You are here

News from NIAS

Open Call: Asia in Focus is introducing Themed Sections








We are very pleased to share that Asia in Focus is introducing Themed Sections to the journal.
The idea is to devote part of an issue to a theme that highlights a singular cutting-edge research
problem or idea. Each Themed Section will have a Guest Editor who is an expert in the field.


  • Proposals for Themed Sections should include a brief statement (max 800 words) explaining the aims of the Themed Section
  • and its particular contribution to the journal.
  • A Themed Section should consist of 3 to 5 manuscripts of approximately 3500 words.
  • A Themed Section will be edited by a Guest Editor who holds a PhD (or equivalent) and is an expert in the field .
Review Process
  • The Guest Editor shall be responsible for selecting the manuscripts that will enter the standard Asia in Focus double-blind
  • peer review process.
  • The Asia in Focus Editorial Committee shall be responsible for selecting the peer reviewers and for managing the review
  • process. They may, where appropriate, consult the Guest Editor for suggestions of reviewers.
  • Manuscripts submitted for a Themed Section may be rejected, either with or without an invitation to resubmit.
  • The Guest Editor makes the final decision as to whether the manuscripts that have successfully gone through the review
  • process will be published in the Themed Section.
  • The Guest Editor should provide an introduction/guest editorial to introduce the overarching theme (max 1000 words).
  • In the event that fewer than 3 manuscripts are accepted, the manuscripts will not be published as a Themed Section and will
  • instead be published individually.
Nicol Foulkes Savinetti



Soumi Banerjee, MS Global Studies, Lund University, Sweden.
Gendering Nationalism: Construction of "self" and "other" in the narratives of Partition of India.

Soumi Banerjee from the Department of Global Studies, Lund University, is pursuing her final year of her Masters programme. She has previous experience of working as a Research assistant at the Department of Political science with the project on Crisis and Trauma: gender violence post-disaster in Pakistan, and currently she is working as a Teaching assistant in SASNET (South Asian Studies Network) in Lund University. She completed her bachelors with a major in Political science, from Presidency University, Kolkata, and in her bachelor’s project she did extensive study on the Indo-Pak Relations from a political discourse shaping identity relations. was For her master’s thesis, she is inspired by the Ontological security theory and will be exploring the origin of recent wave of Hindu nationalism in India through studying its post-colonial past in order to conceptualize the politics of hatred, emotions and memories of trauma as a device to reawaken race pride among the Hindus.



Netta Lagus, MA Student, East-Asian studies at Helsinki University.
North Korea's role in world politics and who has the right to own nuclear weapons.

I am a master student from Helsinki University, Finland, majoring in East-Asian Studies. I have a bachelor degree in Asian studies, have spent some time studying aboard (Japan) and done secondary studies in Cognitive Science and Strategy, which I studied in Finnish National Defence University. I am currently working on my thesis about North Korea's role in world politics, which is intertwined with the nuclear weapons issues these days. In my thesis, I try to find out how North Korea became such a country it is today, how other nations' pressure or aid have influenced its development, and what role nuclear weapons have played in this. 

New workplace students at NIAS

We are happy to welcome Anna Silvia Petrignano and Astrid Askehave Henriksen to NIAS.

Silvia writes:

I am an Italian Master’s student of Development and International Relations at Aalborg University, Denmark. I did my Bachelor’s in Languages and Cultures with a major in Chinese area studies at University of Carlo Bo’ in Pesaro, Italy.

My MA thesis aims to analyze the current regional security architecture in the Asia-Pacific by framing the role and rise of China in the region. The study of Asia-Pacific regionalism requires a comprehensive, multidimensional and multidisciplinary perspective that encompasses different regional facets including economic, business, politico-security and socio-cultural dimension. My attempt is to set a lens on the security matter by firstly conveying the regional identity process, the theoretical approach and, then, the security dilemma by tracing the actual threats in the region. Taking China as a case study, it is essential to understand its strategy in order to cope with the geopolitical setting and how this could affect neighboring countries. In the view of what has been said, I will try to investigate whether or not the Asia-Pacific is going to be moving toward a deeper integration, also whether China’s policies are going to foster such regional phenomenon.

Astrid Writes:

I have a bachelor in Chinese business, language and culture from Copenhagen Business School. After my bachelor I moved to Beijing to pursue a Master’s degree in Innovation Management at Sino Danish Center. I am back in Denmark now to finish my degree and write my master thesis.

I am writing on Open Innovation and Crowd Sourcing. Two vital elements in today’s fast-moving business world. Many Chinese companies are embracing this new approach to R&D and are already benefiting greatly. Companies such as Haier and Huawei have already built open platform ecosystems, where stakeholders, the companies themselves and consumers can meet and innovate, exploring tomorrows business ideas. A lot of research has been done on innovative production companies as Haier and Huawei, but Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing in public institutions is yet to be researched. With my thesis I want to research how successes of Open Innovation and stakeholder/consumer involvement in production companies can be transferred to public institutions. This will be done by looking into the already established public data platforms monitored by Copenhagen Solutions Lab under Copenhagen Municipality. Researching if simply making data available to the public is enough to achieve innovation, or if Copenhagen Municipality should look towards companies such as Haier, and adopt their successful strategic take on Open Innovation and Crowd Sourcing.


