Urban Space and Experiences

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSGA2US4064

Semester and Year Offered: 2nd Semester, 1st Year

Course Coordinator and Team: Rachna Mehra

Email of course coordinator: rmehra[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: The aim of the course is to develop an experiential perspective on the urban, considering that it is the senses, relationships and ideas that co-produce cities. It will enable students to grapple with the dilemma associated with movement of ideas, capital, goods and people that creates new dynamics in the morphology of cities giving rise to particular urban forms, which often remain antithetical to the utopian plan. In doing so, it will foreground issues related to contemporary urbanism along with social processes of accumulation, dispossession, gentrification, polarization and migration by linking space and place to the lived experience.

Course Outcomes:

On the completion of the course, the students will be able to:

  1. develop an understanding of distinction between urban space and place
  2. build analytical ability to theoretically grasp concrete concerns
  3. strengthen training in field methodologies
  4. Have an ability to read diverse material and express thoughts systematically

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

1. City of Value

The Modern city is a byproduct of industrial capitalism and this module will explore the ongoing as well as constantly evolving impact of this process on the urban landscape by looking through the prism of ‘spatial turn’ in social theory. Space is not insulated from the effects of social dynamics that occurs in a temporal sphere. In fact, it responds to the necessities of a collective momentum which alters a given expanse in a specific way. The production of urban space as Harvey postulates does not ensue merely from inert wealth but it is a larger process which furthers the circulation of capital in varying forms to ensure a lasting influence. Hence space is a site for such complex articulations of social relations of production and

2. City of Difference

While on the one hand a city serves as a place of opportunity, mobility and accessibility, on the other it relegates a substantial segment of its populace to anonymity and oblivion. It is essential to locate the dynamics behind the formation of urban spatial relationship which may in effect reinforce, modify or exacerbate the difference between race, class, caste, religion and ethnicity in a region. In this context, neighbourhoods become an interesting site for study. This section will explore these questions through an engagement with concepts such as gentrification, segregation, the distribution of housing and homelessness by placing class, caste, religious minorities and race in space.

3. Private Lives and Public Gaze: Gendered experiences, inclusion and exclusion in civic spaces

Public space is both reflective and constitutive of social relations and it produces an unstated code of conduct implying that there are gendered ways of being in a specific place. The differential engagement and expectation of behavior from men, women, LGBT groups create an uneven access to a so called ‘public’ realm which inhibits the different kinds of groups to occupy open spaces. There are subversive ways in which marginalization from these spaces are being challenged in order to reclaim them for the purpose they actually intended to serve.

4. Placemaking: Ordained by Design

Placemaking involves planning, design, management and programming of public spaces rooted in community response (the primary stakeholder) whose participation is needed to shape the public realm in order to realize maximize shared value. The premise which underpins designing important public spaces like parks, plazas, streets, roads and sidewalks is that that they are user friendly and safe. In the case of roads, the knowledge of traffic volume then becomes the basic input required for planning, analysis and operation of roadway systems and for creating spaces for motorized/non motorized and pedestrian users.

5. Sensorial City

The way one navigates a city is a process of familiarizing oneself to the movements and rhythms of everyday life with its ebb and flows. This serves as an invisible marker which differentiates areas which are popular and often visited from those which are circumvented for the obvious reasons of stench and filth. There is a growing literature on mapping smell and sounds which provide insights into social life of neighbourhoods with diverse socio economic status.

6. Virtually Present: Place, Space and Non place

In the age of information, technology and knowledge economy, Manual Castells’ distinction between “space of places” (conventional physical space) and “space of flows” (information and ideas) is an important intervention in analyzing urbanism today. The internal structure, system and network of cities have been profoundly affected by the transportation and communication technologies of its times as well as its interlinking to a global scale. However, the recent development in digital communications has inverted the direct interaction to faceless contact which is rightly described as “network society” further leading to the emergence of hubs like cybercity. Auge’s concept of ‘Supermodernity’ is another interesting lens through which one will peep into the cityscape.

Assessment Details with weights:

  1. Assessment structure (3):
  2. First Assessment (30%) Class quiz based on readings of the first module
  3. Second Assessment (40%) A written sssignment to a specific field/area to link space with experience (3000 words).
  4. Third Assessment (30%) In-class final examination (short and Essay type) based on the last unit on concepts

Reading List:

  1. Harvey David (2006), ‘Space as a keyword’ in Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development (Verso Londres, pp.110-148)
  2. Lefebvre Henri (1998) The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholsan Smith (Oxford: Blackwell) (Chapter 2, Social Space: pp.68-168)
  3. Saunders, Peter (2007), Social Theory and the Urban Question (London: Routledge) (pp.11-47, 110-148).
  4. Auge Marc (2009), Non Places: An Introduction to Super Modernity (Verso: NewYork) (pp.75-115).
  5. Castells Manual (2011) The Rise of the Network Society (Wiley Blackwell) (chapter 3)
  6. Sassen Saskia (1991) The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo (Princeton University Press) (Chapter 6)
  7. Anjaria Jonathan Shapiro (2016), The Slow Boil: Street Food Rights and the Public Space in Mumbai, (Stanfors CA: Stanford University Press)
  8. Street Hawkers and Public Space in Mumbai Author(s): Jonathan Shapiro Anjaria Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 41, No. 21 (May 27 - Jun. 2, 2006), pp. 2140- 2146 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL:
  9. Arefi Mahyer (2014), Deconstructing Placemaking: Needs, Opportunities and Assets (London and New York, Routledge) (pp.3-60).
  10. (Ashgate)
  11. Tonkiss, F. 2005. “Embodied Spaces: Gender, Sexuality and the City.” In Space, the City and Social Theory. Malden, MA: Polity Press. (pp. 94-112).
  12. Phadke Shilpa (2013), Unfriendly Bodies, Hostile Cities: Reflections on Loitering and Gendered Public Space, EPW 48:39 (pp.50-58).
  13. Desai Renu and Romola Sanyal (2012), Urbanizing Citizenship: Contested Spaces in Indian Cities (Delhi: Sage)
  14. Mahadevia Darshini (2007) A City with many borders, Beyond Ghettoization in Ahmedabad, in Annapurna Shaw (ed.) Indian Cities in Transition (Hyderabad: Orient Longman) (pp.347-366).
  15. Bhan Gautam (et al) (2016), In the Public’s Interest: Evictions, Citizenship and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi (University of Georgia Press) (pp.44-145).
  16. Taraporevala Persis and Rohit Negi (2018), “Window to a South South World: Ordinary Gentrification and African Migrants in Delhi in S Cornelisson Y Mine, (ed.) Migration and Agency in a Globalising World (Palgrave:Macmillan) (pp.209-230).
  17. Massey Doreen (2005), For Space, (London: Sage)
  18. Soja Edward W., (1989) Post Modern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London: Verso) (Chapter 3, pp.76-93).
  19. Weber, R. 2002. “Extracting Value from the City: Neoliberalism and Urban Redevelopment.” Antipode. 34 (3): 519-540.