GUH People: Amy Loo

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Amy Loo is a UC Berkeley graduate and the recipient of the Davis Projects for Peace Initiative for her work with refugees in Japan. At Cal, Amy majored in Political Science and minored in Chinese Literature, and was a 2018 GUH Undergraduate Certificate Recipient. She now works at a financial advisory firm and within the Real Estate sector, as well as within a unit called “Difficultators Tokyo” to bring awareness to site-specific discrimination.

What compelled you to join GUH?

I joined GUH during my last year of college, right after hearing about it at GUH open house. It was also the semester of inauguration for the undergraduate program. Joining was an intuitive decision for me because the GUH mission and interdisciplinary methodology aligned with how I had been developing academically. 

For example, although I was a Political Science major focusing on immigration policy, I spent equal weight on humanities courses to understand politics of identity and spatial control. I think that the GUH community would agree that there is a limit in sticking to one discipline or research methodology.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us more about your work with refugees in Tokyo?

My day job is at a financial advisory firm. I am part of a team that provides advisory services for public-private partnerships and private finance initiatives on infrastructure projects like airports, museums, stadiums, railways etc... Recently, I have also been involved in the real estate sector, providing financial modeling services for their assets. This is quite a jump from my undergraduate studies but finance is a major part of urban planning. 

On weekends, however, I try to be involved with urban planning in a more artistic and creative way.

Currently, I am working with two of my close friends as a unit called “Difficultators Tokyo” to make site-specific discrimination more visible. We have been fortunate to be supported by Shibaura House, a semi-public third place and the Netherlands Embassy. 

We are designing a scavenger hunt, which will have puzzles and missions related to issues such as inaccessibility in public transportation, discrimination against immigrants, and hate mail sent to slaughterhouse employees—all of which are site-specific. The hunts will lead the participants to the sites and hopefully become an occasion for all of us to rediscover our living environment and transform it through a newly-earned perspective. 

As for my work with refugees in Japan: I had never been able to make a tangible difference through my academic research on immigration policy. When I received the Davis Projects for Peace grant last year, I wanted to help connect refugees and immigrants with their fellow Japanese community (and vice-versa). I organized a few cooking classes taught by (former) refugees. Instead of the usual disheartening lectures on refugee issues, this kind of event breaks barriers, undermines biases and also gives a voice to the minority. They become the main characters. I could not have done this without the guidance of Susan Moffat, Project Director of GUH. 

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

GUH shaped my research and career. The program welcomes people from different disciplines, and it speaks to the notion that the living environment belongs to everyone. When I first began exploring this field by auditing CED classes and attending seminars and events, I felt like an outsider because I was a Political Science major. GUH opened the doors to the urban planning community and gave me a sense of belonging. I joined a multidisciplinary studio that involved creating a site-specific performance at the Albany Bulb. Through this studio, I found ways to overcome discrimination against immigrants and those considered “Others” in general. It comes down to the acknowledgement of denizenship and the recognition of others as a members and stakeholders of certain community. This can be achieved by creating occasions for people to spend happy moments together and appreciate the shared space and environment, similar to what we did in our final performance piece. This realization inspired my later work with refugees in Japan and still influences how I approach public-private partnership projects. 

I still maintain contact with GUH people, both faculty and fellow students, with whom I am sure I will cross paths with again. 

What advice would you give to current GUH students?

Explore campus resources and opportunities. There are a lot of “Centers” on campus like the Center for Chinese Studies, Center for Japanese Studies, or Townsend Center for Humanities, that hold incredible lectures and events. For current GUH students who are looking to pursue higher degrees, you will meet the brightest scholars and researchers, some whom are visiting from abroad. I am incredibly indebted to CCS, CJS, and GUH. You only realize how privileged you are when you leave—so be sure to not have any regrets!

I also encourage students to reach outside the campus to explore other options after graduating. Urban Land Institute, for example, might be a good starting point. I am learning as much from being in the industry as I was at school, and I personally think that you should work a few years before pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree.

What are three things on your bucket list?

  • Revisit Berkeley as soon as possible! Visit professors, attend lectures and talks at Wurster Hall, go on a film marathon at Berkeley Art Museum and Film Archive, eat pizza at Cheeseboard, drink boba, etc. 
  • Design a business formal shoe that is also ergonomically healthy... 
  • Create financial models for privately-owned and operating third places 

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

Recently, I have been revisiting Saskia Sassen’s The Global City to understand power and influence of finance in urban planning and development. I would like have a bigger perspective (sociological imagination) on my day job and how what I do fits into the big picture.

If I had more time for leisure reading, I would like to finish reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Jurgen Habermas’ The Structural Transformation of the Public Space.

