Getting to know… Yu-Yueh Tsai


A series introducing the Visiting Scholars & Fellows in residence at HYI this year

Yu-Yueh Tsai (Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica)
Harvard-Yenching Institute Visiting Scholar, 2022-23
“Indigenous DNA as a Metaphor: Ancestry, Race, Ethnicity, and Biological Citizenship in Taiwan”

What got you interested in your research topic/field?

I work in the fields of medical sociology; science, technology, and society (STS); and race and ethnicity studies with a special focus on issues related to Taiwan Indigenous genetics, suffering, and identity.

Based on my personal background, I am highly motivated to combine my medical experiences and sociological thinking. My past and current research topics concern issues such as death and dying in medicalization, mental disorders in indigenous communities, genetic research, and identity politics in Taiwan.

I published my first book, Mental Disorder of the Tao Indigenous Minority in Taiwan: Modernity, Social Change, and the Origin of Social Suffering and co-edited two volumes: Abnormal People? Psychiatry and the Governance of Modernity in Taiwan (2018) and Post Genomic Taiwan: Shifting Paradigms and Challenges (2019). Also, I am a director of a documentary film. My first documentary film, “Ward 85033”, was about the medical malpractice in Taiwan and won several awards. I attempt to use the film to connect my research to the public community.

Outside of work, where can we find you?

I am interested in different kinds of art, including painting, music, film, etc. In addition, I love the little crepe café on Oxford Street in Cambridge’s beautiful Agassiz-Baldwin neighborhood. When I feel exhausted, their different kind of delicious pancakes always offer me new energy. On Friday nights, many social and art activities are held in a comfortable atmosphere there.

What would you want to do most as a career if you were not in academia?

If I weren’t a scholar, I’d like to be an athlete, especially a skater. I like watching ice skating. It is a beautiful sport combining art, dance, music, and athleticism. Academic scholars always use their brains to pursue intellectual perfection all their life. However, no matter how deserving athletes are, they cannot pursue physical perfection all their life. Athletes must abide by their biological age. To be a super athlete, I wonder if I am daydreaming again.

Read Prof. Tsai’s bio on our website.

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