Urban Studies Program

Director: Pinar Batur (Sociology); Steering Committee: Nicholas Adams (Art), Lisa Brawley (Urban Studies), Heesok Chang (English), Brian Godfrey (Geography), Michael Joyce (English), Timothy H. Koechlin (Economics), Miranda Martinez (Sociology), Leonard Nevarez (Sociology), Thomas Porcello (Anthropology), Christopher Roellke (Education), Jonathan Rork (Economics), Tyrone R. Simpson (English); Participating Faculty: Joyce Bickerstaff (Africana Studies and Education), Andrew Bush (Hispanic Studies), James Challey (Science, Technology and Society and Physics), Lisa Collins (Art), Peter Leonard (Field Work), Tiffany Lightbourn (Sociology), Marque Miringoff (Sociology), Sidney Plotkin (Political Science), Robin Trainor (Education).

The Urban Studies Program is designed as a multidisciplinary concentration in the study of cities and urbanization. Students examine the development of cities and their surrounding regions; the role of cities in the history of civilization; the social problems of urban life; the design of the built environment; and past and present efforts at planning for the future of urban societies. There are four major purposes of the program: (1) to introduce students to a temporal range and spatial variety of urban experience and phenomena; (2) to equip students with methodological tools to enable them to investigate and analyze urban issues; (3) to engage students experientially in a facet of the urban experience; and (4) to develop within the student a deeper grasp of these issues through advanced study within at least two disciplinary approaches.

Requirements for Concentration:

1) 14 units, including Introduction to Urban Studies (100), one unit of Urban Theory and the Senior Seminar.

2) One unit of Research Methods appropriate to the student’s concentration in Urban Studies, chosen from Anthropology 245, Art 102-103, Art 275/276, Economics 209, Geography 220, Geography 222, Political Science 207, or Psychology 200, or Sociology 254.

3) Disciplinary Cluster. Four units at the 200-level, with 2 units taken from two separate disciplinary areas related to Urban Studies, i.e., Architecture, Art, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, Sociology, etc., including other Multi-disciplinaries. In addition, two units at the 300-level, from two separate disciplines, reflecting the intellectual path set by the 200-level courses.

4) Urban Studies Cluster. Two units at the 200-level, originating in Urban Studies or cross-listed with Urban Studies.

5) One unit of fieldwork.

6) Senior Thesis. One unit, two semester length requirement, to be considered for honors in Urban Studies. Majors will have the option of taking one additional 300 level course, instead of the Senior thesis, in the disciplinary concentration or in Urban Studies.

Recommendations for the Major:

1. Foreign Language. Competency through the third year college level, as demonstrated by completion of the relevant courses or examination.

2. Structured Study Away Experience. This is especially recommended for those who are interested in architecture and/or global, historical and comparative issues, and area studies.

3. Outside of Major Course work. This includes Introduction to Macroeconomics and Introduction to Microeconomics, study of aesthetics, ethics and social and political philosophy, and study of theories of confrontation and liberation, concentrating on class movements, critical race theory, anti-racism, feminist theory, queer theory and environmental theory.

Requirements for Correlate Sequence: Six units including Urban Studies 100, which should be taken no later than the Junior year, one unit of Urban Studies 200, two 200-level courses, reflecting the concentration of the student in the Urban Studies correlate, two 300-level courses in accordance with the intellectual path set by the 200-level work. No more than two transfer units may be credited towards the sequence. No more than one unit may overlap with the major.

After declaration of the major or correlate sequence, no NRO work will be permissible or applicable to the major.

I. Core Courses

100b. Introduction to Urban Studies (1)

This course is an introduction to the debates on historical alteration of urban space and its cross cultural expressions. By concentrating on urban contradictions, topics include formation and perpetuation of hierarchy in space, and its political, economic social and cultural manifestations and contesting movements. The specific requirements of the course entail study of the debates, including their methodology, with an emphasis on the connection between theory and research. The course is coordinated by one faculty member in cooperation with the Urban Studies Program faculty. Mr. Nevarez.

200a. Urban Theory (1)

This course reviews the development of theories regarding human behavior in cities and the production of space. The course spans the twentieth century, from the industrial city to the themed spaces of contemporary cities. Literature and topics examined to include the German school, urban ecology, debates in planning and architecture, political economy, and the cultural turns in urban studies. Ms. Brawley.

Prerequisite: Urban Studies 100.

213a. Urban Planning and Practice (1)

An introduction to planning and practice. Course examines successful and unsuccessful cases of urban and regional planning events, compares and evaluates current growth management techniques, and explores a wide variety of planning methods and standards. Topics include citizen participation, goal setting, state and local land use management approaches, environmental protection measures, affordable housing strategies, transportation, and urban design. Mr. Akeley.

