Rethinking Suburban History

Rethinking Suburban HistoryRecent historical research about American suburbs demonstrates that they are much more varied and complicated than previously imagined. Descriptions of \”the suburbs,\” as a generic environment are no longer convincing. We are now aware of African-American, working class, industrial and agricultural suburbs. Continuing exurban development is currently producing phenomena as different as gated communities, ethnoburbs, lifestyle centers, and restructured rural towns. With more than half of the U.S. population now residing outside of central cities, even the name \”suburb,\” implying dependence on a central city, must be questioned. This seminar will examine, using both scholarly and popular explanations, the economic, social, and cultural debates that have shaped our interpretation of this form of urban development. Topics will include the following: defining the suburb (metropolitan region vs. \”shrinking city;\” the historiography of the suburb; cultural representations of suburbia (films, novels, comics, popular music and video); comparative exurban development (zwischenstadt, citta diffusa, etc.); race and the suburbs; gender and the suburbs; suburban building and planning typologies; designed vs. vernacular suburbs; exporting suburbs. Students will be expected to conduct original research on a suburban topic of their choice.