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Savina Sirik, PhD Candidate, University of Gothenburg

I am a doctoral candidate in Peace and Development Research at School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg. My research aims to understand the complex processes of constructing and representing atrocity narratives in societies that emerged from wars and atrocities. Through the case study of post-genocide Cambodia, I investigate how Khmer Rouge survivors construct narratives of the Khmer Rouge period in interaction with national and transnational memory discourses. By examining memory projects at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, I seek to understand the way in which narratives of the Khmer Rouge are being represented and materialized in public spaces and how these representations reflect the tension of memory at work in post-genocide memorialization. Drawing on my fieldwork in Cambodia, this research attempts to provide an empirically rich account of survivors who construct their understanding of the past and formulate their identities in the context of contemporary identity and memory politics.


Christina Warning, PhD Candidate, Chulalongkorn University

I am currently a PhD candidate at the Thai Studies Center, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. My research explores the relations between Thailand and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the Cold War period during the 1970s and 1980s. Having obtained a Graduate Diploma in Southeast Asian Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, I was subsequently employed by the United Nations in Bangkok and Phnom Penh in the early 2000s. From 2005-2014, I was working with the German non-governmental organization Welthungerhilfe in Phnom Penh, which I represented as regional director during my final four years in office. Prior to commencing my PhD studies, I completed a Masters Degree with the Southeast Asian Studies Program at the Graduate School of Chulalongkorn University in 2016.

New publication by Director of NIAS Duncan McCargo

Southeast Asia’s Troubling Elections: Democratic Demolition in Thailand
Thailand’s long-awaited March 2019 parliamentary election was supposed to usher in a degree of political normalcy in the wake of the May 2014 military coup. Instead, the promilitary Palang Pracharath Party was able to form a government, despite the fact that parties campaigning on an anti-junta platform won the greater number of parliamentary seats. Junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his key associates remain in office thanks to the connivance of various state institutions, notably the Election Commission. Nevertheless, the election was also notable for the astounding popularity of the new opposition Future Forward Party, especially among younger voters.
Reference: McCargo, Duncan. “Southeast Asia’s Troubling Elections: Democratic Demolition in Thailand.” Journal of Democracy 30, no. 4 (2019): 119–33.
Duncan was also recently quoted in in the New York Times article He Acquitted 5 Men of Murder, Then Shot Himself by Hannah Beech and Ryn Jirenuwat, and his book Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand is forthcoming from Cornell University Press.


Magda Lorena Cárdenas, PhD Candidate, Umeå University

I am a PhD Candidate in Political Science at Umeå University, Sweden. My research introduces and illustrates the concept of women-to-women diplomacy through cases of bottom-up peacebuilding strategies developed by women’s organizations in dissimilar stages of conflict, covering both situations of active fighting and when the opposing sides are stalemated. The first case focuses on the strategies developed by women’s organizations in Myanmar and the second, on women’s initiatives in Georgia. The experiences of women’s organizations in Georgia and Myanmar illustrate how women contribute to peacebuilding by challenging the “us-and-them” dichotomy and establishing dialogue across ethnic lines that leads to the creation of a new arena for coalition building. During my time in NIAS, I will be focused on the case of the women’s movement in Myanmar, its strategies and current challenges. My work has been recently published in Civil Wars and Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, and I contributed to the edited volume “Women, peace and security in Myanmar. Between feminism and ethno-politics” (Routledge, 2019).


Eeva Holopainen, MA student, Helsinki University

In her master’s thesis, Eeva concentrates on immigration, belonging and group membership in South Korea. The aim is to study the concept of (South) Koreanness, how children with immigrant backgrounds or minority ethnic identities are educated and raised and what is expected of them; and whether Koreanness is only attainable at birth as often suggested by popular narrative, or whether it can be taught and learnt as per recent official policy narrative. The study is based on a three-month ethnographic fieldwork conducted in a regional children’s centre in urban environment, a place dedicated to after school education of so-called “children of multicultural families”.

