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Popular Identity of the Czech Political “People”

September 22, 2023
By 29662

Democracy rests on the idea of popular sovereignty, but how can the collective will of a social construct called “people” be accurately ascertained? Lukáš Lev Červinka (Charles University, 2021) used an SRG award to conduct a survey on Czech popular identity, finding unexpectedly strong identification with state actors and also some disturbing corollaries about ethnocentric nationalism.

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All concepts of modern democracy regard self-governance by the people as a cornerstone of this system of government; without it, there is no democracy. However, even though democracy presupposes the existence of a “people” expressing its collective will, claims to represent such will are usually treated with caution, given that “good” dictators and authoritarian régimes want to assert that their policies reflect the general will (volonté générale) of the people.

People as a collective is an elusive beast whose nature is tricky to identify, but at the same time, it is generally assumed that if there is democracy, then there must be people as a ruling entity—a collective with a will, sense of membership, values, memory, goals, and everything else that is usually associated with a collective or group. However, how can we define “people” without succumbing to oversimplification, generalization, or even mythicization?

Research Focus and Objectives

My first goal in launching the Establishment Research Project,[1] supported by a Syllf fellowship, was to find a theoretical framework that would enable me to treat people as a collective and study its inner processes and values. This led me to the social systems theory of Niklas Luhmann,[2] the social imaginaries of Charles Taylor,[3] and the imagined communities of Benedict Anderson.[4] By adapting those theories, I have conceptualized “people” as an autopoietic organizational system—in other words, a social construct that is determined by its decisions. The people as a democratic sovereign is, therefore, not to be understood as individual citizens or inhabitants but as an imagined community of those who participate in its self-governance by making the decisions through which their identity as a collective is established.

In my Sylff-supported PhD thesis on Anti-Establishment Political Parties: Threat to Democracy or Chance for Its New Equilibrium, written at the Faculty of Law of Charles University in the Czech Republic and at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Italy, I concluded that the decisions that articulate the popular identity of a people are not only participation in elections, referenda, demonstrations, strikes, and, sometimes, revolutions but also appropriation of cultural products, such as songs and the constitution. Through these decisions, the “people” can manifest themselves as a collective body and create an identity that articulates their social demands and values.

To test the viability of this theory and determine whether it can be used in practice, I have conducted a survey, funded with an SRG award from the Sylff Association, to explore which actors articulate the popular image of the Czech people, what decisions determine their identity, and on which values this identity is built.


When surveying which actors articulate the image of the Czech people, the most positive score (the difference between the percentage answering that an actor articulates values of the Czech people and the percentage saying it does not) was +44.8 received by “scholars and scientists.” This is of little surprise, considering the technocratic nature of Czech society, which places a high value on formal education, academic titles, and expert knowledge. This is supported by the much lower score (+14.1) received by “experts outside of academia.” Quite striking, though, was the high scores received by actors of the state, such as “courts of justice,” “police,” “armed forces,” and the “president of the republic” (see table below).

How Well Do the Following Actors Articulate the Values of the Czech People?



Political parties


Scholars and scientists


Religious organizations


Experts outside academia


Public media


Private media




Trade unions




Courts of justice




Armed forces


President of the republic


Note: Scores are the percentage of respondents identifying an actor as articulating the values of the Czech people minus the percentage saying it does not.


Interestingly, the answers regarding the values represented by such public holidays as New Year’s Day, Czech Statehood Day, and May Day suggest not only a strong nonreligious (or even antireligious) nature of the Czech popular identity but also people’s strong identification with state actors—despite the fact they are often depicted as an enemy of the people in Czech pop culture. This demonstrates that the Czech state is considered a tool of the Czech people in articulating their social demands and defending their interests. 


An image generated by using the prompt, “Czech state-people intertwinning,” by Midjourney (


The close relationship between the Czech state and Czech identity is not in itself bad, but survey results using the modified Bogardus social distance scale[5] showed some disturbing patterns. When asked whether they would allow a Czech citizen of Roma ethnicity to stand for the office of the president of the republic, only 82.1 % of respondents said yes. The results were even more worrying for a Czech citizen of Ukrainian ethnicity (65.5 %) and a Czech citizen who cannot speak Czech (51.1 %).


An image generated by using the prompt, “Ethnic-centred Czech people,” by Midjourney (


Finally, when asked where to put the Czech people regarding their values, most of the respondents chose the Visegrad Group countries (Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary), rather than the Euroatlantic space. This, unfortunately, supports the argument that the Czech people still find themselves inside the post-Habsburg space of conservative nationalism and bureaucratic étatism.

The SRG-funded survey revealed not only the usefulness of the theoretical concept of “people” as an organizational system and a living, democratic sovereign but also the disturbing, ethnicity-centred nature of the Czech popular identity and its deep intertwining with the structures of the Czech state.


