For Immediate Release
August 25, 2017
Image: A makeshift home constructed on the Albany Bulb, a decommissioned landfill peninsula located on the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay. The Bulb was the subject of a Global Urban Humanities oral history and mapping project.
The Arts & Humanities Division of the College of Letters & Science, The College of Environmental Design and the Global Urban Humanities Initiative announce new Undergraduate and Graduate Certificates in Global Urban Humanities this fall. These certificates will help accelerate student experiments in studying urban life by bringing together disciplines ranging from anthropology and architecture to music and rhetoric. The Certificates are an outcome of three years of development in interdisciplinary research by renowned UC Berkeley faculty. The project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a joint venture between the UC Berkeley Arts & Humanities Division of the College of Letters & Science and the College of Environmental Design.
By the year 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. Global cities and their economies—social, environmental, political, environmental—are far too complex to be understood via a single academic discipline. “For students in the environmental design disciplines, these certificates provide a unique chance to slow down and look at cities through the lenses of literature, music and the arts,” said Jennifer Wolch, William W. Wurster Dean and Professor of City & Regional Planning at the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley. “Taking time to observe and interpret urban life through close reading and formal analysis, before jumping in to create design solutions, can be a good thing.”
Since the program's inception in 2013, graduate students in the Global Urban Humanities Initiative have traveled to southern China, Los Angeles, and Mexico City to conduct research using ethnography, photography, field observation, archival research, and performance. Art history and literature students have studied side by side with students in history, landscape architecture and city planning, sharing methods and theories and learning each other’s academic languages.
“Because the Certificate is open to all majors across campus, the variety of students participating in these programs is very unique,” explained Susan Moffat, Project Director of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative and a Lecturer in the Department of City & Regional Planning. “So far, we’ve had students from over 30 different departments participate in the program. Especially for graduate students, to mix academic disciplines like anthropology and art history, or rhetoric and architecture, is very valuable for interdisciplinary research. Students not only learn from their instructors, but also from each other.”
Based on the first three years of the program, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided funding for another three years of experimental classes. Now, GUH is expanding its offerings to include undergraduates, who will have a chance to conduct ethnographic fieldwork and learn to produce visual analysis of space even if they are majoring in disciplines that don’t traditionally use these techniques, such as literature or history. This innovative method will take place in an Interdisciplinary Research Studio designed specifically for the Certificate program.
“Doing urban fieldwork in teams, and producing graphic representations of research, has been mind-opening for students in the humanities. For emerging scholars focused on cities, the Initiative’s experiments have changed the course of dissertations, built student skills in experiential pedagogy, and forged lasting relationships across disciplines,” said Anthony J. Cascardi, Dean of Arts & Humanities.
More than 165 students have completed at least one of the 16 Global Urban Humanities courses offered to date. Many more students have participated in a wide range of interdisciplinary symposia and workshops. Moffat hopes the program ultimately will serve students from all majors and backgrounds, expanding both undergraduates and graduates perspectives.
“The program uses a strong humanities emphasis—history, music, performance and literature—which are all useful lenses for how we look at cities,” she explains. “The Global Urban Humanities Certificate uses these disciplines, not only to be an academic means of study, but as a way to invigorate new types of thinking. For example, we can take a method like choreography and use it as a physical way to investigate a city by way of performing in a public space.”
More information on public programs and on the application process and curriculum requirements for the certificate can be found here.
Press contact: Susan Moffat, Global Urban Humanities Initiative Project Director, firstname.lastname@example.org.