Urban Studies Curriculum

As a joint disciplinary or "slash" AOC, as we call it, Urban Studies must be combined with another discipline (e.g., Urban Studies/Sociology, Urban Studies/Economics) in order to graduate. This allows students a great deal of flexibility in working with their faculty advisors to design a plan of study that is uniquely tailored to their particular interests and goals. Students can also take Urban Studies as a track within our Environmental Studies AOC.  Your faculty advisor will be happy to discuss the various options with you and to help you find the one that is best meets your needs and expectations. As with all AOCs at New College, a senior thesis or project approved by faculty within the discipline is also required in order to graduate.

Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Urban Studies:

Urban Sociology
This course is an introduction to the sociological study of the urban landscape, with a particular focus on the United States. The first part of the course will focus on conceptual and theoretical issues associated with sociological study of the city, from the "Chicago school " sociologists at the turn of the century to more recent analyses of the "social production" of urban space and the sociology of place. In the middle weeks of the course, we turn to the task of gaining an historical understanding of the processes of urbanization and suburbanization in the United States. The last part of the course will focus more on current issues relevant to the challenge of building livable and sustainable cities. Topics will include: urbanism as a sociological phenomenon; suburbanization; ghettoization and gentrification; modernism, "urban renewal," and the technology of city-building; culture and politics of urban places, with a particular focus on race, class, and gentrification in contemporary cities; re-formed city centers and new images of urbanity; transformations of urban space as we move from the progressive image of the city as "the hope of democracy" to the supposedly imminent "end of public space;" postmodernist criticism and neotraditional urbanism; sustainable urbanism.

Metropolitan Built Environments and Urban Sustainability
This course examines urban built environments in metropolitan cities and regions within the United States. The course will explore issues associated with development practices in the 20th century and the resulting metropolitan forms and functions. It also engages the notion of ‘urban sustainability’ by examining the stresses experienced by metropolitan regions and providing some potential solutions. An important component of this class will be the ‘Social Dynamics Lab’ where students will learn the utility of ArcGIS software for spatial data analysis. The final product in this course will be a spatial analysis project that addresses an issue of urban sustainability. Enrollment will be limited to 15 students. Prerequisites: Introduction to Environmental Studies or Just Cities.

Space, Place and Community
This course is intended to provide an introduction to theories, practices, and techniques that link the active production of livable places (neighborhoods, cities, regions) to the building of healthy and sustainable communities. The course will encompass a diverse range of material from different disciplines: sociology, political science, community development, environmental studies, architecture and urban design, planning. Topics will include: asset-based community development; urban design and the sociology of place; community engagement, charrettes, and collaborative planning; democratic theory and the politics of community change; diversity and neighborhood change; facilitation and conflict resolution; community action research. Local case studies of community change will provide opportunities to explore the implications of ideas in action. This course is intended as part of a two-course sequence, and it will be a pre-requisite for the Practicum in Community Building. Recommended background: Urban Sociology.

Sociology of Sustainable Communities
This course is organized around an interest in the challenge of creating communities that sustain a relatively high quality of human life, while maintaining an effective commitment to social equity, democratic self-governance, and a high level of ecological responsibility. The course includes the following topics: sociological and historical perspectives on the way we have constructed the relationship between the human and non-human aspects of the world; the history of environmentalism and the environmental movement in the United States, in the context of an understanding of the politics and sociology of land use; unintended consequences of "green" symbolic crusades and environmental regulation; practices and practical challenges of sustainable community development. An overall goal of the course is to challenge much of the received wisdom and often unreflective ideas concerning what it means to live in a more ecologically responsible fashion, and regarding social and political action relevant to bringing about significant change in the relative sustainability of human settlements. The course is focused on three levels of analysis: the social construction of technological systems; the organization of social action in the context of the interplay of markets and bureaucratic administration; the formation of capacities for civic engagement and effective political action. The class is intended to be an advanced seminar in what might be called environmental sociology, with an emphasis on discussion of issues for which there are no definitive answers. The class size will be limited to 20 students. Prerequisite: Urban Sociology, or substantial relevant background in sociology and/or political science.

Practicum in Community Building
This course is a sequel to “Space, Place & Community Building.” The group will focus on a community project that will be developed and designed during the fall term. Pre-requisite: Space, Place & Community Building.

 Just Cities
This course introduces students to the field of urban social geography by examining spatial patterns of inequity in resources, services, and access within and between cities. Students will explore a variety of themes including: urban form and structure; economy and the city; architecture and urban landscapes; housing and residential segregation; transport and mobility; and sustainability. They will also be exposed to the utility of geographic information systems (GIS) as an analytical tool. The goal of the course is to illustrate the conception of a ‘just’ city, where spatial fairness, opportunity and sustainability foster a better quality of urban life for everyone.

Cities and Suburbs
In the United States, the growth and development of cities has been coupled from the start with the growth and development of the suburbs, not simply as an extension of the city into the countryside but as an alternative to cities, a safe haven from urban dangers, a potential remedy for urban problems, a normative ideal, a practical utopia, and, finally, as the dominant development pattern that currently determines much of the spatial ordering of contemporary social life. This course will focus on the sociology and politics of suburban communities and contemporary suburban settlement patterns. We will begin with an examination of the patterns and processes of suburbanization, from the anti-urban tendencies of the 19th century to contemporary suburban communities and so-called “edge cities.” Other themes will include: the social organization of suburban communities; race, class and segregation in the suburbs; social, cultural, aesthetic, and environmental critiques of the suburbs; the technology and material culture of places and non-places; public policy and institutional practices that sustain suburban patterns; suburbanism and sustainability; current trends and future possibilities in the suburbs; politics and planning, from neighborhood to region. (Urban Sociology is a pre-requisite.)

Urban Anthropology
Anthropologists have developed a variety of approaches to the study of urbanism, a fundamental part of the human experience in recent millenia. Through a survey of cases, from Sumer to Mexico City, we will explore a range of techniques and theoretical approaches and evaluate their contribution to our understanding of the nature and culture of the city. The seminar will focus on several themes, including the origin of cities, conflict in relation to class, ethnicity and racialized constructions, urban change, and urban planning. Prior work in Anthropology and/or Urban Studies preferred.

For detailed requirements, check out our General Catalog.

For a complete list of courses, click here.


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