Urbanization and Development

We examine political economy of urbanization and its relationship to development both in theory and in practice, paying close attention to the actors and interventions that structure, produce, and build cities. With a focus on both urban growth and urban form, we ask whether and how international/global, historical, and comparative contexts will affect urbanization processes. Scholars and practitioners most concerned with the relationship between urbanization and development have tended to focus on cities in the global south, building on the assumptions that there is a direct relationship between urbanization and national or global economic development trajectories. Our objective in this class is to interrogate and problematize these assumptions by examining how urbanization and development unfold on territorial scales from the global through the national to the local, in both the North & South. By so doing, there is scope to move beyond the “ghettoization” of the field and asked whether, how, and why rich and poor countries – or early versus late industrializers in the global North & South – might follow similar or different trajectories with respect to urbanization its and developmental impacts.

The course begins by critically interrogating the concepts of “development” and “urbanization,” as well as how these definitions do or do not accommodate normative aspirations of justice, equity, and inclusion as opposed to merely prosperity and growth.  We then focus on the theoretical and empirical relationships between urbanization and development, particularly as understood through the lens of markets and states and their territorial orbits. Are these relationships productive or generative as opposed to exploitative or extractive, for whom, how and why? A key aim in this class is to juxtapose universal claims about the relationship between urbanization and development with historically and contextually specific analysis, paying close attention to grounded interventions made by planners, designers, builders, real estate developers, and other identifiable public or private actors and institutions with specific urban or developmental agendas. In addition to asking whether certain combinations of actors, institutions, and interventions are more or less likely to produce just, inclusive and prosperous cities, we examine whether and how such processes and possibilities may unfold differently over time (19th, 20th, and 21st centuries), across developmental contexts (both political and economic), and within or over space. With respect to the latter, we consider how urbanization unfolds and interfaces with development in large versus small cities; in commercial, financial, and service-oriented cities versus industrial cities; in agricultural versus mining locations; and in peri-urban versus central city locations, among other critical territorial locations. 

Course Audience and Format:
The course is geared towards graduate students from across the planning, design, social science disciplines who are interested in urbanization and development. It has no prerequisites. Participation in discussion is expected among all students, as is regular class attendance.  Each student will select two class sessions over the course of the semester in which s/he will serve as raconteur, responsible for making critical commentary and guiding discussion on that session’s readings. Early in the semester all students are expected to pick one city – anywhere in the world – that will serve as their principal subject of study and analysis throughout the semester.  Assignments include short reading responses throughout the semester, a midterm essay, and a final paper. 

Grading and Assignments:
Class participation and leading discussion 15%
Reading responses 25%
Mid-term paper 20%
Final paper 40%