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SOCI-001: Introduction to Sociology

“It can be said that the first wisdom of sociology is this: things are not as they seem,” wrote Peter Berger in An Invitation to Sociology.  “People who like to avoid shocking discoveries, who prefer to believe that society is just what they were taught in Sunday school, who like the safety of the rules … should stay away from sociology.  People who feel no temptation before closed doors, who have no curiosity about human beings, who are content to admire scenery without wondering about the people who live in those houses on the other side of that river, should probably also stay away from sociology … And people whose interest is mainly in their own conceptual constructions will do just as well to turn to the study of little white mice. Sociology will be satisfying, in the long run, only to those who can think of nothing more entrancing than to watch men and to understand things human.”  This course is an opportunity to develop your sociological imagination, as C. Wright Mills wrote, by exploring the broad set of topics that sociologists study.  It is a chance to delve deeply into the social world, thinking critically about the social structures, rules and norms that shape our participation in society.

 
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SOCI-209: The City: Approaches to Urban Studies

This course provides an interdisciplinary introduction to the study of cities and urban life. Cities are socially and politically contested spaces, and observers of urban life have sought for more than a century to understand the process of urbanization and the consequences of living in cities. Some argue that cities represent the crowning achievement of modernity; others suggest that cities are isolating and alienating, fostering anomie, rather than social cohesion. The course integrates work by urban planners, architects, political scientists, geographers and sociologists to provide a comprehensive set of tools to understand and analyze modern urban life. The course is divided into four sections. The first section on the rise of the modern city begins with an analysis of the dynamics of capitalist urbanization and examines socio-spatial changes in the urban landscape during the early twentieth century. In the second section, which focuses on the decline of the American city and the growth of the suburbs, the course investigates the process of economic restructuring that led to the transformation of cities. The third section, which references the city rediscovered, investigates processes of gentrification and contested public spaces in the city. In the final section, the course investigates the impact of globalization on cities, especially in the Global South. The course concludes by asking about the potential for creating more just, equitable and sustainable cities.

 
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SOCI-222: Gentrification, Justice & the Future of Cities

 In Rebel Cities, David Harvey poses the central question of twenty-first century cities as a question of the right to the city, echoing the influential theorist, Henri Lefebvre.  “The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from the question of what kind of people we want to be, what kinds of social relations we seek, what relations to nature we cherish, what style of life we desire, what aesthetic values we hold,” Harvey writes. “The freedom to make and remake ourselves and our cities is one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.  How best to exercise that right?”  Drawing on a range of theoretical perspectives, this seminar investigates the question at the heart of David Harvey’s Rebel Cities – namely, how best to understand, evaluate and exercise the right to the city.  The seminar engages debates over the right to the city through a critical analysis of the contested process of gentrification.   As it remade many urban neighborhoods, gentrification has raised new questions about the rights of long-term citizens to shape their own communities.  At the same time, it has brought attention to the unequal distribution of benefits that result when neighborhoods change. Through an exploration of the process of gentrification in American cities, this interdisciplinary seminar investigates the ways that we, as urban citizens, can contribute to the creation of more just cities.  

 

SOCI-223: Public Housing: Theory & Practice

While the term ‘public housing’ still conjures up images of high-rise developments in poor neighborhoods, most Americans living in publicly funded housing do not live in these types of units.  In fact, public housing refers to a broad set of initiatives to create safe, affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans.  Many of these policies emerged as a response to the perceived failures of large-scale public housing in the mid-twentieth century.  This course examines the multiple types of policies designed to provide housing assistance in the United States.   To do so, it interrogates the relationship between theory and practice – namely, how disciplines throughout the social sciences, including economics, sociology, architecture and urban planning, have informed the assumptions made by policymakers in their pursuit of better housing policies. After tracing the history of large-scale public housing developments, we will focus on several newer initiatives, including housing vouchers and the creation of mixed-income communities, that attempt to de-concentrate poverty and create opportunities for poor Americans.

 

UNXD-305: The Urban Studio

This studio-based course offers students an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of cities and urban life while, at the same time, developing skills required to complete their project.  It is a model of “learning by doing.”  By focusing on a single problem for the duration of the year, students will build skills in design strategies, project development and communication.  They will also develop deeper knowledge of the city as a site for critical social inquiry. This studio course offers students an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of cities and urban life while, at the same time, developing skills required to complete their project.  It is a model of “learning by doing.”  By focusing on a single problem for the duration of the year, students will build skills in design strategies, project development and communication.  They will also develop deeper knowledge of the city as a site for critical social inquiry.