This is the second post in a series of interviews conducted by the Woodruff Library with the 2015-2016 Woodruff Library and Emory Center for Digital Scholarship Fellows. Funded by the Laney Graduate School, the Woodruff Library, and Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS), the fellowships support advanced graduate students expecting to complete their dissertations by the end of the fellowship period. Fellows are placed within the Woodruff Library and ECDS to work in an area related to their subject specialization or interest, culminating in a formal presentation in the Spring.
Woodruff: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your favorite book? What’s your favorite thing about Emory/Atlanta? Etc.
Shunyuan: My name is Shunyuan Zhang. I’m a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology and a certificate student in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I love reading Michel Foucault’s works, which have fundamentally changed the way I view and experience the world. My favorite thing about Atlanta is its weather and the beautiful natural environment it has facilitated. I love the starry nights and the nocturnal songs of insects. They make me nostalgic.
Woodruff: What are you researching for your dissertation?
Shunyuan: My dissertation is titled: “Unmaking Identity: Male-to-Female Transgenderism in Southwest China.” China has long been regarded as an authoritarian Party-state where economic growth has been accompanied by stringent control of civil society, including LGBT human rights. Intriguingly, my ethnographic research into the transgender community in Kunming, capital city of the landlocked southwestern province of Yunnan, revealed a combination of thriving transgendered sex work/performance and non-recognition of a transgender identity that has been eagerly advocated in the US and elsewhere. Thus, rather than take transgender identity as a point of departure to recruit another cultural evidence of its universality, I argue that transgender is NOT a ready-made category of identity in China. I suggest a queer perspective be employed that sees transgendered practices not as an alternative claim outside heterosexual norms, but as constitutive elements readily woven into the fabric of everyday life that goes beyond an exclusive claim of gender or sexuality.
Woodruff: What interested you about the Woodruff Library Fellowship?
Shunyuan: I have always LOVED the Woodruff Library and have spent the bulk of my time in it reading and writing since I came to Emory. The Woodruff/Writing Center Fellowship has given me an excellent opportunity to translate my experience in research writing into practice through facilitating collaboration between the library and the writing center. It also allows me to look at research, writing, and even teaching from diverse perspectives, including that of a dissertator, an undergraduate writer, an ESL writer, a writing tutor, and an instructor.
Woodruff: What will you be working on this year for your Woodruff Library Fellowship?
Shunyuan: My fellowship is split between the Woodruff Library and the Emory Writing Center. In addition to tutoring at the Writing Center, I will be mainly working on Dissertation/Prospectus Writing Boot Camps throughout this academic year. I am also experimenting with several Saturday Afternoon Writing Sessions that include both dissertation and Honors writers. As an international student, I am hoping to also facilitate communication between the ESL Program, the Writing Center, and the Library.