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Excellence Forum CHINA global


Prof. Dr. Susanne Brandtstädter 

Susanne Brandtstädter is a China anthropologist. She has undertaken long-term ethnographic fieldwork in China and Taiwan since 1991. She is equally interested in cross-cultural comparison as in historical dynamics of change and continuity. Her work has linked research on the transformation of Chinese social worlds under the influence of modern state formation and global economies, with a keen interest in value-oriented action and moral reasoning. After positions in Manchester and Oslo she joined University of Cologne and now holds the Chair in the Anthropology of Globalization which has been established as a part of the institutional strategy of the university. Since 2015 she holds an honorary Adjunct Professor at the Social Anthropology Department of Xiamen University. Since 2015 she is also on the supervisory board of the Stiftung Asienhaus Köln. Her most recent book publications are: Cynicism, Irony and the Chinese State (Routledge 2016) and Popular Politics and the Quest for Justice in Contemporary China (Routledge 2017) both co-edited with Hans Steinmüller from the London School of Economics. Currently she is working with Wilfried Hinsch on a co-authored book manuscript, provisionally entitled Justice and Moral Reasoning in Contemporary China

Prof. Dr. Wilfried Hinsch 

Wilfried Hinsch has published extensively in the fields of moral and political philosophy with a focus on the theory of justice and legitimacy. He also made contributions to the practical ethics of violent international conflict. His latest book publications are Die gerechte Gesellschaft (Stuttgart 2016) and Die Moral des Krieges (München 2017). There is also a Chinese translations of his earlier work on social justice (Gerechtfertigte Ungleichheiten, Berlin/New York 2002) which is currently the subject of intensive discussion at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. Currently he is working on a joint book project with Susanne Brandtstädter on justice and moral reasoning in contemporary China. Since 2016 he holds an honorary adjunct professorship at the Philosophy Department of Xiamen University. 

Project Coordinator

Amtul Shaheen, M.A. 

Amtul is currently a Doctoral researcher and Lecturer at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Cologne. Her research interests include globalisation, multiethnic and multireligious societies with a focus on China, Taiwan and Chinese Diapora. The working title of her PhD project is "An Ethnographic Study on the Globalisation of Chinese Islam in Taiwan". Amtul has studied Sinology (Magister Artium) with a focus on the politics, society and economy of Modern China in Cologne and Xi’an as well as Social and Cultural Anthropology (Master of Arts) in Cologne and Lanzhou. Since November 2017, she is the Project Coordinator of the Excellence Forum CHINA global. Between 2017 and 2019, she conducted fieldwork (7 months in total) on the topic of "China's northwestern women's mosques between state, religion and modernity" .



Project Assistant

Anne Herms, M.A.

Anne Herms has studied Social and Cultural Anthropology and Indology/South Asian Studies (B.A.) at the University of Tübingen, including a semester abroad at Sambalpur University. She pursued a Master's degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Cologne with foci on the anthropology of globalization and socioeconomics. Her regional focus lies on India, particularly Jammu and Kashmir. Since August 2019, she has been Project Assistant of the Excellence Forum CHINA global and since April 2020 Coordinator of the Chair for Practical Philosophy at the University of Cologne.


Prof. Dr. Björn Ahl

Björn Ahl is Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture. Before joining the University of Cologne in 2012, he was Visiting Professor of Chinese Law, Comparative Public Law and International Law in the China EU School of Law at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. Prior to that he held a position as Assistant Professor of Law in the City University of Hong Kong. He has also worked as Associate Director and Lecturer in the Sino German Institute of Legal Studies of Nanjing University and as a Researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg.

He received a doctorate in law from the University of Heidelberg in 2008 and passed the second state examination in law in 2001. Prior to that he served as a legal clerk in the Heidelberg District Court, Legal Court and Public Prosecutor's Office, the Administrative Appellate Court of Bade-Württemberg and the Legal Department of the Regional Administrative Council in Karlsruhe. He completed the first examination with distinction in 1999. Björn Ahl studied Law and Chinese language at the University of Heidelberg and Nanjing with scholarships of the German National Scholarship Foundation and the Alfred Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach Stiftung.

Björn Ahl is President of the European China Law Studies Association; Fellow at the Center for Chinese Law of the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law; and Board Member of the Sino German Jurists Association. His recent publications can be found here.

Dr. phil. habil. Nora Sausmikat 

Nora Sausmikat holds a post-PhD degree in Sinology. Her interests lie in the topics of political reform and collective memory as well as public discourses and social change. In recent years, her research focused on the correlation between political generations and the production of meaning for political action with special attention to social groups and civil society developments in China. Additionally, she has long-term practical experience as director of  a China-related NGO exchange program, and has been working intensively with grassroot civil groups engaging in environmental protection, social work and climate change.

From 2000-2004, she held a position as researcher at the University of Duisburg and worked on the interplay between reform discourses and the diffusion of ideas into politics. From 2004-06, she was program director of the German-Chinese fellowship program "Beijing Case" (Beijing/Berlin) working on the phenomenon of high speed urbanism. From 2008 until 2019, she established and headed the China program at the Stiftung Asienhaus (, where she organized civil society activities, such as the EU-China Civil Society Forum and several European-Chinese civil society dialogues.

