History and Development

After a long period of democratization movement in Taiwan since the 1980s, the authoritarian education establishments, like those institutes of Sun Yat-sen studies, set up in all major public universities, were under pressures to change in the 2000s. Most of these institutes changed the name as “National Development Studies”, while keeps the organizational structures intact. However, based the future-oriented vision, the former President of National Sun Yat-sen University, Professor  CHANG, Chung-cheng (張宗仁), merged the Institute of Mainland China Studies and Sun Yat-sen Studies as a new institute, Asia-Pacific Studies, and created a brand new social science institute, ie., the Graduate Institute of Sociology, after consultations with different academic parties and approved by the Ministry of Education in late 2006 to recruit postgraduate students from the autumn semester, 2008.

Professor WANG, Hong-zen (王宏仁) was invited to run the newly launched institute in 2007, who worked closely with Professor Wen-Hui Anna TANG at the General Education Centre in the first few years to recruit many excellent scholars, including Professor HO, Ming-sho (何明修, now at the National Taiwan University), Professor CHENG, Li-hsuan (鄭力軒, now at the Chengchi University) and Professor CHEN, Mei-hua (陳美華). With the support of the University, the Sociology Institute expands its program to undergraduate, and the Department of Sociology was set up in 2011. In the later years, outstanding professors or post-docs of diverse backgrounds, including anthropology, human geography or cultural studies, are recruited to strengthen the teaching and research capability of the department. In 2019 a new Master Program for Indigenous Studies was set up in the department to cover the missing issues of Austronesian studies in Taiwan’s sociology scholarship. Professor Taiban Sasala, from Rukai tribe, an indigenous social movement activist, is recruited to run the new program.

The department is the first undergraduate sociology program established in public university outside Taipei metropolitan area after 1945, which signifies the long-standing intellectual and political-economic gap between the North and the South Taiwan. Since the setup, the department has been actively participating in Taiwan’s social movements, and become a leading organisation in the campaign of social justices like gender equality, environment protection, migrant’s rights, indigenous citizenship, etc. The Sunflower movement in 2014 made the department island-wide known due to its strong commitment to the democratic reform and support of student movement. In addition to the active participation in social movements, top-quality teaching and researches are supported by the energetic and remarkable scholars at the department. The vision of the department is to deepen the connections with South Taiwan and the Global South, and to contribute to the world justice without borders. 

Educational Goals

The Department of Sociology at National Sun Yat-sen University is the only sociology department in southern Taiwan. With the aim to strengthen our unique teaching and research, the courses offered by our department center around the idea of developing Southern Sociology. We emphasize Southern Sociology for two reasons: on the one hand, the current production of knowledge presents a North-South imbalance, with the North as the norm; on the other, we recognize the importance of exchanges with international institutions interested in theorizing the Global South, thereby broadening the horizon of Taiwanese sociological scholarship.

The “South” in our institute means the following three things:

First, the geographical south where we are rooted. The geographical affinity allows us an easy access to local participation and observation, so that we are able to feel the pulse of the communities of southern Taiwan and take stock of the local practices and social relationships of southern Taiwan, which has been ignored before.

Second, we care about the south of the society, that is, the underprivileged side of various social relations in terms of class, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. The discipline of sociology pays special attention to the marginalized and underprivileged groups not just out of humanitarianism but also because the existence of domination implies the possibilities of social resistance. The assembling and mobilization of all sorts of underprivileged groups imply the advance of the next wave of radical social change. The core of sociology lies precisely in the concern for social change and creating a just society.

Third, we keep the global South in mind. In order to theorize Taiwan as a geographical and social South, we need to be able to detect where Taiwan stands amidst global development. Taiwan is the South within the international division of labor under global capitalism, who climbs up the global economic ladder thanks to her hard-working and determined people. From this perspective, the outlook of Taiwanese society is being shaped by the social and cultural forces of global political economy while developing its own characteristics. It is only through the kind of research based on such a context can we delve into the unique significance of Taiwan experiences.

