History and Theory of Urban Interventions

This class provides a high-intensity introduction to social scientific and historical-geographical approaches to the process of capitalist urbanization and associated strategies to shape its sociospatial and political-economic organization during the last two centuries.  We survey theoretical debates regarding (a) the nature of “cities” and the “urban,” (b) the historical geographies of urbanization and (c) the nature of “planning” as a political-economic, societal and cultural project.  Although we focus in some detail on the ideas, visions and practices of urban, regional and territorial planners, we shall embed their activities within the historically and geographically specific constraints, opportunities and struggles associated with each of the major phases of modern capitalist urbanization and associated formations of national state power. In thus proceeding, we explore the conflictual interaction of capitalist firms / property developers, political institutions and social movements at various spatial scales, and consequences of that interaction for the institutional, legal, spatial and ideological terrains of “planning”.  The class will also consider some of the key dimensions of contemporary urban restructuring, and their implications for the institutions, projects and practices of planning.
In addition to attending lectures covering the major theoretical and interpretive issues, periodic discussion sections with the Teaching Fellows will also be required.  Additionally, students will work collaboratively in small groups to explore some of the key episodes in the development of the fields of urban, regional and territorial planning since the mid-19th century.  Course requirements include this group project as well as brief weekly reaction papers on the assigned readings, take-home mid-term and final essays (5-6 pages) on assigned topics, and a final exam.