Courses

URBS 100 - Introduction to Urban Studies

This course provides an overview of cities in historical perspective from the early Southern agrarian and Northern industrial “walking cities,” to Post-World War II cities affected by suburbanization and outmigration, through the “urban crisis” of the 1950s through 1970s with “urban renewal” dislocations, and the “postmodern city” shaped by immigration, resource scarcity, social misery, and gentrification of ethnic and working class communities. Special focus on San Francisco as a major California, American, and global city will allow students to have an experiential approach within this introductory course. Topics include study of municipal administration, the urban environment, and city hall-corporate-neighborhood regimes. Student will also understand how the physical environment and problems inherent in urbanization influence critical issues such as urban poverty, immigration, mass incarceration, homelessness, living-work art communities, gender and sexuality, the public schools systems, public health, and economic opportunity.

URBS 210 - Urban Politics

This course is designed to enable students to assess the role that cities play in American politics and the role that public and private actors play in affecting local policies. Essentially, the course is structured around four important questions: How does the urban context impact the socio-economic opportunities afforded to its residents, and how has the changing structure of the American economy altered these opportunities? Given the economic, political, and fiscal constraints on cities, does local politics matter?  In other words, can elected officials effectively influence the shape of the city, its economic and tax base, and the quality of life of its residents? Who governs? How is urban policy made and administered, who benefits from local policies, and why? How well are the interests of minority residents served by participation in local politics? After surveying urban American somewhat broadly, we hone in on Bay Area politics in the final section of the course by reading two classic books about two of America's most fascinating cities: San Francisco and Oakland. We read Professor Richard DeLeon's classic book on San Francisco politics, Left Coast City then turn to Ishmael Reed's lively depiction of Oakland in Blues City.

URBS 220 - Urban Theory

This course will explore historic and contemporary approaches to urban research and practice in order to reveal the intellectual origins of urban studies, and closely examine the strong links between empirical observation and theoretical perspectives on the city. Using Simon Parker's text, Urban Theory and the Urban Experience as a starting point, the course will introduce students to the foundations of modern urban theory through the writings of Max Weber, Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel and Henri Lefebvre. The work of the Chicago School of Urban Sociology, the writings of Marxist theorists Manuel Castells, David Harvey, Richard Walker and the Los Angeles school of urbanism will be studied alongside discussions of multiculturalism and contemporary theories of "worlding" that frame the ascendancy of cities in the Global South. Through intensive readings, lectures and discussions the class will link these various theoretical approaches to methods of research and practices of urbanism such as, for instance, the Garden City movement or the New Urbanism.

URBS 230 – Urban Planning and Design

This course will survey the morphology of cities from the earliest settlements of Ur and Mohenjo-daro to contemporary, global megalopolises such as Mumbai and Shanghai. Through lectures and discussion, the class will cover numerous, distinct urban forms seen throughout history including: Greek and Roman grid towns, cosmological cities in China and India, the European medieval city, the colonial city, the Garden City, the Modern city, and the postindustrial city, among others. The writings of urban historians and theorists such as Lewis Mumford, Sprio Kostof, Jane Jacobs, Kevin Lynch and Rem Koolhaas, to name a few, will provide an epistemological springboard for critical discussion and analysis. Ultimately, the class will seek to interrogate the relationship of urban life and urban form by casting a wider net on the political, economic and social factors that shape the built environment of cities.