Educational Goal of our Department

    I. To feel the pulse of the grass-root communities of the South; to connect the local with the global
    II. To combine academic research with social activism; to develop public sociology
    III. To predict the next wave of dramatic social change; to take the lead in social innovation and cultural revitalization 

We will achieve the above-mentioned goals through three approaches developed in the course of Southern Sociology:

    IV. A Localized Approach

We wish that our students would concern themselves with the local communities and realize that what they learn in class is matters of concern of the local communities. When we plan our courses, we stress the importance of training the students’ skills and capacities to conduct research and solve local problems. In doing so, learning is not confined to the classroom. Instead, learning takes place in the interaction between oneself and one’s immediate environment. This thinking can be seen in courses such as Social Statistics (taken in the second year, in which students will conduct a comprehensive survey on National Sun Yat-sen University) and Social Survey and Research Methods (taken in the third year). The former allows the students to be clearly aware of the organization they are in through practicing what they have learned about the quantitative methods of sociological research; the latter requires the students to conduct fieldworks in the neighboring Qijin, Gushan and Yancheng districts. Moreover, the relationship between the students and the local residents are strengthened through activities that feed back to all the participants, informants and interviewees, drawing the university closer to the local communities.

    V. A Critical Approach
We wish to develop students’ capacity of independent and critical thinking. We encourage students to step outside their comfort zones, go out into the world to approach various social issues, and perceive the complex social structures and power relationships hidden beneath the social phenomena. With this goal in mind, we abandon the traditional teaching method where the students are asked to passively take in the lecturer’s one-sided discourse. On the contrary, we encourage our students to form their own views through dynamic dialogues and discussions with their peers. Moreover, we urge our students to engage in various forms of community and public participation, so that they will transform the knowledge learned in the classroom into concrete social practices, making knowledge the driving force of social change.

    VI. A Globalized Approach

We also wish our students to grow a global mindset so that they can understand that globalization means much more than glamorous tourism in ritzy towns and working for a multinational corporation. Instead, globalization also includes people’s movements in and out of different societies and the interpenetration and mutual dependence of diverse cultures. At the same time, the process of global movements affects and shapes people’s daily lives in their local communities. With this goal in mind, we offer in-depth courses on the phenomenon of globalization so that the students can keep up with the development of globalization. Meanwhile, we intend to broaden our students’ international horizon with various transnational exchange events or short-term study abroad programs. In the future we will recruit more international students, engage with more academic visits abroad, invite more scholars from other countries to our campus, and invite international students to our workshops. Through these activities we hope to hold a global perspective with a take from the South. 
Core Skillset

Through the training of the core courses of our department and elective courses in three major fields, graduates from the Department of Sociology will be equipped with the following core skills:

    1. Acute observations on social relationships
    2. Critical, analytic and writing skills
    3. Capacity to empathize with and care about the fringe of the society
    4. Teamwork spirit to collaborate on solving social problems 
    5. Independent thinking and abilities to come up with social innovative ideas
Employment Opportunities

According to the survey conducted by the Higher Education Database, 50% of the sociology graduates across universities in Taiwan work in the private sector when the rest spread across non-governmental organizations (18%), schools (11.7%), the public sector (11%) and other sectors. According to Professor Wan-Chi Chen’s research at the Department of Sociology, National Taipei University, 6 percent of the sociology graduates, compared with all other university disciplines, work at management levels in different sectors. The percentage is only lower than graduates from the law schools. Therefore we can say that the training of sociology meets the needs of the employment market and caters for nurturing professional leaders. 

Judging from the experience of our own students, after the solid training of four years, some senior students would go on to study at the graduate level while others would opt for going into the job market or take civil servant examinations. As the knowledge gained in sociology can be widely applied in the social, economic, political, cultural and even AI and big data research, the employment opportunities of our graduates are diverse. Common job options range from media work that stresses analytic and writing skills, to Internet-based and data analysis jobs that emphasize logical reasoning and statistics, to business and management work that highlights marketing skills, to human resources departments that foreground human interactions, to non-governmental organizations that advocate social changes, to social enterprises that create equal and mutually-beneficial relationships, to gender equality personnel in public and private sectors, or parliamentary assistant jobs and governmental posts.