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News from NIAS


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.

Call for papers, Asia in Focus Issue 5


Asia in Focus is a peer-reviewed journal published online twice a year by NIAS – Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. Asia in Focus was initiated by NIAS to provide Master students and Ph.D. students affiliated to a Nordic institution a widely accessible and transnational forum to publish their findings. The focal point of the journal is the modern Asian societies viewed from the standpoints of social science and humanities. The geographical focus is the Asian countries from Central Asia to Oceania excluding Australia and New Zealand. We aim at a high academic level in a concise, focused and readable form, and publish both academic essays and academic articles.
We are seeking full papers (approx. 3500 words) for the next issue of Asia in Focus. The papers which may take an academic article or academic essay format, should pertain to contemporary issues in modern Asia and be rooted in the social sciences or humanities.
We are also accepting book reviews of no more than 1000 words. Choose a title of your own choice that fits with the focus of the journal, or choose from the NIAS Press titles here:
The deadline for submissions is 21 August 2017 and accepted papers will be published winter 2017.
See the attached documents for more information and visit for more detailed instructions about submission
Please contact us by  writing to

Issue 4 of Asia in Focus is out!

The latest issue of Asia in Focus, Issue 4, is now out and freely available at
In this issue you can read about the influence of Adat culture on the peace process in North Maluku, Indonesia, and the development of Tourism in Southeast Asia as well as well as two book reviews.
In the opening article the Editorial Committee reflect on the experiences of working with Asia in Focus and the challenges and inspiration they find with the papers that are submitted. Here is a little taster:
We, the Editorial Committee, have been giving some thought as to the meaning of Asia in Focus. From the side of our contributors, we have considered: What are the opportunities presented for early-career researchers? How can publishing with us benefit them? From the editorial side, we have pondered: Why are we editors here? What are our concerns about the submissions we receive? What are the highlights during the review process? What further advice can we give to our contributors and readers? Instead of keeping the answers to these questions to ourselves, we would like to share, as we view the responses as useful knowledge that may further assist early-career researchers in their academic careers as well as inform a wider public of the situation scholars are in. 
Enjoy the read!


Grace I-An Gao, PhD student at Helsinki University: Indigenous Peoples and Long-term Care: Reflecting Taiwan and Finland

Grace I-An Gao’s doctoral project examines how long-term care systems accommodate Indigenous Peoples. By critically reflecting on the cases of two groups of Indigenous Peoples, namely Tayal in Taiwan and Sámi in Finland, she aims to scrutinize how the long-term care systems respond to their social, cultural and political claims. Methodologically, she utilizes critical policy analysis for the policies and critical ethnography as well as situated analysis for her field work data.


Ulrika Löfblad, MA student at Lund University

My MA-thesis in Library- and Information Studies (ALM) at Lund University, Sweden, explores the meanings behind rural reading rooms (tushushi or nongwushi) in Yunnan Province, PRC. Reading rooms could be described as a major development project carried out by the state in an attempt to modernise rural regions; providing educational- and informational spaces is a key aspect of policy on the new countryside, and the creation of what is referred to as “ a new type peasant” (xinxing nongmin) (Zhongfa 2006, Doc. 1).
The thesis is based on extensive fieldwork in the Baoshan region in Western Yunnan, and follows an ethnographic approach. 


Christopher Weidacher Hsiung, PhD Student, Oslo University

Mitigating great power competition - China's reassurance strategy toward Russia in the post-cold war period 

The main research question of this thesis is: how has China responded to its growing capabilities in regards to Russia in the post-cold war period? Since the end of the cold war, China's rise and Russia's relative decline caused growing concerns in Russia over China's increased capabilities and future intentions. The thesis builds on literature that holds that asymmetric power relations in great power relations can exacerbate security dilemma dynamics and that such developments often lead to great power conflict. 

The main argument of the thesis is that China's post-cold war Russia policy, however, was characterized by an overall reassurance strategy. This was conditioned on Chinese leaders' awareness of Russian concerns over China's rise which led to strategy of reassurance to mitigate the potential for bilateral security dilemma dynamics with Russia (something referred to as security dilemma sensibility). Specifically, China's reassurance strategy consisted of three main elements: restraint, commitment and inclusiveness. The thesis shows how these elements where evident in China's polices towards Russia in regards to border and military issues, and on economic and diplomatic issues, thus constituting an overall strategy of reassurance toward Russia.


Sher E Khoda, PhD Student, University of Jyväskylä

Proposed research Title: Delivering Microfinance in Bangladesh: The capacity building of third sector organizations and poverty reduction

I am a third year PhD student at the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. My research is primarily focusing on the rising debate of microfinance operation towards poverty reduction. This research is following qualitative case study method to collect empirical data using in-depth interview of microcredit clients and the credit officials.


Lea Lybecker, MA student, Lund University

Lea Lybecker is a master’s student at Lund University (Department of Human Geography). She has spent the last 10 months in Myanmar working for the Asia Foundation on a research project on subnational conflict, aid and development, while simultaneously doing fieldwork for her master’s thesis. The thesis examines a single development intervention; an ADB financed road improvement project through contested areas in Kayin state, and explores ways in which this project might interact with local and national conflict dynamics.