Understanding the Urban

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSGA2US4024

Semester and Year Offered: 1st Semester, 1st Year

Course Coordinator and Team: Rohit Negi

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This course is intended to lay the foundation for a conceptual and historical understanding of cities and urban processes. It seeks to familiarise students with ideas that ground urban knowledge, and lies at the intersection of disciplines like sociology, political science, planning, geography and history. The material engages with urban theories of how space is produced and transformed historically, tracking in particular various political economic forces that organize space, social groups and classes. It further considers the dynamic relations between space, collectives and technologies which underpin urban life in a scalar manner, building understanding of the urban from the intimate to the global.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate familiarity with key ideas in urban studies, as well as the the historical-intellectual contexts of their emergence
  2. Draw out the scales and connections within which urban processes are situated
  3. Engage critically with textual and other material drawn from a variety of disciplines
  4. Apply techniques of field research and communication to study and represent given issues in specific localities

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. Introduction: The introductory lectures will orient students to the idea of the urban, and to the framework through which the course considers the interactions of space, people and technologies.
  2. Intimate Spaces: The unit is aimed at developing an understanding of the lived city, that is, the spaces of everyday life and engagements. This will be done through the concept of the neighbourhood as a foundational idea in urban studies.
  3. The City: The unit shifts scales and considers the city as a whole as greater than the sum of its individual parts. Traditional urban theory worked with a radial notion of the city and foregrounded the place of the central business district as its commercial heart. The story of this changing to the polycentric notions of the urban will be explored in this unit.
  4. The Region: The unit emphasises the regional dimension of urbanisation by looking at material and social relations that link cities and regions.
  5. The Global Urban: The unit will critically consider the debates around the so-called world or global city literature, with a special focus the contours of the debate as viewed from the Global South.

Assessment Details with weights:

Assessment structure (modes and frequency of assessments): Essay on the Intimate City: students choose an issue of concern around identity/gender/body and reflect on their personal experiences in Delhi or another city (15%), Urban Transect—in groups, students conduct transects in different settlement types of Delhi, researching the built environment and histories of the respective neighbourhoods (20%). Photo-voice—students work in groups to create a photo-story on a specific aspect of choice in a given peri-urban context (15%). Field visit response—students bring together theory and observations from the semester’s field visit (20%). In-class final examination (30%).

Reading List:

  • Gandy, M. (2012) Where Does the City End?’ Architectural Design, 82 (1): 118–119.
  • Dickey, S. (2000). Permeable homes: domestic service, household space, and the vulnerability of class boundaries in urban India. American Ethnologist, 27(2): 462-489.
  • Fassin, D. (2013). Enforcing order: An ethnography of urban policing. London: Polity. Chapter 1, 3 (Situation; Interactions).
  • Jamil, G. (2017). Accumulation by Segregation: Muslim Localities in Delhi. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Chapter 3 (Muslims in Delhi: the normative non-citizens of the global urban)
  • Dear, M. (2002). Los Angeles and the Chicago School: invitation to a debate. City & Community, 1(1): 5-32.
  • Harvey, D. (2012). Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso. Chapter 1 (Right to the City).
  • Bhattacharya, R. and K. Sanyal (2011). Bypassing the squalor: new towns, immaterial labour and exclusion in post-colonial urbanisation. EPW (Review of Urban Affairs), 46(31): 41-48.
  • Allen, A. (2003). Environmental planning and management of the peri-urban interface: perspectives on an emerging field. Environment and Urbanization, 15(1): 135-148.
  • Sharan, A. (2006). In the City, Out of Place. Economic and Political Weekly, 41(47): 4905–4911.
  • McGee, T.G. (2007). Planning for Mega-Urban Regions: Policies for the Twenty-First Century. Available from
  • Harvey, D. (1989). From managerialism to entrepreneuralism: the transformation in urban governance in late capitalism. Geografiska Annaler, 71(1): 3-17.
  • Robinson, J. (2002). Global and world cities: a view from off the map. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 26(3), 531-554.
  • Kitchin, R. (2014). The real-time city? Big data and smart urbanism. GeoJournal, 79: 1-14.