I see myself as an anthropologist-in-training with a background in architecture. My principal research question is: "How do we know what we know about a city?" How do we understand a city with a complex history of occupation and diverse politics of representation? For example, how do we understand Shanghai, China’s largest city, attempts to represent itself to the world by establishing the traditional "global hierarchy of value," wherein a city is only considered "global" if it can exhibit an effective blend of modernity and heritage?
PhD Candidate in Anthropology, Harvard University, 2010 - Present; Harvard-Yenching Institute Doctoral Scholarship& Harvard Graduate Fellowship
MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies, Oxford University, 2010; Harvard-Yenching Institute Doctoral Scholarship & Oxford University's China Research Award
SMArchS in History, Theory, Criticism of Art and Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2007; J.William Fulbright Scholarship & C.V.Starr Foundation of the Asian Cultural Council Fellowship (affiliate of the Rockefeller's Brothers Fund)
Urban Design Certificate, Departments of Architecture, and Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2007; W. Danfort Compton Memorial Fellowship, School of Architecture and Planning, MIT
Statament of Research Ambition
Poised between the disciplines of architectural history and anthropology, my scholarship work stands as a fine example of how urban planning can set the stage for a fuller understanding of both the architectural and social present of a city. The placement of urban planning in a greater socio-political web gives context to our everyday built environment, raising an important awareness regarding the tactile and layered nature of the urban fabric. An emphasis on the symbolic aspects of urbanism calls to anthropology as it analyzes the tension, dynamic, and negotiation between the people living there and the symbolic image that the developers could foster whether that is hegemonic powers or the authority.
Methodologically, I aim at opening up an interdisciplinary way of understanding planning history. By complementing intensive archival study with comprehensive use of literature from multiple fields of analysis as well as through historical ethnographies of urban life, I want to show how planning history can benefit from fieldwork and the researcher’s immersion with the field site.
The contribution of my doctoral research will lie in its skillful negotiation of politically charged terrain to make sense of the process of urbanization in China in a broader sense through the understanding of the planning process both in a larger realm of planning cultures and a more focused case study of local communities in Shanghai. Its discussion of the theoretical frameworks of urbanization will takes into account various disciplines, including history, geography, architecture, sociology, and anthropology, shedding new light on the conflicts and tensions over urban space brought about by the sort of transformations that have been seen in Shanghai in recent years.