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News from NIAS

The Carlsberg Foundation Nomad Research Project

Cultural anthropologist Ida Nicolaisen, Senior Researcher at NIAS, has successfully completed a major research initiative: The Carlsberg Foundation Nomad Research Project with the publication of Mongol Herders (2017). The book is by Christel Braae and the fifteenth and last volume in a series of major publications, which is the outcome of the research effort. It is  the third among these about the Mongols, the other volumes being Martha Boyer: Mongol Jewelry (1995), and Henny Harald Hansen: Mongol Costumes (1993). Denmark has a century old scholarly tradition of studying pastoral nomads in the wide belt of deserts and steppes, which reach from Mauretania, across the Sahara and Middle East through Central Asia and into China.  Many of these research endeavors brought back huge collections of documents,  photos,  recordings of oral histories and music,  thousands of ethnographic specimen: tents, clothing, jewelry and utensils now in Danish museums as well as data on pastoral histories, subsistence patterns, trade, craftsmanship, cultures and social life. In view of the fact, that continued fieldwork among nomadic peoples in Afghanistan and Chad had in fact become impossible by the 1980s, that a huge amount of  valuable cultural and social anthropological research from various pastoral peoples nomads  was largely unpublished, and that the ethnographic collections had not been scientifically described, the research project was launched in 1986. In 1992 Ida Nicolaisen was appointed Editor-in- Chief of the publications,  initially planned as seven volumes, but over time the publications grew to more than the double to cope with the huge amount of scientific material. Ida Nicolaisen has authored three of the volumes herself: The Pastoral Tuareg I-II, (1997)(with J. Nicolaisen) and Elusive Hunters. The Haddad of Kanem and the Bahr-el-Ghazal (2007). Besides these, she has edited the other volumes in the series including Esther Fihl: Exploring Central Asia I-II (2002), which describes Ole Olufsen’s travels in Turkmenistan,  Kirghizstan and the Pamirs; four volumes on Afghan pastoral nomads:  Birthe Frederiksen: Caravans and Trade in Afghanistan( 1995); Gorm Pedersen: Afghan Nomads (1994); Asta Olesen: Afghan Craftsmen (1994); and  Klaus Ferdinand: Afghan Nomads(2006). Included is also Schuyler Jones: Tibetan Nomads (1996), which describes Prince Peter’s impressive ethnographic collection from Tibet; Inge Demant Mortensen: Nomads of Luristan (1993); and Klaus Ferdinand: Bedouins of Qatar 1993).

Read more about the Danish Nomad research project



Bryndís Ólafsdóttir, PhD student, University of Iceland

Network relations and internationalization of smaller Nordic firms exporting to the Japanese market
I am a second-year Ph.D. student at the School of Business, University of Iceland. My research interests are internationalization and entry-mode research, network relations and the role of trade intermediaries, specifically in relation to Icelandic, Danish and Swedish small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) exporting to the Japanese market. This is a qualitative research with in-depth interviews with managers and trade agents. The theoretical basis of the research is predominately from the Uppsala Internationalization process model.

Sofie Lyder Andersen, MA student, Sino-Danish Center in Beijing (programme managed by CBS)

Sino-Danish Cooperation: Cultural Barriers in Knowledge Sharing Processes
The purpose of my thesis project is to investigate the national cultural differences between Danish and Chinese partners in government-to-government cooperation projects that constitute barriers to the knowledge sharing process. The methodology applied is a qualitative approach inspired by the critical incident methodology techniques of studying intercultural encounters and communication through a combination of observation studies and semi-structured interviews. The main finding of this thesis is that the cultural difference in power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and time orientation makes knowledge sharing processes between Danish and Chinese partners difficult. 