[1] More about the project at

[2] Niklas Luhmann, Social Systems (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995) .

[3] Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries, 2nd ed. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004).

[4] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, New York: Verso, 2006).

[5] The Bogardus scale was adapted to show the social distance of excluded communities within Czech society, that is, those not regarded as part of Czech self-governance.

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Sylff@Tokyo: Integrating Love of Opera into Research on the Health Effects of Air Pollution

September 14, 2023

Mike Zhongyu He, a 2017–19 Sylff fellowship recipient at Columbia University, visited the Sylff Association secretariat on August 30, 2023, during his trip to Tokyo.

He is a postdoctoral fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University and Barnard College. He received his PhD in environmental health sciences from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in 2020.

(From left) Executive director Mari Suzuki, Mike Zhongyu He, program officer Maki Shimada, director Keita Sugai, and program officer Konatsu Furuya.

His research interests include methods in environmental epidemiology, air pollution exposure modeling, and health impact assessments. He told the Sylff Association secretariat that the COVID pandemic simulated a real-world experiment offering insights into how international travel affects global warming.

Outside of research, He is an avid classical music enthusiast and an active singer of operatic and oratorio works. Over lunch, He shared with us how he integrates the love of his life—opera—into his classroom teaching activities. He also has a passion for traveling and conducts fieldwork all over the world.

Read more about He’s academic and artistic activities on his personal webpage:

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Has the Hindu Majority Developed a ‘Nazi Conscience’ in India?

August 28, 2023
By 28804

Emboldened by state support, Hindu nationalists have unleashed violent attacks on religious minorities in India, writes Amit Singh (University of Coimbra, 2020-21), leading to the development of a ‘Nazi conscience’ among the country’s Hindu majority.

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Organized and sporadic violence by Hindu extremists against religious-ethnic minorities in India has shocked the world, particularly ethnic violence in Manipur. Under the Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cases of mob-lynching and killings are becoming pattern in a religiously polarized Hindu India, targeted to minorities. The prominence of ethnic revival, large number of Hindu participations in such violence, and lack of their condemnation of these acts, all of these factors give rise to the question as to whether the Hindu majority has developedNazi conscience.’

Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Photograph by the author

The idea of Nazi conscience was originally applied in the context of the genocide of Jews in Nazi Germany, where the Nazis, along with an ordinary Germans, morally justified the murder of Jews. A general apathy to the human rights of minorities, a lack of respect towards the life of ‘others,’ and normalization of violence against them are fundamental parts of the Nazi conscience. 

In the Indian context, Hindutva as a vehicle of Hindu nationalism has ignited a kind of Nazi conscience in ordinary Hindus that makes violence against religious minorities seem normal and justified. This includes witnessing daily violence against Muslim minorities and Dalits and not intervening in such acts.

The Hindutva’s political narrative of past invasions by Muslim rulers and their atrocities against Hindus in the middle ages and the partition of India in 1947 has made the Hindu majority hostile to Muslims. Constitutional privileges such as personal family rights for Muslims and religious grants anger the Hindu majority. They feel victimized and insecure, and Hindutva leaders manipulate these anti-Muslim sentiments for political victory.

Ideologically Justified Violence

The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), a Hindu militant organization, has shaped Hindu nationalism into a hegemonic ideology and propagates Hindu exclusivity of religion and culture. The Hindutva ideologue MS Golwalkar asserted that the country's minorities should be treated in the same way as the Nazis treated the Jews. With its political front BJP currently in power, the RSS has succeeded in influencing the collective Hindu psyche to take vengeance against Muslims.

These calculated attempts by the RSS have been instrumental in creating a militant identity and Nazi conscience amongst the Hindu majority against perceived foreign “invaders,” such as Muslims and Christians. With each passing ethno-religious riot, the Hindu collective self is gradually being desensitized and freed from collective guilt in the observation or killing of human life. For a person with a Nazi conscience, violence is now perceived to be morally righteous.

Violence has become essential for Hindutva politics, and in this way it could be said that the Hindu majority has developed a ‘Nazi conscience.’ The Hindus have lost historical sensitivity towards religious minorities with whom they have lived for hundreds of years. The use of ‘Hindu nationalism’ in post-colonial India has actually benefited the BJP in elections. However, at the same time, Hindu nationalism has done great harm to communal harmony of Indian society. Hindus have been turned against Muslims—although, in some exceptional cases, Hindus did save the lives of Muslims.

Modi’s Hindutva state has played a key role in this process. The state has granted impunity to those involved in the lynching of Muslims and has rewarded those responsible for inciting riots. And the State has constantly harassed those who have come out in protest against Hindu intolerance and Islamophobia.

