Areas of Study
Email Address
Kirner-Johnson 244

Starr's research ethnographically explores culturally variant conceptual and experiential entanglements of selfhood, bodies and embodied identities, and empowerment. Her book, Modified Bodies Material Selves (2023), compares how Chinese and Western women living in Shanghai thought about, pursued, and/or critiqued beauty ideals they encountered in the city. She demonstrates that the women were operating with different notions of what she calls the 'materiality of self,' as either being constantly modified by one's environment or as an unchanging given. These differences informed how the women experienced embodied identities and how they thought about the politics of modifying certain traits of their bodies. The book won a subvention grant from the Association of Asian Studies and has received much praise for its ethnographic descriptions and theoretical insights about body politics and empowerment. 

Starr has a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Virginia, where she also earned a master’s degree in 2010. Starr also holds a B.S. in mathematics, a B.A. in comparative studies and an M.A. in Chinese from The Ohio State University. She teaches introductory courses to cultural anthropology as well as upper-level courses focused on the anthropology of China, selfhood, food, race, and the body.

Recent Courses Taught

Cultural Anthropology
Anthropology of China
Anthropology of Food
Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality in China

Select Publications and Presentations

  • "Gender roles and Identity" Talk presented at the China Dialogue Dinner, University of Virginia, March 18, 2015
  • "Speaking directly, Undermining Intimacy in Shanghai: Problems with 'Clear Communication' during fieldwork" Talk presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, January 17, 2015
  • "Conducting Fieldwork in Shanghai: Cultivating and Maintaining Relationships in an Urban Context" Talk presented at a Department Workshop on Fieldwork, Ethics, and Ethnographic Writing, University of Virginia, October 8, 2013
  • "Communicating Intent, Undermining Intimacy: Consequences of Culturally Biased Research Ethics in Shanghai, China" Anthropology News, September 2013
  • "Anthropological Research Methods," Guest lecture, Fudan University, Shanghai, China, October 10, 2012
  • "Cultivating Ideal Bodies and Lives in Contemporary Shanghai" Talk presented at East China Normal University lecture series, Shanghai, China, May 16,2012
  • "Han Othering, Othering the Han" Talk presented at Moving Margins: Strategies and Meanings Graduate Student Round Table, November 19, 2009, University of Virginia
  • "One World: Different Ways" Published in V Ke, Volume 2, October 2009

Appointed to the Faculty


Educational Background

Ph.D., University of Virginia
M.A., University of Virginia
M.A., Ohio State University
B.A., Ohio State University
B.S., Ohio State University

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