SO477      Half Unit
Urban Social Theory

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr David Madden STC S209


This course is available on the MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy and MSc in Sociology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course is a comprehensive introduction to urban social theory. The class will focus on major concepts, paradigms, texts and thinkers in order to critically assess different ways of theorising the urban. It will analyse various forms of urban theory including political economy, human ecology, phenomenology, feminism and postcolonialism, which are used as lenses through which to understand a variety of topics, such as socio-spatial restructuring, neoliberalisation, public space, globalisation, technocracy, infrastructural politics, multiculture, cosmopolitanism, the right to the city and planetary urbanisation.


This course is delivered through seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours in the MT; teaching arrangements may be adjusted if online teaching is required at any point.

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

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

Engels, Friedrich. 1887 [1872]. The Housing Question. London: Cooperative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers.

Park, Robert E., Ernest W. Burgess and Roderick D. McKenzie. 1967 (1925). The City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Castells, Manuel. 1977. The Urban Question. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Lefebvre, Henri. 1991 [1974]. The Production of Space. Donald Nicholson-Smith, trans. Oxford: Blackwell.

Butler, Judith. 2015. “Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street.” Pp 66-98 in Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Young, Iris Marion. 2011 [1990]. “City Life and Difference.” Pp 226-256 in Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Graham, Stephen and Simon Marvin. 2001. Splintering Urbanism: Networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition. London: Routledge.

Kohn, Margaret. 2004. Brave New Neighborhoods: The privatization of public space. London: Routledge.

Simone, AbdouMaliq. 2016. “Urbanity and Generic Blackness.” Theory, Culture & Society 33 (7-8): 183-203.

Wacquant, Loic. 2007. “Territorial Stigmatization in the Age of Advanced Marginality.” Thesis Eleven 91: 66-77.

Brenner, Neil. 2013. “Theses on Urbanization.” Public Culture 25 (1): 85-114.


Essay (80%, 5000 words) in the LT.
Memo (10%) and class participation (10%) in the MT.

There will be weekly memos submitted via Moodle the evening before each class session during the MT.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the second Thursday of Lent Term.

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

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: 18

Average class size 2019/20: 18

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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