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Writing an honors thesis is an endeavor in general, full of trials, tribulations, and valuable learning experiences. Add in the bouillon cube of COVID-19 and wow, talk about zesty! DAMES student Faith Virago is making it happen, and I interviewed her to find out just what it’s like to write an honors thesis in our department this year.

1) How did you get involved/what made you decide to write an honors thesis?

I decided to write an honors thesis because I wanted an opportunity to focus on my research interests.

2) Tell us about your research!

I am conducting a qualitative research study by interviewing women who grew up in China and have lived in the US for a portion of their career or education. My main research question is ‘how does a cross cultural transition from China to the US affect Chinese women’s views on gender equality and feminism?’ I am also exploring how these women’s lives and experiences can give us insight into gender equality and feminism in both China and the US. In this research study, I am using the anthropological approach of ethnography because I want to do more than just gather numbers and create a decontextualized analysis. This research is both a presentation of the overall trends as well as an illustration of the context, both historical and environmental, of these lives. In addition to my own data, I am using the book Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up in the Mao Era to compare the experiences of my interviewees with their preceding generation. This book consists of 9 memoir essays from women who grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution and then went on to get their PhDs in the US. I chose to construct a cross-generational analysis so that I can analyze how the situation has changed in the last 50 years and speculate on what role Mao’s particular brand of gender equality played in this change.

3) What do you like most about your work?

I love interviewing people and hearing their life stories and experiences!

4) What’s the hardest part of writing an honors thesis?

The hardest part is starting the writing process.

5) Speaking of difficulties, what’s it like writing an honors thesis in the midst of a global pandemic? Are your resources limited? How have you had to adapt?

My resources are limited in one aspect because I was unable to interview with individuals in person. This limited who I could interview in the sense that they would need to be comfortable using Zoom. It did, however, open up the opportunity for me to interview people outside of NC.

6) What are your future plans?

I am planning to attend graduate school next fall to continue my studies of both Chinese and women in modern China. I plan to eventually conduct research about gender discrimination and gender equality in the lives of women living in rural areas of China. I also hope to research queerness in China, specifically the intersection of culture and gender roles in the lives of transgender Chinese individuals.


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