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New workplace student at NIAS

Kasper Sand Olsen will be at NIAS until Summer 2019.

Kasper writes:
I am a masters student at the department of political science at University of Copenhagen. Last year I spent a semester studying International Studies at University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China.

Now, I am writing my masters thesis on the relation between China and Denmark in the Arctic region. My main focus will be on the Danish 'Arctic Strategy' and how Danish policy makers balance the growing Chinese attention towards the Arctic region including Greenland. I am also interested in analysing how the Danish relationship to Greenland might affect diplomatic relations to China. I am very happy to be writing my thesis at NIAS.


Ernils Larsson, PhD, Uppsala University.

Constitutional Secularism in Japan and the "Shinto Right", 1997-2018.

Ernils Larsson is a PhD candidate in the history of religions at Uppsala University, Sweden. In his dissertation research he explores how the categories of ‘religion’ and ‘Shinto’ have been interpreted and negotiated in Japanese courts of law during the postwar period, with a particular focus on the 1997 Supreme Court ruling on the Ehime Tamagushiryo case. His research situates the legal debates on state-Shinto relations within the context of postwar Japanese nationalism, where vestiges of prewar ‘State Shinto’ are often presented as being something inherently different from ‘religion’, something intimately connected to Japanese identity.





Xiao (Alvin) Yang, PhD, University of Kassel.

Theorizing the (Changing) Global Order: Emerging Chinese IR Theories and the Belt and Road Initiative

Xiao (Alvin) Yang is currently a PhD candidate and lecturer at the University of Kassel in Germany. His dissertation examines the emerging Chinese international relations (IR) and international political economy (IPE) theories and the Belt and Road initiative. Moreover, it aims to theorize the current (changing) global order where there are on-going tensions among globalization, regional integration and the resurgence of nationalism. His research interests include global IR/IPE theories, Chinese and Canadian IR/IPE theories, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, global governance, global political economy, research methods, econometrics, and philosophy of science/s and history/s.

Before he pursues studies in social sciences, he was a passionate musician and studied music at York University, Canada, where he obtained Bachelor of Fine Arts with honours. He studied music with several world-renowned musicians, such as Jim Blackley (Jazz), Trichy Sankaran (Indian music), Barry Romberg (Jazz drumming), Rick Lazar (Brazilian and Latin music), Kwasi Dunyo (Ghanaian music), and Steve Mancuso (drumset and world percussions).

In 2010, he took a summer course, sociology of religions (taught by Joseph Bryant), offered by the University of Toronto, which has made him deeply interested in social sciences, and has subsequently led him to shift his studies from music to social sciences. Afterwards, he spent one-year at Stockholm University in Sweden where he studied political science, business management and anthropology as an exchange student. To deepen his knowledge of economics, he went to the Berlin School of Economics and the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in China where he obtained a master’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in international business respectively.

To better understand German and French philosophy and European history, he learned German at Heidelberg Universität, Humboldt Universität and München Universität, as well as French at Université Jean Monnet in France, Western University at Trois-Pistoles and Laval Université in Quebec.

He has written on a variety of subjects, ranging from music to philosophy, from politics to economics. His newest academic writing, “Theorizing BRICS: Does BRICS Conform or Provide an Alternative to the Current Global Order?”, will be published in Xing Li edited book, The International Political Economy of BRICS, Routledge (2019). He was a visiting fellow at the Center for East and South-East Asia Studies at Lund University in Sweden and currently is one at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.



Call for Applications: SUPRA Scholarship 2 – 13 January 2019

The SUPRA scholarship is designed to support MA and PhD students working on a thesis and includes:

- Inexpensive travel to and from Copenhagen, where Nordic Institute for Asian Studies is located
- Acc
ommodation in a NIAS room at Nordisk Kollegium with full board for the whole period
A chance to be part of a dynamic research environment and get supervision on your thesis
- Your own workspace at NIAS for you to immerse yourself in your project 

Deadline for applications is 3 December 2018.


Sunita Shrestha, MA Student, University of Oslo.

Exploring perceptions, practices and possibilities of safe delivery among women in upper Mugu, Nepal.

