SO236      Half Unit
Urban Society

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr David Madden STC.S209


This course is available on the BSc in Sociology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

This course is available to students in Year 2 and Year 3.

Course content

This course is an introduction to urban sociology and urban studies. The course is organised around a set of key concepts for developing a critical understanding of urban space today. These key concepts may include terms such as density, inequality, planning, neighbourhood life, public space, migration, infrastructure, displacement, globalisation, urban renewal, gentrification, informality, exclusion, marginality, difference, or social movements. The course will draw on a variety of texts that illuminate and interrogate city life from a variety of sociological perspectives, so in addition to academic studies, students will analyse planning reports, historical documents, first-person literary essays, visual materials, and other representations of the urban experience.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars and online materials totalling a minimum of 20 hours in LT.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

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

Formative coursework will be due by the start of week 7. It will consist of writing a short 500 word essay asking students to take an original photograph and use it as the basis for a reflection on one of the key concepts explored in class. This reflection will serve to prepare students for their summative essay.

Indicative reading

• Thucydides. 2009 [circa 431 BCE]. Pericles’s funeral oration and the plague of Athens. Pp 96-100 in The Peloponnesian War, Martin Hammond, trans. Oxford University Press.

• Wirth, Louis. 1938. “Urbanism as a Way of Life.” American Journal of Sociology 44 (1): 1-24.

• Gans, Herbert J. 1962. “The Community.” Pp 104-119 in The Urban Villagers: Group and class in the life of Italian-Americans. Free Press.

• Atkinson, Rowland. 2003. “Domestication by Cappuccino or a Revenge on Urban Space? Control and empowerment in the management of public spaces.” Urban studies 40.9 (2003): 1829-1843.

• Anderson, Elijah. 2004 “The Cosmopolitan Canopy.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 595 (1): 14-31.

• Back, Les, and Shamser Sinha. 2016. “Multicultural Conviviality in the Midst of Racism’s Ruins.” Journal of Intercultural Studies 37.5 (2016): 517-532.

• Caldeira, Teresa P. R. 1996. “Fortified Enclaves: The new urban segregation.” Public Culture 8 (2): 303–328.

• Simone, AbdouMaliq. 2004. “People as Infrastructure: Intersecting fragments in Johannesburg.” Public Culture 16 (3): 407-429.

• Garbin, David, and Gareth Millington. 2012. “Territorial Stigma and the Politics of Resistance in a Parisian Banlieue: La Courneuve and beyond.” Urban Studies 49 (10): 2067-2083.

• Mattern, Shannon. 2018. “Community Plumbing: How the hardware store orders things, neighborhoods, and material worlds.” Places Journal, July.

• Nicholls, Walter J. 2008. “The Urban Question Revisited: The importance of cities for social movements.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32 (4): 841-859

• Appadurai, Arjun. 2001. “Deep Democracy: Urban governmentality and the horizon of politics.” Environment and Urbanization 13 (2): 23-43.

These texts are examples of the articles and books from sociology and urban studies that the course will examine. The course will also analyse texts from various other urban-oriented fields and genres.


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (20%, 1500 words) and class participation (10%) in the LT.

There will be three summative assessments: a final exam, a short essay, and participation in seminars.

Final exam at the end of the term: 70%

Short illustrated essay (1500 words) on one of the concepts explored in class, due in week 11: 20%

Seminar participation: 10%

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2019/20: 19

Average class size 2019/20: 9

Capped 2019/20: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills