SO477      Half Unit
Urban Social Theory

This information is for the 2021/22 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, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Sociology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Priority will be given to students on the MSc in City Design and Social Science, for whom the course is an 'optional core course'. Places will be allocated based on a written statement. This may mean that not all students who apply will be able to get a place on this course.

Course content

This course is an 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, feminism and postcolonialism, which are used as lenses through which to understand a variety of topics, such as socio-spatial restructuring, neoliberalisation, the politics of public space, globalisation, cosmopolitanism, the urbanisation of patriarchy, the racialisation of urban space, 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.

Du Bois, W.E.B. 1899. The Philadelphia Negro: A social study. Publications of the University of Pennsylvania.

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.

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

Danewid, Ida. 2020. “The Fire This Time: Grenfell, racial capitalism and the urbanisation of empire." European Journal of International Relations 26 (1): 289-313.

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

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

Nancy, Jean-Luc. 2007. The Creation of the World or Globalization. François Raffoul and David Pettigrew, trans. SUNY Press.

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.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 22

Average class size 2020/21: 14

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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