Monday, August 27, 2012

Remembering Joan Wang

Update 9/26/2012: A Powerpoint look back at Prof. Wang's life, shown at the memorial service in Tapei, is available for download. Also, NTNU colleague Prof. Joan Chang's account of Prof. Wang's last moments is posted on the NTNU history department memorial page.

Revised 8/28/12; see also obituary update below...

Historian Joan S.H. Wang [王秀惠 or Wang Shiow-Huey], who was suddenly stricken ill and collapsed 18 August 2012 while at an international conference in Manila, and passed away the next day, was a renowned Taiwan scholar of Chinese overseas. She was 52.

Just this past February, she had co-led a delegation visiting UC Irvine and other universities with ethnic studies collections, but I was tied up with a data curation workshop and missed their visit.

Joan Wang listens attentively at UCI Libraries' Southeast Asian Archive, February 2012. Photo credit: Eric Chang.

I was lucky enough to visit Taipei in late March this year, and honored to be invited by Joan's colleague in Chinese overseas studies, Edwin Yang, to speak on ethnic Chinese in Vietnam as portrayed in Hong Kong films, before a graduate seminar at their institution, National Taiwan Normal University. After the class, we all gathered at a nearby Japanese restaurant, where Prof. Wang joined us.

Joan in 1996 completed her graduate work in history at Carnegie Mellon with a dissertation, " 'No Tickee, No Shirtee': Chinese Laundries in the Social Context of the Eastern United States, 1882-1943."

Her published articles in English include:

"Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The Roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Women in the United States, 1850-1950," Journal of American Ethnic History, 24/1 (Fall, 2004), 58-99.


"The Double Burdens of Immigrant Nationalism: The Relationship between Chinese and Japanese in the American West, 1880s-1920s," Journal of American Ethnic History (Winter 2008) 27/2, 228-58.

Joan Wang (center) flanked by NTNU colleague Edwin Yang and myself,
at Japanese restaurant, Taipei, March 2012.

After my trip, Joan and I managed to exchange some emails on her research, with her expressing thanks for locating "rich" materials for her research. She asked me: "Please keep an eye for me". At her death she was engaged in researching a timely topic, the disputed Tiaoyutai (Senkaku) Islands. Her specific focus was Chinese students in America and their past activism over the issue. She was looking forward to coming to California to delve into the research materials on the Tiaoyutai student movement but alas, this work will have to be taken on by others.

Web tributes are beginning to appear online. A Malaysian scholar pens this online tribute in Chinese.

I am sad I will not be able to see her again. Services take place Saturday, 1 September 2012, at 2-4 pm at Taipei Second Funeral Parlor [台北市立第二殯儀館]. - Daniel C. Tsang.

Obituary from the International Society
for the Study of Chinese Overseas

Announcement From: PROF. LEO SURYADINATA, ISSCO President

It is with great sadness and profound regret that we announce the sudden demise of our colleague Dr. Joan Wang (王秀惠), Professor of History at the Taiwan Normal University on August 18, 2012. She was just 52 years old (1960-2012). She finished delivering a paper at the recent conference on “Chinese-language education and teaching in a Globalizing Southeast Asia” jointly convened by the Confucius Institute of Ateneo de Manila University and ISSCO. After the lively open forum where she animatedly answered the questions, people went up to her to shake her hands, but she couldn’t stand up and eventually collapsed. She was then rushed to the hospital but unfortunately passed away the next day despite desperate attempts to save her, putting her on life support. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Wu Chi-Sheng, a professor in Chemical Engineering at the National Taiwan University and daughters Emily and Kimberly.

Prof. Wang had attended almost all of our ISSCO conferences. She was very conscientious in all her work. We have certainly lost a very dedicated and fine scholar on Chinese overseas. Let us all pray for her eternal peace and strength for the family she left behind.

A memorial ceremony of Prof Joan Wang Shiow-Huey, initiated by the family and National Taiwan Normal University, will take place at 2-4pm on Saturday, Sept. 1st in the Taipei city 2nd funeral house. We hope our ISSCO members in Taipei will attend the ceremony on ISSCO’s behalf.

ISSCO members who knew her and wish to write tributes or expression of sympathy can send them to by August 31 and we will collect them before forwarding to her family prior to the memorial service.

Dr. Joan Wang Shiow-Huey was born in Taiwan, on August 30, 1962. Her research interests include history of Chinese Overseas, gender, and Chinese education, on which she published two scholarly books, numerous journal articles and book chapters, while presenting her work in many countries.

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