Andrea Bulletti, MA Student, Stockholm University.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Economic and Geopolitical ambitions.
I am a master degree student and I am currently attending my Master degree in Asian Studies at Stockholm University. Previously, I got my bachelor’s degree in Language, culture, and society of Asia and Mediterranean Africa at Ca’Foscari University in Venice, during the academic year 2016-2017 I studied at Hunan University in Changsha (Hunan province, China).
My project will focus on bilateral relations as it looks into the China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) - a comprehensive infrastructural project for a total worth of $ 62billion – as a case study. CPEC is located where the “Silk Road Economic Belt” (絲綢之路經濟帶) and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (21世紀海上絲綢之路) meet. My research attempts to find answers, taking a critical approach, to the major political and economic issues concerning this project.
Jana Fleischer, MA Student, Aalborg University.
China's soft security policies in Afghanistan in the light of the One Belt One Road initiative.
I am a master student at Aalborg University, Denmark, currently enrolled in the study of 'Development and International Relations' with a specialisation in China Area Studies. I have been interested in China for a really long time and after completing my bachelor in sinology and the focus on history, language and culture, I was ready for a more current approach towards this country. 
In my master thesis I will analyse the different approaches China and Denmark use in order to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and why they are interested in a stable Afghanistan in the first place. The aim is to see if these approaches are complementary and possibly be used in the stabilisation process of Afghanistan or if the differ in such a grave way that they will harm that process rather than contributing to it.


NEWDAY 2017 brochure

NEWDAY 2018 will soon open for registration. We have put together a small brochure of NEWDAY 2017 to provide readers an impression of what the summer course is about. Follow the link to read:
NEWDAY is co-arranged by NIAS - Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Fudan-European Centre for China Studies, and Nansen Academy with support from the Nordic Council of Ministers. 


Understanding Asia 2018

From February 12-16, the Fudan-European Centre for China Studies along with NIAS – Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and Nansen Academy co-arranged the 2018 Understanding Asia course, which took place at Nansen Academy in Lillehammer, Norway.
Held annually since 2013, the course features five days of lectures and activities to provide participants with a deeper understanding of the cultural, political, and economic elements shaping today’s Asia.

Geir Helgesen gave a lecture entitled ‘Culture and politics, an introduction to (North) Korea’.  Here he mapped the landscapes of the political cultures of “the two Koreas” which, although often seen as in opposition, has deeply rooted similarities due to their common history. He also hosted a meeting at Nansen Academy under the title ‘North Korea – a threat to world peace or a convenient enemy? Uncomfortable questions and controversial answers’. The meeting was open for participation for all interested, and served as an introduction to the present-day conflict on the Korean peninsula. Geir Helgesen offered an analysis of the situation and suggested that consistent dialogue with North Korea is the most feasible option for a solution of the conflict.

Chunrong Liu gave two lectures, addressing China’s perspective on the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and Chinese politics in the “New Era”. On Korea nuclear affairs, he invited a deep thinking about the root cause and the discussion about “who has the key”.  He showed how China has been involved in the mediation process with the initiative of the Six Party Talk, and explained China’s priorities of peace, stability and dialogue, as well as the possibility to avoid a war in a “dark forest”.  In the second lecture, he analyzed China’s domestic politics – new dynamics associated with the 19th CPC national congress.  He showed the continuities and “paradoxical developments” of Chinese politics, which features both power recentralization and the new political spaces that are necessary for the implementation of national policy schemes of poverty reduction and eco-civilization. 

Finally, professor dr. Song Xinning, Jean Monnet Chair ad personam and China director of BACES – Brussels Academy for China and European Studies gave a lecture on EU-China relations under the title ‘EU-China strategic partnership under the new leadership’.  He characterized EU and China as partners in terms of economy (trade and investment), global governance, development and culture, and argued that while both EU and China has benefitted from their mutual cooperation, deepening the relations between the two will prove beneficial for both parties. He also argued that the change in leadership in China has produced a “new thinking” of EU-China relations, which differs from past strategies in terms of its style, preference and policy. This thinking is guided by Xi Jinping’s “three two” understanding of the nature of EU-China relations: two forces for global peace, two markets for world economy, and two origins of world civilization.  

Following the conclusion of Understanding Asia, Geir Helgesen and Kasper Ørntoft Thor met with representatives from Nansen Academy, including rector Unn Irene Aasdalen, to discuss and plan for the 2018 NEWDAY summer school.

NEWDAY 2018 will take place 7-17 August of this year and will soon be open for applications from potential participants. It will feature lectures by prominent scholars, journalists and politicians for students to learn about and debate core issues of our time. For more information, visit

NEWDAY is arranged by NIAS, Fudan Centre and Nansen Academy with the support of Nordic Council of Ministers.

Chunrong Liu, Geir Helgesen, and Unn Irene Aasdalen


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.