Geog 578: Theorizing the City


This seminar will be a review of classic and contemporary writings in urban theory over the last 150 or so years.  The aim is to get a broad understanding of shifting themes in theorizing about cities, particularly as they apply to their spatial organization. We begin with classic readings from the Chicago School and its immediate antecedents.  These readings intertwine the analysis of urban culture and structure under the rubric of human ecology. Next we examine the idea of urban culture and identity.  We then turn to political economy approaches; concentrating on ideas that emerged in the 1970s in the works of Castells, Harvey and others.   In the second half of the class we will read material on a variety of topics that include: suburbia; feminism, postmodernism, global cities and transnationalism. I may add or drop topics to suit the interest of the class.


The class is discussion oriented. I will not present any lectures.  Each week two of you will lead off the discussion with an overview of the week’s readings.  Everybody will write a one to two page memo on the weekly readings.  This does not have to be (nor could it be) a complete summary of the readings.   They just have to demonstrate to me that you have thought about some of the issues raised by the authors.  I will read and grade these memos quickly with minimal comment – assessing them mostly for effort rather than comprehension of the material.  A final take-home exam will decide most of the grade. 


Grading Scheme


Weekly papers:  25%

Discussion and class presentations: 25%

Take home exam : 50%


Reading List  and weekly topics


Week 2:  Chicago School and its impact


Park, Robert E. 1925. “The City: Suggestions for the investigation of human behavior in the urban environment.” In Robert Park et al (eds). The City, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Park, Robert E. 1926.  “The urban community as a spatial pattern and moral order”, In Ernest W. Burgess (ed) The Urban Community, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Burgess, Ernest, W. 1925. “The growth of the city: An introduction to a Research Project” In Robert Park et al (eds). The City, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Richard Harris and Robert Lewis (1998)  Constructing a Fault(y) Zone: Misreprepresentation of American Cities and Suburbs, 1900-50. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 88(4): 622-639.


Sibley, David. 1995. Geographies of Exclusion, Chaps 8, 9. London, Routledge.


The following three chapters offer good critiques of Chicago School urban ecology


Flanagan, William. 1993. Contemporary Urban Sociology. Chap 2: Urban ecology and its critics (esp 45-51). Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.


Gottdeiner, Mark. 1985. The Social Production of Urban Space , Chap 2: Urban ecology, Economics and Geography: Spatial Analysis in Transition (esp 25-35).


Saunders, P. (1981) Social Theory and the Urban Question. Chap 2.  New York: Holmes and Meier






Week 3: Perspectives on Urban Culture I


Weber, Max, (1953). The Nature of the City. Reprinted in Richard Sennett (ed). (1969). Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities Apple Century Crofts


Wirth, Louis.  1964. “Urbanism as a way of life  In Louis Wirth, On cities and social life: selected papers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Simmel, Georg. 1950 “The Metropolis and Mental life  In Kurt Wolff (ed) The Sociology of Georg Simmel, The Free Press.


Freud, Sigmund. 1961 (1930).  “Civilization and its Discontents” (Trans James Strachey)  Chapter 3. New York: Norton. 


Raymond Williams (1973). The Country and the City, Chaps 1, 2, 15, 25. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Savage, Mike and Warde, Alan. 1993.  Urban Sociology, Capitalism and Modernity, Chap 5: Perspectives on Urban Culture, New York: Continuum. 


Manuel Castells (1977), The Urban Question (Chapter 5) , Cambridge, MA: MIT Press


Saunders, P. (1981) Social Theory and the Urban Question. Chap 3.  New York: Holmes and Meier.


Week 4:  Perspectives on Urban Culture II


Richard Sennett (1970). The Uses of Disorder. Chaps 2,3,5,6,7,8


Richard Sennett (1990). The Conscience of the Eye,  Chap 5. New York: Knopf.


Richard Sennett (1994). Flesh and Stone, Chapter 7, 10 and Conclusion. New York: Norton.