URBS 240 - Urban Culture

This class seeks to answer the following question: In what ways do representations of the city also constitute the urban? We will explore cities, as they appear represented in films, literary text, mass media and popular culture. Students will become familiar with canonical and current theorizations of the urban, which stress the social production of urban space (Henri Lefebvre). We will pay special attention to the ways the global flows of capital and the global flows of communication have shaped an experience of the urban vastly different from that of the provincial models that propelled Modernity’s cities (Edward Soja and Oliver Mogin, Nestor García Canclini, Rem Koolhas). The texts of Walter Benjamin will provide us with a methodology to understand these theories as they happen in material instances: from specific urban landscapes such as public spaces to expressions of high and popular culture that represent the urban in various ways. Such approach will yield a variety of topics: from the decline of the traditional city and the rise of the megacity, through new forms of social and political interaction in the city in the aegis of globalization, to issues of poverty, crime, the flow of memory and desire in diverse urban experiences, among other topics. Instructors will decide on which modality of urban representation to focus, depending on his or her area of specialization: literature, film, popular culture or mass media. Whichever area the instructor chooses, he or she must also provide students with an understanding of the rhetorical elements of the specific medium of representation chosen for the class.

ARCD 195 - San Francisco Urbanism

This course traces the history of San Francisco’s urbanism from the acquisition of California by the United States in 1846 to the present day. Key moments of this historic development, which have had a significant impact on the urban form and architecture of the city, will be revisited, such as the Victorian-era, the Great Depression, Urban Renewal, The NIMBY revolt, and the more recent trend towards global contemporaneity. Economic, political and social factors that have affected the urbanism of San Francisco will be discussed in order to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the larger forces that shape the city. Ultimately, based on critical research, students will be encouraged to create their own subjective knowledge of San Francisco’s urbanism.

DANC 195 – Mapping the City

This class examines ways that we map urban identities (the city itself, its neighborhoods, and individuals) through the senses. Taking Baudelaire’s notion of the flâneur, “a person who walks the city in order to experience it,” we will study these multiple identities by looking at a variety of artist walking projects drawn from literary, visual, movement, and sonic perspectives. Probing notions of geography, navigation, and spatial orientation, we will embark on our own creative encounters with greater San Francisco to see how various maps are created, coexist, and lived. Over the course of the semester, we will ask how the city serves as a canvas, page, or stage for artistry, how it acts as a dynamic character in artistic creation, and how the act of walking itself becomes a creative one. While our laboratory will be the Bay Area, the course is not about this urban setting per se but rather considers the larger notion of the modern urban landscape as a diverse space for the formation and invention of multiple perspectives, realities, narratives, and counter-narratives, brought to life through the senses. Together we will engage this topic and our immediate Bay Area laboratory through readings, films, photography, journaling, and multiple walking field trips. We will also learn about the ways artist interventions into the cityscape seek to counter hierarchy with operations that can be practiced within conditions that initially seem restrictive. Students will sharpen their perceptive skills, hone their critical thinking abilities, and educate one another through a series of experimental research assignments rooted in human bodily experience.

POLS 195 - San Francisco Development Politics

San Francisco politics is both distinctive and fascinating. Though the city encompasses only 47 square miles, San Francisco is a city of diverse neighborhoods, highly contentious politics, and disproportionate political significance. While San Francisco is perhaps best known for its progressive political culture, routinely the most important issues in local politics are those of land use and development: for what purposes shall we use these 47 square miles, in whose interests, and with what consequences. In this seminar we will analyze a variety of answers to these questions. As such, will talk about the unique demography and political economy of San Francisco, its political history, and contemporary politics and the individuals, groups, and coalitions that make San Francisco so fascinating both historically and at present. We will also explore urban policymaking in areas of economic and community development, housing, land use and zoning. In short, we will seek to make sense of the politics of 47 square miles.

COMS 195 - Landscapes of Communication: Mapping Social Spaces

Our experience of communication is shaped by the physical realities of the territory: streets, neighborhoods, and transportation routes; transcontinental cable lines; GPS and communication satellites; computer networks and cyberspace, cellular phones, and the virtual realities of the post metropolis (from Facebook to foursquare). In this course, we will have a chance to brush up on our geographical knowledge and develop new ways of understanding the communicative field. We will explore the differences between space and place, the use of the urban space by various groups (the youth, the migrants, the police), the interaction between communication media and physical geography, the networked nature of social interactions, and the emerging importance of mobile and cyber communication. Finally we will assess the implications these digital communicative environments have for social justice by addressing such issues as the “digital divide” or the power struggle for open media access. This course is designed to provide plenty of individual and small group mentoring support. We will work together to produce different communicative maps of our city: a map of the languages spoken in a particular neighborhood (this will include some fieldtrips), a map of the security apparatus on campus, and a map of city-specific digital networks.

