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Meet Dr. Ferran Perez Mena

Meet Dr. Ferran Perez Mena, Assistant Professor of International Relations of East Asia in the School of Government and International Affairs.

I am an Assistant Professor in International Relations of East Asia. My teaching portfolio encompasses undergraduate and postgraduate modules focused on Chinese politics and international relations of East Asia. I’m involved in the activities of the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies. Additionally, I serve as an admissions coordinator and contribute to the organisation of both undergraduate and postgraduate open days. 

What first attracted you to your chosen field of expertise? 

To be honest, I haven’t been the stereotypical China expert solely focused on Chinese domestic politics and its ancient culture. As the American historian of modern China, Rebecca Karl, once said, she studied China to comprehend the modern world. That’s precisely what motivated me to choose my field. I believed that studying China provided a good excuse to understand the world beyond East Asia. I also must confess that my intellectual trajectory has been uncommon because I initially entered the field of China’s foreign relations through Taiwan studies and the study of Cross-Strait Relations.  

What is your favourite subject to teach and why? 

Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed teaching about China’s state formation during the early 20th century. It was the first lecture of the undergraduate module titled ‘China in the Asian Century: Domestic Challenges, Global Rise.’ I think this is a great subject to understand the evolution of China’s place in the global order and the political and economic challenges that arose from its transition from a multi-ethnic empire to a nation-state. 

What can students expect from their first few weeks on your course? 

I believe students will gain a different and, hopefully, interesting perspective on China and the East Asia region in my classes. I enjoy teaching about China and East Asia from a global and anti-Eurocentric standpoint. In my seminars, I strive to organize engaging and, hopefully, enjoyable activities that help students understand the relevance of what they learn in my classes. For example, last year, we explored the issue of ‘agency’ and social movements in East Asia through the creation of memes. 

What do you think makes your department unique? 

My colleagues. I am quite impressed by the department’s commitment to and respect for theoretical pluralism. Despite colleagues coming from various traditions of thought within their fields, they are all very open-minded and respectful of the theoretical and methodological pluralism that exists within the department. This commitment leads to a unique experience for students, providing them with a variety of theoretical and methodological tools, allowing for intellectual growth.  

What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying your course? 

Attempting to comprehend the complexities behind contentious political issues that we may not agree with does not imply justification or legitimization. In my opinion, this humanist approach is not only essential to grow intellectually but also to build better societies.  

What have your students gone on to do after graduating from Durham? 

I’m extremely impressed by my students. Some pursued master’s degrees in International Politics, Chinese Studies, and Diplomacy. Others entered the private sector, working for financial companies, while some aspired to become diplomats at the UK Foreign Office. 

Follow me on X, @ferranpeme.