I studied for the MSc in Modern Chinese Studies between 2011-2012. Developing my Masters’ dissertation on older people’s associational groups (OPAs) in rural China was, for me, the highlight of the academic year. Under the expert guidance of Professor Vivienne Shue, I designed, organised and executed a month-long field research project in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. Using a range of qualitative methods, including interviewing and participant observation, I found that OPAs were being used by the local state to mediate village conflicts and develop community service provision. My fieldwork was made possible with the support of a research grant from the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS), within which the Contemporary China Studies Centre is based. I also took, and very much enjoyed, the optional course, International Relations of Contemporary China, taught and convened by Dr Paul Irwin Crookes. This highly stimulating and excellently taught course enabled me to build upon my undergraduate disciplinary background in Politics (1st Class, University of Nottingham), applying broad IR theories to China-specific case studies.
While studying for the Masters I applied and was accepted onto the DPhil in Politics within the Department of Politics and International Relations here at Oxford. With funding from the ESRC and St. Antony’s College, I took up the place in October 2012. I now work with one of today’s leading academics in the field of China’s domestic politics, Dr Patricia Thornton. I continue to work on OPAs in China, focusing on their role in either promoting or circumventing popular collective action amongst the elderly at the grassroots level.
Prior to taking up my Masters’ place I spent a year working for conflict prevention NGO International Crisis Group in Brussels. I am currently affiliated to the London-based think-tank The Foreign Policy Centre as a research associate. You can follow my musings on Chinese politics on twitter: @verity_robins.