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Sasu Katajamäki, MA Student, University of Turku

Voluntary Departure, an Ethnic Expulsion or Profitable Extortion? The “Semi-legal” Departure System of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam During the Vietnamese Refugee Crisis

Description of myself:  I am currently enrolled as a master’s degree student in East Asian studies at the University of Turku. Having interest in questions related to both human migration and authoritarian regimes, my thesis examines the context and policies which surrounded the departure of the Vietnamese refugees after the Vietnam war. It focuses on a system dubbed by researcher Ramses Amer as “Semi-legal” system departure, which was only open for ethnically Chinese Vietnamese. During a time of rapidly worsening Sino-Vietnamese relations ethnically Chinese Vietnamese started to be regarded as the “fifth column” and became a threat to nation-building of Vietnamese society. By examining the extortive system of “semi-legal” departure and the contexts which allowed it to emerge, I intend to link these regional, national and refugee crisis developments together into a cohesive narrative.

Yoko Tanabe, PhD, UCL Institute  of Education

A Comparative Study of Indigenous Education and Language Revitalisation in Japan and Norway

I am a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Education (IOE), University College London. My research interests lie in the area of Indigenous rights, language and education policy, particularly in the context of Japan and Norway. In June 2008, the government of Japan officially recognised the Ainu as an Indigenous people for the first time. In light of the 10th anniversary of this historical recognition, the main part of my doctoral dissertation reflects on the progress and challenges of Japan's Indigenous language revitalisation policy vis-à-vis Norway. In particular, I examine adult Indigenous learners' experiences and motivating factors in learning the Indigenous language(s) at given institutions in Japan and in Norway, respectively.  Drawing on the theory of language revitalisation (Fishman 1991; 2001) and motivation in second-language learning (Gardner & lambert, 1972; Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2009), the research aims to shed more light on motivating factors for Indigenous language revitalisation. 



From 7-17 August 2018, the second NEWDAY - Nansen East-West Dialogue Academy took place at Nansen Academy in Lillehammer, Norway. The academy was co-organised by NIAS - Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Nansen Academy and the Fudan-European Centre for China Studies.













Above: A group photo of this year's participants and some of the lecturers.


Nansen Academy was founded as a folk high school in 1938. It was named after polar explorer, scientist, author and humanist Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930), whose work embodied essential elements of humanism: active love of one’s neighbour and freedom of thought. NEWDAY is thus not only hosted physically by Nansen Academy, but also philosophically and ideologically. It embodies the spirit of the folk high school and Nansen Academy in its quest for creating understanding between cultures through dialogue between and across cultures.

This year, 22 students from China and Norway gathered at Nansen Academy to engage in cross-cultural dialogue, attend lectures, and partake in debates and panel discussions. The programme also featured several social and creative activities including musical performances, trips to local museums, and walks by the lake Mjøsa - the biggest lake of Norway.

In this year's summer academy we sought to define, dissect and discuss some of the critical cases and topical issue areas of our times: economic growth and increasing inequality, environmental degradation and climate change, quality of life, education, and modes of governance. Students were encouraged to actively voice their opinions and engage in discussions - not only with each other, but with professors and lecturers as well.

Each day featured lectures by prominent figures from within academia, politics, and media, and was constructed around a specific theme. This reflected not only in the daily lectures but also the group work and panel debates. The themes covered a range of different burning issues of our time, including climate change and environmental degradation, cross-cultural understanding, social trust and activism, varieties of political norms, gender, AI, educational traditions in the Nordic region and East Asia, and more.


Above: Some students enjoying a gike in the nearby mountains of Nansen Academy.

We have created a gallery with some of the many pictures taken during NEWDAY 2018. Follow this link and have a look:



Bai Tongdong. Professor of Philosophy, Fudan University, China.
Bent Nielsen. Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Bjørn Bredal. Author, Journalist, Head of Borup People High School, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dag Hareide. Former Director of Nansen Academy & Former President of the Norwegian Rainforest Organization, Norway.
Inge Eidsvaag. Former Director of Nansen Academy, Norway.
Ingunn Trosholmen. | International Advisor Oppland County & Deputy Mayor, Lillehammer, Norway.
Jane Xie. Performing Pianist, Associate Professor & Master’s Supervisor of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, China.
Joakim Hammerlin. Philosophy Lecturer, Nansen Academy, Norway.
Kang Myungkoo. Professor, College of Social Sciences, Seoul National University, Korea.
Lau Blaxekjær. Postdoc Researcher, NIAS, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Steinar Bryn. Former Director of Nansen Academy & Senior Advisor at Nansen Peace Center, Norway.
Stig Thøgersen. Professor, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark.
Yang Yuliang. Member of Chinese Academy of Sciences & former President of Fudan University.

