Dr.Kathinka Fürst currently holds a dual appointment as the Associate Director of the Environmental Research Center and Assistant Adjunct Professor of Environmental Policy at Duke Kunshan University and as a Faculty Fellow at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Originally from Norway, Dr. Fürst received her PhD degree at the Faculty of Law, University of Amsterdam and her MA degree at the University of Oslo. She has a BA in Sinology from Beijing Language and Culture University.

Having been living, studying and working in China for fifteen years, she is standing on the crossing point of the western and oriental cultures and brings a new and comprehensive perspectives on environmental issues.

Her story:

My lifetime in China has been very different.

I've been here for fifteen years and things have changed quite a bit. Being a Norwegian in China has taught me what it means to be different. I've been lucky that this curiosity has been kind-minded. I cannot say that I understand everything about what it means to be different, how it feels to be discriminated against, what is racism or anything like that, but literally looking very, very different from everybody else is a very powerful experience. I have a little bit of that without having to have any trauma. I've seen a lot of changes over the years. When I was first at Wudaokou in Beijing, there were two subway lines, line 1 and line 2. Now there are 15 or 17 lines. Things have been developed very rapidly. Even the air pollution issues changed very quickly as well. We would never expect to see Beijing recovering from air pollution so quickly. How rapidly things change also gives a lot of promise for the future. People are searching for answers and open to new suggestions. It is very motivating and encouraging for researchers who have this practical perspective to work here.

I’m passionate about giving participation to ordinary citizens in policy and the processes. It includes who gets to decide what is a good policy and what is fair, how to make it more accessible to citizens, and how to think more comprehensively about the outcome of policy processes. It's not just a concern about the environment, not just a concern of the economics, but a combined concern of the environmental, economic, and social aspects. This is very, very challenging and very, very difficult but fairer policies should be pursued.

If you look at my experiences you will find I have been in the interface of projects and research. I try to be a “practitioners.” Although some of my work is to use case studies to discuss theory and theory development, I'm not a person who would like to sit in my office and do “armchair research.” My understanding is that research should be useful for solving real and practical problems. That why I spent one year traveled around China to visit and interview people and NGOs working on environmental protection in China, to know their stories and what behind.

Generally, my research looks at the relationship between law, policy regulations and the state. I'm mostly interested in the dynamics between the non-state and the state. How do different stakeholders seek to change policies? Why did they do that? Why are they successful? Why are they not? How does that process work in different political settings? My PhD focused on civil regulations in China. I looked at the role that NGOs can have in regulations of industrial pollution risks. I take that with me in new projects, of course.

I have initiated a case study database on environmental governance issues in China. Hopefully this will develop into part of an independent research platform of bilingual cases, focusing on different aspects of environmental governance issues in China.