218b. Urban Economics (1)

(Same as Economics 218).

Prerequisite: Economics 101. Mr. Rork.

233a. Latino Identity Formation (1)

(Same as Sociology 233 and Latin American and Latino/a Studies 233). Ms. Martinez.

[237b. Community Development] (1)

(Same as Sociology 237) Ms. Martinez.

Not offered in 2006/07.

[245a. Ethnographer’s Craft] (1)

(Same as Anthropology 245) The department.

Not offered in 2006/07.

250a. Urban Geography: Built Environment, Social Space, and (1)


(Same as Geography 250) Mr. Godfrey.

[260b. The Urban Plan] (1)

This course is an introduction to the concepts of urban planning as seen through the examination of specific urban plans. Cities are studied both in time and space, in order to better understand both the evolution of urban form, and the multiple, often conflicting readings of the city. The first half of the semester focuses upon “core cities”, the second half, “sprawl city”. Each week focuses upon a single example as a case study. By looking at specific case studies, the seminar seeks to explore the full range of possibilities within the changing notion of the urban plan. Mr. Ripel.

Not offered in 2006/07.

[262b. Architect as Tourist] (1)

The “Architect as Tourist” examines the role of tourism in how architects and theorists have looked at the city. This examination provides a critical angle with which to approach the seminal architectural writings of the past century. The timeframe of the seminar spans from the eighteenth century grand tour to present, along the way touching upon the work of Le Corbusier, Aldo Van Eyck, Reyner Banham, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Aldo Rossi, Rem Koolhaas and others. Susan Fainstein’s Tourist City and Dean MacCannel’s The Tourist provide a framework for the class. The seminar explores both the value and the danger of the tourist gaze when disguised by professional credentials. As part of the course requirements, students make a trip to New York City to conduct research for their own manifesto on the city. Mr. Ripel.

Not offered in 2006/07.

[266b. The American City: Understanding Life in the Urban Maze] (1)

This course attempts to combat the profound disorientation that the American city causes its observers by offering a sustained exercise in urban cognitive mapping. Spatial theorist Henri Lefebvre advises that a tripartite anatomization of the city is necessary to diminish the extent to which the metropole may mystify those who confront it. He encourages students to understand how the city has been conceived, perceived, and lived. The course adheres to Lefebrve’s recommendations by first exploring the theory and mission that underwrote the city’s emergence. Students become familiar with what forces led to urban agglomerations and what plans enabled the birth of metropolitan spaces. Second, students review the writings of a broad range of interlocutors from whom the city motivated comment. Mr. Simpson.

Not offered in 2006/07.

269b. Shades of the Urban (1)

This course on the twentieth century urban American novel would richly contextualize works such as Call It Sleep (1934, Henry Roth), If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945, Chester Himes), and Bodega Dreams (2000, Ernesto Quinonez) to demonstrate the parallel phenomena (mass culture, exploited labor, social stigma, spatial and psychic claustrophobia) various working class ethnic communities have encountered while negotiating the challenges of urban life and assimilation into American society. Mr. Simpson.

[276b. Gender and Social Space] (1)

(Same as Women Studies 276) This course explores the ways in which gender informs the spatial organization of daily life; the interrelation of gender and key spatial forms and practices such as the home, the city, the hotel, migration, shopping, community activism, and walking at night. It draws on feminist theoretical work from diverse fields such as geography, architecture, anthropology and urban studies not only to begin to map the gendered divisions of the social world but also to understand gender itself as a spatial practice. Ms. Brawley.

Special permission.

Not offered in 2006/07.

283b. The Multiple Modes of Black Urbanism (1)

This course explores the black encounter with the American city. The class draws from a wide range of scholarship in the humanities. We look at historical examples in which cities have functioned in the political interests of Blacks, such as antebellum Boston and its radical abolitionism. We review the wide range of sociological scholarship-from W.E.B. DuBois to William Julius Wilson-that has cast the urban as a besieged chocolate space. We review the work of anthropologists such as John Jackson and Steven Gregory that account for black encounter with gentrification and urban change. The course culminates with a critical look at black cultural uses of the city, among them, graffiti, hip hop, sports, religion, and music. Mr. Simpson.

290a or b. Field Work ( 1/2 or 1)

Individual projects through field work office, under supervision of one of the participating instructors. May be elected during the college year or during the summer. Special permission. Unscheduled.

300a. and 301b. Senior Thesis (1)

A thesis written in two semesters for one unit. The Program.

340a. Advanced Urban and Regional Studies (1)

(Same as Geography 340)

Topic for 2006/07: Biodiversity in the Peri-Urban Environment. Ms. Cunningham.

345b. African American Migrations: Movement, Creativity, Struggle, and Change (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 345) Ms. Collins.