The Neighborhood in the Morro. Heterogeneity, Difference, and Emergence in a Periphery of the Global South

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Architecture PhD candidate Giuseppina Forte published an article in the September 2019 issue of Lo Squaderno titled "The Neighborhood in the Morro. Heterogeneity, Difference, and Emergence in a Periphery of the Global South." Her article is a sensory ethnography from a collection of urban ethnographies on São Paulo. Forte completed the Graduate Certificate in Global Urban Humanities in 2019 and is a 2020 Global Urban Humanities Fellow. You can read her abstract and excerpt below as well as the full article.  Forte, Giuseppina. "The Neighborhood in the Morro. Heterogeneity, Difference, and Emergence in a Periphery of the Global South." Lo Squaderno, no. 53 (September 2019). Read the article |…

City, Culture & Politics in the Construction of I-10 in NOLA: 2019 GUH Undergraduate Studio Reflection

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Nero Dotson is a third-year undergraduate majoring in Economics and completed the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Urban Humanities in 2019. He is interested in ways that private companies can contribute to low-income communities and the growing role of businesses and their relationship with the communities in need. He was a student in the 2019 GUH Undergraduate Studio course, New Orleans: Historical Memory and Urban Design, co-taught by Profs. Anna Brand in LAEP and Bryan Wagner in English, and writes a reflection about the class trip to the Crescent City. Congo Square. A historical site and birthplace of jazz where slaves…

Cataloging Connection: Building the Borderlands Archive with Monument Lab

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The work of Global Urban Humanities (GUH) research studios often continues well after the end of the semester.  In Spring 2018, GUH graduate students explored the US-Mexico borderlands with Professor of Architecture Ronald Rael and Assistant Professor of Art Practice Stephanie Syjuco. One of the students in the class, Cheyenne Concepcion, continued her research as a 2019 Monument Lab National Fellow. Monument Lab is an independent public art and history studio based in Philadelphia. Its co-founder Paul Farber spoke at the Global Urban Humanities symposium Techniques of Memory in April 2019. She describes her project here: Territorial boundaries and borders…

Aliens in the Megacity? A Reflection on the 2019 Graduate Studio Visit to Lagos

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Sourabh Harihar received his MA in Global Studies at Berkeley and holds degrees in civil and ocean engineering from TU Delft (Holland) and the Indian Institute of Technology. In his previous years as a management consultant and a Young India Fellow, he has engaged with projects relating to smart city planning and urban informality in Indian cities. In Spring 2019, he completed the GUH Graduate Certificate as he strongly believes that an urban humanities perspective is extremely critical and valuable to understanding urban development, particularly in the Global South. He was also one of the graduate students who participated in…

Re-envisioning Memorial Cultures: A Reflection on Techniques of Memory

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If you missed the diverse and engaging presentations at this year's Techniques of Memory symposium, fear not! Rhetoric PhD student Linda Kinstler writes below a reflective summary about the symposium. Linda Kinstler was also a member of the Techniques of Memory symposium planning committee. Power Panel at Techniques of Memory Memory is on the move. All around the world, artists, activists, architects, and scholars are re-evaluating approaches to memory and its physical manifestations. In New Orleans, ephemeral monuments to the city’s forgotten heroes and triumphs are going up where markers of Confederate power recently came toppling down; in the Democratic Republic of Congo,…

Architecture and the Cult of Apology

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Congratulations to Architecture PhD Candidate and GUH Student Valentina Rozas-Krause for receiving the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship for 2019-2020. The fellowship is awarded to 65 doctoral candidates annually and supports one year of research and writing to help advanced graduate students in the humanities and social sciences in their last year of PhD dissertation writing.  Rozas-Krause will be using her fellowship to complete her dissertation titled Architecture and the Cult of Apology. Read the abstract below to learn more about her research: In 2004, when Argentina’s president apologized for the state’s crimes committed during the last military dictatorship (1976-83), he also inaugurated…

Populism, Art and the City Students Published in Journal of Urban Cultural Studies

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UCB STUDENTS AND FACULTY CAN NOW CHECK OUT THIS JOURNAL FROM OSKICAT. 2018 Populism, Art, and the City students, Jeff Garnand, Tania Osorio Harp, Xander Lenc and Connie Zheng, published their papers in the September 2018 issue of the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies. These articles are an extension of their final projects for the Spring 2018 GUH Core Seminar Course co-taught by Jason Luger (City and Regional Planning) and Angela Marino (Theater, Dance & Performance Studies), who co-wrote an introductory article for the issue about the course as interdisciplinary pedagogy for our time. Read the abstract and contributor bios below to get an…

Peoples & Places: Photography and the City

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Having emigrated from Egypt to the United States in November of 2005, Menat Allah El Attma is now a third-year undergraduate student studying English Literature at UC Berkeley and a GUH Undergraduate Certificate student. She is a writer, self-taught visual artist, and Muslim woman who is personally invested in a myriad of art forms. To her, art is necessary to meaningfully study history, architecture, religion, science, language, ourselves and each other. The more she practices with these accessible instruments - the pen, brush and camera - the more she understands that the art is in the telling of the story as much…

GUH People: Noam Shoked

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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…