Spring 2023 Courses in Urbanism

SPRING 2023 Urban-Focused Courses

From the Princeton Mellon Initiative:


Religion and the City / URB 339 HUM 339 REL 398

Babak Manouchehrifar

This course introduces students to the socio-historical and political processes through which religion is represented, contested, and managed in the built environment. The course pays particular attention to the way that claims of religion implicate questions of diversity, difference, and justice in contemporary cities. Students will study the conceptual and historical debates on the role and place of religion in the public sphere and analyze empirical cases of how spatial decisions regulate or enable expressions of religious difference in urban settings.


Landscape, Ecology, and Place / URB 356 LAS 313

Mary Pena

This course considers theories and practices of reinterpreting landscape through the lenses of indigeneity, transnational feminism, and decoloniality. We will explore alternative ways of knowing and relating to places--thinking across space and time, built structures and material absences, borders and networks of relation--with a focus on the Americas. Discussions will engage spatial perspectives in geography, anthropology, and decolonial thought along with creative writing and multimedia work. Students will apply critical spatial practices by designing a digital project using textual, sonic, and visual modes to remap a selected site.


Trees, Toxics & Transitions: Urban Ecological Design and the Second World / URB 360

Maria C. Taylor

This interdisciplinary course explores the history of city-nature relations, centering the intersection of industrialization, environmentalism and modernization known as urban greening. Particular emphasis is placed on urban greening outside Western traditions of capitalist urbanism. We will apply a framework of critical and comparative analysis to the question of how urbanists' visions for socialist urban landscapes have responded to community and environmental health hazards in the long 20th century. What lessons and warnings for present climate justice and mitigation efforts in urbanism can be taken from their attempts?


Unlikely Architects in Plantation Landscapes / URB 382 ARC 382

Will Davis

This seminar explores architecture in out-of-the-way places through the perspectives of an unlikely set of historical actors: counterinsurgency experts, guerrilla fighters, Indigenous resistance groups, government officials, religious activists. Thinking from the intellectual traditions of the global South, the course explores the ways in which architecture was employed as a narrative device in twentieth century environmentalist movements.


African Urban History / URB 390 ARC 390

Gregory Valdespino

This course examines how cities, and city-dwellers, across Africa have changed over the past 500 years. We consider how local, regional, and global forces have structured African cityscapes, jobs done by urban workers, and the relationship African urbanites had with changing environments. By doing so, students develop the tools to analyze urban spaces and explain the different ways cities have structured Africa's past, present and future. Students will examine how people experienced, built, and transformed urban landscapes across Africa and unpack the social, economic, political, and spatial structures that have structured African cities.


U.S. Cities: New Policy for Old Places, SPIA Junior Policy Research Seminar 

Alison Isenberg

Students will take up the challenge of generating new ideas in contemporary urban policy, with the goal of shaping equitable, dynamic cities. What are the opportunities and limitations of using cities as a category of policy analysis? What are the opportunities and limitations of using policy to transform cities? Should top-down policy frameworks be reworked to include more community agency? U.S. culture favors new frontiers, but most cities are old places looking to reinvent themselves. Every city’s inherited historical patterns have channeled policy—land-use, legal structures, demographic trends, deindustrialization, past mayors, master plans, racial segregation, disasters, etc. Policy frameworks themselves of course have histories. Understanding the recent urban past sheds light on where cities might go next; it helps identify bold new directions as well as fresh combinations of existing strategies.

The Arts of Urban Transition / URB 310 DAN 310 HUM 344 THR 323

Aaron Shkuda and Aaron Landsman

This course uses texts and methods from history, theatre, performance studies, and dance to examine artists and works of art as agents of change in New York (1960-present) and contemporary "Rust Belt" cities. Issues addressed include relationships between artists, changing urban economies, and the built environment; the role of the artist in gentrification and creative placemaking; the importance of local history in art interventions; and assessing impacts of arts initiatives. A Spring break trip, and visits to key local sites, are included. Students will use data and methods from the course to produce final projects.