In large-scale riots, such as the Gujrat riots in 2002 and ethnic violence in Manipur, the perpetrators were Hindu extremists and victims were primarily religious ethnic minorities. Big riots, moreover, usually happen with the complicity of the state machinery and the Hindu majority. So, the majority is not just a passive onlooker but a participant in the ritual of violence.

Rewarding the Islamophobic Leader    

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is notorious for his complicity in the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujrat in 2002. He has built his political career on the basis of communal violence and fear. And the Hindu majority reelected him in 2019. The Hindu majority bears deep resentment against Muslims. In fact, one study reveals that the BJP gains in the polls after every anti-Muslim riot.

Under the RSS-backed Modi’s regime since 2014, anti-Muslim narratives have been strategically propagated by the government. The mainstream media has consistently cultivated a deep animosity against religious minorities. This process of vilification has normalized violence against them. The ascendency of Hindu nationalism has given Hindus ‘the power to claim, and receive, impunity for violence from elected governments.’

Muslims and Dalits have been lynched by mobs of Hindutva fanatics; violence against them is normalized and seems to be supported by the Modi government. Vijay Narayan, a political activist in Varanasi, argues that the Hindu majority is influenced by the fascist ideology of Hindu nationalism.

Failed Secularism

After the bloody partition in 1947, secularism was introduced as an alternative to Hindu nationalism to protect Indian society from communal frenzy and religious fanaticism. Indian secularism, unique in its kind, is associated with religious tolerance. Yet, ironically, the Hindu majority has never abandoned the idea that India is a Hindu nation. It has rejected traditional Hindu tolerance, an idea that enabled communal harmony among India’s diverse population.

Indian secularism has failed to prevent the rise of Hindutva and the communalization of the Hindu masses. As long as the public institutions and the mainstream media are under the influence of the Hindu nationalist government, the process of Nazification of the Hindu majority cannot be checked. Alarm about the possibility of an impending Muslim genocide is already being sounded. To achieve communal harmony, the state must rid itself of Hindutva and follow constitutional secularism. This seems almost impossible under the present Hindu nationalist government.

If the influence of Hindutva on the Hindu majority and the Hindu religion increases, the general state of human rights, especially freedom of expression and rights of religious-ethnic minorities, and secularism is likely to deteriorate. However, we must remember that religious tolerance and resistance is a part of the India’s ancient secular traditions that challenged Hindu fundamentalism thorough the various periods of Indian history. In the longer run, there is a possibility of resistance to Hindu religious bigotry that could weaken the influence of Hindutva on Indian society. It can bring secular democratic change stalling the process of the Nazification of the Hindu majority and preventing them from becoming a Nazified Hindu.

This article was originally published in The Loop and is reprinted here following slight modification by the author. The views presented here are of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Sylff Association.

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Bulgarian Fellow Receives Commendation from Japan’s Foreign Minister

June 19, 2023

The Sylff Association secretariat is pleased to share wonderful news that Evgeniy Kandilarov has been awarded a Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation.

The commendation was presented to Kandilarov by Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Narahira.

Kandilarov received a Sylff fellowship in 2003 from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” in Bulgaria and is now an associate professor in the Japanese Studies Department at his alma mater. He used his fellowship to conduct research in Japan, focusing on political, economic, and cultural relations between Bulgaria and Japan during modern times.

The commendation acknowledges not only his academic achievements but also his significant contributions to deepening understanding of Japan in his home country and promoting friendship between the two countries.

The award was presented by Hiroshi Narahira, Japanese ambassador to Bulgaria, at an award ceremony held at the university on April 27, 2023. The event was attended by the university rector, Professor Anastas Gerdjikov, and members of the university faculty and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Guests at the ceremony, including those who mentored Kandilarov’s research.

“This award is very valuable to me because it recognizes the social benefits of my academic work,” Kandilarov said at the ceremony, adding that he hopes to meet the expectations and responsibilities placed on him by working even harder for the development of Bulgarian-Japanese relations in the future.

Kandilarov expresses his gratitude for the award.

Celebrating Kandilarov’s award.

The Sylff Association secretariat was thrilled to learn of the award and offers its warmest congratulations to Kandilarov for his achievements. We wish him even greater success in his research activities and the promotion of good relations between Bulgaria and Japan.

All photos from Sofia University's website.


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Sylff@Tokyo: Memorable Office Concert by Juilliard Fellow

June 9, 2023

Timothy Chooi, a 2018–19 Sylff fellowship recipient at the Juilliard School, visited the Sylff Association secretariat with his older brother, Nikki, for an office concert on May 22, 2023.

1) Bach: “Andante” from Sonata No. 2 in A minor BWV 1003 (Timothy Chooi) [
2) Prokofiev: Sonata for Two Violins (Nikki and Timothy Chooi) [
3) Massenet: Meditation from “Thaïs” (Nikki and Timothy Chooi) [

The Chooi brothers are on a tour of several countries in Asia and stopped by the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research during their stay in Japan. Timothy currently performs on the 1709 “Engleman” Stradivarius violin, on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation, a sister organization of the Tokyo Foundation.