ANTH 250 - Urban Anthropology

What is the relationship between the physical environment of a city and the social lives and economic resources of its residents? How and why does the experience of urban life differ across cultures? In this introductory course we will explore the city to understand how the built environment interacts with both culture and social behavior. We examine the historical development of cities as well as their current dynamism. Through readings, lectures, films, and class discussions and exercises we will investigate urbanism from two different perspectives: the macro-level approaches of architects, planners, geographers, and urban theorists, and the micro-level studies of cultural anthropologists and ethnographers. Using this multi-disciplinary framework we will discover the impact of cities on a wide range of interrelated concerns including the natural environment, interpersonal relationships, and human health. This course includes practical experience and the opportunity to learn more about San Francisco. Students will choose a local site in which to conduct anthropological fieldwork. We will learn field research methods including participant observation, interviewing, and mapping. Students will also learn how to compile and organize their field data into a term report.

SPAN 200 - Urban Reconfigurations in Spanish Literature and Film: from Franco to the Post-Movida

After exploring Lefebvre's theories of space, we look at the changing urban configurations of Madrid and Barcelona in relation to the shifting axis of power: from Franco's Spain through the cultural ebullience of the Movida Madrilène, to the new conservatism of the Post Movida years. The class will focus on how public space has been marked through urban reconfiguration, the memorialization of collective trauma, specific civic and vital practices--both in public and private spaces--, the influx of migration to the city center, the presence of the rural in the urban and the flows of desire in the city. Then, we will look at how these specific issues have been represented in novels and films. We will read and view works by the following writers and filmmakers: Camilo José Cela, Carmen Laforet, Luis Landero, Javier Marías, Luis Buñuel, Carlos Saura, Bigas Luna, Alex de la Iglesia and Pedro Almodóvar.

HIST/URBS 300 - The City in U.S. History (new course)

This course traces the dramatic transformation of the United States from a rural society to an urban nation and examines the consequences of this transition among nineteenth and early twentieth century Americans. Certain themes that became common to urban societies will be the focal points of this class: the role of capitalism and immigration in the formation of cities; the rise of distinctive working and middle classes; the creation of designated public and private spaces; the formation of new urban subcultures organized by gender, sexuality, labor, race, religion, and ethnicity; problems of health, sanitation and housing resulting from congestion; the gradual development of blatant social divisions between the rich and poor, the native-born and immigrant, and blacks and whites; and the complex negotiations over urban space that ensued among these diverse Americans.

URBS 260 - Sacred Cities (new course)

"Sacred Cities" is a 200 level lecture/discussion class that explores the complex connections between urban design, culture and humanity's experience of the sacred or transcendent. Beginning with Mesopotamia and ending with Disneyland and Salt Lake City, the course will consider religious experience as it has been localized and sited in many of the greatest cities of the world. Spiro Kostof's History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals (1985) and a number of articles and cartographic resources will serve fundamental texts, and across the semester case studies will focus on important urban centers as ritual, congregational, and power centers for many of the world's sacred traditions. Among the sacred cities to be analyzed are: Babylon, Thebes/Memphis, Jerusalem, Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Athens, Rome/Vatican City, Constantinople, Mecca, Lhasa, Angkor Wat, Beijing, Kyoto, Teotihuacan, Cuzco, Moscow, Disneyland, and Salt Lake City. The course will also explore extra-urban religious phenomena such pilgrimages and sacred routes, acculturation of religious sites after conquests, and the evolution of popular devotional shrines as important secondary places of worship distinct from canonical urban temples/churches.

