College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University Of Michigan Fall 2012
Thursdays 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. 2227 A&AB


last modified: November 12, 2012

Prof. Scott Campbell
office:  2225C A&AB
(734) 763-2077
Office hours


Short Presentation & Critical "Reading Guide"
For each week (starting Sept. 20), two students will do the following:
(a) Write a critical "reading guide" to the week's readings. Email your text to the class listserv by MONDAY of the selected week. (Suggested length: 8 - 12 paragraphs.). The students in each group should write a single, combined text and send it out as a single email. Be concise: do NOT simply summarize the readings, but instead provide insights, frameworks and distinctions that will be useful to your classmates as they read the texts. [This will require you to do your reading AHEAD of time, so plan accordingly.] You may include links to other sites where useful. Of course, do cite sources (and acknowledge use of quotes and ideas) where appropriate.

(b) Start the class with a brief presentation (10-15 minutes) that illustrates the key themes, controversies, big questions of the week's readings. Creativity and engagement encouraged. [Note: this presentation may highlight elements from your emailed "reading guide," but your presentation should NOT simply be a retelling of your "reading guide." If you plan to use a digital projector, please reserve.

We will begin selecting two students for each class during the first week. Please review the syllabus and identify several weeks of interest, and talk to classmates about forming teams of two for a particular week. Note: the number of presentations done per student will depend on class size, but will likely be ca. 2 presentations per student over the course of the semester.

NOTE: please email me with corrections or additions to the table below.

WEEK STUDENTS (2-3 per week)   WEEK STUDENTS (2-3 per week)
Sep 20 - Chicago School Nelson, David   Nov 1 - Global [instructor]
Sep 27 - Harvey I Josh C, Missy   Nov 8 - Culture Scott K.
Oct 4 - Harvey II Sarah Mills, Jennifer   Nov 15 - Nature Sara Meerow, Missy
Oct 11 - Castells Justin M   Nov 29 - Modern/Int'l Ian, Josh S.
Oct 18 - Castells II Danielle, Cooper   Dec 6 [all]
Oct 25 - Lefebvre Justin W, Tao  




Short Essays
Throughout the semester, students will write several short essays that will be closely linked to the readings. Use double-spaced pages, and include a bibliography.   Be concise, analytical, precise and reflective. Guidelines on correct citations.

1 Sep 20 Sept 28 4 - 5 [question on foundational/classic texts]
2 Sept 27 Nov 12 (REVISED) 4 - 5 [question on Harvey/Castells/Lefebvre]
3 Nov 1 Dec 3 (revised) 5 - 7 [question on the final month's themes]


Essay One (Foundational Readings)
due: Friday, Sept 28 (5 pm)

Answer one of the following questions.  Where appropriate, cite course readings.   You are encouraged to examine connections and leitmotifs across the readings.  However, you need not analyze ALL readings from the first weeks of class.  Instead, you may find it useful to focus on several selected readings.

1. We began by reading the German school, followed by the Chicago School.  In your essay, select several representative essays from each and contrast their respective views of cities and urbanization.  To focus your essay, select several aspects for comparison (examples include -- but are not limited to: the main questions posed, their underlying assumptions and biases, their emphasis on city-as-experience versus city-as-process, etc).   Note:  remember to interpret the concept of "school" loosely and not monolithically: there is, understandably, a range of approaches found within each school.

2. City Love / City Fear:  The authors’ stances towards urbanism and city life express a wide range of perspectives: great promises and excitement of urban life, but also great dangers and despair.  Some express a nostalgia for the rural “world we have lost,” while others reveal a modernist zeal for all things new.  (Lewis Mumford seems to alternately express both hope and doom.)  In your essay, select several texts and explore the strands of pro- and anti-urbanism in the texts.  What are their reasons for their divergent views of city life?

3. Theorists commonly viewed urbanization and industrialization as two simultaneous, interwoven historical processes.  If this approach was valid, then to what extent was a theory of industrialization simply a theory of urbanization (and vice versa)?  Does this interweave of the two processes still apply today (in the context of contemporary cities and economies)? 

Essay Two (Harvey, Castells, Lefebvre)
due:  Nov 12 (REVISED)

Answer one of the following questions.  Where appropriate, cite course readings. 

1. Several authors of course readings have employed Marxist analysis.  What do you make of this Marxist thread to many of these urban theory writings?  (And is the common thread an emphasis on the dynamics of accumulation? capital-labor conflicts? dialectical materialism? relationship to the means of production? an emphasis on systemic contradictions? etc.) Discuss the analytical power and drawbacks that arise from using Marxist ideas to construct urban theory.  (Use one or more of the course authors as examples.) Also, if the popularity of asserting overtly Marxist-based political agendas has waned in recent years, how has the credibility and veracity of a Marxist-based urban theory changed?  (Optional: what are the prospects of a systematic, rigorous, non-Marxist theoretical critique of capitalist urbanism?)

