Yun-Chan Liao has been the chief editor for the Opinion sub-channel of CommonWealth Magazine since 2015. She co-founded the multilingual monthly Four-Way Voice with Lucie Cheng in 2006 to serve Taiwan’s growing population of Southeast Asian workers and immigrants. In 2011, she launched the “grandmother bridge” project to support immigrant women, their children, and the children’s school teachers in making home visits and conducting cultural exchanges during the trips. With Cheng Chang, Liao co-founded not only the Taiwan Literature Awards for Migrants, which since 2014 has been running as a multilingual platform of self-representation for Taiwan’s Southeast Asian migrants, but also the Southeast Asia-themed Brilliant Time Bookstore (2015–present), where books are borrowed for free and talks are held regularly around topics related to migration, border crossing, and multicultural connections.
「 From Literature Award to Bookstore: Building Viable Community Networks for Taiwan’s Southeast Asian Migrants 」
Southeast Asian marital and labor migrants have been a crucial part of Taiwan’s socioeconomic and cultural fabric since the 1970s. Their public visibility, however, had been largely shaped by negative media coverage until rights-based grassroots movements and multicultural policies began to catch up speed since 2000. In Taiwan, the road to better labor laws and civil rights for Southeast Asian (im)migrants has been a long and bumpy one. Earlier generations of local movements often faced the challenges of linguistic and cultural barriers, the unpredictability of funding sources, and the oftentimes volatile nature of migrant communities. Even with several waves of the government-initiated Southbound Policy, public discussions have centered more on transnational economic collaborations than on deepening mutual cultural understanding. Under these harsh circumstances, in 2006 Yun-Chan Liao and Cheng Chang joined the late sociologist Lucie Cheng in founding the multilingual monthly 4-Way Voice for Taiwan’s Southeast Asian migrant readers. After a decade, Liao and Chang went on to co-found two influential platforms of (im)migrant self-representation—Taiwan Literature Awards for Migrants (2014–present) and the Southeast Asia-themed Brilliant Time Bookstore (2015–present). In this talk, Yun-Chan Liao will reflect on the origins, current impacts, and long-term visions of both the literature award and the bookstore. She will also share insights into the following questions: what are the promises and challenges of building a viable Southeast Asian network in contemporary Taiwan? In organizing the literature awards and managing the bookstore, what unexpected and memorable interactions had occurred between Taiwan’s migrant communities and non-migrant locals? How may Taiwan’s (im)migrant networks as such be compared with similar movements in other Chinese-speaking and East Asian societies?