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Angelo Ngai '13 in Hong Kong in June
Angelo Ngai '13 in Hong Kong in June

Angelo Ngai ’13 Presents Senior Thesis in Hong Kong

Like all Haverford seniors, Angelo Ngai ’13 spent his final year at the College conducting research for a capstone academic project. But turning in his thesis was just the beginning for the sociology major and Mandarin Chinese minor. After he received a call for papers for an academic conference from Sociology Professor Mark Gould, he decided to submit his thesis, “Cultural Roots of the Rule of Law: Exploring the Possibility of a Confucian Legal Order.” In a rare turn of events for an undergrad, Ngai’s paper was accepted and he was invited to fly to Hong Kong to present his research at the “The Rule of Law with Chinese Characteristics” conference in June.

“I don't think the call for papers was meant to be circulated among undergraduates,” says Ngai. “I was the only undergraduate [at the conference]. There were a few other student presenters but they were all J.D. and Ph.D. students.”

Ngai has long been fascinated with China. He grew up reading Chinese fables, and during his junior year abroad in the Chinese city of Harbin, he became interested in how the country’s philosophical and cultural lens shapes its people’s code of conduct and even legal and political systems. Last summer, under the supervision of Gould, and with funding from the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, Ngai began research for his thesis, which investigates the fundamental differences between a western liberal and Chinese Confucian view of law and politics.

After his May graduation, Ngai secured funding from the sociology department and Haverford’s Louis Green Fund to fly to Hong Kong to present his thesis at the conference, which ran from June 5 through 7 at City University of Hong Kong’s School of Law.

The New York native was impressed by the “dense, hyperactive” city of Hong Kong, which he visited for more than a week, and he enjoyed hearing other academics speak on issues in Chinese law at the conference. But his favorite part of the trip was giving his presentation, which was well received by the attendees.

“I spent the whole flight to Hong Kong writing up my presentation, and as soon as I opened my mouth to give it, all my nervousness washed away,” says Ngai. “I realized I knew my topic better than anyone in the room, and could deal with any criticism because even though my idea was theoretical and I was an undergraduate, my work was systematic, cogent, and very well thought out.”

Now back on campus, Ngai is spending his summer working with Assistant Professor of Economics Indradeep Ghosh on a critique of aspects of neoclassical economic theory. Next he hopes to find work that will allow him to do qualitative analysis of social-political issues in China before eventually applying to graduate school.

“[My thesis], so far, has had a lasting impact on my thinking as well as having provided substantive knowledge of Confucianism and Chinese culture,” he says. “I would like to continue research on it at another point in time.”

--Rebecca Raber

Prof. Anita Isaacs (Political Science) and students cross Founders Green after class.

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