(From left) Reiko Ishikawa and Tamio Kano of the Nippon Music Foundation; Nikki and Timothy Chooi; executive director Mari Suzuki, program officer Maki Shimada, and director Keita Sugai.

Visit the websites of Timothy and Nikki Chooi to learn more about their achievements and upcoming concerts:
Timothy Chooi:
Nikki Chooi:

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Sylff@Tokyo: Juilliard Fellow’s Community Healing Initiatives

June 2, 2023

Erika Mitsui, a 2015–16 Sylff fellowship recipient at the Juilliard School, visited the Sylff Association secretariat on May 8, 2023. She is a multitalented fellow, having graduated from Columbia University with a degree in East Asian studies before earning a master’s in violin at the Julliard School and receiving a medical degree (MD) at Columbia.

(From left) Program officer Maki Shimada, Sylff fellow Erika Mitsui, and executive director Mari Suzuki.

Her visit, which was her second to the Tokyo Foundation, came right after the Golden Week string of holidays in Japan. With her social science, musical, and medical degrees, she is contributing to society in a very unique way.

After graduating from the Juilliard School, she spent about a year playing the violin at various public venues, including an inpatient ward of a hospital. This was an eye-opening experience that convinced her that music has the power to heal people even with serious diseases like cancer and to ease emotional hardships. She thus chose to embark on a new career path that would enable her make a direct impact on the lives of people in the community.

From this summer, she will serve as a resident physician at Columbia, advancing her training in anesthesiology, internal medicine, and the respiratory system. She is also continuing to promote physical and emotional healing through music, taking part in a concert at a hospital with an orchestra.

She contributes actively to the community as a member of the New York–based Japanese Medical Society for America, exploring ways to overcome complications from COVID-19; she also works on a website to encourage both healthy and ill people to think about their life closure preferences—for example, whether or not they seek life-prolonging treatment. Most medical books about this issue are published in English, so she hopes to translate them into Japanese and other languages.

We thank Mitsui for visiting the Foundation and wish her continued success in her professional career.

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Performance of ESG Investment Strategies: Evidence from the 2015–2020 Bull Market and the Impact of COVID-19

June 2, 2023
By 30810

Máté Fain is a 2022 Sylff Fellow (Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungarian Academy of Sciences Group). For this dissertation, he explored whether environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment strategies are compatible with boosting the corporate “bottom line.” He concludes that good ESG may not always generate superior returns under adverse market conditions such as a pandemic. However, combined with traditional styles, it might yield positive outcomes.

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What do oil, soybean, gold, and water have in common? The answer, at first, may be surprising: in late 2020, water joined these well-known commodities on Wall Street: Californian farmers, hedge funds, and municipalities can now purchase water futures to hedge related risks. Besides water, weather derivatives are another type of commodity responds to environmental challenges but has a more mature market: the Chicago Mercantile Exchange introduced the first exchange-traded weather futures contracts and corresponding options in 1999, mostly tracking cooling or heating days. Some studies have gone even further and explored designing and pricing air-pollution derivatives.

More importantly, these market developments and scientific initiatives on risk management draw attention to sustainability. Sustainability challenges are getting more severe as life-sustaining natural resources become scarce worldwide.

Fostering environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability is an urgent challenge to society. The Paris Agreement signed in 2016 to mitigate climate change or the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established in 2015 with a broader scope on environmental and social concerns underscores the inevitability of addressing sustainability.

Stakeholder theory argues that dealing with stakeholder claims – from customers, employees, local communities, shareholders, and even the natural environment – is imperative for companies to fulfill their mission. Meanwhile, advocates of the trade-off hypothesis contend that resource reallocation to sustainability activities does not pay off; instead, such activities raise operating costs due to the internalization of externalities. Consequently, I examined if, it is possible to reconcile sustainability with companies’ financial objectives.

The Research Question: Does "Doing Well While Doing Good" Prevail?

Alignment with sustainability goals might be assessed from as many angles as stakeholders exist. I focused on shareholder wealth and examined sustainability from an asset-owner perspective: is it possible to boost the bottom line by implementing sustainable corporate practices? Does the “doing well while doing good” concept prevail? If so, investors, as influential stakeholders, may drive sustainable economic growth.

Studying the impact of sustainability on shareholder value-added may manifest in several forms. Firstly, the analysis might cover accounting profitability, respond to how equity markets price sustainability, and identify the potential risk-adjusted excess returns for investors. My research intended to explore the last case.

