Not available in 2016/17
GY432      Half Unit
Urban Ethnography

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Gareth Jones S506


This course is available on the MSc in African Development, MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course considers the role of ethnography to how we understand cities. We will look in detail at different types of ethnography and compare with other means of representing the city, through the novel and film, starting with Rem Koolhaas on Lagos. Specific themes will cover the urban flâneur and ethnographer, street ethnography, culture of poverty and marginality, time and waiting, bodies and sex; infrastructure and mobility, gates and the middle class; drugs, the gang and violence, and slums. The course will consider the role of ethnography in developing world cities in particular but also draw from studies of developed world. The course offers an opportunity to reflect on urban places in a way which does not reduce them to arenas for technical, policy-driven planning, and so as to consider the urban experience more broadly. The course will raise issues of methodology.


20 hours of seminars in the LT. 4 hours of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

A 2,000 word essay or review of readings on a chosen topic from class list.

Indicative reading

There are some useful Readers on urban ethnography such as Duneier, M. et al., The Urban Ethnography Reader, (2014); Oejo, R.E. Ethnography and the City: readings on doing urban fieldwork, (2012). The course is based on identification of one or two key ethnographies for each week supplemented by articles.J. Auyero, The Patients of the State: the politics of waiting in Argentina, 2012;  J. Auyero & D. Swistun, Flammable: environmental suffering in an Argentine Shantytown, 2009; T. Belmonte, The Broken Fountain; 2005; J. Biehl, Vita: life in a zone of social abandonment, 2005; P. Bourgois. In Search of respect: selling crack in El Barrio, 2003; P. Bourgois and J. Schonberg, Righteous Dopefiend, 2009; M. Duneier, Sidewalk, 2000; L. Fernandes, India’s New Middle Class: Democratic Politics in an Era of Economic Reform, 2006; D. Gandolfo, The City at its Limits: taboo, transgression and urban renewal, 2009; D. Goldstein, Laughter out of Place: race, class, violence and sexuality in a Rio Shantytown, 2003; C. Jeffrey, Timepass: youth, class the politics of waiting in India, 2010 ; S. Jensen, Gangs, Politics and Dignity in Cape Town, 2008; P. Kelly, Lydia's Open Door: inside Mexico's most modern brothel, 2008; M. Leichty, Suitably Modern: Making Middle-Class Culture in a New Consumer Society, 2003; D. Levenson, Adios Nino: the gangs of Guatemala City, (2013); D. Mains, Hope Is Cut: Youth, Unemployment, and the Future in Urban Ethiopia, 2011; L.A. Ring, Zenana: everyday peace in a Karachi apartment building, 2006; E. Tarlo, Unsettling Memories: Narratives of India's 'Emergency' in Delhi, 2003; S. Venkatesh, Gang Leader for a Day, 2008; L. Wacquant, Urban Outcasts, 2008; A. Wilson, The Intimate Economies of Bangkok: tomboys, tycoons, and Avon Ladies in the Global city, 2004; J. Wolseth, Jesus and the Gang: Youth Violence and Christianity in Urban Honduras,  2011;L. Zhang, In Search of Paradise: Middle-class Living in a Chinese Metropolis, 2010; T. Zheng, Red lights: The lives of sex workers in postsocialist China, 2009.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 17.4
Merit 53.6
Pass 18.8
Fail 10.1

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2015/16: Unavailable

Average class size 2015/16: Unavailable

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills