Can Seng is a sociologist and anthropologist by training. Born in Singapore, trained at the National University of Singapore in the 1980s and 1990s, Can Seng sees scholarship in the perspective of understanding the world, contributing to society and engaging with students. Before UTAS, Can Seng lived in Denmark and worked at Copenhagen Business School for 20 years. That stint allowed him to engage with the practice community at various levels. Besides being an award-winning researcher, he was voted 'Best Teacher' by his executive MBA students many times.
Date of award
Mediated Cultures: production and consumption of Copenhagen and Singapore
Copenhagen Business School
Friendship in Singapore
National University of Singapore
The Protestant Situation in Singapore
National University of Singapore
National University of Singapore
Languages (other than English)
Can Seng grew up speaking Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese but had to learn English and Mandarin in school. He learned Danish while residing in Denmark.
Can Seng’s career spans over three continents. Soon after he completed his Master of Social Sciences in Sociology/Anthropology at the National University of Singapore, he joined the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, East and Southeast Asia Office as their Research Officer. The German Foundation offered civil and political development assistance and education in the region. After three years, in 1996, Can Seng became the Research Officer at Singapore’s public housing agency, the Housing and Development Board. That tenure was cut short because he accepted a PhD scholarship from Copenhagen Business School (CBS). He moved to Europe in late 1996, and stayed there till 2016.
After submitting his PhD thesis in September 1999, Can Seng was appointed a Lecturer at the Division of Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality at the Glasgow Caledonian University. He returned to CBS and Copenhagen a year later. The progressive scholarship approach in Scandinavia suited him. Over the years, he proved himself academically, attracted funding for his research and took on a number of leadership positions. He was appointed Professor in International Business and Culture Industries in 2013, and was the founding Director of the Centre for Leisure and Culture Services at CBS. He was also the Editor of the Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies and Asia Matters: Business, Culture and Theory.
The UTAS research theme/s to which your work relates. These are: Better Health; Creativity, Culture and Society; Marine, Antarctic and Maritime; Environment, Resources and Sustainability; and Data, Knowledge and Decisions. Describe the broad, over-arching research interest in a way that generally describes the research activity/projects that you and your group undertake, using the format provided in the example below.
Can Seng’s interests fit nicely into the University’s Creativity, Culture and Society research theme. His research expertise covers two broad inter-related areas. The first is tourism and society. The relationship between tourism and the local community is an intricate and sometimes antagonistic one. Touristification is often seen as negative but can be co-opted by host communities for their own community-building projects. Can Seng addresses issues of touristification, distribution of costs and welfare, and social engineering tendencies embedded in tourism development programmes. His comparative work in Denmark and Singapore draws out “best practices” and highlight unintended consequences.
The second area is on cultural development and art worlds. The creative economy has grown in global importance. Australia is no different. Addressing various issues raised in the sociology of art and sociology of value, Can Seng addresses the politics of cultural development embedded in the current neo-liberal creative economy agenda. Tourism has become the raison d'être for many cultural projects. He is also, for instance, concerned with the proliferation of cultural institutions that have surrendered their independence and authority to wealthy philanthropists who donate art works, build museums and support for cultural activities. Essentially there are moral limits to how markets distribute welfare.
A third area is on branding places. Many countries, cities and villages are now framed and promoted through brand identities. Can Seng is one of the first scholars to study this phenomenon. He addresses paradoxes of place branding. He looks at how events and festivals are used to brand places, and explains why many places have similar brands even though their brands are supposed to communicate their uniqueness.
