GUH People: Noam Shoked

Posted on by sarahhwang@berkeley.edu

Noam Shoked is a 2018-2019 Princeton-Mellon Fellow and was a student in the first GUH traveling course on Los Angeles called No Cruising: Mobile Identities and Urban Life. At Cal, Noam completed his PhD dissertation, which traced the ways in which the design of West Bank settlements became a site of both collaboration and confrontation between architects, settlers, and government officials. At Princeton, Noam will revise his dissertation into a book manuscript and lay the foundations for his next research project on the encounter between modernism urbanism and Bedouin communities in the Middle East.

How were you invovled with the Global Urban Humanities Initiative (GUH)?

I participated in the No Cruising: Mobile Identities and Urban Life in Los Angeles studio, co-taught by Margaret Crawford and Anne Walsh. I also helped putting together a book that documented the projects that grew out of that studio. Later, I took part in the GUH’s Student Advisory Board, and attended many lectures and events hosted by the GUH.

What compelled you to join GUH?

I heard a presentation about the LA studio Margaret Crawford gave a few months before the beginning of the semester. Having taken architecture studios in the past, I was intrigued by her idea of a multi-disciplinary studio. It seemed like a great opportunity to do research rather than read other people’s research, and, along the way, to get constant feedback on my work. Admittedly, I was also excited about the opportunity to get to know LA, a city I knew mainly from films.

How did your GUH experience contribute to your current research or career?

The GUH studio allowed me to experiment with ethnographic research methods I later applied in my dissertation research on West Bank settlements. In addition, I have incorporated some of Margaret and Anne’s pedagogical techniques in my own teaching. I encouraged my students at the CCA to embark on short-term ethnographic projects in San Francisco, and now I am developing a humanities studio I intend to teach next year in Israel. Finally, I was able to publish my studio project in Boom’s special issue on urban humanities. I imagine it was helpful on the academic job market.  

What is your most memorable GUH experience?

On one of our studio’s field trips, I interviewed an undocumented immigrant who happened to use his bicycle to move around the city and collect recyclable material. At one point, I figured he was homeless, but he refused to see himself as such because he owned some property—a bike and a cart—and had his own squatting spot. His self-perception made me rethink my understanding of what it means to be homeless, and, equally important, it made me change my research assumptions concerning the role of biking in the city.

What is your favorite global city you have traveled to and why?

I now live in Princeton and I take great pleasure in making weekly visits to New York, where I used to live before moving to Berkeley. That being said, as a scholar, I am more intrigued by much smaller places, like West Bank settlements and Bedouin towns in the Negev desert. Although they probably don’t qualify as cities, they are a matter of international concern and interest. I think that there is a lot to learn about the design and evolution of such places.