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News from NIAS

A New Generation of Sino-Nordic Gender Matters

Senior Researcher Cecilia Milwertz has resigned and will be leaving NIAS at the end of June. Her final piece of academic writing is the position paper  ‘A New Generation of Sino-Nordic Gender Matters’

The paper was published in NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research Volume 26, 2018 in a theme issue - Issue 4: Gender and Generation in China today which is the outcome of the 2017 6th Sino-Nordic Gender Studies Network Conference.

NIAS is currently planning the 7th network conference that will be hosted by the National Central Library in Taiwan in Taipei late October 2020.

In future the network will be coordinated by Dušica Ristivojević, Kone Bold Initiatives Researcher at Helsinki University and Sarah Swider, the Department of Sociology, the University of Copenhagen.

30 år efter massakren på den Himmelske Fredsplads

30 år efter massakren på Den Himmelske Freds Plads: Er Kina en trussel mod Vesten?

”Der er mange grunde til at distancere sig fra Xi Jinpings autoritære regime, som stadig på systematisk vis undertrykker sin egen befolkning”, skriver Andreas Bøje Forsby i en kronik i Politiken på 30 års dagen for massakren på Den Himmelske Fredsplads. ”Men i takt med at Kina-dæmoniseringen intensiveres, og stormagtsrivaliseringen dominerer Washingtons udenrigspolitiske dagsorden, skal især USA’s partnere og allierede være påpasselige med at lade sig spænde for den amerikanske vogn. Kina udfordrer ikke den eksisterende ordens kerneinstitutioner og kan ’kun’ i snæver forstand betragtes som en revisionist magt.”

Kronik af Post Doc Researcher Andreas Forsby, læs mere her:

Læs også vedhæftede artikel i Ræson om forholdet mellem USA og Kina.


Kamma Winther Kestner, MA, University of Amsterdam.

Hidden informality in housing in two cities in the Global North

My background is mixed as I have a Humanistic BA from Roskilde University in cultural studies and urban planning, but for the Master’s I went hardcore social science as I am completing the Research Master of Urban Studies at University of Amsterdam. I have lived in Copenhagen most of my life, but moved to Amsterdam two years ago, where I am planning to stay until new opportunities arise. As part of my thesis, I spent five months in Hong Kong, conducting fieldwork and studying at Hong Kong University.

In my thesis, I compare the emergence of informal housing arrangements in Hong Kong and Amsterdam, Netherlands, in order to study how living informally can be seen as a tactic (DeCerteau, 1984) to live close to urban opportunities even in less affordable housing markets. I analyse existent policies, policy evaluations, government reports and media articles in order to engage in a discussion on the power relations reproduced and embedded in the definition of informality – on the level of institutions, academia and from a residential point of view. With this study, I hope to deepen the understanding of the emergence of informal housing in cities of the Global North. And how policy makers can be inspired rather than frustrated by the way people find housing in alternative ways in order to amend or make new policies in the housing field.


Yang Yang, PhD, Wuhan University.


“Can ‘One-Language-Two-Scripts’ be a Viable Future Solution in China: From Comparative Perspective of Norwegian Experience”.

I am a Ph.D. researcher at Wuhan University, China, and a lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. I was also a guest researcher at the University of Bergen, Norway from 2015 to 2018. My research interests are language planning and policies, and language education.

My current research is a multidimensional analysis and comparison of the written language planning and policies in China and Norway from socio-political-historical perspectives. China and Norway, although linguistically and socio-politically far apart from each other, face the very similar dilemmas when it comes to written language practice. This study attempts to uncover the socio-political-historical factors that lead to the difference of written language policies in the two countries.



Asia in Focus - Issue 7

New issue of Asia in Focus out now!

Asia in Focus is a peer-reviewed OA journal published online twice a year by NIAS – Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. NIAS is a Nordic research and service institute focusing on Asia’s modern transformations. The focal point of the journal is the modern Asian societies viewed from the standpoints of social sciences and humanities. The geographical focus is the Asian countries from Central Asia to Oceania excluding Australia and New Zealand. 