Organisers and steering committee

Chunrong Liu. Associate Professor, Fudan University, Shanghai & Co-Director, Fudan–European Centre for China. Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Daniel A. Bell. Professor, Tsinghua University & Dean, Shandong University, China.
Geir Helgesen. Director, NIAS ,University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Unn Irene Aasdalen. Director of the Nansen Academy, Norway.


Seekyung Chung, Ma, University of Tampere.

Higher Education as Choice of Individuals: An Empirical Analysis of Individuals' Behavior of Education Decision-Making in South Korea. 

For my master’s thesis I have studied on a phenomenon of higher education expansion in South Korea by exploring individuals’ decision-making behavior and I have just graduated from University of Tampere, Finland. It has been of interest to delve into rationale behind heated investment in education across South Korean society. In order to shad light on causality with respect to choice and effects of higher education, I examined relevant factors of decision on higher education based on literature concerning sociology and economics of education and furthermore investigated actual monetary and non-monetary returns to education in the labor market. Currently, I am writing a research proposal to apply for PhD position. For a doctoral study, I am keen to research further into individuals’ choice and effects of higher education by conducting comparative study between Asia and Nordic countries.


Mária Kubincová, Ma, University of Turku.

Media Discourses on the Collective Identity of Hikikomori.

I am currently a 2nd year MA student in East Asian Studies at CEAS, University of Turku. My research is focusing on the phenomenon called hikikomori. The term originated in Japan and refers to people of various age groups, who voluntarily isolate themselves from the society, by staying shut in (usually) in their own rooms for years, even decades. You might be familiar with this term, as it has repeatedly appeared in Japanese pop-culture. The phenomenon is now also gaining more recognition outside of Japan, most notably Italy, where numerous cases of self-isolated young people have sprung up in the recent years, bearing many similarities to cases in Japan. In my research, I want to focus on the changes in the general approach of Japanese society towards this group, as well as looking at the possibility of a collective identity beginning to form around hikikomori in Japan.


Anne Gry Sturød, PhD, University of Southeast Norway

Tourism and Changed Relations with Nature in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan

Currently enrolled at the PhD-program in cultural studies at University of South-Eastern Norway. The main question of my PhD-project is how local perceptions and practises related to nature in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan is changing due to tourism development. More specifically I explore, in three separate papers, how perceptions and practices towards snow/coal, the horse and the mountains, is changing. The project draws upon studies of political ecology and ANT/post-humanism approaches and is based on empirical material from several research stays and extensive fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan.



Niki Sopanen, PhD, University of Helsinki

Crouching (Paper) Tiger, Hidden (Paper) Dragon, and the Clash of the Conspiratorial Turn? A Post-foundational Inquiry into Foreign Policy-related Conspiracy Theory Discourses in Sino-U.S. Relations

I am a doctoral student in political science (subprogramme: world politics) at the University of Helsinki. My doctoral dissertation looks into foreign policy-related conspiracy theory discourses in Sino-U.S. relations during the era of US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (2017-2021). It suggests a hypothesis that there has been a conspiratorial turn in foreign policy-related discourses in both countries due to the unfolding epoch of the said two authoritarian populist-nationalist great power leaders, who harbour mutually competing global visions (e.g. OBOR and FOIP). Previously, I have already scratched the surface of Sino-U.S. conspiracy theories in my master’s thesis, which analyzed an anti-US best-seller manifesto Zhongguo keyi shuo bu (China Can say no) from the 1990s. The reason why I am interested in conspiracy theories is because they are often categorically framed as "pathologies of post-truth politics" or "dislocatory effects of (post)modern alienation and anxieties", which completely disregards their historicity, particularity and politicality. In my research work, through conceptual and contextual analysis of the conspiracy theory both in the USA and PRC, followed by self-developed heuristic for recognizing conspiratorial discourses along with four case studies, I wish to point out that conspiratorial discourses share both general and particular characteristics, and that they have always played a role within Sino-U.S. relations, international relations, and politics in general.  