I am currently enrolled as a master´s degree student in community health at the University of Oslo.  As being a student of public health, I have a great compassion to work in the fields of international health policy, reproductive health, gender equality, and woman rights.  My current master thesis was carried out in upper Mugu which is one of the remotest areas of Nepal and very few researches have been conducted in the past. This study aims to explore the perceptions, practices, and possibilities of safe delivery among that society which is in the periphery or beyond the reach of functional health institutions. At the same time, its own socio-ecological uniqueness makes it interesting to observe its influences on their childbirth decision making from generation to generation.

Vardan Karki, Ma Student, University of Oslo.

Factors influencing Utilization of Antenatal Care Services in Rural Health Center in Upper Mugu, Western Nepal.

I am a second-year student studying master’s in International Community Health in University of Oslo. Currently, I am working on my master’s project which focuses on various aspects of the socio-cultural context and existing health system regarding maternity services to explore health seeking behavior of the women during pregnancy in rural villages in upper Mugu, Nepal. Recently, I have visited villages in Mugu, Nepal and stayed two months for my data collection. Upper Mugu is one of the most rural area in Nepal lacking basic facilities as transport, electricity and proper education and health services. The area in heavily influenced by Tibetan culture and religion. The women living in these areas have their own perception, traditions and practices during pregnancy and delivery. This study will explore how all these factors have impact on utilization of health services during pregnancy.

NIAS Post Doc Researcher Lau Blaxekjær in Korea this week

Lau Blaxekjær has been invited to Korea to give two presentations - one for the students at KAIST Graduate School of Green Growth, and one wrap-up keynote at the 5th Annual Seoul Climate-Energy Conference 2018.

In the wrap-up session, Lau Blaxekjær will comment on lessons learned and next steps for P4G, Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals: P4G seeks to combine the successes and experiences from the last decade’s (2008-2018) focus on green growth with the new 2030 Agenda’s focus on Sustainable Development Goals. The 4 Gs – Green Growth and the Global Goals – are achieved through Partnerships. But what does this mean?

SDG number 17: “Partnerships for the Goals” contains 19 implementation-focused targets on finance, technology, capacity-building, trade, and systemic issues. The overall aim seems to be to get existing and new partnerships to support developing countries towards sustainable development (within all SDGs). SDG Partnerships are broadly defined as North-South, South-South, and triangular cooperation and as public, public-private and civil society partnerships.

Lau’s presentation will focus on insights from his research on green growth partnerships and will deliver and explain three recommendations for P4G going forward.

  1. P4G partnerships should clearly identify which partner takes on the role of “Internal Governance Unit” and clearly define the terms of reference.
  2. P4G partnerships should include “boundary spanners” or “honest brokers” in all phases of the partnership. Boundary spanners or honest brokers could be from academia.
  3. P4G partnerships should have a clear plan for capacity-building in developing countries, e.g. through inclusion of developing country partners in partnership set-up and implementation and inclusion of on-the-ground work and experiences.

Other speakers include the Korean deputy-minister of Environment, Katherine Richardson, Professor, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen and Thomas Lehmann, Ambassador of Denmark to Republic of Korea.


Mingming Shi, MA Student, University of Iceland

The Role of China in the Greenland Independence Question

Growing up in Southern China, Mingming Shi moved to Iceland and started her career in the Arctic region four years ago. She has worked extensively in the tourism sector in Iceland and is registered as a graduate student in West Nordic Studies at the University of Iceland. Her interest in the Arctic covers Arctic political economy and trans-regional cooperation. In 2017, she spent two months in Nuuk, Greenland, researching on the economic relationship between Greenland and China. Currently, she has been working on her MA thesis on The Role of China in the Greenland Independence Question.



