The Contemporary City (Urban Studies 409)

The Contemporary CitySaint Peter’s University: Fall 2013, Spring 2014

This interdisciplinary course focuses primarily on modern cities in the United States to provide students with a general introduction to urban studies. The course explores the ways in which contemporary urbanism shapes—and is shaped by—the technological, historical, political, economic, and lived realities of different social groups. Specific attention is paid to social problems affecting cities such as: gentrification, privatization, communication, uneven development, and socioeconomic inequality. Emphasis is placed on relating themed reading modules with students’ everyday experiences and observations as urban dwellers. To this end, Jersey City serves as a ‘laboratory’ for the course where students have the opportunity not only to develop and expand their own urban knowledge, but also to better understand the lived realities of the city and its inhabitants.

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop an appreciation for and demonstrate understanding though oral and written discussion of key concepts and current issues that are relevant to understanding cities and urban life.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills in all course requirements.
  • Develop and demonstrate competency in urban studies research and reporting (written and oral presentation) including: information literacy, observation of urban environments, and reporting demographic information.

Themed Reading Modules

  • Conceptualizing Contemporary Cities
  • Urban Surveillance and Policing
  • Inter-Class Contact and Collective Remembering
  • Public Space and Culture
  • Urban Gentrification
  • Homeownership and Cooperative Governance Structures
  • Big Data and Urban Informatics

Course Structure
Environmental Autobiography – Each student is required to develop an Environmental Autobiography. These autobiographies should be 700 words in length and must use a personal narrative to discuss how the people, places and things in the student’s environment has shaped both their own sense of identity, as well as their family’s. Pay special attention to personal and familial migrations, education, employment, and ethnic background. The written statement must be accompanied by a 5min visual presentation that will be delivered in class.

Wikipedia Project – The entire class, as a group, will be responsible for further developing the Wikipedia entry for “Jersey City.” The Wikipedia Education Program will facilitate and in-class workshop help students develop capacities for analyzing and improving Wikipedia entries. The course of action, distribution of responsibility, and project timeline will be negotiated as a group during class (and on the Blackboard site). The class will be graded as a group, meaning all participants will receive the same grade for this project.

Quizzes – There will be a total of four quizzes administered in-class. Quizzes will be short, pertain to the readings and in-class lectures, and will not be listed on the syllabus.  A “heads-up” will be posted (at least 48 hours in advance) on the course Blackboard site only.

Final Exam – There will be a final exam covering the assigned readings, discussions, and lectures. The exam will include a combination of multiple choice (mostly definitional) and short answer questions. Sample short answer questions and a list of concepts to be reviewed will be posted to the course site approximately a week before the final exam.