I entered Berkeley in 1987 as a legal services attorney who had hoped to make the world fairer for poor women. After 5 years of practice I was cynical about the prospects for changing anything, much less the lives of my clients. I chose Berkeley because I was a pragmatic progressive feminist in search of explanations for inequality and injustice.
After I got my PhD, I began teaching sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I moved to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2000 where I am currently an assistant professor. I travel to China regularly, doing ethnographic fieldwork, offering graduate seminars in Chinese universities in Beijing, and collaborating with Mainland Chinese sociologists. My current projects look at changing patterns of labor politics and collective memories of socialism.
When I applied to graduate school, a mentor suggested any social science degree would do. How wrong she was! Any education worth its salt is transformative. Certainly Berkeley sociology transformed me. Graduate school (classmates at least as much as faculty) changed the world I saw and inhabited, revealing 'structure' wherever I looked. Since then, I use the language of structure more rarely like many others I've come to be as interested in surfaces as hidden bones, and in contingencies as much as determinations.
I started my teaching career in 1981 as one of the founding faculty members of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology in Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal. When I was nominated for a Fulbright-Hays scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. degree in sociology in USA in 1987, I gave top priority to UC-Berkeley because of my interest in qualitative sociology. I spent six years (1987-1993) there. I am very proud that I did it from Berkeley. I miss Berkeley and its very excellent, stimulating and inspiring academic and socio-cultural environment.
I came to Berkeley from Boston, where I'd worked for a couple of years after graduating from Swarthmore College. Coming from a sociology family, I was ambivalent and vaguely embarrassed about the Sociology PhD part of the plan, but I figured it was warmer in California, physically and culturally, and I liked the idea of being both learned and tanned. It turned out to be a great place for me. I immediately adored my cohort, even though I was scared of how smart everybody was, and I was impressed by how often people were in the mood to drink. The faculty was accessible and interesting.