2. Henri Lefebvre (1901 – 1991) introduces a distinctive approach to understanding "space" (e.g., the production of space, rather than merely the interpretation or the imagination of space) that has influenced subsequent thinking in geography, urban sociology and related fields.    In your essay, examine the ways that the writings of Manuel Castells and/or David Harvey pick up on (or react to) Lefebvre’s ideas. 

3.  In reading the anthologies of both David Harvey (b. 1935) and Manuel Castells (b. 1942), we have followed intellectual evolution of two urban theorists over several decades.  In your essay, contrast the evolution in thinking of Harvey and Castells.  Identify the fundamental continuities and transformations.  Where you note changes, do you interpret them as responses to the changing urban-economic world, as responses to changes in the scholarly world of theory, or as a more internal (biographical) evolution in thinking?

4.  David Harvey introduces the idea of the “spatial fix.”  Manuel Castells introduces the contrasting concepts of “the space of places” and “the space of flows.”  Begin by concisely summarizing each of these two arguments.  Then explore the connections between the two arguments.  Is there a way to combine Castells’ and Harvey’s concepts?


Essay Three
due: Monday, Dec 3

Answer one of the following questions.  Where appropriate, cite course readings. If the earlier two essays were 4 - 5 pages, aim for 5 -7 pages for Essay Three.

1. Nature and Urban Theory
One theme of the November 15 readings is an argument for reconceptualizing the city-nature connection. Select several readings and compare the various ways to theorize the relationship between the built environment and the natural environment (e.g., conceptualizing nature and society as mutually exclusive; the "city" and the "countryside" as essentially two labels on a single integrated system; as a parasitic or symbiotic relationship; nature as merely a social construction; cities as simply the latest iteration in the long evolutionary development process of life on Earth; etc.). What are implications (positive and negative) of these differing approaches?

2. The Local and the Global:
As with many dichotomies, the global-local framework provides an initially useful distinction but eventually may do as much to inhibit as to help us understand the relationship between globalization and local communities.  (And this dichotomy is related to a second: the "global city" versus "non-global city" distinction.) In your essay, compare how different class readings reiterate, problematize, reframe or reject the local-global and/or global/non-global couplings. Which approaches do you find most or least helpful in analyzing contemporary urbanization, and why?

3. Abstraction and Spatial Representation:

abstraction, n. 1. The act of withdrawing; withdrawal, separation or removal; in modern usage euphem. secret or dishonest removal; pilfering, purloining. ... 3. The act or process of separating in thought, of considering a thing independently of its associations; or a substance independently of its attributes; or an attribute or quality independently of the substance to which it belongs. 4. The result of abstracting: the idea of something which has no independent existence; a thing which exists only in idea; something visionary. 5. A state of withdrawal or seclusion from worldly things or things of sense. 6. The state of mental withdrawal; inattention to things present; absence of mind. 7. In the fine arts, the practice or state of freedom from representational qualities; a work of art with these characteristics. [OED]

Several of the course writings (e.g., Holston, Scott, Mitchell, Robinson, etc.) have addressed (either explicitly or implicitly) the process of abstraction in viewing, conceptualizing, representing or designing urban (or regional or national) spaces. Referring to several course readings as examples, discuss the motivations, tools and consequences of abstraction in urbanism. What is gained and what is lost? (Where appropriate, differentiate between such terms as "abstraction," "representation," "standardization," "modernism," etc.)

4. The Diverse Uses of "Diversity" in Urban Theory (e.g., diverse land uses, diverse cultures and populations, diverse economic activities, diverse experiences of the urban, etc.)
Several interrelated themes have emerged in course readings and discussions:  diversity, tolerance, otherness, pluralism, complexity, specialization, unpredictability and heterogeneity in cities (as well as the diversity of city types).  One might see this in the early writings of the German and Chicago Schools through to the contemporary readings (read in November).  In your essay, discuss how the idea of diversity (and its various possible meanings) has evolved and changed over the intellectual history of urban theory. 

5. Urban Theory and Social Theory
Referring to a range of course readings, discuss several alternative answers to the question:  What is the relationship between urban theory (the theoretical core of disciplines such as urban planning, urban studies and geography) and social theory (theories used in the broader social sciences such as sociology, anthropology and political science)?   For example, is urban theory simply a subset of social theory? Is social theory a subset of urban theory? Is planning theory an adaptation/modification of social theory to incorporate space and the built environment (i.e., urban theory as spatialized social theory)?  Perhaps social theory is de-spatialized urban theory? Or does urban theory instead represent a fundamentally distinctive set of theories that operate apart from other social theories?  

6. Is Urban Theory just about the City?
At times in this course we have loosely interchanged several terms:  urban, place, space, city.  Yet these terms are not synonymous, especially in an era where the city (at least in its modern sense) is no longer either the dominant – or perhaps even most important – form of spatial development. Has urban theory privileged the “city” (its residents, their lifestyles and experiences) and built theory upon traditional notions of early modern central cities, thereby neglecting a wider range of human settlement patterns (such as suburbs, rural areas, border areas, and hybrid spaces not yet defined)?  What are the implications of discussing “urban theory” as opposed to a “theory of place” or a “theory of space?”