Emergent Urbanizations: Challenges for Theory, Method, and Research

This course proceeds from a simple premise:  new patterns and pathways of urbanization are emerging around the world, and these transformations require a radical rethinking of inherited approaches to urban theory and research.  Following a high-intensity overview of inherited 20th-century approaches to the urban question and major axes of debate within early 21st-century urban studies, we explore emergent urban transformations across diverse sites and regions, and the political formations that constitute them.  Major sites of investigation include:  the global metropolitan network; polynucleated metropolitan regions; “new” suburbanisms and peri-urban zones; transnational logistics corridors; agrarian/extractive hinterlands; neoliberal territorial design projects; and industrialized maritime spaces.  Our major regional focal points will be zones of accelerated urban transformation in the so-called BRICS states—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—and other zones of the world economy to which they are connected via transnational supply chains.  In thus proceeding, we consider the question of “emergence” at once as a problem of conceptualization, as a methodological dilemma and as a challenge for contextually embedded research.  We will also explore the question of what contextual “specificity” might mean in the investigation of emergent urban transformations today.  This will be a writing-intensive course:  in addition to a short essay on the scholarly literatures covered in class, each student will be required to produce a research paper that investigates a major site / process of contemporary urban transformation.