memories, Experiences and Visions of the Second World War.”
3·The cluster of “Visual Culture Studies” integrates methods of art history and film studies. Concerned with formal aesthetics, historical significance, and social relevance of visual culture within a regional network that connects Taiwan, Northeast Asia, and Asia in general, its focus lies in cultural interactions and the actual impact of globalization.
4·The cluster of “Gender/Sexuality Studies” pays close attention to the trends and practices of gender/sexuality governance. Acknowledging strong ties between civilization and gender/sexuality governance, the cluster is interested in developing its critical interpretation of civilization/multiple modernity, analyzing the power maneuvers of gender/sexuality governance both on the local and on the global scale. It plans and organizes courses that interrogate gender/sexuality politics as they can be mapped locally, regionally, and globally from a distinct, localized perspective. With its main focus on the issue of knowledge/power, the cluster has investigated questions of agency, grassroots movements, and history as it delves into structural dimensions of gender/sexuality governance, such as those of law and policy.