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Wenjia Zhou, Ma student, University of Oslo

Grassroots Sex Education for Young People via Social Media in China

Wenjia Zhou is a second-year master student in Gender Studies at the University of Oslo, Norway. Before studying in Oslo, she studied Broadcasting and TV Journalism at Fudan University, China, and Gender Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. With a background in communication and gender studies, Wenjia is particularly interested in how media shapes the discourse of gender and sexuality in contemporary China, as well as how gender and sexual identities are constructed in online communities with the development of social media. 


Sari Manninen, MA Student, East-Asian Studies at Helsinki University

The representation of gendered nerd identities in Japanese Women’s Comics

Sari writes:
Japan is undergoing a multifaceted societal changes with aging population, declining birthrate, struggling economy and a shift in gendered roles. In my thesis I am examining how those struggles reflect into the world of comics and what kind of realities and possibilities the stories represent their readership with. I’ve decided to focus on nerds and geeks (otaku, fujoshi and fudanshi in Japanese) because they are often perceived as people who have failed to live up to the expectations of their respective genders in the eyes of the Japanese “mainstream society”. On the other hand, being an otaku can in itself be a form of resistance towards the high expectations placed on Japanese youth and adults alike.

Japanese categories of nerds have a tendency to be gendered, and different names refer to different types of people, with many subtypes under one type. In short, otaku mainly refers to male geeks, but is a standard umbrella term for the whole world of geekdom in Japan. Fujoshi on the other hand can be an umbrella term for all female nerds, but usually refers to a woman who reads/creates Boys’ Love (BL for short) manga etc., which is homoerotic in nature but aimed for a female readership. Fudanshi is a rather recent term that refers to biologically male readers of BL material.

All three types of nerds emerge in several contemporary manga. I am examining six comic series in my thesis: Kuragehime (Princess Jellyfish) by Higashimura Akiko, Watashi ga Motete Dōsunda (Kiss Him not Me) by Junko, Wotaku ni wa koi ga muzukashii (Love is difficult for otaku) by Fujita, Sasaki to Miyano  (Sasaki and Miyano) by Harusono Shō, Fudanshi kōkō seikatsu (High School Life of a Fudanshi) by Michinoku Atami and Mashita no Fudanshi-kun (Fudanshi-kun living downstairs) by Kuroiwa Chihaya. I’ve chosen these manga as they are all relatively new and all popular, which means their stories have resonated with a wide audience in Japan.

The aim of my study is to see how these outsider identities are represented and how they perform their gendered roles: are they able to resist mainstream (hetero)normativity,  even subvert it or are they normalised, or “cured”, of their nerd identities as the stories progress.

Asia in Focus Issue 5 is out now!

Now the 5th issue of Asia in Focus – a Nordic journal on Asia by  early career researchers is available online.

In the first paper Therese Boje Mortensen necessarily puts international human rights conventions into a local context, and questions the normative acceptance of ‘institutions as a last resort’ when it comes to children in rural India. Staying in India, Patrick Wennström then reminds us, importantly, of the value of combining qualitative and quantitative methods in the field of land cover change studies. Birgitte Egeskov Jensen then takes us to China for a crucial discussion of social citizenship and how it continues to be strongly determined by the hukou system which, she argues, further consolidates rural people’s self-image as ‘undeserving’. In the final article, we turn to literature – Jona Barabas uses concepts from queer theory and Confucian philosophy to succinctly examine the main character’s approach to the relationships in his life.


Asia in Focus is one of the few journals worldwide that educates and publishes Masters students and PhD candidates. Our focus is on modern Asia in the social sciences and the humanities.

Hosted and funded by NIAS – Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, we are currently open to submissions from early career researchers of all nationalities who are based at a European institute of higher education. We would very much like to change this geographic limitation but it is challenging to do so with the limited funding we have.



Neil Loughlin, PhD student, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Cambodia’s Winning Coalition: State-Party, Coercion and Capital.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and the regime he dominates has outlived any other modern Cambodian political organization despite UN intervention, the introduction of electoral democracy and massive changes in Cambodia’s political economy. This longevity is a puzzle, which this thesis attempts to shed light on by focusing on linked processes of state formation and elite coalition building since 1979, with a particular focus on the coercive institutions of state.

