GY479      Half Unit
Urban Revolutions

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ryan Centner


This course is available on the MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Social Policy and Development, 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

This course uses the concept of “urban revolutions” as an organizing principle to introduce students to key theories and debates related to societies undergoing rapid urban change. Course lectures examine “urban revolution” in three senses. The first pertains to Henri Lefebvre's use of the term to signify the “complete urbanization of society” – a historical process by which social life, even outside of cities, becomes urbanized. This means addressing the relationship between the country and the city, the idea of the urban in historical perspective, and the relationship between urban life in the global North and South. The second treatment of “urban revolution” considers the city as a site for radical political change and social experimentation. This means studying cities as spaces of movement, resistance, and innovation, with an emphasis on urban experiments in the South. Thirdly, urban revolution is analysed in terms of the explosion of theorizations about the nature of the urban, how to study it, and how to make a difference in “the urban,” both intellectually and materially, within a global economy. Through these three overlapping lenses – history, politics, and theory – the course aims to equip students with a conceptual and empirical foundation for analyzing city transformations and globalized urbanization, with particular attention to emerging urbanisms in the global South.

Topics covered may include the following: industrialization and immigration; processes of suburbanization, ghettoization, and gentrification; global cities; the colonial and postcolonial city; the right to the city; urban uprisings; urban informality; urban violence; the geopolitics of urban theory.


10 hours of lectures, 10 hours of seminars and 10 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

A short essay of 2000 words (maximum). There are two different options for this: either exploring the applicability of one week's readings to an empirical case outside the course reading, or an in-depth conceptual exploration of connections or discordances between particular readings from two different weeks in the course.

Indicative reading

H. Lefebvre, Writing on Cities, 1996;

R. Beauregard. When America Became Suburban, 2006;

J. Brown-Saracino. The Gentrification Debates, 2010;

M. Davis, Planet of Slums, 2006;

T. Caldeira, City of Walls: Crime, Segregation, and Citizenship in São Paulo, 2000;

D. Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, 2012;

J. Robinson, Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development, 2006;

A. Roy and A. Ong, Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global, 2011;

T. Samara, S. He, and G. Chen, Locating Right to the City in the Global South, 2013;

N. Brenner, Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization, 2013.

The reading list is intended only to be indicative of literatures broached in the course. Actual readings will consist of particular articles and chapters on a weekly basis, as well as a wider range of inclusions.


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

This essay of 5000 words (maximum) will be based on a small set of options for questions provided by the instructor. These will allow wide enough scope for students with different academic backgrounds and thematic or geographical interests to be accommodated, while still hewing to the organizing topics of the course.

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2014/15: 30

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information