Asia in Focus was initiated by NIAS to provide Master and PhD students with a widely accessible and transnational forum to publish their findings. The journal accepts submissions (academic articles, academic essays, book reviews) to students from all European institutions of higher education.
Contents Issue 7
‘Joining the Club’: The place of a Chinese School in the global IR academy
Thøger Kersting Christensen
Right-wing nationalism or just plain fun?: Japanese history in the game Kantai Collection and its audience interpretation
Valtteri Vuorikoski
Chinese Science Fiction Literature: Can it do for China what K-Pop and Manga do for Korea and Japan?
Nicklas Junker
Finding a New Narrative of Chinese Business Leadership by Giving Voice to Chinese Millennials
Suvi Kurki
Book Review: Van Norden, Bryan W. (2017) Taking Back Philosophy – A Multicultural Manifesto
Lisa Lindkvist Zhang
For full-text access please visit!



Malgorzata Karolina Sidz, MA, University of Turku.

Reproducing mothering in East Asia: a qualitative study of Japanese and South Korean mothers.

My name is Malgorzata Karolina Sidz and I am a student at the University of Turku. I am just finishing my MA Thesis in "Reproduction of mothering in East Asia: a qualitative study of Japanese and South Korean mothers" and I am to graduate later this year. Right now I am working on a project about Koryo Saram - the Korean diaspora in the post-soviet countries. Currently I continue studying, as well as working as a journalist and a writer.




Petra Arki, MA, University of Turku.

Internationalization of the "comfort women" movement.

My name is Petra and I am a master's student in the University of Turku, Finland.

In my thesis I am studying how the' comfort women' issue has been addressed in the United Nations. My primary data consists of documents from the United Nations Human Rights Bodies and documents that have been submitted to the UN by South Korean NGOs. I have also conducted an interview with a representative of The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. I am planning on using the interview as a supportive data. I am interested in how the issue has been framed in the UN and has the issue followed a similar framing in the UN as within the Korean 'comfort women' movement. 




Eija Niskanen, PhD, Department of World CulturesUniversity of Helsinki.

Moomin’s adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun – Adaptation and originality in content industry

Eija Niskanen is writing her PhD thesis at University of Helsinki on the topic Moomins’ Adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun – Adaptation and originality of Japanese anime based on European original concept. The research is about the two Japanese animated television series based on Tove Jansson's Moomin concept, Mumin (ムーミン 、1969-72) and Tales from the Moomin Valley (楽しいムーミン一家、1990-92), and studies the two animations against the background of Japanese anime industry in respective times. The two adaptations differ in terms of faithfullness to the original stories, but also in the production model, with the first being a Japanese production, and the latter a Japanese- Dutch-Finnish co-production. Moomins are also a notable feature in the country image of Finland (Nye's soft power) in Japan. 




Farhana Nasrin, MA, Department of Gender Studies, Lund University.

Beyond the Crisis of Identity: The Case of Rohingya Refugee’s Plight through Gendered Glasses

Farhana Nasrin is pursuing her second master’s degree at the Department of Gender Studies at Lund University in Sweden. She completed her bachelor’s in mass communication from University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) and master’s in Development Studies from BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has six years of professional working experience in different international non-governmental organizations (INGO’s), role played as intern, research assistant, Program officer (implementation and monitoring) in Bangladesh. She is a recipient of the prestigious Swedish Institute Study Scholarship (SISS) in 2017.

She is writing her master’s thesis on ‘‘Beyond the Crisis of Identity: The Case of Rohingya Refugee’s Plight through Gendered Glasses’’. She has keen research interest on human rights, refugees, stateless people, gender inequalities, violence and everyday discrimination in South/Southeast Asia, with special interest on contemporary Rohingya genocide with reference to Rohingya women and girls, in and around the diaspora. For her master’s thesis, she is inspired by the feminist intersectionality theory and the concept of ‘subaltern’ by Spivak and will be exploring the case of Rohingya refugee crisis in 2017. 