In the investment literature, environmental, social and governance (ESG) is a broad umbrella term for firms’ sustainability . A wide range of ESG-conscious investment strategies exists, from exclusionary screening to direct shareholder engagement. My research concentrated on the ESG integration approach (applying ESG scores ranging from 0 to 100 of corporations to compile stock portfolios) and ESG-themed investing (equity portfolios that use megatrends such as energy efficiency, aging population, water scarcity, and cybersecurity). ESG integration is exceptionally popular, with US$25,000 billion in total assets under management, while thematic investing is the most significantly rising strategy, with a 2,250 per cent increase in 8 years.

Figure 1. Global growth of sustainable investing strategies
Note: AUM stands for “assets under management.” Source: GSIA (2020, p. 11)

For the ESG integration strategy, I applied separate environmental, social and governance ratings, and every stock belonged to one of the following portfolios: leaders, followers, loungers, laggards, and not rated. Thematic portfolios covered nine UN SDG-related challenges, such as water scarcity, aging population, and cybersecurity concerns. Each thematic portfolio fitted environmental, social and governance megatrends and encompassed firms with business models addressing critical sustainability challenges.

In compiling the ESG portfolio, more than 100 different investment styles, industries, and country exposures were controlled for to filter out secondary factor effects. Altogether the database included more than 15 million data points. The methodology followed a factor portfolio construction procedure: stock weights and returns were derived from extended Fama-MacBeth cross-sectional regressions (Fama, 1976; Fama and MacBeth, 1973). The time-series analysis of ESG factor portfolio returns applied the Fama and French (2018) right-hand-side approach.


This research contributes to the existing investment literature on sustainability in several ways. Firstly, it complements the active debate about the role of ESG in general, which is far from settled (i.e., it is still an open question if it is possible to achieve significant extra returns with ESG, or, on the contrary, these investments are underperformers causing loss to investors). Secondly, to the best of my knowledge, no one has yet applied a stakeholder-based conceptual model that differentiates “organizational” and “global” sustainability. Originally Garvare and Johansson (2010) drew the distinction between organizational and global sustainability. ESG integration is consistent with organizational sustainability, while ESG-themed investing corresponds more to global sustainability.

The dissertation emphasizes the megatrend concept and integrates signaling theory into the stock selection processes. It also introduces a new mathematical formula for measuring megatrend exposures. Using the right-hand-side approach in the ESG framework is a novelty as well. Further, ESG-themed investing is a relatively new strategy, having shorter history than other strategies, such as negative screening, which was the pioneer sustainability investing strategy; hence, it is under-researched in the literature. Finally, the database used is unique and comprehensive, making the data suitable for measuring the pure performance of ESG factors.

Empirical Results in a Nutshell

The analyses revealed some remarkable findings. Investors allocating resources to ESG leaders and thematic portfolios achieved returns in the longer term commensurate with risk. Further, in the ESG integration strategy, a nonlinear relation prevailed, which contradicts the literature’s most common findings that there is either a positive, negative or neutral relationship between financial and ESG performance (non-linearity means that financial performance does not increase proportionally with ESG performance, as there is a “peak” after which increasing ESG performance does not come with significantly higher financial performance; sometimes financial performance even decreases, suggesting an inverted-U graphical representation of the ESG-financial performance relation), supporting diminishing marginal returns to ESG (law of diminishing returns: a firm will get less and less extra output – here, financial returns – when it adds additional units of an input – here, better ESG compliance). Next, during the exogenous shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, the figures did not corroborate the literature’s “flight to quality” concept (i.e., investors begin to shift their assets away from riskier investments into safer ones). Finally, no sufficient evidence was found for ESG factors to complement Fama and French models (Fama-French models detect factors such as firm size and investment policy that could explain stock returns; if a new factor is found, it could be added to the previous ones).

In summary, in most cases, investors could realize at least fair returns with sustainable investing. This finding is consistent with the efficient-market hypothesis, i.e., share prices reflect all public information, stocks trade at their fair market value. In other words, although there is only a slight chance for investors to gain superior risk-adjusted returns, they could contribute to the higher goals of sustainability without sacrificing returns.


The empirical results imply that most ESG portfolios yielded non-negative excess returns, even after accounting for transaction costs up to 25-50 basis points per annum. Higher transaction costs, as is the case for some exchange traded funds (frequently abbreviated ETFs) with expense ratios reaching 80-100 basis points per annum, may indicate two things: ESG-themed megatrend investors are willing to sacrifice approximately 25-50 basis points of annual return to remain aligned with sustainability targets, or the expense ratio may well decline in the future (nowadays, the average expense ratio is around 0.60 per cent).

Portfolio managers who integrate sustainability in their investment portfolios undertake a dual optimization process that combines ESG strategies with fundamental valuation. The proposed ESG pure factor portfolios might be utilized as smart beta indices to measure investment portfolios’ ESG factor exposure. This method is superior to calculating the overall ESG rating of investment portfolios currently commonly used by asset managers, as it separates the performance contribution of ESG from the secondary factors such as geographical, industry, or style effects.

