Urban Geography

Geography 2600 - Fall 2018

Happy to be teaching urban geography again. I’ve revised the syllabus a great deal since the last time I taught it–this time with an increased focus gender, race, and geographic inclusivity.


“From the ruins, lonely and inexplicable as the sphinx, rose the Empire State Building and, just as it had been a tradition of mine to climb to the Plaza Roof to take leave of the beautiful city, extending as far as eyes could reach, so now I went to the roof of the last and most magnificent of towers. Then I understood everything was explained: I had discovered the crowning error of the city, its Pandora’s box. Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what he had never suspected, that the city was not the endless succession of canyons that he had supposed but that it had limits - from the tallest structure he saw for the first time that it faded out into the country on all sides, into an expanse of green and blue that alone was limitless. And with the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe, the whole shining edifice that he had reared in his imagination came crashing to the ground.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald, My Lost City

This course will serve as a geographical introduction to the history, theory, form, and function of cities. In the past decade, the number of people living in cities has surpassed the world’s rural population. Demographers speculate that cities will account for all global population growth over the next fifty years as people continue to leave rural areas for urbanized life.

Our global future, in other words, is an urban future.

Rather than occurring primarily in cities like New York and Paris, most urban changes are happening in the developing world, in places like Lagos, Mumbai, and São Paolo. As sites of economic production, spaces of cultural and artistic expression, and places where inequality is often rendered most visible, cities pose new challenges and offer opportunities for governments, communities and individuals the world over. Our class will employ a number of different vantage points and disciplinary lenses in order to interrogate these exciting and complex urban landscapes.


Introductions: Why Cities?

Emergence of Cities, Empire, Colonialism

Urban Case Studies: Rome, Athens, Mohenjo Daro, Algiers

Jones, R.F. 1987. A false start? The Roman urbanization of western Europe. World Archaeology 19: 47-57.

Nevett, L. C. 2011. “Towards a Female Topography of the Ancient Greek City: Case Studies from Late Archaic and Early Classical Athens (c.520–400 BCE),” Gender & History 23:3 (576–96).

Industrial Capitalism, Modernity

Urban Case Studies: Manchester, Cairo, Paris, Brasilia, Philadelphia

Engels, F. 1844. Excerpts from ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’. In The City Reader, ed. R.T. LeGates and F. Stout, London: Routledge (50-55).

Du Bois, W.E.B. 1899. Excerpts from “The Negro Problem in Philadelphia,” “The Question of Earning a Living,” and “Color Prejudice” In The City Reader, ed. R.T. LeGates and F. Stout, London: Routledge (56-62).

Abu-Lughod, J. 1971. ‘The origins of modern Cairo’, excerpt from Cairo, Princeton University Press (98-117)

Race, Suburbs, Segregation (part I)

Urban Case Studies: Chicago, Yonkers, Baltimore, Ferguson

Massey, D. S., and N. A. Denton. 1993. “The Construction of the Ghetto,” from American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (pp 17-59)

Baldwin, J. 1960. “Fifth Avenue Uptown” Esquire. July 1960.

Angotti, T. and Morse, S. 2017. “Racialized Land Use and Housing Policies,” in Zoned Out! Race, Displacement, and City Planning in New York City. New York: Terreform. (46-71).

Gentrification, Displacement, Segregation (part II)

Urban Case Studies: Brooklyn, San Francisco, Milwaukee

Enjeti, A. 2016. “Ghosts of White People Past: Witnessing White Flight From an Asian Ethnoburb – Pacific Standard,” Medium, August 25, 2016.

WXY Studio. 2018. Excerpts from Final Report 2018: Diversity Plan for School District 15, Brooklyn, NY.

Hannah-Jones, N. 2016. “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City,” The New York Times, June 9, 2016.

[[Class Trip to NYC]]

We will meet in the morning at Penn Station and take the train to Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. Following a brief discussion of public parks and urban nature, we will make our way to the Brooklyn waterfront. Along the way we will explore alternative economic possibilities at the Park Slope Food Coop, the perils of eminent domain and discourses of blight at the Barclays Center, the importance of public housing and the threats from gentrification in Gowanus, industrial carnage in the Gowanus Canal, and the risks of capitalism and climate change in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Before leaving, we’ll also visit Zuccotti Park to talk about the right to the city and the power of protest. All-in-all a big day.

