Urban Ethnographies

Planners’ understanding of social process and cultural values is often woefully inadequate, and their thinking is dominated by a “one-size-fits-all” approach and by excessive attention to the values of an international middle class rather than to local experience. In this course, we will read some urban ethnography inspecting the interactions among local people, planners, anthropologists, architects, and builders in order to think against the grain, especially in cases where disputes over whose heritage is at stake dominate the discourse. We will also examine the role of conflict in shaping urban space and ask whether attempts to smooth it over are necessarily to the benefit of local populations, especially where internal factionalism and political dissent are at stake. Finally, we will also examine the role of urban space in shaping people’s subjectivities and ask what that role tells us about governmental structures and the way they affect ordinary people’s lives.

Course enrollment is limited to twelve. Six spots will be prioritized for MDes Critical Conservation students who select the course first in the lottery.

Please note this course will meet online through 9/15. After that, the class will meet in person with the possible exception of one or two sessions to be held on Zoom. More details will be provided at the start of the semester or well in advance of any change.

The first class meeting will be on Wednesday, September 1st. The rest of the semester, classes will meet during the official scheduled time. 

Note: the instructor will offer online live course presentations on 08/26, and/or 08/27. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website