ESG portfolios allow asset owners and managers to align their investment policies with the requirements and targets of international standards and regulations. According to a representative of the central bank of Hungary, whom I interviewed, both strategies are consistent with the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation requirements. Thematic investing might be aligned with the Taxonomy Regulation and can be flexibly adapted to the SDGs and the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

These results do not provide sufficient evidence for “flight to quality” during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic regarding ESG leaders, which contradicts Albuquerque et al. (2020), Broadstock et al. (2021), and Ding et al. (2021). One possible explanation might be that secondary factor effects substantially influence good ESG portfolios. Once these secondary effects are considered and filtered out, the otherwise observable outperformance disappears.

In summary, good ESG is not necessarily a panacea to generate superior returns during adverse market conditions such as a pandemic. However, combined with traditional styles or sectors, it might yield positive outcomes.


Albuquerque, R., Koskinen, Y., Yang, S., & Zhang, C. (2020). Resiliency of environmental and social stocks: An analysis of the exogenous COVID-19 market crash. The Review of Corporate Finance Studies, 9(3), 593-621.  

Broadstock, David C., Kalok Chan, Louis T. W. Cheng, and Xiaowei Wang. “The Role of ESG Performance During Times of Financial Crisis: Evidence from COVID-19 in China.” Finance Research Letters 38 (2021): 101716.

Ding, Wenzhi, Ross Levine, Chen Lin, and Wensi Xie. “Corporate Immunity to the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Journal of Financial Economics 141, no. 2 (2021).

Dodd, E. Merrick, Jr. “For Whom Are Corporate Managers Trustees?” Harvard Law Review 45, no. 7 (1932): 1145–63.

Fama, Eugene F. Foundations of Finance: Portfolio Decisions and Securities Prices. New York: Basic Books, 1976.

Fama, Eugene F., and Kenneth R. French. “Choosing Factors.” Journal of Financial Economics 128 (2018): 234–52.

Fama, Eugene F., and James D. MacBeth. “Risk, Return, and Equilibrium: Empirical Tests.” Journal of Political Economy 81 (1973): 607–36.

Garvare, Rickard, and Peter Johansson. “Management for Sustainability – A Stakeholder Theory.” Total Quality Management & Business Excellence 21 (2010): 737–44.

Global Sustainable Investment Alliance. Global Sustainable Investment Review 2020. GSIA, 2020.


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Combatting Sexual Violence in the Metaverse: A Comparative Legal Analysis

May 25, 2023
By 30587

Disturbing reports of sexual assault and harassment in the metaverse have raised questions about how users and society—particularly minors—can be better protected from exploitation and how offenders can be punished. To shed light on this issue, criminal law expert Sou Hee Yang (Waseda University, 2021) used an SRG grant to analyze how various jurisdictions are addressing the problem of sexual violence in the metaverse within the framework of their legal systems.

*   *   *

The metaverse is “a virtual space that other users can create, explore, and meet without having to be in the same space in real life” (Setiawan et al. 2022). It provides a platform where individuals can adopt diverse personas through their avatars to interact with people from around the globe.

An image generated by using the prompt, "metaverse avatars hanging out together," by Sifted via Starryai (

I had no particular interest in the metaverse, which seemed like a digital realm frequented only by tech enthusiasts, until I came across an online news article recounting a researcher’s claim that her avatar had been sexually assaulted in a metaverse (Soon 2022). I was both intrigued and puzzled by this claim. How is it possible to be sexually assaulted in a virtual world?

So I did some research and discovered that sexual violence does take place on virtual platforms in various ways; examples include groping another person’s avatar, sending unwanted, explicit messages, and approaching minors with the purpose of sexual exploitation (Frenkel and Browning 2021). The range and seriousness of such acts vary, with certain types, such as grooming minors, warranting strict countermeasures (Hinduja 2023).

There are many challenges to punishing acts of virtual sexual violence, however. First, it can be difficult to identify and prosecute the perpetrators, given the borderless nature of the metaverse. Second, sexual violence in the metaverse usually does not involve physical contact and is thus not subject to the same kind and degree of criminal punishment as real-world transgressions. It is important to recognize, though, that cyber violence can cause great psychological harm, leading to depression, anxiety, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorders (Cripps and Stermac 2018).