350b. New York City as a Social Laboratory (1)

In a classic essay on urban studies, sociologist Robert Park once called the city “a laboratory or clinic in which human nature and social processes may be conveniently and profitably studied.” The scale, dynamism, and complexity of New York City make it a social laboratory without equal. This seminar provides a multidisciplinary inquiry into New York City as a case study in selected urban issues. Classroom meetings are combined with the field-based investigations that are a hallmark of Urban Studies. Site visits in New York City allow meetings with scholars, officials, developers, community leaders and others actively involved in urban affairs. Topics for the seminar may change from year to year, in which case the course may be repeated for credit.

(Same as Media Studies 350) Topic for 2006/07: The City in Fragments. In this seminar, we use the concept of the fragment to explore the contemporary city, and vice versa. We draw on the work of Walter Benjamin, for whom the fragment was both a central symptom of urban modernity and a potentially radical mode of inquiry. We also use the figure of the fragment to explore and to experiment with the situationist urbanism of Guy Debord, to address the failure of modernist dreams for the city, and to reframe the question of the “global” in contemporary discussions of global urbanization. Finally, we use the fragment to destabilize notions of experience and evidence—so central to positivist understandings of the city—as we make regular visits to discover, as it were, non-monumental New York. Readings include works by Walter Benjamin, Stefano Boeri, Christine Boyer, Guy Debord, Rosalyb Deytsche, Paul Gilroy, Rem Koolhaas, Henri Lefebvre, Thomas Lacquer, Saskia Sassen, Mark Wigley, and others. Ms. Brawley, Mr. Chang.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.

[365b. Gods of the City: Religion in America] (1)

(Same as Religion 365) Ms. Weisenfeld.

Not offered in 2006/07.

367b. Urban Education Reform (1)

(Same as Education 367)

Prerequisite: Education 235 or permission of instructor

One 2-hour period.

370b. Topics in Human Geography (1)

(Same as Geography 370)

Topic for 2006/07: From Mega-Cities to Eco Cities? Environmental History, Planning, and Sustainability.

380a. Poughkeepsie Institute (1)

This course is limited to five students from each of the participating Poughkeepsie Institute’s colleges: Dutchess Community, Marist, SUNY New Paltz, and The Culinary Institute of America and Vassar. The class meets on Wednesday evenings from 4:00 to 7:00 PM at the Children’s Media Project, on Academy Street in Poughkeepsie. The topics for the Institute may change from year to year in which case the course may be repeated for credit.

Topic for 2006/07: The Civic Effects of Religious Communities in Poughkeepsie. This team-taught, intercollegiate, multi-disciplinary course is examination and analysis way in which religious communities affect the daily life and social structures in Poughkeepsie. There is special emphasis on the diversity of the religious communities and how they relate to each other and to social action. Besides extensive reading, the course requires direct, hands-on student research resulting in cooperative reporting in a written report and a short film. There is an end of the semester press conference and presentation of the finding to the political leaders of Poughkeepsie. Mr. Leonard, Ms. Marewski.

Special permission.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

Limited to 5 students.

[381a. The Psychological Experience of Migration] (1)

(Same as Psychology 381) Ms. Lightbourn.

Not offered in 2006/07.

386a. Senior Seminar (1)

This course concentrates on advanced debates in Urban Studies and is designed to encourage students to produce research/grant proposals for projects in Urban Studies. Topics vary according to instructor. This seminar is required of all Urban Studies majors.

Topic for 2006/07: Urban Praxis. This class is about urban praxis, putting theory into action in the context of knowledge. Our focus changes according to the urban problem that the class chooses to study in a given year. The program.

Prerequisite: Special permission.

[388b. Prejudice, Racism, and Social Policy] (1)

(Same as Psychology 388 and Africana Studies 388) Prejudice and racism is one of the most enduring and widespread social problems facing the world today. This course tackles prejudice and racism from a social psychological perspective, and aims to give students an understanding of the theoretical causes, consequences, and ‘cures’ of this pervasive phenomenon. We review the empirical work on stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination and then explore real-world examples of these principles in action in the policy realm. In particular we examine historical and contemporary cases that relate to ideas about race and ethnicity in a national and global context. Topics covered may include affirmative action, segregation/desegregation, bilingual education, urban policy, US immigration policy, US foreign policy in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, etc. This course is intended to help upper-level students acquire the theoretical tools with which to analyze prejudice and racism research and the development of public policies. Ms. Lightbourn.

Not offered in 2006/07.

II. Independent Work

298a or b. Independent Work ( 1/2 or 1)

Individual project of reading or research, under supervision of one of the participating instructors.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work ( 1/2 or 1)

Independent project of reading or research under supervision of one of the participating instructors.