Over the years, Can Seng has taken on a number of leadership and management positions at Copenhagen Business School (CBS). These include:
- Director, Centre for Leisure and Culture Services
- Elected Member, Academic Council Member
- Management board member, imagine.. Creative Industries Research Centre
- Executive DBA Taskforce Leader
- Research Stream Leader for “Place branding, art and culture”, Creative Encounters (a research project supported by the Danish Strategic Research Agency)
- Research Team Leader (Denmark) for the Asia through the Eyes of the EU project, supported by the Asia-Europe Foundation
- Programme Director, MSc (International Business)
• Tourism and society • Tourism development • Art and society • Art worlds and cultural development • Creative economy • Place branding • Intercultural management • Sustainability and responsible business
Over 20 years, Can Seng has taught a number of courses. Besides delivering classes at BA and MA programmes, he taught at the Executive MBA and full time MBA programmes at Copenhagen Business School. His more recent courses include Sociology, International Business Environment, and Corporate Social Responsibility. For the last time in 2017, he will conduct a Master-level summer university course at Fudan University, Shanghai, titled “Doing Business in China”.
- Board Member, Holbæk i Pinsen [Holbæk during Pentacoast] (annual cultural festival for the Danish city of Holbæk). 2015-2016.
- Member, International Advisory Board Yellow River Arts Centre, Yinchuan, China; position appointed by the Mayor of Yinchuan. 2012-2014.
- Cultural and heritage tourism
- Tourism development
- Tourism strategy
- Creative economy
- Art worlds
Emerald Literati award - 2014 Highly Commended Paper - for Koning, Juliette; and Ooi, Can-Seng. 2013. 'Awkward encounters and ethnography', Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1, 16-32. DOI: 10.1108/17465641311327496.
By the nature of his research, Can Seng is always working with colleagues in other countries. One project he is currently engaged in is titled Innovation in Coastal Tourism: Co-creating Competitive Experiences. This project is based in Denmark and supported by the Danish authorities. In another project, in which he is an advisor, is housed in the University of Copenhagen, and deals with Buddhism, Believers and Business. In yet another project, focusing on sustainability and tourism, he is working with colleagues at Copenhagen Business School and Oxford Brookes University.
Over the years, Can Seng collaborated with colleagues from different countries, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Singapore, China, Israel, the Netherlands and the UK.
- Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience (150606)
- Tourism (900399)
Can Seng has published extensively over the last two decades, particularly on cultural tourism, tourism policy, place branding, art worlds, cultural development and cross cultural understanding. He draws comparative lessons from Denmark, Singapore and China. There are about a hundred articles, chapters and a book to his name. Believing in free access to academic knowledge, Can Seng supports free and open access journals. He edited two such journals: Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies and Asia Matters: Business, Culture and Theory.
Can Seng has been involved in a number of projects, supported by various funding agencies. The more substantial ones were/are:
- Investigator. Innovation in Coastal Tourism: Co-creating Competitive Experiences (InnoCoast). Research grant (€800 000) awarded by the Denmark Innovation Fund. 2016-19.
- Investigator. Creativity for Innovation & Growth in Europe (CRE8TV.eu). Research Grant (€3.2 million) awarded by the EU 7th Framework Program, Socio Economic Sciences and Humanities. 2012-2016.
- Editor. Asia Matters: Business, Culture and Theory. Open access journal start-up grant (€45 000) awarded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. 2012-15
- Research Stream Leader. Creative Encounters. Research Grant (€1.8 million) awarded by the Danish Strategic Research Agency. 2001-11.
Denmark’s Principal Investigator and Research Leader. Asia through the Eyes of Europe. Research grant (€120 000) awarded by the Asia-Europe Foundation. 2010-11.
Over the decades, Can Seng has supervised students on their projects from the PhD to Bachelor levels. Every student is different, and a social contract has to be agreed upon before he agrees to take on the student. Areas that he could possibly support the students in their endeavours include:
- Tourism and society issues
- Tourism development and strategy
- Art worlds and cultural development
- Creative cultural industries and the creative economy
- Place and destination branding
- Intercultural communication and management
- Sociology of markets
- Sociology of values
- Economic sociology
|PhD||A Study on the Cross-Cultural Behaviour and Decision-Making of Chinese Tourists for Australia||2017|