Asia in Focus: Call for Papers for Issue 7 - Extended Deadline

Call for Papers for Asia in Focus, Issue 7

Asia in Focus is an entirely free open access publication devoted to research on modern Asian societies from the standpoint of the humanities and the social sciences, with Level 1 ranking in Norway. Now in its second year of publication, Asia in Focus has published an extremely wide range of subject areas from political economy and societal change, to international relations, popular culture, literature, education and film.

We operate a double-blind review process, hence the identity of the reviewers and authors are not disclosed to either party. We usually publish two issues per year and have a short turnaround time for the entire review and publishing process (6 months).

Why publish with Asia in Focus?

For students, one of the major advantages of publishing with Asia in Focus is that you receive a level of in-depth feedback on your academic writing that is rarely experienced in academia in general, and thus going through the editorial process will improve your writing skills whether you publish or not. In addition, your manuscript is expected to be only 3500 words which is far less than the vast majority of the more mainstream journals.

For lecturers, aside from the well-known benefits for your students of being a published author, Asia in Focus supplements their education through its detailed editorial process and provides them with an opportunity to develop their academic writing skills. More often than not such improvements result in higher grades as the work becomes more readable and cohesive.

Read more or download the call for papers document here.


Asia in Focus Issue 6 is out now!

We are pleased to share with you the latest issue of Asia in Focus!

About Issue 6

Issue 6 starts with a look at historical events from the 19th century in Japan, with John Hennessey doing a reevaluation of William Wheeler’s Work for the Kaitakushi, the Japanese government agency responsible for the settlement of the northern island of Hokkaido, through a postcolonial lens. In the second chapter, Deirdre Sneep takes us into the 20th century with an analysis of the history of the smartphone. She sheds light on the dominant techno-orientalist narrative which almost entirely overlooks the historical achievements and contribution of technologies originating in Japan. We then make a shift to look at contemporary social and institutional change. Firstly, Nhung Lu Rots’ examines how domestic and global food anxieties impact sustainable pangasius production in an analysis of the aftermath of the 2016 marine disaster in Vietnam. Secondly, we return to Japan for Christer Kold Lindholm’s analysis of economic inequality in Japan between the 1880s and the early 2000s reveals how policies designed to promote growth, which neglect redistribution, constitute a weak and disjointed approach to development in which growth may even lead to deeper socio-economic inequalities. The issue closes with Karin Hongsaton Zackari’s critical review of Tyrell Haberkorn’s In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand.

Read issue 6 here.

Asia in Focus is a unique open source peer reviewed journal that focuses on contemporary Asia with a strong focus on the social sciences and the humanities. The journal only publishes academic articles, academic essays and book reviews written by early career researchers (students and recent graduates following Masters and PhD programs) studying at institutes of higher education in Europe.


Dao Ngoc Thuy Duong, MA student, University of Turku 

The Impacts of South China Sea Conflicts Between China and Vietnam on Bilateral Economic Cooperation and on the Vietnamese Government’s Attitude toward One Belt One Road Initiative

My MA thesis focusses on researching how the  economic cooperation between China and Vietnam has been affected by their conflict on the South China Sea since their normalization in 1991. I want to analyze how the Vietnamese government has been reacting to the extensively-discussed One Belt One Road initiated by China in the context of the disputes on South China seas. I will also look at the possible scenarios in the future of two countries relationship if  South China Sea disputes can not be settled or even deteriorated.


Yu Pak Man, MA Student, University of Tromsø

Media Representation of Reinterpretation of Japanese Constitution Article 9

I am currently working on my master's dissertation on media representation of the reinterpretation of the Japanese Constitution Article 9. I intend to do a qualitative media analysis and study the relations between media representation on the issue and various issues, for example, public opinion, government discourses and regional peace. Media is a powerful tool and also an influential factor contributing to the reinterpretation, which in turn has a huge impact on East Asian peace. I am still in the process of refining my research design and I am sure the excellent scholarly atmosphere at NIAS will help shed light on my project.


