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.
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.
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.