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Lissett Bastidas

MA Candidate | Folklore

Lissett Bastidas grew up in Peru, where she first learned about folklore. There and then, she realized that behind this concept were celebrations, contradictions, and inequalities that refer to the old, rural, Andean, Indian, Afro, or "traditional" in opposition to everything the "modern" should be. She got her B.A. with a double major in International Development Studies and Middle Eastern and North African Studies from UCLA, where she further studied the dichotomy of modernity and traditionality at local and global levels and with interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives. Her research focuses on the effects of these dichotomies on health, health disparities, institutions, law and epistemology in state-funded community programs for mental health care in the Bay Area.


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Adam Carl

Graduate Student | Scandinavian

Adam J Carl has had a lifelong fascination for Norse mythology, and was frequently unsatisfied with the subject's treatment by coffee table books, He is now pursuing a PhD in the Scandinavian Department, after studying at The Ohio State University the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, During his coursework, Adam found an interest in philology (Indo-European and Finno-Ugric), variations and performances of texts in oral tradition, and gendered performances in Norse literature. His previous research at Ohio State has attempted to locate feminine agency in Old Norse myths and legends, modifying the prevailing theories of Carol Clover's work on the Icelandic Sagas. This interest led to his study of some archaeological material from Norse Greenland, Birka, and various Danish digs in order to understand the daily life of the culture producing folkloric texts. Interart theory has also played a role in his past research at the University of Copenhagen, as Norse textile production plays a significant role in the mythology and legends. Though he has spun, woven, and carded, he tries (sometimes successfully) to look to modern, not medieval, Scandinavian fashion.


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Gekka Chapman

MA Candidate | Folklore

Gekka Chapman arrives at Berkeley with an English undergraduate degree in Literary Analysis and Critical Theory. A first-generation student, she seeks to study how social and individual identity is created, maintained, and negotiated, particularly through the lens of class. Her interests float around the hub of narrative and what it means to be a storytelling creature.


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Jon Cho-Polizzi

Graduate Student | German Literature; Medieval Studies

Jon Cho-Polizzi is a graduate student in the concurrent PhD programs in German Literature and Medieval Studies, and a concurrent MA student in UC Berkeley's Program in Folklore. He received his BA in German Literature and European History from UC Santa Cruz and his MA in Translation Science from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg.His folkloric research interests include German diasporic communities in Asia and Latin America, ritual processes in the contemporary German village, Alemannic dialects, Fasnacht and the carnivalesque, the interplay between dialect and written language forms, and the rise of vernacular print in 15th century Europe.He is the managing editor of TRANSIT: A Journal of Travel, Migration, and Multiculturalism in the German-speaking World. In his spare time he enjoys alpine mountaineering, scuba diving, hitchhiking, and travel photography.


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Xiangjun Feng

PhD Candidate | East Asian Languages and Cultures

Xiangjun Feng is currently a PhD student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. He is at the same time pursing an MA in the Folklore program. Born and brought up in a semi-urban area of the Northwestern China, he became interested in any “knowledge” of, about, and from the peasants and other “common people” at his early age. He attended Peking University for undergraduate study, during which he also used one year to go to a remote village in rural China as a volunteer teacher. He taught in the village elementary school and also tried to learn all kinds of local knowledge in that year. After he got a BA in Chinese Literature, He went to Hong Kong and did an MPhil in Anthropology in The Chinese University of Hong Kong. At Berkeley he is mainly working on vernacular performance and their social space in China’s modern transition. He is trying to apply different methodologies in his work and, of course, folklore is one of the most important approaches.


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Yasmin Golan

MA Candidate | Folklore | Archivist

Yasmin joins the Folklore MA program for research on participatory death and dying practices in Vietnam and the United States, with an interest in the space held by non-state, non-medical actors at life/death thresholds, and the role of storytelling in visualizing death transitions. Her other interests include the circulation of stories and poetics and performance of gesture in professional kitchens. She is a chef by trade, an arts collaborator by inclination, and holds a BA in History from UC Berkeley. 


