Duncan McCargo

Duncan McCargo

Head of Centre, Professor, Visiting professor

Member of:

    Duncan McCargo (BA MA PhD, London) joined the University of Copenhagen in 2019 as Professor of Political Science and Director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. From 1/2020 to 2/2022, he also chaired the University's Asian Dynamics Initiative.

    Duncan works at the intersections of comparative and international politics, with a focus on the nature of power. His core questions are: How do entrenched elites retain power in the face of challenges from new political forces? How do challengers to state power undermine the legitimacy of existing regimes? He has worked on these global questions primarily from the perspective of Southeast Asia.

    Fluent in Thai, Duncan has worked extensively in Thailand, and has also lived in Cambodia, Japan and Singapore. He has published a dozen books and over 100 articles and chapters on Asian politics. His 2005 Pacific Review article on Thailand’s ‘network monarchy’ has been extremely influential. 

    Duncan’s best-known books are The Thaksinization of Thailand (co-authored, NIAS 2005) and Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand (Cornell 2008), which won the inaugural Bernard Schwartz Book Prize from New York’s Asia Society. His latest books are Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand (Cornell 2019) and (with Anyarat Chattharakul) Future Forward: The Rise and Fall of a Thai Political Party (NIAS Press, 2020). 

    In his previous position at the University of Leeds, Duncan twice headed one of Britain’s largest politics departments, and co-supervised 30 PhD students to successful completion. Between 2015 and 2019, he held a shared professorial appointment with the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, teaching alternate semesters in New York and Yorkshire. At Columbia he co-founded the New York Southeast Asia Network, which has been generously funded by the Luce Foundation:  


    A regular media commentator, Duncan has written op-eds for a range of outlets including Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Guardian, New York Times, Politiken and Time magazine.

    Duncan co-created the Nordic Asia Podcast and frequently hosts podcasts about Asian studies, politics and literature on the New Books Network: 



    Prizes and Awards

    Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK), 2011

    Honorary Doctorate in Thai Studies, Mahasarakham University, Thailand, 2010

    Tearing Apart the Land: Bernard Schwartz Book Prize, Asia Society, 2009

    Tearing Apart the Land: CHOICE Academic Book, 2009

    George Smith Prize for best BA English student, University of London (from around 300), 1986


    Residencies and Fellowships

    School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton 2015-16

    Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship, 2011-14

    Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, 2010

    Senior Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute, NUS, Singapore, 2006-07

    Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Fellowship, Cambodia, 2004-05

    ESRC Research Fellowship, 1994-99




    Authored Books

    Duncan McCargo, Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand, Ithaca NY and London: Cornell University Press, 2019 (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute), 266pp.

    Duncan McCargo, Contemporary Japan (3rd ed.), New York: Palgrave, 2013, 258pp (1st ed. 2000; 2nd ed. 2004. Translations: Bahasa Malaysia 2009; Chinese 2015; Korean 2015).

    Duncan McCargo, Mapping National Anxieties: Thailand’s Southern Conflict, Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2012, 213pp.

    Duncan McCargo, Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand, Ithaca NY and London: Cornell University Press, 2008, 235 pp (Southeast Asian ed., National University of Singapore Press, 2009; Thai translation, Bangkok: Kobfai 2013, 2014). 

    Duncan McCargo, Media and Politics in Pacific Asia, London and New York: Routledge, 2003, 185 pp.

    Duncan McCargo, Politics and the Press in Thailand: Media Machinations, London and New York: Routledge, 2000, 205 pp (paperback ed., Bangkok: Garuda Press 2002, 300pp). 

    Duncan McCargo, Chamlong Srimuang and the New Thai Politics, London and New York: Hurst and St. Martin’s Press, 1997 334 pp.

    Co-authored Books

    Duncan McCargo and Anyarat Chattharakul, Future Forward: The Rise and Fall of a Thai Political Party, Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2020, 240pp.

    Duncan McCargo and Ukrist Pathmanand, The Thaksinization of Thailand, Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2005, 277 pp (Burmese translation, 2006).

    Edited Books

    Duncan McCargo, Rethinking Thailand’s Southern Violence, Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2007, 225pp.

    Duncan McCargo, Rethinking Vietnam, London and New York: Routledge, 2004, 240pp.

    Duncan McCargo, Reforming Thai Politics, Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2002, 291pp.

    Selected Journal Articles

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Network Monarchy as Euphoric Couplet’, Pacific Affairs, 94, 3, 2021: 549–565.

    Duncan McCargo and Naruemon Thabchumpon, ‘Plural Partisans: Thailand’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee protesters’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 43, 1, 2021: 125–150.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Disruptors’ Dilemma? Thailand’s 2020 Gen Z protests’, Critical Asian Studies, 53, 2, 2021: 175–191.

    Duncan McCargo and Dishani Senaratne, ‘Victor’s Memory: Sri Lanka’s post-war memoryscape in comparative perspective’, Conflict, Security & Development, 20, 1, 2020: 97–113.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Democratic Demolition in Thailand’, Journal of Democracy, 30, 4, October 2019: 119–133.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Anatomy: future backward’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 41, 2, August 2019: 153–161.

