London's Urban Geographies
Global Studies and Sociology 205
This course provides an introduction to the disciplines of urban studies and urban geography. It outlines how cities can be interpreted as economic, social, cultural and political entities. Using London as both an example and a laboratory, it interrogates a range of continuities and changes, problems and potentials across the urban fabric. It
explores a variety of theories and concepts for making sense of contemporary urbanisation. Foremost, it invites students spending a semester abroad to think about and through their temporary home. Following Henry James (1881) it urges: ʻIf you get to know your London you learn a great many thingsʼ.
· To examine the social, economic, culture and political dynamics that shape cities and urban life
· To interrogate Londonʼs local particularities, global connections and place within a world of cities
· To provide an overview of some of the key intellectual theories and debates within contemporary urban studies and geography
· To challenge students in considering a range of problems and possibilities that urban life presents
The course begins with an exploration of the realities of urbanization and considers Londonʼs place in a world of cities. It then moves to various ways of imagining, representing and experiencing cities. The remainder of the course consists of four two week sections on the following themes:
Urban Economies: This section examines cities as key generators of economic wealth, prosperity and inequality. Londonʼs significant historical and contemporary importance to global economic processes will be given particular attention, as will the various economic drivers that have shaped the cityʼs unique geographies.
Urban Culture: There has been a marked trend in the aestheticisation of cities and a rising importance given to their symbolic properties. This section will consider these post-modern transformations, as well as exploring the role of art, architecture and creative practices in contemporary urban life. A case-study analysis of two London ʻcultural quartersʼ-The Southbank and Hoxton/Shoreditch-will be used to frame our discussions. This section will also consider the notion of cosmopolitanism a distinctive component of urban culture, posing the question: Whose culture defines the city?
Urban Social Worlds. The size and density of cities renders them unique social spaces, yet urbanity is more than just a matter of scale. This session explores this idea through a consideration of the urban dimensions of public space and public life; community;
inequality and segregation; the spatialities of ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality; and the place of children and families in cities.
Politics and Urban futures. London is a tremendous place to consider the challenges and opportunities presented by urban life. In this final section of the course we consider some of the core elements of urban politics as well as the role of cities in wider global and regional political processes. We will then turn to theorizations of the city as the basis for new forms of political movements and to consider questions of place and political responsibility. The course culminates by considering: What kind of future for London? What kind of future for cities?
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