Sasu Katajamäki, MA Student, University of Turku

Voluntary Departure, an Ethnic Expulsion or Profitable Extortion? The “Semi-legal” Departure System of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam During the Vietnamese Refugee Crisis

Description of myself:  I am currently enrolled as a master’s degree student in East Asian studies at the University of Turku. Having interest in questions related to both human migration and authoritarian regimes, my thesis examines the context and policies which surrounded the departure of the Vietnamese refugees after the Vietnam war. It focuses on a system dubbed by researcher Ramses Amer as “Semi-legal” system departure, which was only open for ethnically Chinese Vietnamese. During a time of rapidly worsening Sino-Vietnamese relations ethnically Chinese Vietnamese started to be regarded as the “fifth column” and became a threat to nation-building of Vietnamese society. By examining the extortive system of “semi-legal” departure and the contexts which allowed it to emerge, I intend to link these regional, national and refugee crisis developments together into a cohesive narrative.

Yoko Tanabe, PhD, UCL Institute  of Education

A Comparative Study of Indigenous Education and Language Revitalisation in Japan and Norway

I am a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Education (IOE), University College London. My research interests lie in the area of Indigenous rights, language and education policy, particularly in the context of Japan and Norway. In June 2008, the government of Japan officially recognised the Ainu as an Indigenous people for the first time. In light of the 10th anniversary of this historical recognition, the main part of my doctoral dissertation reflects on the progress and challenges of Japan's Indigenous language revitalisation policy vis-à-vis Norway. In particular, I examine adult Indigenous learners' experiences and motivating factors in learning the Indigenous language(s) at given institutions in Japan and in Norway, respectively.  Drawing on the theory of language revitalisation (Fishman 1991; 2001) and motivation in second-language learning (Gardner & lambert, 1972; Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2009), the research aims to shed more light on motivating factors for Indigenous language revitalisation. 



From 7-17 August 2018, the second NEWDAY - Nansen East-West Dialogue Academy took place at Nansen Academy in Lillehammer, Norway. The academy was co-organised by NIAS - Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Nansen Academy and the Fudan-European Centre for China Studies.













Above: A group photo of this year's participants and some of the lecturers.


Nansen Academy was founded as a folk high school in 1938. It was named after polar explorer, scientist, author and humanist Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930), whose work embodied essential elements of humanism: active love of one’s neighbour and freedom of thought. NEWDAY is thus not only hosted physically by Nansen Academy, but also philosophically and ideologically. It embodies the spirit of the folk high school and Nansen Academy in its quest for creating understanding between cultures through dialogue between and across cultures.

This year, 22 students from China and Norway gathered at Nansen Academy to engage in cross-cultural dialogue, attend lectures, and partake in debates and panel discussions. The programme also featured several social and creative activities including musical performances, trips to local museums, and walks by the lake Mjøsa - the biggest lake of Norway.

In this year's summer academy we sought to define, dissect and discuss some of the critical cases and topical issue areas of our times: economic growth and increasing inequality, environmental degradation and climate change, quality of life, education, and modes of governance. Students were encouraged to actively voice their opinions and engage in discussions - not only with each other, but with professors and lecturers as well.

Each day featured lectures by prominent figures from within academia, politics, and media, and was constructed around a specific theme. This reflected not only in the daily lectures but also the group work and panel debates. The themes covered a range of different burning issues of our time, including climate change and environmental degradation, cross-cultural understanding, social trust and activism, varieties of political norms, gender, AI, educational traditions in the Nordic region and East Asia, and more.


Above: Some students enjoying a gike in the nearby mountains of Nansen Academy.

We have created a gallery with some of the many pictures taken during NEWDAY 2018. Follow this link and have a look:



Bai Tongdong. Professor of Philosophy, Fudan University, China.
Bent Nielsen. Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Bjørn Bredal. Author, Journalist, Head of Borup People High School, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dag Hareide. Former Director of Nansen Academy & Former President of the Norwegian Rainforest Organization, Norway.
Inge Eidsvaag. Former Director of Nansen Academy, Norway.
Ingunn Trosholmen. | International Advisor Oppland County & Deputy Mayor, Lillehammer, Norway.
Jane Xie. Performing Pianist, Associate Professor & Master’s Supervisor of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, China.
Joakim Hammerlin. Philosophy Lecturer, Nansen Academy, Norway.
Kang Myungkoo. Professor, College of Social Sciences, Seoul National University, Korea.
Lau Blaxekjær. Postdoc Researcher, NIAS, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Steinar Bryn. Former Director of Nansen Academy & Senior Advisor at Nansen Peace Center, Norway.
Stig Thøgersen. Professor, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark.
Yang Yuliang. Member of Chinese Academy of Sciences & former President of Fudan University.

