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, each of which loosely corresponds to one of the books assigned for the course. 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. It considers the massive expansion of post-War suburbs and the corresponding concentration of poverty in the city. The third section, which references the city rediscovered, investigates processes of gentrification and contested public spaces in the city. It examines social interactions and conflict in contemporary cities. In the final section, thecourse investigates the impact of globalization on cities, especially in the Global South. This analysis includes the growth of slums and the emergence of new mega-cities on a scale unprecedented in urban history. The course concludes by asking about the potential for creating more just, equitable and sustainable cities.
Click here for the Spring 2016 Syllabus.