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INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research

The Oslo-Zhejiang Project: Humanistic Studies of Environment and Climate Change in China:

Alternative title: Oslo-Zhejiang Prosjektet: Humanistiske studier av miljø og klima i Kina

Awarded: NOK 4.0 mill.

Academic collaboration with China is more important than ever. In times with growing geopolitical tensions and the escalating climate and environmental crisis, the exchange of students from Norway and China, along with close collaborations between researchers, remain one the ways in which we can secure continued dialogue and deepen our knowledge across borders and political divides. There is a need in both China and Norway for more university candidates who have insight into the profound human and social consequences of climate change and environmental destruction – candidates who can act on these. The Oslo-Zhejiang project is based upon collaborative interdisciplinary research carried out in two research projects funded by the Norwegian Research Council. The aim of the Oslo-Zhejiang project is to help more Norwegian and Chinese students at the master’s and Ph.D. levels to gain research-based interdisciplinary knowledge of the social and human consequences of global climate change and local environment destruction. Concretely, the Oslo-Zhejiang project offers teaching in both China and Norway that differs profoundly from what students are already exposed to in their respective study programs. In China, scholars from Zhejiang University (UiO) organize practice-oriented forms of teaching for Norwegian students. The Norwegian students are fully emersed in a Chinese study program at master’s level in social anthropology, and they get a unique opportunity to learn how to carry out anthropological fieldwork in China under the guidance of our Chinese partners and in the Chinese language. In Oslo, Chinese master’s and Ph.d. students receive a challenging interdisciplinary methodological-theoretical training, which also includes studies and discussions about climate and environment seen in context of Europe/US-based research about Chinese society and politics. Chinese students work closely with Norwegian students. After the funding of the project ends the partners have plans for continued long-term collaboration.

The Oslo-Zhejiang project is based in a long-established collaboration between researchers from University of Oslo (UiO) and Zhejiang University (ZJU). Scholars come from academic disciplines mainly within the humanistic and social sciences, including China studies. The main outcome of the project has been the establishment of structured and research-based student exchange at the MA- and Ph.D levels. MA-students from China Studies at UiO (studying Chinese language, society, culture and politics) get a unique opportunity to immerse in Chinese classes in anthropology at ZJU, focusing on the methodology of doing fieldwork related to topics of climate and environment in the Chinese society. MA and Ph.D level students from different academic disciplines at ZJU get an equally unique opportunity to study climate and environment from interdisciplinary perspectives, especially, from the humanities and social sciences. This kind of interdisciplinarity is still rare in Chinese academia. Students from China have come from study programs in fields ranging from anthropology, tourist studies, philosophy, energy, engineering, etc. and all have joined Norwegian students in studying climate and environment from interdisciplinary perspectives and as seen, especially, in the context of China. The project had two successful years of student exchange before Covid 19 closed most doors for exchange. Already before that time, it had turned out to be easier to recruit Chinese students for the program than Norwegian students, and it was therefore very unfortunate that the year when we had just recruited a larger number (5) Norwegian students to join, Covid 19 set in and we had to cancel all trips. The researchers/teachers have stayed in contact with several of the Chinese graduates, most of whom have also later found jobs or research positions in China where their experiences from the Norwegian study were clearly relevant. One of the students from China received a 4-year Norwegian Ph.D. scholarship after her participation in the exchange program. In the course of the project, an additional number of younger scholars at both Zhejiang and Oslo University have joined the collaboration, and new research collaboration has developed, for instance in the field of gender studies. This was an unexpected but very positive outcome of the project. The partners at both universities now look for possibilities to continue the exchange of students into each other’s study programs, without the previous external funding. In this process, the universities will need to investigate how to best develop a MoU that will ensure that Chinese students are exempt from the new Norwegian tuition fee. Zhejiang University will from 2023 open for invitations to scholars and students connected to the Oslo-Zhejiang Project so we can restart visits and exchange.

The Oslo-Zhejiang Environmental Humanities Project has its basis in the ongoing interdisciplinary research project "Airborne: Pollution, Climate Change and Visions of Sustainability in China". Airborne studies how policy, science, media and population interact in the face of air pollution in China. It engages scholars from the disciplines of China studies/sinology, anthropology, media science, atmospheric chemistry and political science. The new Oslo-Zhejiang Project will expand both the topic of enquiries in Airborne and the forms of collaboration. The main aim is to strengthen post-graduate Norwegian and Chinese students’ competence in the field of environment and climate change as seen from a humanities and social science perspective. Concretely, the project will ensure that researchers in the Airborne project, who already cooperate across disciplines and national borders, expand their collaboration to include joint teaching and supervision. Every year selected Norwegian students from China studies in the University of Oslo will be offered the unique possibility to study environmental issues from a humanistic and social science perspective together with Chinese students, in the Chinese language, at the School of Public Management, Zhejiang University. Chinese students, at the same time, will be offered the possibility of studying, in English, social science and humanistic subjects related to environment and climate change during one semester’s stay at the University of Oslo. In this way students from both China and Norway will be included into international top-level research in a field of particular global urgency, and they will strengthen their own competence in the field. Furthermore, the project will increase the exchange of academic staff between China and Norway, and develop long-term administrative structures for enhancing from below existing top-down institutional partnership.

Funding scheme:

INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research