Urban Studies Immersion

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Metropolitan areas must address such enduring issues as poverty, homelessness, affordable housing, transportation, pollution, education, water and food security, health, crime, safety, recreation, zoning, segregation, ethno-racial tensions, and economic development. Each city must do so with recognition of its place in the wider regional, national, and global contexts. The urban studies immersion helps students identify and analyze such fundamental issues and allows them to explore and assess various ways policy-makers respond to those issues. 

Notes about this immersion:

  • This immersion is closed to students majoring in sociology and anthropology who have chosen the urban studies track.
  • At least one course must be taken at the 300 level or higher.


Choose three of the following:
   Immigration to the U.S.
This course examines immigration to the U.S. within the context of globalization. We examine the push- and pull-factors that generate immigration, and changing immigration policies and debates. We consider how changes in the American workplace have stimulated the demand for foreign workers in a wide range of occupations, from software engineer to migrant farmworker and nanny. We review the cultural and emotional challenges of adapting within the American cultural landscape, transnationalism and connections with the homeland, the experiences of refugees, and how immigration has changed since 9/11. Special attention is given to immigration from Latin America, the largest sending region.
   Sustainable Development
The global economy has demonstrated extraordinary power in gathering resources from and distributing goods to the farthest reaches of the globe. At the same time there is an increase in inequality and in the numbers of poor and hungry, often associated with environmental degradation. These changes are especially obvious in cities, but not limited to them. Since 1987 there has been a concerted effort by the United Nations, as well as by non-governmental organizations, individuals, and some nation-states to explore paths of more sustainable development. This course explores varied strategies now employed to achieve sustainable development, with particular attention to less developed countries.
   The Archaeology of Cities
The long course of the human existence has been marked by a series of revolutions that have profoundly changed society and that ultimately produced the world we live in today. One of the key revolutions that made our world possible was the invention of urbanism. Cities first appeared in Mesopotamia about 6,000 years ago and since then have been independently invented in many different parts of the world. This course focuses on the prehistorical trajectories of urban development in different world regions, the multiple roles of cities, and their impact on the development of complex societies. We attempt to understand and explain how the city has developed and contributed to the constitution of modern society. Throughout the course we will work on developing a working definition of the city that encompasses urbanism in all its many forms.
   Global Cities
This course examines the impact of global dynamics on cities from the early 20th century to the present. By tracing urban formations from metropolis to global city, emphasis will be placed on the making of identities, communities, and citizens in the architectural spaces, cultural places, ethnic zones, and media traces of urban life in the context of globalization.
   Urban Economics
Urban economics is the application of economic analysis to spatial relationships in densely populated (urban) areas. The course develops economic models that explain the existence and growth of cities; the location behavior of consumers and businesses in cities; and the economic rationale and effects of zoning and growth controls. The course then applies the insights gained from these models to a number of urban issues.
   Culture and Politics in Urban Africa
With a focus on African societies, we examine the diverse cultures of African peoples in the context of political and economic forces that have shaped their lives in the past and the present. Topics include European colonialism and its modern-day legacies, ethnic inequalities, economic vulnerability, labor migration, urbanism, and social unrest. We look at how art, music, oral traditions, and literatures have engaged critically with the forces of political change and neo-colonialism. We consider political activism, religious diversity, changing experiences and expectations of women and men, rebellion and revolution, impacts of and creative responses to globalization, and cultural transformations of African diasporas in the U.S and elsewhere.
   Minority Group Relations
The course will provide a context in which to examine the multiple and contradictory social relations of domination, subordination, resistance, and empowerment. The kinds of questions we will explore focus on how power, knowledge, meaning, and cultural representation are organized. We will analyze a variety of political and ideological themes which bear upon the formation of minority group relations, their identity and how these themes complicate the processes by which people construct their understanding of the nation, world, of others, and themselves. Through reflection on theoretical texts and fictional works, as well as film and other popular media, we will consider for ourselves how culture is differently represented and signified, and how the politics of understanding and misunderstanding minority relations work through practices within and outside cultural institutions.
   Housing Policies in the U.S.
Housing is a critical component in securing basic human survival. In the 21st century, the fundamental human right to adequate housing and shelter for every person has been recognized by the international community. Governments have an obligation to their citizens to ensure that this right is protected. In the United States, the right to housing is understood to provide homes that are affordable, safe, and habitable, and to offer basic services such as water, heat, and electricity. In response, this course examines the role of government in providing sustainable housing through federal and other programs. Where people live has effects on their health, educational attainment and opportunities for employment. This course examines historical and current housing policies and practices in the United States and their consequences on diverse social issues, including racial and other forms of segregation, poverty, educational attainment, economic opportunity, pollution, and environmental degradation. The course also applies a global comparative framework to examine housing issues in other countries.
   Urban (In)Justice
With a focus on forms of (in)justice in urban communities worldwide, we investigate the impact of race, class, and gender and related systems of unequal power relations on perpetuating patterns of social, political, economic, and environmental oppression (policing, hunger, pollution, violence, disease). How do ways of governing urban populations affect the lives of inner city residents and their demands for justice when attempting to navigate the everyday urban worlds? Specific course topics include both historical and contemporary perspectives on urban (in)justice locally, in Rochester NY, and nationally, across the U.S., and in a global comparative framework. Thereby the effects of crime, violence, and inequality on people in urban neighborhoods are also examined among and within nations. By the end of the semester, students should be able to identify and explain various theories that seek to explain (in)justice patterns in the urban context at local, national and global levels.
   Urban Planning and Policy
American cities and suburbs have undergone tremendous change in the post-World War II era as a result of changing policies and planning decisons. Land use decisions have favored suburbs over cities and the subsequent loss of tax base has impacted these cities' ability to perform basic functions for their citizens and federal and state government policies and programs have had adverse impacts on the functionality of urban areas and the efficiency of local governments. We will examine case studies and conduct field research on governmental structures and policies that will enable us to develop alternative strategies and policies.
   Urban Poverty
Urban poverty has been recognized as a persistent problem in the United States since the middle of the last century. In many cities, poverty is associated with high levels of teenage pregnancy, low levels of employment, limited educational attainment, chronic community-based health problems, and high levels of crime. This course examines causes, consequences, and proposed policy solutions to urban poverty. Special emphasis will be paid to U.S. urban poverty.
   Sustainable Communities
The concept of sustainability has driven many national and international policies. More recently, we have become aware that unless we physical build and rebuild our communities in ways that contribute to sustainability, making progress toward that goal is unlikely. It is equally important to recognize the social aspects of sustainability. In addition, it is at the local level that the goals of equity (a key consideration in community sustainability), most often achieved through citizen participation and collaborative processes are most easily realized. This course will broaden students understanding of the concept of sustainability, particularly the concept of social sustainability. This course focuses on sustainability as a way to bring light to the connections between natural and human communities, between nature and culture, and among environmental, economic, and social systems. Working closely with local organizations, students will explore the applicability of theoretical concepts.


* At least one course must be taken at the 300-level or above.