GY432      Half Unit
Urban Ethnography

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Gareth Jones


This course is available on the MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Management (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Environmental Policy, Technology and Health (Environment and Development) (LSE and Peking University), 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, raise issues of methodology and writing. Specific themes will cover the sensory city, the flâneur and ethnographer; neighbourhoods, intimacy and hustle; the 'ghetto' and abandonment; street ethnography; time, waiting and hope; bodies and sex; urban food ethnographies; infrastructure and labour; gates and the middle class; the gang, drugs and violence. The course offers an opportunity to reflect on everyday life in cities in ways which do not reduce them to arenas for technical, policy-driven interventions, and so as to consider the urban experience and landscape more broadly.


In the Department of Geography and Environment, teaching will be delivered through a combination of seminars, pre-recorded lectures, live online lectures and other supplementary interactive live activities.


This course is delivered through a series of seminars across Winter Term.


This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Winter Term.

Formative coursework

A 1,500 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: 

  • M. Duneier et al., The Urban Ethnography Reader, 2014;
  • S. Low, Spatializing Culture: The Ethnography of Space and Place, 2016;
  • The course is based on key ethnographies supplemented by articles.
  • J.S. Anjaria, The Slow Boil: street food, rights, and public space in Mumbai, 2016;
  • J. Auyero, The Patients of the State: the politics of waiting in Argentina, 2012; 
  • T. Belmonte, The Broken Fountain; 2005;
  • P. Bourgois. In Search of respect: selling crack in El Barrio, 2003;
  • P. Bourgois and J. Schonberg, Righteous Dopefiend, 2009;
  • M. Di Nunzio, The Act of Living: Street Life, Marginality, and Development in Urban Ethiopia, 2019;C
  • C. Freeman, Entrepreneurial Selves: neoliberal respectability and the making of a Caribbean middle-class, 2014;
  • H. Garth, Food in Cuba: the pursuit of a decent meal, 2020;
  • A. Goffman, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, 2012;
  • R. Heiman, Driving after Class: anxious times in ann American suburb, 2017;
  • C. Jeffrey, Timepass: youth, class the politics of waiting in India, 2010 ;
  • D. Mains, Under Construction: Technologies of Development in Urban Ethiopia, 2019;
  • C. Melly, Bottleneck: moving, building and belonging in an African City, 2017;
  • B. O’Neill, The Space of Boredom: Homelessness in the Slowing Global Order, 2017;
  • L. Ralph, Renegade dreams: living through injury in gangland Chicago, 2014;
  • A.M. Reese, Black Food Geographies: race, self-reliance, and food access in Washington DC, 2019;
  • S. Venkatesh, Gang Leader for a Day, 2008;
  • L. Wacquant, Urban Outcasts, 2008;
  • 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.

Key facts

Department: Geography and Environment

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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