Written by Svetlana Dotsenko
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Do you already have a research topic?
I’m solidifying my interests and exploring a lot of different areas. My general area is women and gender in religion.
How did you become interested in this topic?
I developed my interest in high school. What I noticed very early on in my readings was that religion offered something very different for women. Frankly, religions can be oppressive to women; however, religions also offer numerous opportunities for women.
Can you share an example?
I’m currently doing research on the self-identity of early Buddhist and Christian nuns, and how the words they use to describe themselves and their pasts changed after they took their vows. We have a variety of poems attributed to early Buddhist nuns, and in these poems, the nuns often contrast their past to their present, but end by stating, “But I am that same self.” This goes against Buddhist metaphysics, yet it expressed the women’s own understanding of what they were capable of.
How does the Divinity School help you define your interests?
I should preface this by saying that I went to a small liberal arts college without a religious department. Harvard Divinity School has exposed me to the immense amount of scholarship on religion. Oftentimes, I think of a topic and start wondering if there is any scholarship on it; I’ll go to the library and find a whole shelf already written about it. The level of resources at the Divinity School is incredible.
Have you already found a mentor for your thesis work?
It’s a wonderful question – first I have to figure out what I want to do for my thesis work! I have been discussing my research interests with a few professors that I have met here at Harvard.
We look forward to your success, Alex! Best of luck!