Demographic changes in Southeast Asia: Regional and international ramifications

  • Gender and generational transformations (Copenhagen, 16-17 April, 2015)

  • Security and migration (Helsinki, 23-24 October 2015)

Welcome to N-SEA – the Nordic Southeast Asia Network!

Against the move away from area or regional studies that characterizes much scholarly thinking today, we have found the need to re-invigorate a conversation about Southeast Asia as a region. We do so with humility and mindful of integrating the insights from thematic approaches and the increasing globalization. This conversation is important for several reasons. Firstly, as more and more focus is being lavished on India and China, it seems as though Southeast Asia is being forgotten despite the fact that the region is growing in economic and demographic importance. Furthermore, the region is increasingly globalized through mass-migration, especially from Thailand and the Philippines, but also from the rest of the region. Hence, Southeast Asia is constantly and increasingly present also in Denmark and in North in general. Finally, Southeast Asian Studies has always contributed with original conceptual developments that cannot be reduced to the study of China and India or the rest of the world.

The aim of the network is to bring scholars together from the Nordic countries through events that are either organized by the network or individuals within the network or events where it would be fruitful to bring aboard a specific Southeast Asian dimension. To facilitate the exchange between students will be of particular importance. Finally, the network will also be used as a vehicle for fundraising and common projects.

The Nordic Southeast Asia network hosts two explorative workshops in 2015

“Demographic changes in Southeast Asia: Regional and international ramifications”

During the last half century, the Southeast Asia region has undergone tremendous social, political and economic change, reflected in extensive demographic transformations throughout the region. These changes comprise among others rapid population growth and new patterns of settlement and migration—both rural-to-urban and transnational migration. The changes have at times contributed to development and security, and at times impeded it. Changing opportunities for young adults have revolutionized our understandings of marriage, femininity and masculinity, provided fertility choices, skewed sex-ratio balances and raised sometimes contradictory concerns about population aging and youth bulges throughout the region.

It is these changes and the challenges they bring about that will be the focus of a series of explorative workshops bringing together scholars and students from across the Nordic countries. Scholars from the Nordic countries have contributed to the scholarly discussions, and have had much to offer. However, given that Nordic scholars of Southeast Asia are spanning from Reykjavik via Bergen to Helsinki with only few geographic clusters, opportunities for fruitful scholarly interactions are rare. Hence, these workshops will enable a much-needed discussion across the Nordic countries and allow younger scholars and graduate students to forge connections and participate in the exchange. Two workshops will be organized in 2015 in Copenhagen (in April) and Helsinki (in October) respectively. At these workshops invited keynote speakers, discussants, policy makers and students will discuss conceptual, methodological and policy challenges emanating from demographic change, focusing on generational and gender transformations, security and migration.

First workshop: Gender and generational transformations
Copenhagen, 16-17 April, 2015

Demographic changes are imbued with, and impact on, gender and generational relations, urban-rural dynamics as well as societal hierarchies locally, regionally and globally. Because of flows of people, money, and goods new political and power constellations between women and men and between young and old are shaped and notions of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality redefined. This workshop will explore three inter-related themes. These are clientelist politics, politics of care and sexual politics, which all seem to be reconfigured by demographic change. The workshop will address several questions:

  • How and to which extent do patron-client networks transform in relation to migration, improvements in educational levels and gender and generational reconfigurations?
  • How do transforming family structures impact on generational relations and notions of care?
  •  How are sexual identities reconfigured and recognized, or misrecognized in particular Southeast Asian societies and how do such changes interact with larger demographic transformations?

Apart from these scholarly discussions, the workshop will also focus on methodology and fieldwork in South East Asia and invite papers and presentations from graduate students from across the Nordic countries (see Call for Participation).    

Invited speakers from outside the Nordic region:

  • Sarah Turner, McGill University, Montreal
  • Ian Wilson, Murdoch University, Perth

Other participants and the program will be announced later.

Second workshop: Security and migration
Helsinki, 23-24 October 2015

The workshop will explore the connection between demographic change and sociopolitical stability. Central concerns are how population growth and migration transform political space, how Southeast Asian societies have reorganized themselves around these spaces in recent history and how South Asian migration impact also on Nordic countries. The workshop will explore four related issues:

  • How and to what extent have urbanization and the exit from the agriculture created new grievances for rural populations, and how are these transformations appropriated as new stages for the articulation of political interests and imaginations?
  • How has labor migration to free trade zones, agricultural estates and more affluent countries made an imprint in cultural patterns throughout Southeast Asia?
  • How and in what ways has demographic transition affected Southeast Asian countries, areas and ethnic groups not least in relation to the demographic balance between politically dominant and subordinate groups?
  • How does Southeast Asian migration affect the receiving countries, not least the Nordic region?

Apart from these scholarly discussions, the workshop will also feature important policy discussions with invited policy makers from the Nordic region.

Invited speakers from outside the Nordic region:

  • Jonathan Rigg, National University of Singapore

Other participants and the program will be announced later.


These workshops have been organized by the Nordic Network of Southeast Asian Studies with the generous financial support of the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils in the Humanities and the Social Sciences (NOS-HS). The organizing committee consists of Oscar Salemink (University of Copenhagen); Monica Lindberg Falk (Lund University); Steffen Jensen (DIGNITY-Danish Institute Against Torture); Isabelle Côté (University of Leiden); Helle Rydström (Lund University), Timo Kaartinen (University of Helsinki) and Marie Yoshida (University of Copenhagen). The workshops are funded by the Joint Committe for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS).

Call for Participation
in PhD workshop “Making sense of the field in Southeast Asia”, 2,5 ects, Copenhagen, 17 April 2015

As part of a series of workshops entitled “Demographic changes in Southeast Asia: regional and international ramifications” organized by the Nordic Southeast Asia Network, PhD candidates working on Southeast Asia are invited to participate in a workshop to be held in Copenhagen on April 16-17, 2015. While the first day of the workshop will include presentations on demographic changes and gender in Southeast Asia from leading Scandinavian and international scholars in the field, the second day will be a graduate workshop oriented around fieldwork: that is, how to conduct fieldwork and how to interpret the data collected. Senior scholars with experience conducting research in Southeast Asia, including Sarah Turner, editor of Red Stamps and Gold Stars: Fieldwork Dilemmas in Upland Socialist Asia (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2013), will provide comments and feedback.

PhD students interested in participating are asked to submit by December 15, 2014, a 1-2 pages concept paper with references describing their research and the fieldwork they intend on conducting or have already conducted.

Priority will be given to students based at universities in the Nordic region whose research topic matches that of the workshop, but all topics and field-based disciplines are welcome. Students that are not from the greater Copenhagen/Lund region are particularly welcomed to apply. Advanced master students may apply and will be taken into consideration as well.

Air/ground transportation in economy class, accommodation and meals will be provided to the selected participants. The workshop is being accredited with the PhD programme of the Department of Anthropology, which means that participants would receive 2.5 ects from the PhD School of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Copenhagen.