1st NEWDAY summer course completed

From July 4th to 14th, 42 participants, with 19 from the Nordic countries and 23 from Asia, together with 18 lecturers and speakers, joined the first Nansen East-West Dialogue Academy (NEWDAY) at Nansen Academy, Lillehammer, Norway. NEWDAY was initiated and co-organized by the Fudan-European Centre for China Studies, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), and Nansen Academy.
Aiming to promote mutual understanding and foster harmonious relations between people East and West and between our future leaders, participants  were brought together to engage in dialogues, debates, workshops, and lectures through the competent guidance of high profile guest speakers and lecturers, including a broad range of international scholars from a variety of disciplines, people from NIAS and the Fudan Centre, and many others.
The topics discussed included some of the pressing challenges of today’s world such as the Korean Peninsula, new media and political populism, and climate change, as well as other topics such as education, the Nordic model, and cross-cultural communication. Furthermore, the program featured a number of excursions and artistic performances.
The program was structured as below:
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grand Challenges
Day 3: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Day 4: Traditional and New Media
Day 5: Animosities in International Politics
Day 6 & 7: Green Agenda in a Good Society (a two day excursion)
Day 8: Science, Education and Society
Day 9: Memory and Identity
Day 10: Unity with Diversity
NIAS felt privileged to take part in facilitating the first NEWDAY summer course. NEWDAY was supported by a range of scholars from institutions in the East Asian region, specifically Fudan University, Tsinghua University and Shandong University in China; Kyoto University and Tokai University in Japan; and Yonsei University and Korea University in Korea. In the Nordic region, NIAS and the Fudan-European Centre for China Studies  at the University of Copenhagen representing a consortium of 27 Nordic universities, was the leading coordinator of the project, together with the Nansen Academy.
NEWDAY was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), the Fudan-European Centre for China Studies, and the Nansen Academy with support from the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS).
For more information on NEWDAY, please go to NEWDAY's official website.
Read a full report of the NEWDAY summer course 2017 here.


Elena Samonova is a PhD Student from University of Helsinki, and her project is titled:

Agricultural bonded labour in Nepal and India: human rights based approach to sustainable social change

In my PhD project I am looking at the human rights as a tool of social resistance and liberation and seek to answer the question how the human rights discourse is able to enhance sustainable social change and support the liberation of the most oppressed groups of people. In particular, I study the impacts of the rights-based programs for bondage labourers among Tharu people in Nepal and Sahariya people in India. In both cases, debt bondage is closely connected with the historical dispossession and oppression of the indigenous population. It was found that human rights discourse is able to contribute to the creation of new spaces for resistance and support redistribution of power at the micro level. However, such rights-based programs seem to have little impact at the macro level of power relations and can not effectively challenge structural inequality embedded in the society. 

Lise Bjerke is a Master Student from University of Oslo, and her project is titled:

Migrants on the margins of the city: Food security rights among internal migrants in Bangalore, India 

Why is India failing to achieve food security for all despite its democratic institutions, social programmes and economic growth? This MA thesis hopes to add a small piece to the answer by focusing on the access to food security rights among internal, rural-to-urban migrants living in the informal slums of Bangalore. The first part of the thesis explores linkages between migration and access to food in an urban setting.The second part focuses on the relationship and the 'blurred boundaries' between the state, civil society and the migrant households and how this affects the realization of food security rights. More specifically, the thesis compares the implementation of one targeted and two universal social support programmes aimed at improving food security and nutrition in India: the Public Distribution System (PDS), the Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDM) and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).


Muhammad Ahsan Qureshi has a Master's Degree in Global and Transnational Sociology from University of Tampere and is currently working on his PhD proposal with the title:

Mosques in a Transcultural Europe: an enterprise of compromises

Proposed PhD research examines how competing narratives in a ‘transcultural space’ blend to form new realities. The proposed Islamic Oasis Complex in Helsinki will be used as a case study. Discourse both in support and opposition of the project will be analyzed via the bottom-up approach of epistemic governance. The analysis will have an actor-centred approach, highlighting how the contributions made at this level influence the general narratives. The drawn analysis will highlight the impact of the general discourse on a) the democratic policy making infrastructure of Finland, and b) the composition of the Finnish-Muslim identity in both short-run and long-run.

Johanna Saviniemi is a Master Student from University of Helsinki, and her project is titled:

Born This Way Lah! - Gender Recognition and Gender Expression of Malaysian Transwomen

I am a Social and Cultural Anthropology major from University of Helsinki, currently doing my MA thesis. My study is about Malaysia’s intensifying anti-LGBT+ politics with a focus on its affects to the most visible part of LGBT+ community, male-to-female transgender people. The study evaluates how transgender women of Kuala Lumpur find the space to express their gender identities in surroundings where non-binary gender is legally unrecognized. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in city of Kuala Lumpur between April and August 2017.


