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Spotlight on UCLA’s Taiwan in the World Postdoctoral Fellows

Deputy Director Aaron Miller; Dr. Dai Shih-chan, Dr. Kevin Luo, Program Coordinator Jeannie Chen, and Director Min Zhou after a send-off lunch for the postdoctoral fellows

“The uniqueness of the UCLA Taiwan program – in emphasizing the global character of its intellectual outlook – stands out to me as the only Taiwan program of its kind in North America and it has tremendous potential as a future hub of global scholarly exchanges for Taiwan Studies here on the West Coast.” 
– Dr. Kevin Luo, 2022–23 Taiwan in the World Postdoctoral Fellow.
The UCLA Asia Pacific Center promotes Taiwan Studies and scholarly exchanges with support from the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles. The Taiwan in the World Postdoctoral Fellowship program in Taiwan Studies, launched in 2021, engages exceptional scholars in the social sciences—political science, economics, sociology, and international relations—whose presence at UCLA would strengthen the study of Taiwan in a global context. While in residence, the Postdoctoral Fellows conduct original research on Taiwan-related topics from a multidisciplinary perspective, co-organize and coordinate the Taiwan in the World Lecture Series, participate in Asia Pacific Center events, and present one public lecture each year. They also contribute to curriculum development of Taiwan Studies by teaching or co-teaching one course each year related to their area of research. This may be in the form of an undergraduate course on Taiwan with a social science or international relations focus, or a graduate proseminar in conjunction with the Taiwan in the World Lecture Series. Over the course of 2021–2023, the Asia Pacific Center was honored to host two excellent scholars, Dr. Dai Shih-chan (2021–23) and Dr. Kevin Luo (2022–23) as Taiwan in the World Postdoctoral Fellows. 
Dr. Dai received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in Political Science at National Taiwan University, and then a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His work focuses on the development of LGBT rights in East Asian countries as well as examining how digital technology has reshaped the way politics and activism work nowadays. His research is situated at the intersection of political communication, social movements, and LGBT politics. During his time at UCLA’s Asia Pacific Center, Dr. Dai developed an undergraduate course called Introduction to Taiwan Studies and taught it for two consecutive years. It provides students with a comprehensive outline of various aspects of Taiwan throughout its historical trajectory. He also substantially revised two chapters from his dissertation to complete two scholarly articles, which are currently being reviewed by Social Movement Studies and China Quarterly, and he is revising his dissertation to turn it into a book manuscript that will highlight the effects of social media on political polarization from a supply-side perspective. 
Dr. Kevin Luo received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Toronto, Canada  in 2022. His Ph.D. research had a regional focus on the politics of China, Taiwan, and Asia. His work centers on the construction of state power in authoritarian regimes, exploring how transnational and local legacies—such as wars, colonialism, revolutions, and violence—generate conditions for state building, and how processes of state building continue to leave imprints on contemporary politics. He is working on a comparative book project on land reform and the grassroots origins of authoritarian power in Asia and is developing a second project comparing the varieties of bureaucratic mobilization in rural and industrial transformative projects, with a focus on cases from Asian developmental states. During his time at UCLA, Dr. Luo developed an East Asian politics course which he taught in the Department of Political Science in Spring 2023. This teaching experience encouraged him to reflect more broadly on how scholars teach Taiwanese politics in the US today, in the context of growing student interest in the overall East Asia region.  
The Taiwan in the World Postdoctoral Fellows have access to resources at the Asia Pacific Center and at UCLA more broadly, and coordinating the Taiwan in the World Lecture Series develops their leadership experience. Dr. Dai collaborated with Dr. Luo to help organize an impressive series of seven lectures which showcased the unique ways in which Taiwan has achieved breakthroughs in various social, demographic, and political arenas. The series included lectures by distinguished Taiwanese scholars, such as by Prof. Wang Tai-li, from National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Journalism, who spoke about the spread of dis/misinformation and fake news in Taiwan; Dr. Yang Pei-Shan from National Taiwan University who spoke about the challenges of and policy responses to a rapidly aging population in Taiwan; and Dr. Nathan Batto, an associate research fellow in the Institute of Political Science at Academia Sinica, who gave an analysis of the outcome and impacts of the 2022 local elections in Taiwan. The series also covered such major topics as cross-Strait relations with Prof. Lu Yeh-chung from National Chengchi University, and gender equality with Prof. Hung Chen-Ling, Director of National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Journalism.
Dr. Luo also established the UCLA Taiwan Studies Working Group, which started in Fall 2022. This created a collaborative space for graduate students active in interrelated fields: it brought together social science and humanities scholars working on the study of Taiwan in a truly comparative and global context to engage in exciting interdisciplinary conversations. The Taiwan Studies Working Group also provides opportunities for its members to present their research; workshop their papers, research proposals, and travel grants; and obtain constructive feedback from other members, about research design, methodology, and theoretical contributions. Members have participated actively in informative sessions about the academic job market, shared digital sources that could support each other’s research, and learned about key funding opportunities. The Taiwan Studies Working Group is built on a vibrant Taiwan Studies community at UCLA and will continue growing. It has great potential to play an outstanding practical role in the nurturing of the next generation of Taiwan Studies scholars.
Both of these Asia Pacific Center Taiwan in the World Postdoctoral Fellows have bright careers ahead of them. Dr. Dai Shih-chan has accepted an appointment as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at National Chengchi University in Taiwan, starting in August, 2023, and he looks forward to incorporating the professional experience gained at UCLA into his future research and teaching. Dr. Kevin Luo has accepted an appointment as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, starting in September, 2023. He says that “the Taiwan in the World Postdoc fellowship at UCLA was a terrific and unique experience” and “I am grateful that this brief and wonderful year at UCLA gave me the time I needed to prepare myself for the next stage of my academic career.”
The Asia Pacific Center commends Dr. Dai and Dr. Luo on their accomplishments and looks forward to welcoming the next Taiwan in the World Postdoctoral Fellow(s).