James Brown Kinsella (G20) is from a small, rural community in upstate New York and is currently undertaking an MPhil in Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at Churchill College. His research focus is classical Chinese with a particular interest in the philosophical significance of music.

James first developed an interest in philosophy whilst at Princeton studying liberal arts. The different courses he took kindled a growing fascination with Chinese philosophy and he went on to spend a summer in China studying the language.

After Princeton, James won a prestigious fellowship at the Yenching Academy of Peking University, where he studied early Chinese philosophy in an interdisciplinary, contemporary, and Chinese context. Before the pandemic James spent six months in Beijing, where he became nearly fluent in Mandarin and cultivated relationships with graduate students and professors, across the disciplines of Chinese philosophy, history, religion, and early culture, alongside pursuing his passion for music and choral singing.

Eager to continue with his studies in the field, James was attracted to apply for the MPhil course at Churchill because of the funding opportunity it offered via the Simon Henry Studentship. The fees for his course alone are £27,000 so he was delighted when he was awarded the Studentship which provides funding of £21,000 from Churchill alumnus Simon Henry (U79) plus a small additional amount from the Cambridge Trust.

Coming to Churchill would not have been an option without the Simon Henry Studentship due to the paucity of funding available for MPhil courses. I am very grateful to have been given the chance to pursue my dreams and fill in the holes remaining in my education in Chinese Culture as the final stepping stone to a PhD.

James first arrived at Churchill in late September and moved into accommodation on-site. The other postgraduate students in his bubble come from all over the globe including the UK, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France and Italy, and they have bonded together over formal dining. He has also kept busy as an Alto choral volunteer with Jesus choir, rehearsing five times a week and live-streaming performances four times weekly. In any other spare time he has, James can be found on his bike!

Looking ahead to beyond his MPhil studies, James is applying for a PhD in Chinese Philosophy in the US and is clear about what he hopes to achieve through his studies.

After completing my PhD, I hope to sing my song in a Philosophy department in the West and, through research, to treat early Chinese philosophers with the dignity that has been accorded to their Graeco-Roman counterparts; through teaching, to introduce the next generation of Western leaders to the next global superpower’s influential ideas; and through collaboration, to draw Chinese and Western scholars together as our leaders drive us apart.