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Dissertation Research at GEAS

Possible Dissertation Topics

Possible Dissertation Topics

The Graduate School encourages doctoral candidates to analyze the institutional environment of social, political and economic actors and their related preferences in a theoretically informed way and based on empirically and historically grounded as well as culturally informed research. Possible dissertation topics address concrete topics in contemporary or historical institutional settings in Japanese, Chinese, or Korean societies, politics, or economies. While the Graduate School supports doctoral candidates in developing their research projects based on their individual interests and skills, all dissertation research at GEAS will be conducted in the context of the three research lenses of its academic profile: the origin and change of institutions in East Asia, the effects institutions have on processes related to globalization and modernization in East Asia both on the side of governments, bureaucracies or business and individual life-styles or related preferences, and, finally, the linkages and interdependencies of institutions in East Asia within and beyond the increasingly fuzzy boundaries of the region.

One possible starting point for dissertation research could be economic, political, legal, social and cultural developments, such as demographic change, economic and fiscal crises, environmental problems or global security threats such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons, terrorism, the notion and administration of justice, pandemic diseases, or the development of new lifestyles driven by technological innovation. Different disciplines contribute distinctive approaches to a common range of topics. While political scientists, sociologists or economists may address issues of institutional choice, diffusion or incremental change in the context of globalization, or compare the development of regionalism in East Asia and Europe, legal scholars will analyze the normative implications of actual or possible choices or the interrelations between international, regional and national norms and regulatory systems, for example in the context of intellectual property rights or accounting standards.

Political scientists might address questions of new forms of governance and interest articulation due to the spread of the Internet and web-based mobilization in East Asia and beyond or may analyze newly establishing networks between political actors and the challenges they present to existing institutions and modes of governance. Historians might do research on issues of institutional foundations or the influence and change of institutions in historical times, for example studying processes of transfer and adaption of institutions between East Asia and the West or between various countries in Asia. Possible examples reach from the organization of government and political parties to the adoption of global norms such as good governance, human rights, or business ethics. Candidates from the humanities might address changes in global fashion, inspired by design and related life-styles from East Asia, new institutions developing in cyber space and their effects on people's lives, modes of self-representation and interaction.

While the Graduate School concentrates on social science inquiry, the humanities play an important role in GEAS, especially inasmuch as they address--whether in literature and in theater, fashion, or new media--the cultural foundations and related discourses on institutions as well as individual reflections on the effect of institutions in modern and contemporary times.

Dissertation projects may focus on phenomena linked to one East Asian country (or, especially in the case of China, to one or several regions within one country) or address issues on a comparative basis at the regional level within and beyond East Asia. Research at GEAS is not limited to the study of the three major countries in East Asia, China, Japan, and Korea. It is also interested in ways in which developments in and phenomena from East Asia -- from new modes of social interaction based on innovative media technology to specific patterns of inter-firm interaction and concepts of governance that are not shaped by the tradition of Western liberalism -- affect other regions of the world and the global economy. Similarly, research at GEAS is consciously embedded in a global and comparative context, since Chinese firms are building roads and mining rare earth minerals in Africa and Latin America, while Japanese, Korean, and Chinese multinational corporations are operating global businesses with subsidiaries all over Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, the United States, Australia and Africa. Special emphasis will be given to interrelations between national norms and regulatory systems and newly establishing institutions at the regional, international and supranational levels.