Week 5:  Urban Political Economy I


Ira Katznelson (1992) Marxism and the City, Chapters 1, 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Friedrich Engels (1973) Condition of the Working Class in England.  Pages 63-113. Moscow: Progress Publishers


David Harvey (1973),  Social Justice and the City, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press (Chapters 4-6)


David Harvey (1981), The Urban Process Under Capitalism.  In Michael Dear and Allen Scott (eds), Urbanization and Urban Planning in Capitalist Societies, pp91-122, London:  Methuen. 


Week 6: Urban Political Economy II


Manuel Castells (1977), The Urban Question (Introduction, Chapters 1, 2, 8,9,10) , Cambridge, MA: MIT Press


Ira Katznelson (1992) Marxism and the City, Chapters 3, 7. Oxford: Oxford University Press


Ira Katznelson (1981) City Trenches, Chapters 2, 3. New York: Pantheon.


Allen Scott (1988), Metropolis, Chap 12 Berkeley: University of California Press


Week 7: Suburbia


Gans, Herbert (1991).  Urbanism and Suburbanism as Ways of Life: A Revaluation of Definitins. In Gans (ed) People, Plans and Policies.  New York: Columbia University Press


Richard Harris and Peter Larkham 1999 Suburban Foundation, Form and Function. In Harris and Larkham (eds.) Changing Suburbs Routledge: New York


Robert Fishman.  (1987) Bourgeois Utopias, Chapters 1,2,6,7. New York: Basic Books


Kenneth Jackson (1985) Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. Chapters 1 through 7. Oxford University Press



Week 8: Feminist Perspectives


Ann Markusen (1981) City Spatial Structure, Women’s Household Work, and National Urban Policy. In Stimpson , Dixler, Nelson and Yatrakis (eds.) Women and the American City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press


Dolores Hayden (1981) What Would a Non-Sexist City Be Like? Speculations on Housing, Urban Design, and Human Work.  . In Stimpson , Dixler, Nelson and Yatrakis (eds.) Women and the American City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press


Dolores Hayden (1984) Redesigning the American Dream Chapters 1,2,3,7,8,9.  New York: Norton.


Janet Abu Lughod (1974) Designing a City for All.   In Hapgood and Getzels (eds.) Planning, Women and Change. Chicago: American Planning Association.


Veronica Strong-Boag et al (1999) What Women’s Space? Women in Australian, British, Canadian, and US Suburbs.  In Harris and Larkham (eds.) Changing Suburbs Routledge: New York


Week 9:  Postmodern perspectives


Rayner Banham (1971). Los Angeles: Architecture of the Four Ecologies (selected chapters). London: Penguin.


Michael Dear and Stephen Flusty (1998) Postmodern Urbanism. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 88: 50-72 and replies/responses.


Daphne Spain (2002) What happened to gender relations on the way from Chicago to Los Angeles? City and Community 1: 155-167.


David Harvey (1989)  Time-space compression and the postmodern condition.  Ch. 8 in The Condition of Postmodernity.


Mike Davis. (1990) City of Quartz. Chapter 4, 7. Verso. 1990.


Ed Soja (2000) Postmetropolis. Chapter 8 (Exopolis: The Restructuring of Urban Form) Oxford: Blackwell


Week 10: Global Cities  - This may change


Sassen, S. (1991) The Global City. Princeton.  Chapters 1,2,7,9,10.

Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Network Society. Blackwell.  Chapter 6.

Castells, M (1999)  The Culture of Cities in the Information Age.  Chapter 9 in Susser (2002): The Castells Reader on Cities and Social Theory. Blackwell.

Castells, M (2000) Urban Sociology in the Twenty First Century. Chapter 10 in Susser (2002): The Castells Reader on Cities and Social Theory. Blackwell.

Smith, MP (2001) Transnational Urbanism. Blackwell. Chapters 3,8, Epilogue.