Urban Worlds

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSGA1SU1014

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

Course Coordinator and Team: Rohit Negi and Rachna Mehra

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: The aim of the course is to spark students’ interest in the field of urbanism and urbanization, and for them to begin to understand basic concepts and patterns in the world. The course will ask the conceptual question ‘what is the city?’ and will find ways to locate urbanity by looking at ancient and precolonial urban spaces, colonial urbanism, the cities of the industrial revolution, and more contemporary urban forms. These sites will be considered around aspects of work, density, heterogeneity, environments and infrastructures.

Course Outcomes:

By the end of the course the student will be conversant with:

  • urban spaces and processes across history and geographies
  • will be able to develop a comparative understanding of urbanism
  • identify and appreciate a range of experiences related to everyday urban
  • gain ability to read diverse material and write systematically

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

1. What is ‘the city’?

The unit will build an understanding of the specificities of the urban process, such as

density, economy, multiculturalism, and collective infrastructures.

2. Ancient and Precolonial Cities (e.g. Timbuktu, Angkor, Harappa) (2 weeks)

The unit will discuss processes through which urban spaces emerged, and the kinds of activities that symbolised urbanism up to the precolonial world. The connectedness of regions and the imbrication of religion and multiple cosmologies in city-making will be explored.

3. Colonial Urbanism (e.g. the Zambian Copperbelt, Algiers, Kolkata) (2 weeks)

The impacts of colonialism on urban forms and patterns will be considered in the unit. Specifically, issues of racial segregation, unequal access, and the role of urban spaces in the wider colonial economic and political transformations will be examined.

4. The Industrial City (e.g. Manchester, Magnitogorsk, Shenzhen) (2 weeks)

The module will take a comparative view of the linkages between industry and urbanism by setting up a conversation among the experiences of the historical industrial cities of Europe, the single-industry towns of the Soviet Union, and more contemporary manufacturing centres in post-Socialist China.

5. Post-industrial Urbanism (e.g. Rust Belt, Taipei, Barcelona) (2 weeks)

This unit focusses on the changing urban experiences that result from deindustrialisation, taking up cases where the process leads to ruins and where it cities have been able to retool more or less successfully.

6. Conurbations (e.g. Delhi Region, Sao Paulo Macrometropolis) (2 weeks)

This unit will consider the changing relations between the city and the region in the light of massive conurbations that have emerged, especially but not exclusively, in the southern contexts, considering the implications of these spaces in terms of infrastructures and ecology.

7. Speculative Cities (e.g. Dubai, Chinese Ghost Towns) (1 week)

The final unit will consider a specific typology of urbanism that is more recent and is linked with the production of urban space for profit. Real estate-driven projects are very often highly speculative—that is, their creation of certain kind of urban product is divorced from actually existing conditions, but is based on a one-sided view of future demand. In times of crisis, the bubble is pricked and ghost spaces abound.

Assessment Details with weights (3):

  1. Students will be assessed in continuous assessment mode on the basis of their participation in class and their engagement with the educational resources.
  2. This involves in-class quizzes, team/individual presentations and short response notes (combined: 30%)
  3. The second assessment will involve a project report related to student research on a world city of their choice (2000 words) (30%).
  4. The third assessment will consist of a final examination (Short and Long answer) (40%)


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