Currently, she is working on the Chinese Belt and Road initiative and collaborates with the Ruhr-University of Bochum on civil society topics. Her publications include "Chinese environmental movements: civil society discourses on climate change and environmental protection", in Carmen Meinert (Ed.), Nature, Environment, and Culture in East Asia: The Challenge of Climate Change, Leide: Brill 2013. More recent publications can be found at

Chinese Partners

Prof. Dr. Tongdong Bai

Tongdong Bai is the Dongfang chair professor of Philosophy at Fudan University in China, and a Global Professor of Law at NYU's Law School. His research interests include Chinese philosophy and political philosophy. His book, A New Mission of an Old State: The Comparative and Contemporary Relevance of Classical Confucian Political Philosophy (in Chinese) was published by Peking University in 2009, and his book, China: The Political Philosophy of the Middle Kingdom (in English), was published by Zed Books in 2012. He has recently finished a manuscript in English, tentatively titled "In Defense of Inequality - Confucian Alternatives to Liberal Democratic Order", which is now under review for publication. He is also the director of an English-based MA and visiting program in Chinese philosophy that is intended to promote the studies of Chinese philosophy in the world. These and other academic and social activities in which he is involved are all aimed to promote new political norms that draw their resources from traditional Chinese philosophy and are informed by comparative philosophy and political theories. 

Prof. Dr. May Tan-Mullins 

May Tan-Mullins became the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning on 1 January 2018. She is also a Professor in International Relations, the Director of Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies and the series editor of Palgrave Series in Asia and Pacific Studies. Besides, May is appointed as the Head of The International Exchange and Cooperation Center of Ningbo CEEC Cooperation Institute, as well as the Director of The Ningbo International Collaboration Research Institute. May joined the University of Nottingham Ningbo China in 2009 as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to full professor in 2015. She was also previously the Head of School of International Studies and Dean of Graduate School. In addition, she is a recipient of the esteemed Lord Dearing Excellent Teaching Award (2014) and Vice Chancellor Medal (2017.)

Her research interests are political ecology of rising China, environmental and energy justice, poverty alleviation and building resilience for the poorest and most vulnerable. Based on her expertise in various international development and human security issues, she is a consultant for the UNDP, National Bureau of Asian Research (US), the Revenue Watch Institute (US) and the Chinese government. She was also awarded the prestigious global Rockefeller Bellagio writing residency in Bellagio Centre, Lake Como in Italy. Some of her most current research projects are together with colleagues from King's College London UK, TU-Delft, Freiburg University Germany and University of Toulouse I Capitole where they were awarded over a million Euros by European and Chinese funders to look at a comparative study between 'Smart Eco-cities in Europe and China' (2015-2018). Another project is with the University of Nottingham UK and University of Philippines on 'Poverty Alleviation in Post Typhoon Yalanda', awarded by ESRC-DFID (2015-2018). 

Dr. Cheung Chi-Pui

Cheung Chi-Pui is an Assistant Professor in Athropology of China at Xiamen University. His research interests are in the areas of anthropology of China, anthropology of policy, and art and politics. He has been conducting fieldwork in different parts of China that focuses on everyday practice of national policies in Chinese rural areas and urban space. He has published on those topics that address the central issue of 'policy imagination'. Currently, he is working on a research project on Chinese government's cremation policy that opens up one's new ways of imagining the death. 

Dr. Feng Sha

Feng Sha is an Assistant Professor in Anthropology of Chinese Contemporary Art at Xiamen University. In 2012 she received a joint PhD between Minzu University of China and University of Jean Moulin Lyon 3 (France) in Anthropology and Transcultural Studies respectively. Her research interests include anthropology of art, Chinese contemporary art, socially engaged art, and practices of cross-disciplinary art. Her current research primarily deals with the practices of art-anthropology collaborations by working with Chinese contemporary artists. In recent and forthcoming publications (in Chinese), she looks at the themes on the cosmopolitan identity of Chinese artists in overseas countries such as France (resulting in a newly released monograph in Chinese), rural community-based arts, and trans-local art practices. 

Associates in Cologne

Dr. Roberta Zavoretti 

Roberta Zavoretti was educated in Chinese Studies at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy) and in Social Anthropology at the University of London - SOAS (UK). After defending her PhD dissertation on class and internal migration in contemporary Mainland China, she continued to explore the mutual constitution and reproduction of different forms of social inequality, focusing on the links between class formation, gender roles and family politics in contemporary urban China. Her present interests include the production of value and values, unofficial practices of relatedness and structures of feeling in the context of China’s state-led capitalism.

Dr. Sarah Hanisch

Sarah Hanisch is a lecturer at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Cologne. She has worked extensively on Chinese women in Lesotho and briefly on African students in Taiwan. Her research interests include the anthropology of globalization, migration and social transformation with a focus on China and southern Africa. 

PhD students

Panitda Saiyarod, MSc

Panitda Saiyarod is a PhD student in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Cologne University. The working title of her thesis is “The Clash of Connectedness: Local responses to China’s transnational infrastructure projects in a border town, Thailand”. Her doctoral research will address key questions concerning transnational infrastructure and the role of Thai NGOs in response to the transition of a border town in northern Thailand, of which the conflicts of the Mekong Blasting project is a significant case study. In the context of BRI initiative, this research will explore the role of Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and their responses in the disputed projects. This research designed to examine new forms of resistance and reconciliation generated by China’ transnational infrastructure projects in northern Thailand. She has an MSc Development Anthropology with Merit from Durham University, UK and holds a B.A. in Sociology from Fudan University, China. 


Marhaba Wufuer, M.A.

Marhaba Wufuer is a PhD student in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Cologne University. Since August 2020, she has been research assistant in the Department of  Social and Cultural Anthropology. The working title of her thesis is “The Impact of the Belt and Road Initiative on the Livelihood of Uyghur Traders in Kazakhstan”. Her doctoral research focuses on the impact of the BRI on the livelihood and cultural variation of small-scale traders in Almaty. This research will observe changes in the livelihoods of migrant traders and the impact of the BRI on local society and migrant labor relations in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She pursued a Master's degree in Sociology at the University of Sakarya, Turkey and holds a B.A. in Social Work from JiangXi Normal University, China.