Taiwanese Student Migrants, Campus Spies, and Cold War Activism
- PUBLISHED: November 2023
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian American Studies, Asian Studies / Taiwan, History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 270 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 22 b&w illus., 1 map
- ISBN: 9780295752068
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Island X delves into the compelling political lives of Taiwanese migrants who came to the United States as students from the 1960s through the 1980s. Often depicted as compliant model minorities, many were in fact deeply political, shaped by Taiwan's colonial history and influenced by the global social movements of their times. As activists, they fought to make Taiwanese people visible as subjects of injustice and deserving of self-determination.
Under the distorting shadows of Cold War geopolitics, the Kuomintang regime and collaborators across US campuses attempted to control Taiwanese in the diaspora through extralegal surveillance and violence, including harassment, blacklisting, imprisonment, and even murder. Drawing on interviews with student activists and extensive archival research, Wendy Cheng documents how Taiwanese Americans developed tight-knit social networks as infrastructures for identity formation, consciousness development, and anticolonial activism. They fought for Taiwanese independence, opposed state persecution and oppression, and participated in global political movements. Raising questions about historical memory and Cold War circuits of power, Island X is a testament to the lives and advocacy of a generation of Taiwanese American activists.
Authors & Contributors
Wendy Cheng is professor of American studies at Scripps College. She is author of The Changs Next Door to the Díazes: Remapping Race in Suburban California and coauthor of A People’s Guide to Los Angeles.
A beautifully written book that foregrounds oral histories/biographies of Taiwanese students who engaged in activism and contextualizes their lives and experiences through infrastructures of activism and surveillance.- Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, author of Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era
The stories and political intrigue that fill the book's pages are fascinating. I have been waiting for a long time for a book like Island X that covers Taiwanese American activism.- Carolyn Chen, author of Getting Saved in America: Taiwanese Immigration and Religious Experience
A fascinating, lively account of the Taiwanese diaspora's surprising influence on America--and America's furtive investment in their fates, as well.- Hua Hsu, author of Stay True: A Memoir
What a beautiful book. Wendy Cheng patiently pieced together a fragile archive to reconstruct this story about Taiwanese immigrant student activism in the US, military dictatorship, espionage, and processes of identity formation. In subtle and supple prose, Island X explores little-known radicalism as it emerged and, as she argues, resonated with Black Radical and other internationalist traditions in the brutal Cold War context. Narratively intimate and theoretically daring, it will be read and taught by all curious about these complexities.- Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Abolition Geography: Essays Toward Liberation
A tour de force and powerful in its invocation of memory, human rights, and transnational justice, Wendy Cheng makes clear why we need to look at the Taiwan question within Asian/American studies as part of Cold War global history. Island X is a major contribution to Asian American studies, American studies, and Taiwan studies.- Chih-ming Wang, author of Transpacific Articulations: Study Abroad and the Remaking of Asian America