Burrington, I. 2016. The Networks of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure, New York: Penguin. [excerpts]

Jacobs, J. 1961. The uses of sidewalks: contact. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 55-73. New York: Vintage.

Berman, M. 1988. In the Forest of Symbols: Some Notes on Modernism in New York. In All That is Solid Melts into Air, 287-329. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Neoliberalism, Housing, Crisis

Urban Case Studies: Detroit, Camden, San Bernardino, Reykjavík

Phillips-Fein, K., 2017. Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics (New York: Metropolitan Books) (excerpts)

Marcuse, P. and Madden, D. 2016. In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis, (Verso, 2016). (Introduction)

Fields, D. and Uffer, S. 2016, “The financialisation of rental housing: A comparative analysis of New York City and Berlin,” Urban Studies, Vol. 53(7) 1486–1502.

Policing, Violence, Mass Incarceration

Urban Case Studies: Newark, New York City, St. Louis

George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, “Broken Windows,” The Atlantic, March 1982,

Camp, J. and Heatherton, C. 2017. Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis led to Black Lives Matter.(Verso, 2017).

Carla Shedd, “How The School-to-Prison Pipeline Is Created,” The Atlantic, October 27, 2015.

Urbicide, Global War, Military Urbanism

Urban Case Studies: Falluja, Nablus, Kabul, Los Angeles

Weizman, E. 2006. Urban Warfare: Walking through Walls. In Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, 185-220. (Verso, 2006).

Graham, S. 2011. The New Military Urbanism. In Cities Under Siege, 60-88. New York: Verso Books.

Matson, Z. 2017. “Legacies of Conflict and [Re] Constructing Urban Futures: Urban infrastructure development in Kabul Afghanistan.” SITE Magazine, Future / Legacy Special Issue (September 2017): 55-59

Migration, Borders, Megacities

Urban Case Studies: Chengdu, Ciudad Juarez/El Paso, Lagos, Mogudishu

Webster, P. and Burke, J., “How the Rise of the Megacity Is Changing the Way We Live,” The Guardian, January 21, 2012, sec. Society.

Campbell, H. 2011. No End in Sight: Violence in Ciudad Juárez. NACLA Report on the Americas, May/June: 1-4.

Margins, Slums, Informality

Urban Case Studies: Rio de Janeiro, Phnom Penh, Mumbai, Cochabamba

Daniel M. Goldstein, Owners of the Sidewalk: Security and Survival in the Informal City (Duke University, 2016). [excerpt]

Caldeira,T. 1996. “Fortified Enclaves: The New Urban Segregation,” Public Culture 8:303-328.

Davis, M. 2006. The prevalence of slums. In Planet of Slums, 20-49. New York: Vintage.

Infrastructure, Logistics, Waste

Urban Case Studies: Basra, Songdo, Singapore, Dubai, Elizabeth

Adam Greenfield, “What is a Smart City?” in Against the Smart City, 1.3 edition (Do projects, 2013).

Heather Rogers, “The Waste Stream,” in Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage, (New York; London: The New Press, 2006) (11-28).

Emily S. Rueb, “Why Are New York City’s Streets Always Under Construction?,” The New York Times, August 18, 2016.

Climate Change, Sustainability, Environmental Justice

Urban Case Studies: Miami, New York City, Amsterdam, New Orleans, Cochabomba

Dawson,A. Extreme Cities:The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change (Verso,2017).

Pulido, L. 2016. “Flint, Environmental Racism, and Racial Capitalism.” Capitalism Nature Socialism 27, no. 3, 1–16.

“Which Coastal Cities Are at Highest Risk of Damaging Floods? New Study Crunches the Numbers,” World Bank Report.

Kaid Benfield, “Sustainable New Orleans: How Katrina Made a City Greener” The Atlantic, May 13, 2011.

Public Space, Protest, and the Right to the City

Urban Case Studies: Cairo, Seattle, Hong Kong, Bangkok

Shiffman, R. et al, 2012, Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space (Oakland, CA: New Village Press). (Selections)

Mitchell, D. 2011. Homelessness, American Style. Urban Geography 32: 933–956.

Harvey, D. 2003. The Right to the City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27: 939-941.