Organisers and steering committee

Chunrong Liu. Associate Professor, Fudan University, Shanghai & Co-Director, Fudan–European Centre for China. Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Daniel A. Bell. Professor, Tsinghua University & Dean, Shandong University, China.
Geir Helgesen. Director, NIAS ,University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Unn Irene Aasdalen. Director of the Nansen Academy, Norway.


Seekyung Chung, Ma, University of Tampere.

Higher Education as Choice of Individuals: An Empirical Analysis of Individuals' Behavior of Education Decision-Making in South Korea. 

For my master’s thesis I have studied on a phenomenon of higher education expansion in South Korea by exploring individuals’ decision-making behavior and I have just graduated from University of Tampere, Finland. It has been of interest to delve into rationale behind heated investment in education across South Korean society. In order to shad light on causality with respect to choice and effects of higher education, I examined relevant factors of decision on higher education based on literature concerning sociology and economics of education and furthermore investigated actual monetary and non-monetary returns to education in the labor market. Currently, I am writing a research proposal to apply for PhD position. For a doctoral study, I am keen to research further into individuals’ choice and effects of higher education by conducting comparative study between Asia and Nordic countries.


Mária Kubincová, Ma, University of Turku.

Media Discourses on the Collective Identity of Hikikomori.

I am currently a 2nd year MA student in East Asian Studies at CEAS, University of Turku. My research is focusing on the phenomenon called hikikomori. The term originated in Japan and refers to people of various age groups, who voluntarily isolate themselves from the society, by staying shut in (usually) in their own rooms for years, even decades. You might be familiar with this term, as it has repeatedly appeared in Japanese pop-culture. The phenomenon is now also gaining more recognition outside of Japan, most notably Italy, where numerous cases of self-isolated young people have sprung up in the recent years, bearing many similarities to cases in Japan. In my research, I want to focus on the changes in the general approach of Japanese society towards this group, as well as looking at the possibility of a collective identity beginning to form around hikikomori in Japan.


Anne Gry Sturød, PhD, University of Southeast Norway

Tourism and Changed Relations with Nature in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan

Currently enrolled at the PhD-program in cultural studies at University of South-Eastern Norway. The main question of my PhD-project is how local perceptions and practises related to nature in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan is changing due to tourism development. More specifically I explore, in three separate papers, how perceptions and practices towards snow/coal, the horse and the mountains, is changing. The project draws upon studies of political ecology and ANT/post-humanism approaches and is based on empirical material from several research stays and extensive fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan.



Niki Sopanen, PhD, University of Helsinki

Crouching (Paper) Tiger, Hidden (Paper) Dragon, and the Clash of the Conspiratorial Turn? A Post-foundational Inquiry into Foreign Policy-related Conspiracy Theory Discourses in Sino-U.S. Relations

I am a doctoral student in political science (subprogramme: world politics) at the University of Helsinki. My doctoral dissertation looks into foreign policy-related conspiracy theory discourses in Sino-U.S. relations during the era of US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (2017-2021). It suggests a hypothesis that there has been a conspiratorial turn in foreign policy-related discourses in both countries due to the unfolding epoch of the said two authoritarian populist-nationalist great power leaders, who harbour mutually competing global visions (e.g. OBOR and FOIP). Previously, I have already scratched the surface of Sino-U.S. conspiracy theories in my master’s thesis, which analyzed an anti-US best-seller manifesto Zhongguo keyi shuo bu (China Can say no) from the 1990s. The reason why I am interested in conspiracy theories is because they are often categorically framed as "pathologies of post-truth politics" or "dislocatory effects of (post)modern alienation and anxieties", which completely disregards their historicity, particularity and politicality. In my research work, through conceptual and contextual analysis of the conspiracy theory both in the USA and PRC, followed by self-developed heuristic for recognizing conspiratorial discourses along with four case studies, I wish to point out that conspiratorial discourses share both general and particular characteristics, and that they have always played a role within Sino-U.S. relations, international relations, and politics in general.