feb 12 : : nothing!

links to 2 articles used in class discussion today:



feb 14 : : city as break down, city as community (3 things! yikes!)

louis wirth “urbanism as a way of life” (this is a slightly edited version of the full article. if you are a completist, you can find the original in all its glory here (this is the link sent out monday night).)

if you’d prefer a lightly edited version, you can find it in a somewhat shorter form here. either is fin)

georg simmel, “the metopolis and mental life

claude fischer,”towards a subcultural theory of urbanism

this seems like a lot, especially for the first week (you can always drop the class! there are barbarians at the gate waiting to grab your spot). this looks like a lot, because it is. sorry. however, there are strategic ways to deal with these. read the simmel one closely — it’s the shortest (and, i think, the easiest). wirth has a similar view of cities, but addresses it in a more formal, concrete, less theoretical, abstract way. read it for a sense of what he means by “way of life,” as well as whatever details tickle your fancy. the final one, by fischer, is a theory that seeks to directly refute the theory of urbanism put forth by the other 2. thus, be sure to read to know what his “subcultural theory” actually is and how it is different. the key for us is the main theory which is covered in the early going, so read (or ignore) with that in mind. .

in sum: know what simmel’s points about the city are; know wirth’s concept of “way of life” and fischer’s “subcultural theory”. those are the big ideas for today. everything else is urban theory gravy.


feb 19 : : urban growth, natural and (hu)man-made

hey you! do you have a photograph/image you think would be a good starting point for our class discussion? if so, share it! send it to me before class, and i’ll do my best to incorporate it.

ernest burgess, “the growth of the city” (this is a version that, for some reason lost on me now, was OCR-ed during scanning, which left some weird traces. not so weird that i would go to the trouble to scan a new version, mind you, but they are there. also the 2nd image got lost in that translation (you can find the correct image here). a different version of the essay can be found here. it has its own issues (including excessive underlining), but at least the images are clear.)

robert park, “the city

some readings notes: both are again from some of the founding members of the chicago school of urban sociology, which really set the basis for many research trajectories to follow. so, this is one more day on foundational, historical stuff. which is important, at least as much for what it gets wrong as what it gets right.

the park article has a lot going on it (and you might think it’s on the long side. sorry. that’s life at an elite college!). the burgess reading is more straightforward. it is likely that you will want to pluck out several intriguing, insightful, or possibly confounding points that park makes along the way, so read it with that in mind. (i.e., perhaps the best way to read/prepare for class with park might be to grab a couple quotes you found worth revisiting and come to class ready to share them…)

[warning! don’t read this! this is extra stuff, which is freely ignored. but it’s here if you are interested in a totally different version of early-century thinking on the proper way for a city to grow and to plan for it: le corbusier,”the city of tomorrow and its planning” — one value here (if you read it, which you shouldn’t, because your time is valuable, right?) is to think of the city as a project, as a means to an end — not just to a “way of life” but as a way to the “good life” but a good life of a particularly kind. also consider that closing line… if you want, of course]


feb 21 : : city as capitalist & capitalizing space

david harvey, “the urban process under capitalism

john logan and harvey molotch, excerpts from urban fortunes: the political economy of place

read the beginning (pp 17-23) and the end (pp. 48-49) of chapter 2, “places as commodities

read ALL of chapter 3, the urban growth machine

*****************BELOW YOU WILL FIND EXCESS NOT REQUIRED READINGS*************************************DO NOT EVEN BOTHER LOOKING!

here is chapter 1 of logan and molotch, which is short, but not necessary. however, it does contain an explicit critique of burgess and other urban ecologists, if you are interested. however, i already know this is a lot of reading, so this is just here for reference, if you are interested. don’t read this, unless you have nothing better to do in your life!

more stuff you won’t be reading, but it might be nice to know exists, in case you happen to get snowed in during a freak blizzard and want to read about urban growth coalitions: william domhoff, “power at the local level”


feb 26: the urban ghetto and city segregation

douglas massey & nancy denton,”the construction of the ghetto” from american apartheid

loic wacquant “3 pernicious premises in the study of the american ghetto”  (wacquant is somewhat of a dense writer, and he clearly has a bone to pick with a lot of people that will exist merely as names for most of us — however, it is a short piece, and the important points are not too hard to discern)


feb 28: can this be fixed?

ta-nehisi coates, the case for reparations

feel like reading a bit more? no? okay, but here’s a short piece that tells the “behind the scenes”story of social science research that creates the foundation for coates’s argument.

this is obviously a more journalistic take on the previous day’s research, so pay attention not only to his argument, but how he makes it, how he draws on social science research as well as other types of evidence. we can talk about how well this works (or doesn’t!) in class.

thankfully, this kind of stuff only happened in the past — before you were even born! — and it has all been fixed by now. wait, what? [[this is here for your education, but not required. i’m just trying to keep the course “topical” by keeping up with the latest news…]]

maybe you’re a visual learner, and want to get your information like the rest of america, by watching videos on youtube. here’s a quick (and some might say “funny”) treatment of redlining and its implications. it even features nikole hannah-jones, which gives us 2 (two) macarthur genius grant winners for today (coates being the other).