Piper Gaubatz

Professor of Geography, University of Massachusetts

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Contact information: gaubatz *at* geo.umass.edu  tel: 413-545-0768

I am an urban geographer specializing in the study of urban change, development and planning in East Asia and the U.S.    As an urban geographer I am interested in the processes which shape urban space, and particularly in the historical and contemporary linkages between policy, practice and physical and social urban forms in China, Japan and the U.S.   Non-specialists can understand my work as seeking answers to questions such as “what impacts will the new emphasis on environmental planning – exemplified by the transformation of Beijing for the 2008 Olympics – have on cities throughout China?,” “what happens when new models of urban development generated in China’s hyper-developing, globalizing eastern cities are applied in the impoverished interior and western regions?,” and “how did the establishment of cities in China’s northern frontier regions change lives, landscapes and ecologies in the vast grasslands of Mongolia/Inner Mongolia?”

My educational background includes an AB with highest honors from Princeton University (Sociology, with a secondary concentration in Architecture), Advanced Research Student in Geography, Peking University and MA and Ph.D in Geography, UC Berkeley.  In addition to my academic positions, I have held competitive postdoctoral positions at the East-West Center in Honolulu (1990-91) and Yale University’s Center for Agrarian Studies (2005-6), and editorial positions with Urban Morphology, Eurasian Geography and Economics, The Geographical Review and Historical Geography. I’ve funded my field research on urban transformation and morphology in China, Japan and the U.S. through grants and fellowships from a variety of funding agencies such as Fulbright, the National Academy of Sciences, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.  Field research and on-the-ground experience is central to my work.   Over the past twenty-five years I have carried out fieldwork-based research in fourteen different cities in China, Japan and the U.S. (China: Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Kunming, Xining, Urumqi, Lanzhou and Höhhot; Japan: Nagoya, Toyokawa;  U.S.: Princeton, Oakland, Cupertino).

My long-term academic goal is to build a new body of theoretical and methodological approaches to urban analysis which is accessible to both academics and professionals in planning and design.  These approaches will provide frameworks for understanding urban transformation through integrating analyses of changes in the natural and built environments with changes in economic, social, political and cultural aspects of urban life.  Within this context, my approach to geographical theory and research is grounded in a critical reading of cities as representations of power, knowledge, culture, economies and societal relations and dynamics within and beyond the urban community.  Currently I am conducting research on urban change in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou with an emphasis on the ways in which orientation toward exogenous investment and image-building influences spatial transformation; on the diffusion of planning practices and ideologies from eastern China to western China; and on the environmental history of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia and its hinterlands.