Yujing Tan, PhD, Institute of Area Studies, Leiden University

Innovating China: Governance and Mobility in the New Economy

Yujing’s research fields include sociology of technological innovation and institutional innovation, and governance of new economy in contemporary China. Her thesis draws on her ethnography of “doing innovation” in the current massive socio-economic transition in urban China. This work interrogates how innovation, as a globalized “anti-global capitalism and corporatism” economic movement to invent the technologically enhanced newness and make the entrepreneurially engaged difference, is practice, imagined, mobilized, and reinterpreted through China’s local anxious developers and its subjects: the emerging surplus young tech-professionals in the national and global level. Empirically speaking, this study explores how and why subjects of Chinese innovation, namely the young professionals, local authorities, and policy-knowledge planners, converge in Chinese metropolitan cities, apply to economic movement to innovate China, and respond to the state’s rising governing agenda on technology and the society. I approach the emergence of Chinese innovation, a political-economic transition as well as a social movement, from the perspective of anthropology.


Gz. MeeNilankco Theiventhran, PhD, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen

Energy Transitions in Transitional Societies: Equity, Geopolitics and Norwegian Engagement  

MeeNilankco Theiventhran is a PhD Research Fellow at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen, Norway and his PhD is on energy transitions in transitional societies. MeeNilankco is from Sri Lanka and his research interest includes comparative politics, democratisation, energy transitions, geopolitics and South Asia.

Technological transformation of the global energy system will have a strong impact on society, and democratising this transformation is essential to attain democratic and equitable solutions, with the broadest possible acceptability of technological infrastructures, energy systems are arguably the deepest embedded in modern economies and societies.

There is a growing need to identify and analyse the potential social and economic disruption due to energy transition, taking into account policies and strategies that would ensure equitable energy systems and minimize if not pre-empt disruption. The prospect of creation of renewable energy systems in ways that are not socially inclusive, or cause ethnic, religious, regional, gender or socio-economic inequities cannot be ignored in the context of the difficulty and complexity of energy transition accompanied by competing interests, locally and internationally. Especially the countries in transition will have an uphill task in the face of their changing dynamics, political fluidity and economic challenges.

The research seeks to examine the prospect of transitional societies achieving energy transition in a socially just manner, and explore the potential pathways and associated challenges with in-depth case studies from Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Over the years, there has been much attention to the geopolitics of oil while the geopolitics of renewable energy received far less academic attention, especially in relation to the overall consequences of a global shift to renewable energy. Literature on the geopolitics of climate change as a broad issue is only occasionally relevant to the geopolitics of transition to renewable energy and much of it ignores the geopolitics of replacement of fossil fuel by renewable energy. It is paradoxical that minimal attention has been paid to the geopolitical consequences of renewable energy compare to the attention received by the geopolitics of oil. The PhD research also tries to fill the research gap in the geopolitics of energy transitions by understanding the geopolitics of energy transitions in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.



Yoojin Kim, PhD, University of Turku.

Academics in performative regime in contrasting countries: A Comparative Study of Research Universities in Finland and South Korea

I am Yoojin Kim (from South Korea), who is currently working at the faculty of Education in university of Turku in Finland as a doctoral candidate. My research field is sociology of education, higher education, and comparative education study. 

This study will investigate how academics in Finnish and Korean research university have experienced and perceived performance based management (PBM) in the name of effectiveness, efficiency and competitiveness. In particular, this study will focus on academic career and salary system which are core techniques (incentives) of PBM on academics in both countries. In order to comprehend this global phenomenon, actively respond to the changes and rethink about issues of policy borrowing or education export, this comparative education study considering socio-cultural aspects can play a pivotal role. In exploring how performative regime in research university applies to micro levels and aspects of different social systems, social democratic —vs. economic capitalist (such as Finland vs. South Korea)— education in globalisation can be thoroughly understood, and implications can be discovered for recent issues such as loss of academic autonomy, increase of precarity and underlining performativity causing fabrication.

  This study will also determine relations, conflicts and consensus among academic staff, students and policy in terms of a university’s purpose, through their perceptions and experiences of university marketisation.

The investigation will mainly consist of three domains and phases, which also aims to publish three articles. The first step of the study is reviewing literature. It concerns how previous studies have described the impacts of PBM. Second, to exploring the experience of academics in performative regime, semi-structured interviews will be conducted. The participants (in mid-stage of academic career) will be 8-10 in four research universities, considering position, age, gender, teacher-hood. Thematic analysis to explore academics’ experiences, and discourse analysis for seeking the identity and the idea of university from academics’ perspectives will be employed. It is an attempt to understand the academics’ responses to the performative ethos in the research universities, and to scrutinize possible influential factors to the academics’ perspectives based on socio-cultural aspects.