Being a legal researcher specializing in sex crimes, I was intrigued by these findings and wanted to explore how various countries—namely, the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Korea—are addressing this problem within the framework of their legal systems and whether they had provisions to punish sexual violence in the metaverse. More specifically, I reviewed and compared the laws related to the three most frequent forms of violence: virtual groping, sending unsolicited sexual messages, and making sexual advances toward children. My findings, based on the study, are as follows.[*]

First, users with female avatars often experience virtual groping: that is, the sexual parts of their avatars are touched without consent by another user’s avatar. Punishing such acts can be challenging, though, since sex offenses under criminal law are premised on physical contact (Cho 2022). Virtual reality headsets and haptic gloves already give users a degree of sensory feedback from events in the metaverse (Kim et al. 2022). If technology is further developed to enhance such sensations to a level closely approximating real life, virtual groping may arguably constitute “touching” for the purpose of criminal punishment.

There are two shortcomings to this argument, however, namely, that virtual sensations are still not the same as physical contact and that users can immediately stop unwanted sensations by simply removing their gear. Concerning the latter, though, it is possible for users to experience “tonic immobility”—a state of involuntary paralysis during sexual assault thought to be a natural survival reaction (Kalaf et al. 2017). Further research will be required to elucidate whether victims of cybersex crimes can also experience tonic immobility and, even if so, whether virtual groping would be subject to criminal punishment under British, US, and South Korean law.

A man with a virtual reality headset and controllers by SHVETS Production via Pexels (

Second, a user can be punished for harassing another user in the metaverse by sending sexual messages. In South Korea, if it can be shown that the user made comments to “arouse or satisfy his/her own or the other person’s sexual urges” and may cause “a sense of sexual shame or aversion,” the user can be punished under Article 13 (Obscene Acts by Using Means of Communications) of the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment of Sexual Crimes. In the United Kingdom, acts of harassing someone by sending sexual messages in the metaverse can be punished under Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act, but only if it can be proven that the user sent “indecent or grossly offensive” messages with the purpose of causing “distress or anxiety” to the user on the receiving end.

In the United States, where freedom of speech is more strongly protected, the threshold for penalization is higher. For example, threatening sexual messages intended to place another user “in reasonable fear for his or her safety” is punishable under Section 653.2 of California’s Penal Code. However, to apply Section 653.2, it also needs to be proven that the user sent the threatening messages with the purpose of “imminently causing that other person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment.” This purpose is difficult to prove for most interactions in the metaverse, as they are generally anonymous. The laws demonstrate that making extremely offensive sexual comments in the metaverse may result in criminal sanctions, but the laws vary in their nature, requirements, and purpose.

Lastly, making sexual advances toward children in the metaverse is punishable in the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Korea. For example, a British user can be punished under Section 15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for sending a sexual message to a user under 16 with the purpose of “obtaining sexual gratification.” Moreover, the Online Safety Bill, currently in the committee stage in the House of Lords, if passed, will provide more robust protection against child users in the metaverse (UK Parliament 2022).

Among many forms of making sexual advances to children in the metaverse, asking children to send sexual pictures of themselves is considered a serious offense. For example, in South Korea, a man was arrested on charges of sexually grooming minors when he asked child users to send sexual pictures of themselves upon befriending them through his “charming” avatar and gaining their trust by giving presents to their avatars (Kim 2022). As in this example, the acts of approaching children, building trust, and inducing reliance with the purpose of making sexual advances at them are called “grooming” (Lorenzo-Dus and Izura 2017). Online grooming is a serious problem, particularly in the metaverse, because adult users can use their avatars to make child users believe that they are speaking with a friend their own age and thereby lower their guard. While the laws of the United States vary by state, some form of online grooming is punishable in most states. For example, knowingly seducing or enticing a minor to engage in unlawful sexual conduct can be punished under Florida Statute § 847.0135(3). Approaching children online with intent to meet them or to engage in sexual conduct is considered a more serious crime because such acts put children at real risk of sexual exploitation.

The results of this study indicate three key legal considerations. First, before considering penalization of acts of sexual violence in the metaverse, it is necessary to categorize different forms of sexual violence based on their nature and the severity of harm, both to victims and society. Secondly, it is desirable to enact laws that can at least punish some acts of sexual violence in the metaverse that causes serious harm to the victims, such as grooming of minors. Finally, there should be continued social debate on what kind of sexual conduct warrants punishment under criminal law. For example, in Japan, where I reside, there is an ongoing movement to amend sex crime laws, including the enactment of laws that punish acts of grooming and sharing of sexual images of a victim without consent. One amendment proposal was written with the participation of various stakeholders, including leaders of victim support groups, psychologists, and legal experts (Legislative Council, n.d.). Such active discussion involving various stakeholders is desirable as a means of reaching a social consensus on what the types of metaverse-based sexual violence that should be punished.

This study demonstrates how criminal laws of various countries address sexual violence in the metaverse. In addition to legislative efforts, tech companies are introducing policies to strengthen the safety of their virtual spaces. These are important measures in preventing and managing sexual violence in the metaverse. However, it should be remembered that sexual violence will inevitably manifest in virtual worlds as long as it persists in the real world. Only by addressing the problems of sexual violence in reality can they be resolved in the metaverse.



