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Individual Agency in Institutional Contexts in East Asia

Dec 09, 2016 - Dec 10, 2016

How institutions work in real life depends to a considerable extent on how individuals relate to them in their everyday activities. As the structures given by institutions are often manifold, conflicting, and multi-leveled, diverging interpretations and pathways of action can be expected. There are various perspectives to study the relationship between institutions and individuals, among which some recent approaches emphasize the agency of individuals within an institutional setting. How do individuals interact with larger cultural, social, political, and economic contexts? Also, while doing research, how can scholars navigate the gap between concrete persons or situations, and the abstract models of agency?

Preliminary Program






Welcome Address


Panel I - Agency within State and Administrative Structures


Coffee Break


Panel II - Individuals’ Strategies within State-Regulatory Frameworks


Coffee Break


Keynote Speech - Roger Goodman (Oxford University)

What do we mean when we talk about the 'individual' and 'agency' in the context of area studies?








Panel III - Strategic Agency by and towards Ethnic Minorities


Coffee Break


Panel IV - Individuals Confronting Systems of Social Inequality


Lunch Break


Panel V - Individuals’ Role in the Transformation of Norms, Narratives and Frames


Coffee Break


Panel VI - Individuals Influence on Institutional Change and Persistence




Panel Title

Paper 1

Paper 2

Paper 3


Agency within State and Administrative Structures


Panel Chair:

Elena Korshenko



Elena Meyer-Clement

Wendy Leutert (Cornell University)


“Leadership and Economic Reform in a Chinese Central State-owned Enterprise”

Arnaud Grivaud (Paris VII Diderot)


“Redefining Politico-Administrative Relations in Japan: The Case of the Act on “Political Leadership Reinforcement” of 1999”

Olivia Yun An Dung (Leiden University)


“‘Making it Recyclable’: The Case of Plastic Bag Recycling in Taiwan”


Individuals’ Strategies within State-Regulatory Frameworks


Panel Chair:

Lisa Melcher



Florentine Koppenborg

Matthew Stephenson (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva)


“Chinese Outward Direct Investment Regulatory Reform: An Application of Institutional Theory”

Rebecca Tompkins (Leiden University)

“Uncovering the waste of society: Japanese wartime mobilization of women and the 1938 ‘finding waste in the streets’ campaign”

Isabel Heger (Free University of Berlin)


“How Individual Coping Strategies Contribute to the Persistance of China's National College Entrance Examination”


Strategic Agency by and towards Ethnic Minorities


Panel Chair:

Valeria Lotti



Jieun Kim

Ying Ding (University of Duisburg-Essen)

“Revival of Sibe: Fostering Ethnic Identity through Language”

Roslynn Ang (New York University)


“Institutional danger: Strategies to unsettle knowledge and representation in Ainu performance”

Aihua Li (Leiden University)


“Nationalism and Ethnicity: Korean-Chinese Academics’ Views on China’s Multi-ethnic Nationalism”


Individuals Confronting Systems of Social Inequality


Panel Chair:

Anselm Huppenbauer



Roger Goodman

Kie Sanada (Humboldt University Berlin)


“Inegalitarian Social Reality and its Misrecognition: The Perpetuation of the Structure of Social Inequality in Japan, as a Consequence of Community-building Projects (Chiiki Okoshi)”

Huijie Chu (University of Duisburg-Essen)


“Interpreting Educational Inequality: Individual Perception and Responses”

Lassi Laine (University of Duisburg-Essen)


“China’s Fragile Middle Class: Diverse Aspirations and Uncertain Livelihoods”


Individuals’ Role in the Transformation of Norms, Narratives and Frames


Panel Chair:

Jan NIggemeier



Anna Belogurova

Urmas Pappel (University of Tartu)


“History, Political Engagement and Authoritarian State in China”

Julia Khan (Seoul National University)


“Pakistani Kitchen and Global Civil Society: The Role of Agency in The Transnational Field of Hanyang University, South Korea”

Anna Vainio (University of Sheffield)


“Un-Pausing Communities: Social Construction of Recovery for Sustainability”


Individuals' Influence on Institutional Change and Persistence


Panel Chair:

You Kyung Byun



Oul Han

Hyojin Pak (Leiden University)


“Formalising Ragpickers: The  Case of Kŭllochaekŏndae in South Korea, 1962-1974”

Amos Farooqi (Korea University)


“Regional Rhythms: The Relationship of Local Hip-Hop Scenes and the Korean Music Industry”

Sungju Park-Kang (University of Turku)


“Agency, the Cold War and Imagination: A Woman Spy in Korea”



Ph.D. candidates of the Graduate School for East Asian Studies at Free University of Berlin are organizing a graduate conference about individual agency in institutional contexts in winter 2016. We invite young scholars engaging with East Asia in their research to discuss the role of individual actors and their agency in empirical studies, as well as in theory building.

We welcome contributions that focus on formal and/or informal institutions. Examples could include the Article 9 of the Japanese constitution (peace clause), chaebŏl (industrial conglomerates) in Korea, and guanxi (social ties) in China. The main purpose of this conference is to provide a forum for young researchers for an academic exchange from a multidisciplinary perspective.


Application requirements:

The conference is aimed at doctoral candidates and recent PhDs in area studies or social science disciplines related to East Asia. There are no specific requirements in respect of a candidate’s disciplinary background. The disciplines that will be considered include, but are not limited to social and cultural anthropology, law, economics, history, political sciences, and sociology. Each speaker will be asked to deliver a paper in English, followed by a discussion with invited scholars and specialists.


Application process and schedule:

  1. Applicants are to submit the paper title and abstract (no more than 300 words) in English by 12th August 2016 at easychair.org/conferences/?conf=geasgradconference2016
  1. The selected participants will be notified by mid-September 2016
  2. Final papers (5000-8000 words) should be sent in by 4th November 2016.

Contact: grad-conference[at]geas.fu-berlin.de


Time & Location

Dec 09, 2016 - Dec 10, 2016

Freie Universität Berlin
Room L 115 (Seminar Centre)
Otto-von-Simson-Straße 26
14195 Berlin
Seminar Centre Map

Further Information