The thesis explores the extent to which the regime today is organized through the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) at the level of its most senior state officials, including military and police officials, subordinated to Hun Sen. This forms their electoral vehicle and the organizational forum for the provision of exclusive private goods to themselves and their supporters. Underpinning the system and protecting it from challengers is the use and threat of use of coercion to counter the electoral and other threats the system generates. It further incorporates a number of wealthy and influential tycoons who, having been created under it, benefit from it through access to state contracts and natural resources in a mutually beneficial economic relationship in which access to these benefits is paid back in terms of financial support to the leadership, business deals and contributions to the state offices and institutions they oversee. These three interlinked “pillars” of state-party; state coercion and capital form the winning coalition essential for leadership survival in Cambodia.

In undertaking this thesis, I aim to contribute to literatures on authoritarian durability, coalitional politics, the role of democratic institutions in authoritarian regimes, the role of violence and coercive institutions in authoritarian contexts and work on political economy and political ecology.


Pär Nyrén, MA student, Stockholm University.

The Emergence of China’s Overseas Military and Security Industry: An Exploration of Economic and Political Causes.

China’s role in the world is being redefined rapidly. Having risen from relative geopolitical and economic insignificance to becoming a diplomatic and industrial powerhouse, China is continuously exploring new areas of engagement with the world. As of recently, this includes privatized military and security provision in countries around the world.

Many governmental and intergovernmental agencies, private enterprises and humanitarian aid organizations rely on private security contractors for protection from militants and attacks by

organized criminal networks. Such private military and security companies (PMSCs) originate in many different countries. China-based PMSCs are latecomers to the industry, with only one existing prior to 2010; today there are at least more than 20 Chinese overseas PMSCs with operations in many dozens of countries around the world and have representative offices in “over 160 countries”. One Chinese company has individually carried out operations in over 30 countries. 

While there had barely existed any prior, what led to the rapid creation and expansion of Chinese overseas PMSCs during 2010-2017?

This research project will primarily build on and contribute to three fields of study. The first and most obvious is to the study of private actors in international security. My ambition is to push forward theory-building on the causes on security privatization that will be applicable in many other contexts. Moreover, the thesis will make empirical contributions to the study of China’s foreign policy as well as the study of China’s state intervention in the private sector. In addition to the academic community, the findings will be of interest for foreign policy practitioners and others interested in new manifestations of China’s rise.


Hyojin Pak, PhD candidate, Leiden University. 
Reshuffling Roles and Responsibilities: the social history of waste work in South Korea.
This dissertation explores the social history of waste work in South Korea from the 1960s to the 1990s. I examine the development of Korean waste management through analysing difference actors at varying levels of waste management, especially focusing on those categorised as informal waste workers. Drawing on the bodies of scholarship on waste that have been developed in the overlapping domains of anthropology, human geography, and environmental history, I analyse the organisation of the formal and informal waste management throughout these periods but also the ways in which those systems relate to certain concepts of waste and excess and how that relates to social order in South Korea.
By taking material and metaphorical waste and waste work(ers) at the centre of controversy and heterogeneity, my study examines how the objects and its management are not just symbolic reflections of social, moral, and political values but they actually do constitute such arguments themselves. By doing to, it seeks to bring together discourses on waste whether they build on theories on purity, deviance, surplus and excess, the capitalist mode of production and consumption.
Elżbieta Świstak, MA Student, Stockholm University.
Chinese language education in Europe in the light of the Confucius Institute.
My current research project deals with Chinese language education in Europe.
More specifically, it is directly connected with the spread of the Confucius Institute which is designed for students who are interested in learning Chinese language, culture, history or art. In particular, the project is presently concentrating on the history of Chinese language education in Europe till nowadays, the background of the Confucius Institute in terms of its system, offers and prospects and the statistical future that this education might bring. My interest in this topic developed because as a part of my study I am doing an internship in one of the branches of the Confucius Institute placed in Poland. This is a research area of some importance, as it has the potential to educate us not only about the Confucius Institute but also about the future impact that Chinese language is likely to achieve in the upcoming years.


