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Fieldwork in India Inspires a Master’s Degree


While she was a Hamilton Asian studies major abroad in India, Joyce Chan ’16 did an independent project about the visual culture of the Neobuddhists.

They are a particular community of the Dalit caste, which is sometimes called “the untouchables.” Traveling throughout India to do independent fieldwork was a challenge that shaped her maturity, confidence and the academic interests she has today.

“In the process of writing my senior thesis, which was an elaboration on the sociological significance of Neobuddhist visual culture,” Chan says, “I realized that there was a deeper complexity to the Neobuddhist movement that I only grazed the surface of during my one-month field study.”

That was the impetus for her decision to go to grad school. Chan is pursuing a master’s degree in intensive South Asian studies at The School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In the second year of the program she will travel to India for six months to do research. Long term, Chan hopes to continue her research on social movements in India and the potential for groups’ social inclusion in government policies and institutions.

It wasn’t the future she’d envisioned when she started at Hamilton. Chan had expected to major in psychology and minor in visual arts.

“With the influence of professors and classmates, and with my Asian studies concentration, my time at Hamilton has transformed my way of thinking, expanded my horizons and has stimulated my curiosity,” she says. “The many challenges that I have faced, furthermore, gave me the confidence and assertiveness to pursue my interests, and also honed essential skills such as time management and written and oral communication.”

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