URBS 300 - Colonial Cities (new course)

Colonialism is the exercise of power over space and indeed cities could be defined in the same terms. The history of colonial cities then is a highly insightful means to engage in the power dynamics implicit in urban politics and planning. This course will begin with the founding of colonial cities in the western hemisphere in the wake of Columbus and then consider the trading cities built in Asia and cities of colonial settlement, such as Algiers and Johannesburg. The second half of the class will be looking at postcolonial cities and how the legacy of colonialism has affected both colonial capitals (such as Bombay/Mumbai) and European cities that have seen massive migration from former colonies, such as Marseille and Rotterdam and even London. Combining historical urban investigations with contemporary case studies will allow students to appreciate the production and evolution of colonial cities and the way that the colonial legacy continues to shape the world in which we live today.

SOC 302 - Global Inequalities and Social Justice

This course examines the ways in which global inequalities are manifested and studied within the context of what is called a “globalized world.” Globalization is a term that has taken on significant and ambiguous meaning; it’s often thought of as a singular process and dominated by the economic interests of a transnational corporate elite and a few nations in the global North. Contrary to this notion, globalization has existed in various phases for many decades and has taken many forms. The current project of hegemonic, neoliberal globalization has also been contested by millions of individuals all over the world. Our attention will be directed toward the period from 1970 forward, focusing on the relationship between globalization and inequalities and devoting special attention to developing countries.

GERM 320 - German Literature and Culture from 1945 to Today

This course centers on discussions and analyses of literary production in post World War II Germany against the background of the profound historical, political and social changes in central Europe and the world at large, which mark the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. After explorations into different works from East- and West Germany until 1989 and the Fall of the Wall, an emphasis will be placed on themes of cultural diversity and artistic representations from the “new” German capital Berlin. We will examine texts in different genres, including prose, poetry, theory and film, while gaining a deeper understanding of the contexts in which new ideas and forms of expression are developed. A special focus will be the question of identity and identification as it is shaped by personal, national and trans-national influences.

FREN 350 – Paris Berlin: Connections and Contrasts at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

This course explores the profound social and intellectual changes which marked the Turn of the 20th Century in Europe, particularly Germany, Austria, and France, and the reflection of these changes in the arts. The concepts of “modernity” and “modernism” will be the starting point for an overview of the “_isms” by which this period is defined in political (e.g. Nationalism, Imperialism, Socialism, Capitalism, Feminism), philosophical (e.g. Social Darwinism, Rationalism, Idealism) and artistic terms (e.g. Naturalism, Postimpressionism, Expressionism, Symbolism, Surrealism). We will analyze groundbreaking theoretical works by Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and others, and delineate their influences on literature, music, the visual arts, and film. Special attention will be given to the interplay of different movements and ideas, and the (self-)awareness of the subject in a rapidly changing and challenging world.

POLS 363 - Housing and Homelessness Policy

This semester’s course on Housing and Homelessness is regrettably timely. In the midst of a global financial meltdown, bursting of the so-called “housing bubble”, increasing foreclosure rates, and skyrocketing homelessness there might be no better time to think about how fiscally-constrained governments attempt to ensure fair and affordable housing for its residents. We will begin the seminar by considering some general issues in housing policy: availability, accessibility, affordability, segregation and discrimination. We then turn to a discussion of federal, state, and local housing public policy. Next, we examine homelessness as a distinctive housing and social service challenge. Finally, the semester concludes by exploring the dynamics of neighborhood change by considering gentrification, displacement, and its alternatives. While this is not explicitly an “Urban Politics” course, or more specifically a “San Francisco Politics” course per se, it is nearly so. Because land use remains the most significant issue in local politics, we will spend a considerable portion of the course investigating these issues from a Bay Area perspective. In addition to inviting a variety of local housing speakers to class, we will be taking two field trips designed to give each of us a more grounded perspective in this policy domain.

