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A 2014-2015 William Prize for best essay in East Asian Studies was awarded to Ruoxi Yu (Berkeley College '15) for her essay submitted to the Department of Anthropology, “The Girl with the Peanut Necklace: Experiences of Infertility and in vitro Fertilization in China.” (Marcia Inhorn, William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology, advisor; Susan Brownell, Professor of Anthropology at USML, secondary reader.)

Ruoxi Yu’s essay, “The Girl with the Peanut Necklace: Experiences of Infertility and in vitro Fertilization in China,” situates original research within the history of the one-child birth control policy and the tension between the demands of the family and the state. The first thing that strikes one about this senior essay is that, at 130 pages, it is not far from being a dissertation. It is based on 10 weeks of ethnographic fieldwork in an infertility clinic in Tianjin combined with two semesters of library research and writing. The quality of the ethnographic research is remarkable for an undergraduate. The setting was very sensitive and required sitting around the clinic waiting for an opportunity to draw a patient into conversation, eventually asking for permission to conduct an interview. Ruoxi’s social skills and facility in Chinese enabled her to interview a number of women who divulged intimate details of their lives. Even many anthropology Ph.D. students find it difficult to pull meaningful information out of the messiness of real life and to organize it within academic frameworks. In the end, Ruoxi is able to successfully draw from medical anthropology and feminist theory to link her research results with time-honored anthropological debates about the Chinese family, and also with recent thinking about medical technologies and their relationship with the state.