Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content
Share |

#

#

#          #



#

KAI ZHANG

Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Bachelor of Arts, May 2013
Vocabularies of Justice: 20th Century History, Political Philosophy, and Changing Systems of Economic Governance
Minor in Computer Science & Mathematics
Profile (.pdf)
#

After deliberating between many different interests and passions, Vivica Kai Zhang is choosing to focus on engaging web and mobile technologies for community organizing and direct democracy.

Over her senior year, Kai interned with Streetwise and Safe, through the Peter Ciccino Youth Project at the Urban Justice Center, where she volunteered with Know Your Rights Trainings for LGBTQ youth of color who are engaged in street-based economies. Through this experience, Kai learned a lot about the systemic way in which criminalization is used to control and maintain certain marginalized populations. She continues seeking to better understand and serve the needs of disenfranchised youth, especially those who are unemployed, homeless, of illegal status, unable to afford or sustain education, and/or dealing with various mental and environmental challenges.

Interested in the problems of global inequality and poverty, Kai worked for a year with Mayan womenís artisan groups in Guatemala. Though she enjoyed her time at this organization, upon returning to academia, she was made wary of the critiques against do-gooder neo-imperialism via certain NGO development organizations abroad. These critiques have caused her a lot of confusion, so until she sorts out her stance on these issues, she is now choosing to stick with human rights issues closer to home.

Kai spent her time at Gallatin studying critical theory, particularly post-colonial and feminist theory, while working on a thesis that defends the choice of sex work through feminist philosophy and the global history of sex workers. Her concentration includes classes in history, economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy, which help her to acquire a facility with the various academic vocabularies that have evolved to describe and analyze the Good Society: from the anti-imperialist, labor and post-Marxist ideologies of the radical left; to welfare state solutions and human rights institutions in international law encased in the language of economic policy; as well as strategies for sustainable development, fair trade, microfinance, and better Capitalism via corporate social responsibility, as endorsed by progressive liberals; in contrast to the laissez-faire, small government approach of market-driven development as championed by the conservative and libertarian right. Seeking primarily to understand the social consequences of these different political perspectives as evidenced by the history of the 20th and early 21st centuries, Kai has undergone an evolution in her political views, starting from a radical Anarchist critique of global Capitalism, to a more wary and more pragmatic understanding of the plight of the global working class within the fragility of the international financial order today.

She continues to be most concerned with issues of the working class, particularly female workers, migrants, domestic workers, sex workers, farm workers, and the way debt is used to enslave people in the United States and internationally. Kai is particularly excited by grassroots transnational womenís movements, and experiments in cooperative agriculture and participatory economic democracy. She is hopeful for the potential of the internet and mobile technologies to promote greater transparency, accountability, civic engagement, and open collaboration.

She continues to be most concerned with issues of the working class, particularly female workers, migrants, domestic workers, sex workers, farm workers, and the way debt is used to enslave people in the United States and internationally. Kai is particularly excited by grassroots transnational womenís movements, and experiments in cooperative agriculture and participatory economic democracy. She is hopeful for the potential of the internet and mobile technologies to promote greater transparency, accountability, civic engagement, and open collaboration.

Born in Shanghai and raised in various towns and cities throughout the U.S., Kai grew up mainly in the trailer parks of Colorado and the NYCHA projects of New Yorkís Spanish Harlem. Through an affirmative action program called Prep for Prep, Kai was lucky to attend Horace Mann High School, and owes so much to the teachers and mentors who took the time to guide her there. Her past social entrepreneurial work includes co- founding the following organizations: an intergenerational English-Chinese language exchange program called the Chinatown Literacy Project, a student-led fair trade project in Guatemala called Weave-a-Dream, and an initiative to generate social and environmental nutrition labels assessing various corporations and their products called Project Label.

Her newest project is leading a Meetup group for college and high school dropouts, who want to teach themselves how to code and design for the web, as well as use free internet resources such as iTunes University and MIT Open Courseware to gain knowledge of history, science, and social issues. She hopes to create a graphic design and web development company that trains and employs NYC school dropouts, runaway kids, (former) sex workers, and youth who donít want to be indebted to the educational industrial complex. The company would work with nonprofits to create web media content, mobile applications, and fundraising materials; as well as publish a multimedia webzine on the progressive work that community organizations in New York City are doing. She believes that understanding web coding and multimedia publishing is a key form of self-empowerment in a changing economy, and this can be learned without formal schooling.