Urbanization and Development

This course examines the relationship between urbanization and development, paying close attention to the ways that public and private sector priorities, legal frameworks, land use protocols, and infrastructure policies determine the growth and structure of cities in the late industrializing world. In addition to highlighting the inter-relationships between globalization and national economic priorities on one hand and urbanization processes on the other, as well as the connections between cities and their hinterlands, we pay special attention to the social and economic exigencies of urban residents in the face of these relationships and processes. We are interested in the ways that residents accommodate, modify, or reject the priorities, projects, and policies imposed by planners, designers, builders, real estate developers, and multilateral development agencies, among other key actors with targeted urban development agendas. Because ownership and regulation of land is key to these processes, we pay special attention to collective versus individual property rights, informality, and the ways that struggles to own versus occupy urban territory will impact urbanization processes. Among other key issues we examine are struggles over housing and displacement as well as the role of transportation, water, and other critical infrastructure in producing urban built form. 

The course begins by critically interrogating the concepts of “development” and “urbanization,” whether they speak to normative aspirations and not merely economic prosperity, and how they align with assumptions of “modernity.” We then examine the theoretical and empirical relationships between urbanization and development, analyzed through a focus on the collision between citizens, markets, and states and their territorial orbits. We then turn to key determinants of inter- and intra- urbanization patterns, ranging from migration to industrialization to land speculation,  moving beyond universal claims about the relationship between urbanization and development by engaging historically and contextually specific examples. Readings draw primarily from Latin America, South Asia, East Asia, and the Middle East, although on occasion we use historical evidence from Europe and the United States  as a contrast. 

Course Audience and Format:
The course is geared towards graduate students from across the planning, design, social science disciplines who are interested in urbanization and development. It has no prerequisites. Participation in discussion is expected among all students, as is regular class attendance. Each student will select two class sessions over the course of the semester in which s/he will serve as raconteur, responsible for making critical commentary and guiding discussion on that session’s readings. Early in the semester all students are expected to pick one city — anywhere in the world — that will serve as their principal subject of study and analysis throughout the semester.  Assignments include short reading responses throughout the semester, a midterm essay, and a final paper. 

The weekly two hours meetings scheduled for this course require attendance. In addition to the synchronous meeting times, there will be a range of other asynchronous events of different styles (lectures, films, assignments to be done in groups) for each class.

Grading and Assignments:
Class participation and leading discussion 15%
Reading responses 25%
Mid-term paper 20%
Final paper 40%


Note: the instructor will offer live course presentations on 01/19-01/21. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website. If you need assistance, please contact Estefanía Ibáñez

A limited number of seats are held for PhD students. Interested PhD students should contact the instructor as well as submit a petition to cross-register.