Inter-Korean and Kim-Trump Summits and the Future of the Korean Divide

Thursday, September 13, 2018 - 15:00 to 16:30

Inter-Korean and Kim-Trump Summits and the Future of the Korean Divide
Guest lecture by  Professor Key-Young Son, Korea University

U.S. President Donald Trump hailed his recent summit with North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un as a “very important event in world history,” claiming Kim has given his “unwavering” commitment to dismantle its “very substantial” nuclear arsenal. How does this summit, along with the April summit between the two Koreas, affect the 70-year division on the Korean Peninsula? We often approach the Korean divide as a historical event which started with Korea’s liberation from Japan in 1945 and lasted during the past 70 years. Simplistic and static, this vision aims to explain the entirety of the question of the Korean divide mainly from the perspectives of superpower politics. In contrast, this talk introduces more nuanced and sophisticated perspectives to illustrate the various forces which had affected the Korean divide and rapprochement. In this way, this lecture seeks to provide a yardstick in looking at a multitude of problems arising from the Korean divide, including nuclear and missile crises.

Key-young Son
is Humanities Kore Professor at the Asiatic Research Institute, Korea University. He is editor-in-chief of the East Asian Community Review, a peer-reviewed journal published by Palgrave. He was former diplomacy writer and political editor at the Korea Times. He served as lecturer at the School of East Asian Studies, the University of Sheffield in Britain and visiting associate professor at the School of Law, Tohoku University, in Sendai, Japan. His most recent publications is Order Wars and Floating  Balance: How the Rising Powers Are Reshaping Our Worldview in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge, 2018)

Time: Thursday 13 September 2018, 15:00-16:30
Venue: NIAS, NIAS meeting room (18.1.08), Øster Farimagsgade 5, 1353 Cph K

Call for Editors for ASIA IN FOCUS Journal

Apply to become a member of the Editorial Committee

As a member of the Editorial Committee, you will keep abreast with the most recent work being done in your own regional, methodological and/or thematic field of enquiry, and also play a significant role in shaping the work being done in related fields.

Members of the Editorial Committee must:

  • have solid expertise on one or more region/country of Asia
  • be affiliated to a Nordic institute of higher education
  • be usually resident in the Nordic region
  • have completed a doctoral degree

Once you join the team, you will:

  • be identified as a member of the Editorial Committee on all Asia in Focus platforms
  • be expected to attend two editorial meetings per issue, via Skype or face-to-face.
  • be expected to review between 1 and 3 papers per issue
  • participate actively in the evolution of the journal on a practical and strategic level

Include in your application your full CV and a short cover note detailing
- biographical information
- your interest in the position you are applying for
- a description of your research interests (country/regional focus; theoretical and methodological interests and expertise)

We are particularly interested in recruiting editors with research interests in literature, the arts, popular culture and ITC.

Email your application to Nicol Savinetti by 30 September 2018:

For more information, please click here


Anil Paralkar, PhD, Heidelberg University

Spicing up Life – Food, Purity and (Pre-)Colonial Hegemonies in the Indian-European Cultural Exchange, 15th to 17th Century

I am a PhD student at Heidelberg University in the field of early modern history. I received my MA from Munich University in 2013, after which I started my project at the Cluster ‘Asia and Europe in a Global Context’ in Heidelberg. My research focuses on the encounter between Europe and South Asia in regard of food and foodways during the 15th to 17th centuries. While foodways as symbols of distinction between cultures have been emphasized during this encounter, they also influenced the construction of culinary and physical alterities between social group categories like ‘race’, ‘religion’ or ‘ethnicity’. I investigate the concepts of purity attributed to foodways in the cultural exchange between the two parts of the world to show, how culinary alterities added to an understanding of different corporalities and how this created concepts of physical as well as mental superiorities. My broader research interests lie in food history, postcolonial and transcultural theory and global history.


Aino Haavisto, MA student, University of Helsinki

Optimizing the Learning Order of Japanese Characters Algorithmically

My MA thesis focuses the learning of the Japanese writing system and especially the kanji, morphografic script consisting of more than 2000 characters. There are many proposed learning orders for the kanji, but sorting the characters to an easy-to-learn order by computational algorithm has hardly been investigated. With computational approach it is possible to sort characters hierarchically (components before compounds) and at the same time prioritize frequent characters to learn them as soon as possible. I am studying both Japan studies in the Faculty of Arts and computer science in the Faculty of Science, so it was natural to find a topic where I could combine both of my study fields.