Petra Desatová New Post Doc Researcher at NIAS

Petra Desatová is a postdoctoral researcher at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. She gained her PhD from the School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, passing with no corrections. Her doctoral thesis, which examined the relationship between nation branding and political legitimation in non-democratic regimes on the example of military-ruled Thailand (2014-2016), was recognised for excellence by the Anglo-Thai Society (UK) and the School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds.

Besides her PhD research, Petra’s other research work has been concerned with the issue of electoral violence and its prevention. She has been a researcher on a project funded by the United States Institute of Peace that examines the role of peace messaging in the recent 2019 general election in Thailand.

Petra has presented her research work at academic conferences in Thailand, Europe, the UK and the US and has given briefings to research analysists at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She has also given media interviews to Prachatai English, an online Thai newspaper, and BBC Thai and written short articles and blogposts for the Council on Foreign Relations, Thai Data Points and Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia.

Her academic publications include:

  • Desatova, Petra. ‘Bangkok: Two Cities’ Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 41, no. 2 (August 2019): 176-182.
  • Desatova, Petra. ‘Thailand 4.0 and the Internal Focus of Nation Branding.’ Asian Studies Review 42, no. 4 (December 2018): 1-19.
  • McCargo, Duncan, Saowanee T. Alexander and Petra Desatova, ‘Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 Constitutional Referendum.’ Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 39, no. 1 (April 2017): 65-95.
  • McCargo, Duncan, and Petra Desatova, ‘Thailand: Electoral Intimidation.’ In Electing Peace: Violence Prevention and Impact at the Polls, edited by Jonas Claes, 63-96. Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2016.

Research areas:

Nation branding, political branding/marketing, governance, forms and techniques of state power, authoritarianism and its resilience, elections and electoral violence, nationalism, national identity, gastrodiplomacy and food nationalism, and Southeast Asian politics (with a focus on Thailand).


Mária Kubincová, MA student, University of Turku

I am a student in the master's degree programme of East Asian Studies at CEAS. The topic of my thesis is the Japanese phenomenon of hikikomori, also known as "social recluses" or "shut-ins", in other words, people who voluntarily cut their ties with society and stay inside their rooms or homes for months or even years. Originally, this problem was believed to be predominantly affecting young adult males in Japan, however latest surveys conducted by the Japanese government revealed potentially thousands of cases also among older Japanese citizens. Hikikomori is now considered to be one of the most pressing issues in contemporary Japanese society, and it is being recognised outside of Japan as well (Italy, South Korea, Finland...). In my research I am focusing on the media discourse and how the issue of hikikomori is presented in Japanese media, the stigmatisation of this condition and how it is contrasting with the self-image and self-representation of hikikomori.


Nicholas Bernardi, MA student, University of Turku

As a student of East Asian Studies, my thesis focuses on Japanese media and their degree of freedom in the face of external influence.
Japan is considered a strong democratic country, especially in East Asia, but it has faced strong criticism regarding press freedom from various organizations because of limitations imposed by its political class. Through a series of interviews to reporter actively involved with Japan, both from Japanese and international newspapers, I plan to collect their opinions on the topic of press freedom and see how much they overlap with the current academic view. The objective of this research is to re-analyse and find new aspects within the Japanese media system that will let us understand more clearly how impactful external influence is on Japanese press freedom.


Lauri Selonen, MA student, University of Turku

Lauri Selonen is an MA student at the Centre of East Asian Studies at University of Turku, Finland. At the centre he specializes in Japanese society.

Having previously finished his BA in the subject of Media Studies, he has looked into combining these two fields in his research. In his master’s thesis Selonen examines the performance and production of masculinity in the Japanese reality television show “Terrace House”. He attempts to produce a rich, descriptive account of gender production in a single reality show and set these findings in a dialogue with the broader norms of masculinity in Japan.