POLS 369/ANST 369 - Asian Politics, Activism & Justice

Asian Politics, Activism & Justice is a unique USF service learning and cultural diversity fieldwork course that immerses the student in the politics, advocacy, action, and activism among San Francisco's Asia and Asian American social justice organizations. The first part of the course discusses critical issues concerning international and transnational relations of Asia and Asian Americans. The second part exposes students to the influence and consequences of the Asian diasporas through Asiatown ethno tours and fieldwork activities. The third part of the course requires the student to perform faculty supervised political action, community advocacy, or public service that relates directly to the social justice worlds of Asians in North America and elsewhere.

SOC 361 - Brazilian Culture and Society

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and one the largest economies in the world. Yet the gap between the rich and the poor is one of the biggest in the world. That is why Brazil is viewed as a paradox: an earthly paradise (beautiful beaches, the rainforest, the pantanal) versus a land of social contradictions; racial miscegenation versus racism; economic growth versus huge class inequalities; sexual freedom (especially during Carnival) versus sexual oppression in the household and workplace. What explains this paradox? How have Brazilians both created and challenged the racial, class, gender, and sexual inequalities and injustices that any visitor can see in beautiful cities like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador? How has this society been (trans)formed in the last fifty years? How have globalization and international migration shaped Brazilian culture and society? This course will address the contradictions and transformations of Brazilian culture and society from a sociological and historical perspective. After a brief historical overview of the colonial past, we will focus on contemporary aspects of Brazilian culture and society, with an emphasis on race, class and gender inequalities, as well as socio-cultural movements for change. After learning about the recent period of the military dictatorship and the role of popular culture (especially music) in resistance movements, we will examine theoretical debates on racial and/or class-based discrimination, police violence, favelas (shantytowns) and struggles for survival, social movements (including landless workers, indigenous, women, and LGBT movements), and the cultural identities of Brazilian immigrants in the U.S. Throughout the semester, we will also watch Brazilian movies, listen to Brazilian music, attend lectures on Brazil, and visit Brazilian cultural sites in the Bay Area. In short, we will immerse ourselves in Brazilian culture and society through a discussion of various forms of representation of Brazil, including the views of scholars, activists, artists, politicians, and ordinary citizens. This course fulfills the elective requirements for Sociology, Latin American Studies (in the area of social sciences), Ethnic Studies, African Area Studies, and International Studies. It also fulfills the Core Cultural Diversity designation.

YPSP 323/POLS 390 – Filipino Politics and Justice

Filipino Politics and Justice is both a service and a cultural immersion in the Filipino political, economic, and social and justice experiences and issues in and out of the Philippines, including the urban ethoscape of San Francisco. It examines the inter-connected global justice issues being discussed and engaged by Filipinos in the Philippines and in their migrant communities found in major urban centers. Discussion deconstructs the complex architecture of patronage, empowerment and disempowerment, ethnicity, land ownership, poverty and crime, justice and inequality, church power, cronyism, corruption, militarism, and the historical, economic, political, and social dimensions of the Filipino diaspora. This course qualifies as an elective for the Politics Major and Minor, McCarthy Certificate, Peace and Justice Minor, Philippine Studies Major and Minor, Asian American Studies Minor, and the Asian Studies Minor and Major. It also satisfies the Cultural Diversity (CD) and Service Learning (SL) requirements of your USF degree.

MS 300 - Contesting Culture, Re-making the City

Global media and culture are not only ubiquitous in cities around the world, but have radically altered daily life 24/7, and everyone’s use of public and private space. This upper division seminar course focuses on why and how information, media and cultural production are shaping urban social relations, space, economies and politics. A modular approach, with foci in film, sports and news production, students will examine the development of cities in the United States and around the world as dynamic, ever-changing, contests between global corporate interests, state planning institutions, and more fluid assemblages of artists and cultural producers, and urban social movements.

