Asian women sitting on the floor at a market

Women and Development, Women and War research

Explore our work in this area of expertise, one of 2 within or Development Studies research

Our research focuses on gender, to understand how the Cold War and migration in East Asia may be experienced by women and men differently. These comparisons are critical to understanding how policies, legislations, and cultures are formed and affect daily life.

In East Asia, women in certain industries, such as a caregiving and homemaking, outnumber men as migrants. However, under the commonly adopted guest-worker system, women are more disadvantaged than men, due to their challenging working conditions and discriminatory legislation. Issues such as labour rights, residency, family reunion, placement fees, debt bondage, and human trafficking dramatically reduce the wellbeing of migrant women.

Women in Southeast Asia who migrate due to marriage with men in advanced economies in East Asia face another set of challenges. Stigmatised as mail-order-brides and viewed as inferior outsiders, they are discriminated not only by the host society, but also their local in-laws. This has an impact on the wellbeing of the women, as well as their mixed children. Their experiences bring new challenges to issues such as nationality, citizenship, activism, identity, political participation, multiculturalism, and gender-based violence.

The legacy of the Cold War lingers in East Asia and is manifested via migrants’ experiences, development strategies, cultural production and heritage management. These issues are largely overlooked when the attention to the Cold War was dominated by scholarship focusing on hard power and their resultant security alliances, foreign policies, military expansions and ideological indoctrination.

Through our research, we're bringing everyday experiences of the Cold War to the fore, so that we can obtain a clear understanding of the long-lasting impact of the manoeuvring of hard power on our social values and cultural norms.

Politically and legally, our research demonstrates to governments in East Asia, and globally, the damage of migrants’ human and labour rights under the guest worker system . Economically and socially, it highlights the overlooked market value of the contributions made by foreign caregivers and domestics, because of their provision of affordable home-based care. It also shows the growing awareness among foreign-born citizens of the necessity of exercising political rights for collective actions.

Our research demonstrates the necessity of understanding the legacy of the Cold War from economic and cultural perspectives, and this enhances the conservation of Cold War heritage. Technically, it underpins the urgency of digitising sonic archives and the contribution of virtual reality technology, to improve experiences in visiting Cold War heritage sites.

Our research covers the following topics

  • Marriage and migration
  • Labour migration
  • Guest worker system
  • Foreign caregivers and domestics in care industry
  • Brokering industry in labour migration
  • Remittance and development
  • Women in armed conflicts
  • Authoritarianism and militarisation
  • War and heritage conservation


We frequently rely on qualitative methods to obtain contextual information about our research subjects' experiences, so that we can engage in detail with their subjective understanding of their actions. This may include in-depth interviews featuring open-ended questioning, focus group interviews, participant observation, and biographical research. We also conduct archival and oral history research.

Publication highlights

Discover our areas of expertise

Women and development, women and war is one of 2 areas of expertise in our Development Studies research – explore the other area below.

Development theory, policy and practice

We're using our expertise to tackle gender and ethnic inequality, shield the most vulnerable from turmoil, and find solutions to the sustainable growth challenges.

Men tending to large pile of hay in Asia
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Research groups

Women's and Gender Studies Research Group

We're researching violence against women and girls, access to justice, peace-building and conflict resolution.

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Interested in a PhD in Development Studies?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Area Studies postgraduate research degrees page.