Social science studies of the environment in Taiwan: what can the international community learn from work published within Taiwan?

Yi Chen Huang, Mei Fang Fan, Chih Yuan Yang, Leslie Mabon

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This Translations contribution synthesises critical environmental social science research produced in Taiwan and published largely in Chinese. Taiwan is distinctive in east Asia in that it has had, over several decades, a relatively large and prolific community of scholars engaged with environmental justice and sustainability. This research tradition is linked to the emergence of grassroots environmentalism in response to environmental issues faced during Taiwan’s rapid industrialisation, and to the democratisation of Taiwanese society from the 1980s onwards. Fuller understanding of research produced and published within in Taiwan hence yields insights for the role of social science within newly industrialising and democratising nations. Although the story of Taiwanese society’s relation to environmentalism is to an extent understood in English-language literature, less prevalent are the diverse ways Taiwanese social scientists have engaged with environmental issues, the empirical case studies which have shaped their thinking, and the influences of Western environmental sociology and science and technology studies (STS) within Taiwan. By synthesising Chinese-language environmental social science literature from Taiwan, we characterise three strands of scholarship: activism and social movements; environmental controversies; and environmental governance, policy and institutions. We identify (a) the ability of communities and civil societies to affect change from within extant governance processes and (b) the local-level implications of national sustainable development rhetoric as two areas where Taiwanese scholarship may make particularly valuable contributions to work at the sustainability-environmental justice interface.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-42
Number of pages7
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number1
Early online date20 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Democratisation
  • Taiwan
  • environmental justice
  • environmental sociology
  • science and technology studies


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