Additional Urban Studies courses:

Introduction to Urban Studies / URB 201 SPI 201 SOC 203 ARC 207

M. Christine Boyer

This course will examine different crises confronting cities in the 21st century. Topics will range from informal settlements, to immigration, terrorism, shrinking population, sprawl, rising seas, affordable housing, gentrification, smart cities. The range of cities will include Los Angles, New Orleans, Paris, Logos, Caracas, Havana, New York, Hong Kong, Dubai among others.


Documentary Film and the City / URB 202 JRN 202 LAO 232

Purcell Carson

In this hands-on seminar in non-fiction film, we work at the intersection of investigation and portraiture to explore how Central American migration has shaped two small cities: Trenton NJ and Salcajá, Guatemala. Our tool of inquiry is documentary film, which brings students in direct contact with intimate stories of real lives. Readings, screenings, and discussions focus on the topics of migration, reverse migration, remittances, and immigration policy, as well as the ethics and craft of film. Students will collaborate--with each other, subjects, and filmmakers in Guatemala--to produce and edit stories told from both sides of the border.


Policing and Militarization Today / URB 224 ANT 223 AMS 223 AAS 224

Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús and Laurence Ralph

This class aims to explore transnational issues in policing. Drawing heavily upon anthropological methods and theory, we aim neither to vindicate nor contest the police's right to use force (whether a particular instance was a violation of law), but instead, to contribute to the understanding of force (its forms, justifications, interpretations). The innovative transnational approach to policing developed during the semester will allow for a cross-cultural comparative analysis that explores larger rubrics of policing in a comprehensive social scientific framework. We hope that you are ready to explore these exciting and urgent issues with us.


Contemporary Issues in Spain / URB 237 SPA 227 EPS 227

Natalia Castro Picón

An exploration of the major features of contemporary Spain from 1939 to the present with particular attention to developing an understanding the concepts of cultural identity and difference within the changing global context. The course will address the recent processes that have left a mark on the history of Spain: the fall of Francoism, the particular and controversial transition to democracy, the financial crisis of 2008, the Indignados social movement, the nationalist trends in Basque Country and Catalonia, and the latest feminist wave, among others. Discussions and frequent writing assignments.


Structures and the Urban Environment / URB 262B CEE 262B ARC 262B EGR 262B

Maria E. Garlock

Known as "Bridges", this course focuses on structural engineering as a new art form begun during the Industrial Revolution and flourishing today in long-span bridges, thin shell concrete vaults, and tall buildings. Through laboratory experiments students study the scientific basis for structural performance and thereby connect external forms to the internal forces in the major works of structural engineers. Illustrations are taken from various cities and countries thus demonstrating the influence of culture on our built environment.


Imagined Cities / URB 418 HIS 418

Gyan Prakash

An undergraduate seminar about the urban experiences and representations of the modern city as society. Beginning with the premise that the "soft city" of ideas, myths, symbols, images, and psychic expressions is as important as the "hard city" of bricks and mortar, this course explores the experiences and imaginations of modern cities in different historical contexts. Among the cities we will examine are Manchester, London, Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Algiers, Bombay, and Hong Kong. The course will use a variety of materials, but will focus particularly on cinema to examine different imaginative expressions of the urban experience.


Global Urban Political Economy / URB 481 SPI 481 SOC 481

Benjamin H. Bradlow

For the first time, most people now live in cities. One in seven humans lives in an urban slum. We analyze the political, economic, and social dynamics that both create and arise from urbanization, informality, and attempts to govern our contemporary urban world. We ask how formal and informal institutions change inequalities of shelter, work, race, and other social identities, across urban space. We investigate the links between the processes of urbanization and climate change, and how they shape the politics of cities. We draw from cases across the globe, along with a range of social science methods and theoretical perspectives.


Technology and the City: The Architectural Implications of Networked Urban Landscape / URB 546 ARC 546

Andrew Laing

The seminar explores the implications of technologically networked cities for architectural programming and the design of spaces and places. Key issues examined: information technology reshaping the nature of architectural programming and our ideas of spaces, places and communities; programs for spaces, buildings, and the city being transformed by increasing mobility, fluidity and `blurring' of activities in space; and, the history of ideas that shape how we understand technology and urbanism, programming and architecture, including cyborg cities, sentient and smart cities, big data, hybrid places, crypto cities, and metaverse urbanism.