Cho, S. 2022. “Sexual Assault in Immersive Virtual Reality: Criminal Law Must Keep Up with Technology.” Harvard Undergraduate Law Review, September 6, 2022.

Cripps, J., and L. Stermac. 2018. “Cyber-Sexual Violence and Negative Emotional States among Women in a Canadian University.” International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 12(1): 171.

Crown Prosecution Service. 2023. Social Media and other Electronic Communications, March 17, 2023.

Frenkel, S., and K. Browning. 2021. “The Metaverse’s Dark Side: Here Come Harassment and Assaults.” New York Times, December 30.

Hinduja, S. 2023. Child grooming and the metaverse: Issues and solutions. Cyberbullying Research Center, March 21, 2023. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from

Kalaf, J., E. S. F. Coutinho, L. M. P. Vilete, M. P. Luz, W. Berger, M. V. Mendlowicz, E. Volchan, S. B. Andreoli, M. I. Quintana, J. De Jesus Mari, and I. Figueira. 2017. “Sexual trauma is more strongly associated with tonic immobility than other types of trauma: A population based study.” Journal of Affective Disorders, 215: 71–76.

Kim, D. 2022. 메타버스서 미성년자 11명 성착취물 만든 30대 남성 구속. The JoongAng, April 14, 2022.

Kim, J., Y. Kim, and H. D. Cha. 2022. Study on the sexual crime and criminal regulation in metaverse: Focusing on the direction of revision of the act on promotion of information and communication network utilization and information protection, etc. Contemporary Review of Criminal Law, no.75, 1–33.

Legislative Council, Subcommittee on Criminal Law (Sexual Offenses). n.d. Ministry of Justice of Japan. Retrieved April 7, 2023, from

Lorenzo-Dus, N., and C. Izura. 2017. “Cause ur special”: Understanding trust and complimenting behaviour in online grooming discourse. Journal of Pragmatics, 112, 68–82.

Setiawan, K. D., A. Anthony, N. Meyliana, and N. Surjandy. 2022. “The Essential Factor of Metaverse for Business Based on 7 Layers of Metaverse – Systematic Literature Review.” 2022 International Conference on Information Management and Technology (ICIMTech).

Soon, W. 2022. A researcher’s avatar was sexually assaulted on a metaverse platform owned by Meta, making her the latest victim of sexual abuse on Meta’s platforms, watchdog says. Business Insider, June 1, 2022.

UK Parliament (Second Reading, Online Safety Bill). 2022. April 19, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2023, from


[*] This study was made possible by an SRG grant in 2022, which allowed me to access the court cases of different countries and to review academic and legal reports and articles related to sexual violence in the metaverse. I was also able to hire two competent research assistants to assist me with legal research in various languages.


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SRG and SLI 2023: Call for Applications

May 15, 2023

The Sylff Association secretariat is pleased to announce a call for applications for two Sylff Support Programs in fiscal 2023: Sylff Research Grant (SRG) and Sylff Leadership Initiatives (SLI). These two programs are intended to support the academic and social engagement activities of eligible fellows.

Use the links below to check the respective eligibility requirements, application procedures, and deadlines:



There will be a pre-screening phase for both programs (preliminary registration for SRG and a concept paper for SLI) to determine the eligibility of applicants. The secretariat will NOT respond to individual inquiries concerning eligibility. Please visit the above pages to confirm your eligibility BEFORE applying. Applications from ineligible fellows will NOT be reviewed.

For SRG, please submit a preliminary registration form (powered by Google) from the link at the bottom of the SRG page. For SLI, please submit a concept paper via e-mail to the Sylff Association secretariat (sylff[a]*)
*replace [a] with @).

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

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Sylff@Tokyo: Athens Fellow Visits the Foundation

May 8, 2023

Apostolos Latsonas, a 2021–22 Sylff fellowship recipient at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, visited the Sylff Association secretariat on April 20, 2023. He received an LLA and LLM in legal theory at Athens and is now a practicing M&A lawyer.

(From left) Program officer Konatsu Furuya, director Keita Sugai, Sylff fellow Apostolos Latsonas, executive director Mari Suzuki, and program officer Maki Shimada.

Latsonas, whose expertise lies in jurisprudence, legal history, and artificial intelligence ethics, shared news about his professional and research activities on his visit to the Foundation.

Originally from Greece, he described his hopes of contributing to global society. He has been an exchange student at the Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany, and Keio University in Japan, and he also aspires to study in the United States and to work across the EU.

He was not able to conduct his studies on campus at Keio due to the pandemic, so this visit was his first to Japan, enabling him to finally greet his professors and classmates in person. He has been intrigued by people’s lifestyles in the Japanese cities he has visited, including Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kyoto.

We thank Latsonas for visiting the Foundation and wish him continued success in his academic and professional career.