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Doctoral Program

Research Lens

Research Lens
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The research program of GEAS is based on the systematic and comparative study of East Asia in its wider global context. GEAS focuses on institutions: rules, norms, and practices, both those that are globally general and regionally specific. The research program aims at developing a theoretically informed and empirically grounded understanding of the origins, effects, and interdependence of institutions in East Asia, both contemporary and historical. The research approach combines regional expertise with a strong social science focus in a relevant discipline.

Individual projects address specific topics within an institutional field such as politics, the legal system, the economy, business and management, education, the arts, religion or core social institutions such as kinship and family systems. The research program of the Graduate School explores these institutions in relation to key internal and external challenges, as well as the ways in which these institutions influence the responses of East Asian countries to contemporary challenges with regional or global implications. This perspective emphasizes the influence of the international context on East Asia, as well as the influence of East Asia in the world.

The importance of institutions can hardly be exaggerated in the study of social phenomena and processes. Since the (re)discovery of the role of institutions in the construction and shaping of political and social reality, research on institutions has undergone a significant diversification and pluralization, leading to a number of theories which focus variously on organizations (neoclassical institutionalism), individuals (rational choice), and transactions (new institutional economics). These theories have been applied in a great number of empirical studies on the United States and Europe. Since the beginning of the theoretical discourse on institutions, however, events in East Asia have outpaced the development of scholarship in the region. GEAS builds on the large body of research on European and North American settings and build a coherent, cohesive project to examine East Asia in the context of several varieties of institutional theory, with the additional aim of contributing to theoretical innovation with empirical data from East Asia.

The Ph.D. training program is designed to develop core competences that are central for conducting discipline-based research in and on East Asia as well as a set of transferable skills that enable doctoral candidates to develop successful careers either in academia or in policy relevant employment. Moreover, the doctoral training program is characterized by a high level of international exchange. All doctoral candidates are encouraged to a minimum of six months of conducting original research in the region based at a partner university in East Asia and to participate in a two week Summer School.

Core competences for research include the following:

  • excellent area expertise on one country in East Asia (China, Japan, Korea)
  • broad regional competence in East Asia
  • high competence in at least one East Asian language
  • strong methodological skills in a discipline
  • interdisciplinary competence
  • international network within East Asian Studies and the relevant discipline
  •  transregional and transcultural expertise

GEAS also strives to train doctoral candidates in transferable skills and to provide them with professional development opportunities that also enable them to pursue a career outside of academia in a policy-related area. Doctoral candidates will further be able to take advantage of the resources for interdisciplinary work and exchange support through the Dahlem Research School (DRS) at Freie Universität Berlin.


Transferable skills of high relevance to GEAS are:

  • intercultural competence related to East Asia
  • writing and presentation skills for both academic conferences and policy-related project presentations
  • teaching experience
  • interdisciplinary learning experience to foster research partnerships with scholars from the social sciences, history, economics and business, law, and anthropology and the humanities
  • teamwork in formal and informal research groups
  •  skills in fund raising and project management