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Lecture and Seminar Program


Lecture Topic

Seminar Topics and Questions

Required Readings

Week 1

Urban dreams and urban nightmares

  • What is the "right to the city?" 
  • Who owns the city? 
  • Why should we study the history of cities? 
  • How does urban history help us understand US history? 
  • What does Gilfoyle's article tell us about urban America in the 19th century? 
  • Don Mitchell, The Right to the City. [Introduction]
  • Peter C. Baldwin, In the Watches of the Night. [Chapter 1]
  • Timothy J. Gilfoyle, "Street-Rats and Gutter-Snipes: Child Pickpockets and Street Culture in New York City, 1850-1900."

Week 2

Gender and class at the turn of the century

  • Consider the texts of Chauncey and Flanagan. How do gender, sexuality, and class intersect in early 20th century cities like Chicago and New York?
  • Looking at the ways The City Club and the Woman's City Club of Chicago envisioned Chicago as a city, which club's vision has come to pass in Chicago?
  • When and how did women claim a right to the city in the past century?
  • What is the dynamic relationship between industrialization and capitalism?
  • Don Mitchell, The Right to the City. [Chapter 1]
  • George Chauncey, Gay New York [Chapter 1]
  • Maureen A. Flanagan, "Gender and Urban Political Reform: The City Club and the Woman's City Club of Chicago in the Progressive Era."

Week 3

Immigration and reform in the twentieth century city

  • How have migration and immigration patterns changed US cities?
  • How do neighborhoods change their ethnic and racial demographics and why do immigrants historically choose to move to the same neighborhoods?
  • What does Sanchez's text tell us about the experience of Mexican Americans?
  • Do so-called "illegal" immigrants have a right to the city?
  • Don Mitchell, The Right to the City. [Chapter 2]
  • George J. Sanchez, Becoming Mexican American. [Chapters 1 and 2]

Week 4

Homeless America

  • Do homeless people have a right to the city?
  • Compare the experiences of and attitudes towards homeless people vs the child pickpockets of week 1.
  • How does homelessness intersect with gender and/or race?
  • Who is responsible for caring for the homeless, if anyone is? Citizens, charities, the city administration, the US government?
  • With regards to Eisenberg's article, what is the relationship between gentrification in the 1980s and the rise of homelessness?
  • Don Mitchell, The Right to the City. [Chapter 3]
  • Ella Howard, Homeless: Poverty and Place in Urban America. [Chapter 2]
  • Ariel Eisenberg, "“A Shelter Can Tip the Scales Sometimes”: Disinvestment, Gentrification, and the Neighborhood Politics of Homelessness in 1980s New York City."

Week 5

The fire this time: inequality in the post-1960 metropolis

  • ACAB has become a controversial and popular slogan in the Black Lives Matter movement since the protests following the killing of George Floyd. Why?
  • How have African Americans been oppressed historically in cities? And who are the oppressors? Why is this a city issues and not just a federal issue?
  • What drives the community activists in the articles by Judson and Threat? What motivates them to become engaged citizens?
  • Don Mitchell, The Right to the City. [Chapter 4]
  • Kenneth L. Kusmer and Joe W. Trotter, African American urban history since World War II. [Chapter 9]
  • Sarah Judson, "“We’re Walking Proud and Talking Loud Because We’re the New Black Joes!”: Community Leadership and Tenants Rights in Asheville’s 1968 Rent Strike."
  • Charissa Threat, "Living in the City: Urban Politics, Community Activism, and Black Power."

Week 6

Reading week


  • Peter Moskowitz, How to kill a city. [This book is very important to understand how gentrification is killing our cities across the globe. While the library cannot make this book available, I highly recommend purchasing this (£8 on Amazon) and reading it ahead of the remaining weeks and the upcoming assignments.]

Week 7

Policing the city

  • How has the presence, function, and power of city police changed over the past century? What are some major developments, events, and laws that have shaped how the police operates and how it interacts with communities?
  • Returning to a question from week 5: are all cops bastards? Were they "good" cops at some point in US urban history?
  • For this week, we will focus our group work on three case studies: New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. So aside from reading the texts for this week, please do check out some additional clips on Youtube or articles about the cities, especially LA.
  • Don Mitchell, The Right to the City. [Chapter 5]
  • Harlan D. Hahn and Judson L. Jeffries, Urban America and Its Police. [Chapter 1]
  • Pedro A. Regalado, "The Washington Heights Uprising of 1992: Dominican Belonging and Urban Policing in New York City."
  • Danielle Wiggins, "“Order as well as Decency”: The Development of Order Maintenance Policing in Black Atlanta."

Week 8

Urban subcultures and radical countercultures


  • Why are so many urban subcultures considered progressive or "leftist" (think hippies, punks, beatniks, or street artists)? What are some conservative or right-wing urban subcultures?
  • Do subcultures and countercultures meaningfully shape and sustain cities?
  • For this week, we will work on specific subcultures in our small groups: punks, skaters, and hippies. So make sure to read up on these!
  • Do these youth cultures enable or resist gentrification?
  • Don Mitchell, The Right to the City. [Chapter 6]
  • Konstantin Butz, Grinding California. [Introduction]
  • Kevin Mattson, "Did Punk Matter?: Analyzing the Practices of a Youth Subculture During the 1980s."
  • John C. Goshert, "I Was There!: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk and the Resistance to Euology."

Week 9

Gentrification, or, how to kill a city

  • For this week, we will focus on gentrification case studies in our small groups: Washington, D.C., New York, and Seattle. Prepare some thoughts about how gentrification has affected these cities?
  • How does gentrification affect migration patterns and demographics in cities?
  • Is gentrification saving or killing cities?
  • Don Mitchell, The Right to the City. [Conclusion]
  • Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier. [Chapter 1]
  • James M. Lloyd, "Fighting Redlining and Gentrification in Washington, D.C.."

Week 10

21st century urban protest

  • Do some research on recent protests and activism in US cities, including Black Lives Matter and Occupy. How do recent protest movements differ from 20th century ones (think Civil Rights Movement, Gay Liberation, tenant strikes, etc.)?
  • How has social media changed and affected urban protest (for better or for worse!)?
  • Don Mitchell, The Right to the City. [Postscript]
  • David Harvey, Rebel Cities. [Chapter 1]
  • Adam Szetela, "Black Lives Matter at five: limits and possibilities."
  • Rashawn Ray, "Setting the record straight on the Movement for Black Lives."