Stephanie Winkler, PhD student, Stockholm University
Power shift East Asia – the Politics of Soft Power
My PhD project is concerned with the puzzle of the “stickiness” of soft power. The recent years have seen a rapid proliferation of academic work on soft power, specifically related to China and Asia, even though the concept and its utilisation in academic research and policy making has from its very inception been sharply criticized from nearly all academic traditions. How is it possible that despite bad policy, bad research practices and bad experience, academics and policy makers still hold on to the concept of soft power? My project suggests that understanding this paradox on the “stickiness” of soft power requires an analysis of the intentional practical use of reflexivity, in other words, the politics of soft power.
Rather than treating concepts such as soft power as innocent, a-political or value-neutral conceptual tools to make sense of a reality “out there”, in my project I intend to trace the reification processes of the concept of soft power in East Asia and the consequences of such politics of soft power for East Asia and our understanding of the impending “power shift”.
Matti Puranen, PhD student, University of Jyväskylä
Towards a World Without Borders?: Tianxia and the theory of world politics with Chinese characters