Sini Häyrynen, MA student, University of Helsinki

Negotiating Identity, Agency, and Social Pressures in Tongzhi Lives  -  Rural and Small Town Chinese LGBTQ + in First Tier Cities

The research project focuses on the lived experiences of Chinese tongzhi (by western terminology, queers) who have migrated to the cosmopolitan "first tier" cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen from rural areas or small cities. The focus of the study is how these individuals experience social pressures, their own identities, and how they negotiate the presumably wide gap between their big city lives and the family life in their hometowns.


Seyeon Huh, MA student, University of Turku

Perception of contemporary history in South Korea: the formation of the contested legacy of Syngman Rhee

I am researching about how major reputation of historical figures has been formed through Syngman Rhee’s case. There are always controversies about some historical figures. Rhee is one of them. Evaluations about Rhee’s political activities and his administration vary depending on scholars. Largely two groups exist. One group is focusing on Rhee’s anti-communist actions and diplomatic skills, while the other is focusing on repression to development of democracy. Even though two groups are in confrontation with each other, it seems like among young people, Rhee is regarded as a negative figure rather than a positive one. It intrigued me to study how people make opinions about historical figures or even events. As Rhee’s case can be extened to a larger context of Korean contemporary history, I am trying to use him as an example of controversial historical figures.


Maria Nilssen, MA student, UiT The Arctic University of Norway (Tromsø)

A lost generation? A study among young Kyrgyz in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Currently working on my master thesis about young Kyrgyz people living in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and their correlation between the use of the Kyrgyz language, ethnicity and identity. The thesis is based on a year of living, studying and doing fieldwork in Bishkek. Theory section includes: nation- and ethnicity building, power, stigma, soviet times and Marxism, symbolism, language.


Petter Faksvaag, MA student, University of Oslo

Individualized Chinese Outbound Tourism: Open-ended interviews with young Chinese tourists travelling independently in Norway.

My thesis is a qualitative study based on open-ended interviews with young, university educated Chinese tourists in their 20s and early 30s. The focus of my thesis is how this segment of Chinese tourists perceive tourism and why they travel independently. To create a contextual framework guiding the data collection, I will look at the individualization process of the Chinese society and state regulated tourism development in the post-Mao era. 

Workplaces for MA students at NIAS

Are you writing your thesis on Asia this Fall?
The SUPRA programme offers MA students a 6-month workplace at NIAS while writing their thesis. 
Who can apply?
MA students whose thesis work is in a field that falls within the research framework of NIAS can apply. Applicants must be affiliated with an institution that is a member of the Nordic NIAS Council.
What are the benefits?
A workplace at NIAS provides easy access to the information resources provided by the library (NIAS LINC), the advantage of being part of the NIAS research environment, as well as access to seminars and workshops taking place at NIAS. In return, the student is required to work 5 hours a week for the institute (to be specified at the time, but please note that the post is unsalaried). A NIAS workplace position is an excellent way to gain an understanding of the operations of a research institute and in-depth insights in the research process.
For questions or application, contact

New associated PhD at NIAS

Saba Joshi is a new associated PhD student at NIAS.
Saba Writes:
I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science/International Relations at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland. My doctoral research focuses on peasant resistance to large-scale land acquisitions in contemporary Cambodia. Using qualitative data collected over 15 months of field work in the country, my thesis examines how contestation over land is shaping political identities among women and indigenous minorities in Cambodia.  
Since 2015, I am also a Research Assistant in an academic research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and Swiss Development Corporation titled DEMETER (Droits et Egalité pour une Meilleure Economie de la Terre), which studies the gendered impacts of land commercialization on food security and the right to food in Cambodia and Ghana.
Saba will be at NIAS until February 2018.

New workplace student at NIAS

Matthias Vesterdal is writing his thesis "Tectonic shifts in geopolitical East Asia" at Department of Political Science, UCPH.
Matthias Writes:
My thesis aims to explore the consequences of the changing regional security dynamics of South East Asia by focusing on two important countries in the area: Vietnam and the Philippines. By utilizing the theoretical framework of Regional Security Complex Theory, developed by Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver, I attempt to analyze the current room of maneuver in the foreign policies of these two states, in a time of rapidly rising Chinese influence. In my thesis, I specifically look at how this external impulse is affecting security dynamics at the regional level, and how the case countries are responding to this in their policies – and why these responses are a reflection of different regional positions and institutional characteristics. This I will try to determine by combining factors from the domestic and regional levels.