Riina Pesonen, MA student, University of Helsinki

Riina studies East Asian Studies with Japanese as their major at the University of Helsinki, Finland. With an interest and background in gender studies, media education and Asian Studies, Riina’s thesis combines these three fields of study. The aim of this thesis is to discuss the representations of rape culture in Japanese Boys Love (BL) manga, which is usually made by and for women and young adolescent girls. By using critical discourse analysis, the thesis looks at how discourses supporting and enabling rape culture in popular culture media (in this case, BL) are portrayed as romantic and part of the narrative, and how as such they may end up reinforcing rape culture phenomenon itself.

SUPRA Nordic Scholarship for MA and PhD students Spring 2020

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

If you are working on a MA or PhD thesis during Spring 2020 and need some inspiration, literature or simply just time to write on your thesis, then NIAS has something to offer: the Nordic Scholarship!

The Nordic Scholarship covers inexpensive travel to Copenhagen, two weeks board and accommodation plus a working place at NIAS! A perfect chance to concentrate on your thesis, have inspirational talks with our researchers or access material from Northern Europe's most comprehensive Asian studies library.

More information about SUPRA students' experiences at NIAS and practical information as well as application form.

NB: SUPRA scholarships are primarily for students from NNC member institutions.

Deadline for application: 1 October 2019

For more information, please contact


Vanya Koleva, MA student, University of Turku

Vanya Koleva is from Bulgaria and is currently studying East Asian Studies at the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, Finland where she also completed an internship and acquired valuable skills for working in academia.

Her thesis focuses on the cartoons of President Donald Trump in Chinese English language newspapers. She is going to analyze how Trump and the US are portrayed and how their representations change.  The cartoons show the Chinese attitude towards the US and Donald Trump’s government and reflect the changes in China-US relations from Chinese perspective. Moreover, being in English language newspapers, the cartoons also represent the image of the US and Trump that China propagates.


Nina Maunuaho, MA student, University of Turku

Nina is a media studies major from Finland. With a particular interest in both, media and China, she is going to focus on Chinese Internet memes in her thesis. The thesis takes a look at how Chinese online censorship and the political system are commented by using memes and other circulating online content, how the self-censorship occurs  in the memes and what their purpose is after all in the context of authoritarian online environment. She is going to look at the means that memes use to challenge the censors and the political atmosphere online, and try to find out whether political memes in China could be categorized as a powerful tool against the censorship or are they just part of the online carnival.



Arsalan Bilal, MA student, University of Tromsø

Arsalan Bilal—commonly known as AB— is currently a graduate student in the Peace and Conflict Transformation programme at the Centre for Peace Studies (CPS), University of Tromsø – the Arctic University of Norway. With a background in politics and international relations, he has pursued academic and research courses in several countries. He is profoundly interested in South Asian politics.

AB’s current research focuses on the impact of Pakistan-India conflict—which has intensified in the recent years—on the exacerbation of the Afghanistan war, particularly in the post-2011 period. The project is additionally geared towards exploring the prospects of developing a framework for dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi that can translate into peace in Afghanistan and beyond. His research hinges upon, inter alia, in-depth interviews with policymakers and experts in Pakistan, India and other countries.


Kasper Dahlberg, MA student, Helsinki university

Kasper's master’s thesis project is about Finland and China trade and what factors have been affecting it from 1978 to current day. It takes a look at the trade both from an econometric perspective doing models about the trade trough GDP and WTO access for its statistical models. As well as more from a literature research how the trade in goods have been shifting under the period in products, the political relations between the countries as well as trade deals, and barriers of trade between the two countries.

New workplace student at NIAS

Christoffer Dahl

I am a masters student at the department of political science at the University of Copenhagen. Last semester I worked as an intern at the Danish Embassy in New Delhi. I am currently writing my masters thesis at NIAS, where I will research how the opposition to the proposed changes to the Japanese constitution has developed.

Research area
I am writing my masters thesis on the proposed changes to the Japanese constitution. The main focus of my thesis is article 9 of the constitution, which prohibits Japan from using military force unless it is in self-defense, which the ruling party seeks to revise and the opposition to this proposed revision.