LAST/MS 300 - Memory Marks in Urban Space

Memory is framed spatially and encoded in places; it attaches itself to sites and takes root in the concrete. Urban spaces are marked by memories of the historical events that happened there. The past is grounded in particular buildings, blocks, streets, and other public places. Local geography is a structure for remembrance and organizes the manner in which historical referents are conceptualized. Memory marks are often the legacy of violent and traumatic political events and bear testimony to human rights abuses: a building that housed a torture chamber, a street where demonstrators clashed with repressive forces, a public square that was the scenario of a massacre, a site destroyed by an explosion. This course introduces students to the study of the geography of memory and the processes by which memories are written, encoded, and engraved in urban landscapes and sites. In doing so, we will look at a relevant body of multi-disciplinary theory, analyze how communities remember and reconstruct their pasts, examine different case studies, and explore how various agents employ and/or contest these memories. This will include: looking at the urban space as a text, identifying memory marks, tracing memory maps in relation to particular events, analyzing memorial landscapes, assessing the encoding of meanings in spaces/sites and analyzing people’s decoding of these messages. We will also explore public spaces as arenas in which common action is coordinated through civil disobedience, marches, and vigils; as locations where denunciation, contestation, and negotiation take place; as sites to voice demands for social justice; as scenarios for the exercise of an active citizenship. The focus is on violent political events. The scope is global and case studies include: former torture centers in Argentina and Chile; Stonewall and the struggle for gay rights in New York; the Oklahoma memorial at the site of the destroyed building; Ground Zero in New York City, San Francisco’s Angel Island, entry site for Asian immigrants; Tatlelolco, Mexico, the square where activists were massacred; Alcatraz Island, reclaimed site by Native American activists; memory signs commemorating events at specific locations—e.g., acts during the French resistance in Nazi occupied Paris, plaques in German cities marking the houses of deported families, tiles in Buenos Aires’ sidewalks signaling the place where disappeared people lived.

SPAN 491 -The City in Latin American Cinema

As Latin American critic, Beatriz Sarlo, states in La ciudad vista : there is no experience of the city without a discourse of the city. With this insight in mind, this class will explore Latin American cities, as they appear represented in films produced in or about Latin American urban centers. We will acquire a preliminary and interdisciplinary understanding of urban and space theory—one that stresses space as being socially produced. We will read philosophical and theoretical texts that focus on the urban experience, by such authors as Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Henri Lefebvre and Edward Soja, among others. We will also gain a basic understanding of film language as it particularly pertains to narrative films and delve into the relationship between the cinematic and the urban experiences. We will then focus on films and theories of the urban emerging from Latin America, paying close attention to Latin America’s conflictive relation with Modernity’s urban prescriptions as they extend from the inception of the urban during colonization, through the adoption of European/American models to the globalizing moment and its effects on Latin American cityscapes. Within this context we will read the works of Latin American urban theoreticians such as Néstor García Canclini, Beatriz Sarlo and Jesus Martín Barbero. Finally we will analyze specific characteristics of Latin American urban culture as these appear represented in cinematic discourse: the binary civilization/barbarism; the creation of utopias, the megacities as dystopian spaces riddled with crimes and collapsing services; the criminalization of the poor, the circulation of desire in the city. To end the course we will read Mike Davis Magical Urbanism to assess his claim about the reinvention of the U.S. city by Latinos and trace this alleged reinvention in cinematic representations of American cities.

COMS 490 - Geographies of Communication

The physical realities of communication media shape our experiences of communication: transportation routes, cable lines, switchboards, relay stations, GPS and communication satellites, computer networks, cellular towers, and fiber optic layouts of the post metropolis. Such media generates a communicative environment, or infosphere that empowers people with the electronic capabilities to produce and disseminate communication all other the world, thus altering what we consider our immediate circle of friends, neighborhood, or community. In this course, we will have a chance to brush up on our geographical knowledge and develop new ways of understanding the communicative field. We will explore the differences between space and place, the use of the urban space by various groups (the youth, the migrants, the military), the interaction between communication media and physical geography, the networked nature of social interactions, and the emerging importance of mobile and cyber communication. Finally, we will assess the implications these digital communicative environments have for social justice by addressing such issues as the “digital divide” or the power struggle for open media access.


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