Kimberli Mäkäräinen, MA Student, University of Helsinki
Translating Legislation in Multilingual Legal Systems: the Case of Lesser-Resourced Languages

The objective of my research is to ascertain how translation and terminology challenges are met when translating national legislation into languages of lesser resources in multilingual legal systems around the world and to determine if any of the working solutions from the other legal systems could be used to improve the process in Finland for the Sámi languages.


Ana Stanicevic, PhD Candidate, University of Iceland
Nordic Small Press in 21st Century

Ana Stanicevic is a PhD student of Cultural Studies at the University of Iceland, where she also teaches Icelandic as a second language. She is a master of Nordic studies and had taught Norwegian at the University of Belgrade before. Ana is also a translator and her Serbian translation of the book „Mánasteinn“ by the renowned Icelandic writer Sjón was published last year in Serbia.

Ana's PhD thesis is on Nordic small press in the 21st century (2000-2020). The focus is on non-profit, independent publishing houses that primarily issue literary material and take a clear stand in their avant-garde tendencies. The goal is to provide insight into contemporary Nordic literature and describe the phenomenon through an analysis of its literary, historical and cultural context. The origins of the small press can be traced back to the European avant-garde movements of the early 20th century. The aim is to analyse the publishing practices of groups behind the small press today, which programmatically offer an alternative to the mainstream book market and large publishing houses.


Christmas and New Year's holidays opening hours

NIAS will be closed for Christmas and New Year's holidays from 23 December 2017 until 2 January 2018. 


Annemieke van den Dool, PhD candidate, Amsterdam Law School, University of Amsterdam.

From crisis to change: China’s legislative responses to public health incidents.

Van den Dool specializes in Chinese law. In her dissertation, she examines why and how public health crises in China, such as SARS and the melamine milk powder crisis, lead to change in law. 



Yashar Mahmud, PhD candidate, Stockholm Business School.

Organizing Refugees.

Mahmud focuses on how a refugee organizes herself/himself and, at the same time, is being organized by others - organizations, people, technologies and laws. He tries to show the multiplicity and complexities involved in these processes. He uses Actor-Network Theory as an approach for empirical exploration and analysis.



New Student Assistants at NIAS



We are happy to welcome two new student assistants at NIAS.

Lars Hessellund Jeppesen (L) and Magnus Rosenquist (R),  both are students of China studies at the University of Copenhagen.
At NIAS they'll cover adminstrative tasks, NIAS SUPRA Programme and NIAS Linc.

New guest PhD at NIAS

Xiaoxu Liu is a PhD candidate at the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Helsinki. 
After getting her BA and MA in education from Northeast Normal University in China, she started her doctoral study at the University of Helsinki in 2015. She also studied in National Pingtung University in Taiwan for half a year as an exchange student.

Her research interests include comparative education, multicultural education and Chinese minority education.  Her latest article ‘The Meanings of Multicultural Education: Comparing Perspectives from China and Finland’ will be published in Dervin and Du’s book series with Palgrave MacMillan in 2017. She is working on another article 'Students and Teachers' Attitude towards Preferential Policies for Minorities in China: A case study of National Institute of Education’. Xiaoxu is also a member of research projects Helsinki University Chinese Studies and Criticality, Interculturality and Bias in Education.

More information please see University of Helsinki Research Portal
Contact: E-mail:




Pia Eskelinen, PhD Candidate, Master of Administrative Sciences, M.Sc. (Civil Law), the Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Law, University of Turku.

Urbanization and its effects on rural women’s land rights in the PRC
Pia's research covers rural women in the rural areas of China and the problems they face due to rapid and aggressive land policy.



Ruvimbo Natalie Mavhiki-Hodzi, PhD candidate, Asian Studies, University of Helsinki

Zero Conditionality: The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism and China's Foreign Aid
Ruvimbo is focusing on China’s increasing cooperation with African authoritarian regimes and its effect on democratisation. She has done extensive research on Democracy in divided societies, Democracy promotion, Aid, African politics and Gender and development. Prior to her engagement in Finland, Ruvimbo worked with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) coordinating election Monitoring and Observation in the run-up and during Zimbabwe’s 2013 Presidential election.