Cities are back in fashion. Long deemed crime ridden and dangerous, hazardous for health, and agents of poverty and fragmentation, they are now being heralded for their economic and social dynamism and even environmental potential. In the U.S., Boomers and Millennials alike are flocking to urban cores in significant numbers. Globally, the level of urbanization is unprecedented, with well over half of all humans already living in cities—a percentage expected to reach three-fourths by 2050. For the first time in its history, humanity is now a predominantly urban species.
The renewed focus on urbanization reveals a multitude of contending forces—globalization, climate change, migration, inequality, risk, demographic change, and political economy—all of which make cities ground-zero for virtually every consequential challenge and opportunity humanity faces. All of this makes what it will mean and take to thrive in 21st century urban environments one of the grand challenges of the present era. Dealing constructively with this challenge will require distinctive forms of social inquiry, civic design, and social action.
Through readings, guest lectures, field visits, and a final project, this course will: (1) enable students to better understand the macro forces now shaping life in cities; (2) introduce students to human- centered design and community-based research techniques; and (3) equip students with practical competencies they will need to be active and engaged citizens in 21st century urban environments. This course is intended for students interested in sociology, urban studies, global studies and development, social problems, cultural theory, urban history, urban planning and design, community development, and citizenship studies.