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Brett Lemke

MA Candidate | Folklore

Brett Lemke is from from Madison, WI by way of Sacramento and Davis. He finished his undergraduate degree in the spring of 2015 at UC Davis in Evolutionary and Sociocultural Anthropology, and he is interested in the oral tradition of American Blues music. In the Folklore Program, he will be finding lost narratives of the remaining octogenarians who hold the tradition and helping to elucidate their stories in the transition to the digital medium.


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Sarah Montoro

MA Candidate | Folklore

Sarah Montoro is a California native with a B.A. in Creative Writing and English Literature from Cal State University, Long Beach. An undergrad paper she wrote about the small group traditions of the Heaven's Gate cult, her time teaching ESL through play and storytelling in Brazil, and her life-long fascination with her own family lore fueled her interest in folklore, leading her to pursue an M.A. in Folklore at UC Berkeley. Today, Sarah's research interests include family folklore, internet culture, storytelling in public spaces, and the role of monstrous and supernatural figures in urban life. Her research project focuses on the occupational folklore of walking tour guides and the construction of collective memory and identity through narratives of the supernatural and strange in San Francisco.


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Shakthi Nataraj

PhD Candidate | Anthropology

Shakthi Nataraj is a PhD Candidate in the Anthropology program at UC Berkeley, concurrently pursuing the MA Folklore. She examines narratives about sexual identity in Tamil Nadu, India, as they circulate between LGBT rights activists, lawmakers, journalists and novelists. She is especially interested in how older genres of narrative are blended with contemporary ones, producing new visions of sexual identity and politics. Before coming to Berkeley, Shakthi worked with two gender and sexuality rights NGOs in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.


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Alison O'Connor-Korb

MA Candidate | Folklore

Born and raised in the East Bay, Alison O'Connor-Korb spent her undergraduate career in the forests of University of California Santa Cruz, earning a degree in Classical Studies and getting firsthand experience with narrative transmission at the campus' noncommercial radio station. Focusing on supernatural and fringe characters in epic poetry across multiple ancient traditions, she wrote on the topics of monstrous femininity in the Roman epigrammatic tradition and the unease between civilization and nature in Ovid's Metamorphoses for her comprehensive exams. A desire to explore the creeping terrors and magical snakes outside of Ancient Europe and a lifelong love of storytelling, mythology, and superstitions led her to Berkeley's department of Folklore. Alison is currently researching concepts of monstrosity in folkloric forms, in particular the way monstrous bodies appear, are defined, and are interacted with in their respective stories. She is also interested in bodily transformations, liminal and transgressive places and characters, and human-animal hybrids.


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Bob Offer-Westort

MA Candidate | Folklore

Bob Offer-Westort comes to the Folklore MA program from over a decade of community organising in homeless communities in San Francisco and Berkeley. He's interested in the internal structure of narrative, how received narratives in turn condition our personal and political lives, and how stories change in movement between narrative communities and through time. His planned research focuses on the region between the Nile and the Red Sea. Bob holds a BA in Social Anthropology from Long Island University.


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Larisa Shaterian

MA Candidate | Folklore

Larisa Shaterian has always been interested in how narratives make reality across boundaries of space, culture, and gender. During her time as an undergrad at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, she studied how photojournalistic images interacted with power in a US-Middle East circuit. At that same time she herself engaged in a 5 year documentary photography project with a Palestinian family in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Bethlehem. She is currently interested in how narratives among and about humanitarian aid workers working on chronic refugee problems in the Levant shape and reproduce ideas of need and generosity both in the countries in which they work and the countries where they are from. Larisa also takes an avid interest in the ways humans talk to animals in different languages.


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Rachel Syka

MA Candidate | Folklore

Rachel Syka graduated from the University of Virginia in Anthropology. Her project also springs from experience in the food world, specifically the Three Stone Hearth Community-Support Kitchen in Berkeley. She wishes to explore how notions of traditionality and materiality are shaped by material and bodily practices associated with social movements that privilege discourses of the handmade, cultural heritage, and natural foods in artisanal, community-based food production.