    Duncan McCargo, 'New Media, New Partisanship: divided virtual politics beyond Thailand', International Journal of Communication, 11, 2017: 4138–4157.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Thailand’s Urbanized Villagers and Political Polarization’, Critical Asian Studies, 49, 3, 2017: 365–78.

    Duncan McCargo, Saowanee Alexander and Petra Desatova, ‘Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 constitutional referendum’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 39, 1, 2017: 65–95.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Transitional Justice and Its Discontents’, Journal of Democracy, 26, 2, April 2015: 5–20.

    Duncan McCargo and Peeradej Tanruangporn, ‘Branding Dissent: Nitirat, Thailand’s enlightened jurists’, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 45, 3, 2015: 419–42.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Competing Notions of Judicialization in Thailand’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 36, 3, 2014: 417–41 (also published in Chinese translation).

    Duncan McCargo and Naruemon Thabchumpon, ‘Wreck/Conciliation: the politics of truth commissions in Thailand’, Journal of East Asian Studies, 14, 3, 2014: 377–404.

    Saowanee Alexander and Duncan McCargo, ‘Diglossia and Identity in Northeast Thailand: Linguistic, social, and political hierarchy’, Journal of Sociolinguistics, 18, 1, 2014: 60–86.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘The Changing Politics of Thailand’s Buddhist Order’, Critical Asian Studies, 44, 4, 2012: 627–42.

    Duncan McCargo and Ayşe Zarakol, ‘Turkey and Thailand: unlikely twins’, Journal of Democracy, 23, 3, 2012: 71–79.

    Naruemon Thabchumpon and Duncan McCargo, ‘Urbanized Villagers in the 2010 Thai Redshirt Protests: not just poor farmers?’ Asian Survey, 51, 6, 2011: 993–1018.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Politics by Other Means? The virtual trials of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal’, International Affairs, 87, 3, 2011: 613–627.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Informal Citizens: graduated citizenship in Southern Thailand’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 34, 5, 2011: 833–849.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Autonomy for Southern Thailand: thinking the unthinkable?’ Pacific Affairs, 83, 2, June 2010: 261–281.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Thailand’s National Reconciliation Commission: a flawed response to the Southern Conflict’, Global Change, Peace and Security, 22, 1, February 2010: 75–91.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Co-optation and Resistance in Thailand’s Muslim South: The changing role of Islamic Council elections’, Government and Opposition, 45, 1, 2010: 99–113.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Thai Politics as Reality TV’, Journal of Asian Studies, 68, 1, February 2009: 7–19.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘The Politics of Buddhist Identity in Thailand’s Deep South: the demise of civic religion?’ Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 40, 1, February 2009: 11–32.

    Srisompob Jitpiromsri and Duncan McCargo, ‘A Ministry for the South? New governance proposals for Thailand’s troubled region’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 30, 3, 2008: 403–28.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Thaksin and the Resurgence of Violence in the Thai South: network monarchy strikes back?’ Critical Asian Studies, 38, 1, 2006: 39–71.   

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Network Monarchy and Legitimacy Crises in Thailand’, The Pacific Review, 18, 4, 2005: 499–519.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Cambodia: getting away with authoritarianism’, Journal of Democracy, 16, 4, 2005: 98–112.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Buddhism, Democracy and Identity in Thailand’, Democratization, 11, 4, 2004: 155–70.

    Duncan McCargo and Krisadawan Hongladarom, ‘Contesting Isan-ness: discourses of politics and identity in Northeast Thailand’, Asian Ethnicity, 5, 2, 2004: 219–34.

    Sombat Chantornvong and Duncan McCargo, ‘Political Economy of Tobacco Control in Thailand’, Tobacco Control, 10, 2001: 48–54.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Killing the Messenger: The 1994 press bannings and the demise of Indonesia’s New Order’, Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 4, 1, 1999: 29–47.

    William A. Callahan and Duncan McCargo, ‘Vote-Buying in Thailand’s Northeast: the July 1995 general election’, Asian Survey, 36, 4, 1996: 376–93.


    Best Book Chapters

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Sense and Sensibility: crafting tales about the police’, in Didier Fassin, (ed.) Writing the World of Policing: The difference ethnography makes, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017, pp. 207–224.

    Duncan McCargo and Petra Desatova, ‘Thailand: electoral intimidation’ in Jonas Claes (ed.), Electing Peace: Violence Prevention and Impact at the Polls, Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2016, pp. 63–96.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Patani Militant Leaflets and the Use of History’, in Patrick Jory (ed.) Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand: Essays on the History and Historiography of Patani, Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2013, pp. 277–297.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Partisan Polyvalence: characterizing the political role of Asian media’, in Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini (eds), Comparing Media Systems Beyond the Western World, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 201–23.

    Duncan McCargo, ‘Thailand’s Political Parties: real, authentic, and actual’, in Kevin Hewison (ed.), Political change in Thailand: democracy and participation, pp. 114–31, London: Routledge, 1997.






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