Hanna Mannila, PhD, University of Helsinki.

Indian Dance Gurus in Transformation: Changes and Continuities in Their Role, Status and Function from Text to Digital Media.

Hanna Mannila is currently a PhD student at the University of Helsinki, Department of Cultures. Her PhD project in the field of South Asian Studies investigates the changes and continuities in the guru tradition and the perceptions of the guru’s authority among the dancers of Indian classical kathak dance. Based upon ethnographic data gathered through participant observation and interviews in India, the research focuses on contemporary kathak gurus, with reference to textual sources on gurus from the classical period onwards.

My PhD research project explores the transformations in the figure of guru and his authority in Indian society from classical Sanskrit texts to the contemporary mediatized contexts, focusing on the gurus of Indian classical kathak dance. Gurus traditionally have a highly revered position in Indian society – they can be seen as an embodiment of authority. Gurus and guru-like figures can be found everywhere in Indian society, from religion and arts to politics and business. This research focuses on kathak dance as the base of exploration, examining the changes and continuities in the authority ascribed to the guru in the transmission of dance heritage from one generation to the next. The approach is multi-disciplinary, combining methodological and theoretical elements from South Asian Studies, Religious Studies, Ethnology, and Communication and Media Studies. The key theoretical concepts of the research are authority and mediatization. The methodological approach is Indo-Ethnological, i.e. the research focuses on the historical transformation process, with the research material consisting of classical and medieval Sanskrit and Hindi texts as well as ethnographical fieldwork material. In addition, new media material such as text and videos will also be used.

Traditionally, the transmission of heritage – whether religious or artistic such as music and dance – has taken place through the so-called guru-śiṣya-paramparā (teacher-disciple-tradition), a personal and intimate relationship between the teacher and his (nowadays also her) disciple. The earliest mentions to the guru are in the classical Sanskrit literature from the early 1st millennium BCE. This guru tradition remained relatively unchanged until recently, but the time period from the early 20th century onwards has seen radical changes in the transmission of Indian classical dance, including kathak, first with the establishment of Western style dance schools and more recently with the introduction and expanding use of the new media, through which dance videos are spreading rapidly and globally. The research aims to find out how and why the perception of the guru has changed from the classical literature to the contemporary practice of kathak dance; what are the continuities and the changes in the authority of the guru in the 20th–21st century kathak practice, in reference to the early textual sources as well as later text; what role do the (new) media play in these continuities and changes in the authority of the guru; and how do they reflect those in the wider Indian society, in the context of secularization, globalization, institutionalization and mediatization?

New NIAS Director

We are happy to announce that Professor Duncan McCargo has been appointed new director of NIAS.

Professor McCargo currently works at Columbia and Leeds. He has published extensively on South East Asian affairs, primarily Thailand. He has served twice as head of department in Leeds.

Professor McCargo first visited NIAS in 1997 and holds the Institute in the highest regard and affection. He has a clear vision for NIAS, and the competences to carry it out. It is important for him to begin by listening to staff, stake-holders and the Nordic Asia community. He plans a “roadshow” of the Nordic capitals this Autumn.

Duncan McCargo will take up a position as full professor in the Department of Political Science as well as director of NIAS.


Lærke L. Jensen, MA, University of Aarhus

Japanese folklore: Yōkai in popular media

I am a master student at Aarhus University of Asian-studies - specializing in Japan. In my master thesis I will be writing about the present supernatural creature-boom, or yōkai-boom, in Japanese popular culture. These supernatural creatures have permeated Japanese society not only at this moment, but throughout Japanese history at large. Currently, many Japanese anime and manga narratives draw on Japanese folklore, reimagining tales for the modern audience, and contain references to or examples of these supernatural creatures, in Japanese yōkai. As yōkai covers a great variety of creatures they have become a rich source of material for contemporary narratives, and even become known overseas.

To explore this development, my thesis will dive into the historical, sociological and cultural history that has taken yōkai all the way to modern society. In order to understand what makes yōkai so fascinating to a 20th and 21st century audience, my paper will look into how yōkai are used in the narrative of GeGeGe no Kitarō, Spooky Kitarō, which is ultimately one of the most well-known series in Japan, which first ran in the 1960’s and now has six seasons, which draws on an extensive source of yōkai.