The programme consists of:
In nearly every century over the last millennium, London has been a crucial node within the networks of commerce and cultural exchange that spanned the world. In the 21st century , London remains a site of intense activity, sat atop innumerable junctions of capital, migration, culture and commodities. As such London presents the ideal focal point for developing an understanding of the pressing questions facing cities today and into the future. However, while it is important to understand the long history of London’s place within global networks of power and exchange, it is also impossible to ignore the extent to which, in recent years, forces that shape the contemporary city are visibly shifting. That is, the roads that meet at the city’s junction are arriving from new destinations, carrying new opportunities and risks for the city and precipitating new developments. Accordingly, this course seeks to understand how London is being re-made amidst the re-wiring of global circuitry.
Focusing on specific examples – drawn from the Centre for Urban and Community Research’s activity across London – the module illuminates the impact of new technologies, markets, mutations in governing ideologies, novel patterns of mobility and new technologies of surveillance on the city and its inhabitants. Beyond understanding how these developments impact on London the module aims to develop an understanding of London through its relatedness to other urban locations, situating London’s connectedness to elsewhere as integral to the ways in which the city is being re-made.
Module Convener: Alex Rhys-Taylor
Navigating Urban Life
Navigating Urban Life
This module addresses significant issues in the contemporary organisation of urban landscapes, urban life and connections between cities as well as the interface between human and architectural fabric. Drawing on specific empirical examples in based in China, Hong Kong, the US, London and parts of mainland Europe this module examines key debates in urban sociology and research. There is a strong focus on visual apprehension of cities and ways of accessing and researching cities through photography. The following sessions have been offered in previous years:
- A tour of 'urban theory' from the Chicago School to the present day. This sets up the conceptual basis for the session following which, although empirically focused on specific cities, illuminate different conceptual frameworks for understanding urbanism.
- Whose City? This examines debates concerned with the social production of space and rights to the city. An examination of ghetto urbanism in the US through Wacquant, Bourdieu, Bourgeois and the research through which this kind of urban knowledge is generated.
- Pastness and Urban Landscape. This examines discrepant and linear notions of time/interpretations of pastness, collective memory, and how pasts are inscribed within urban landscapes. We will draw mainly on visually-led investigation of Hong Kong and London to explore these themes.
- Post-Colonial Cities. This session examines the intersections between globalisation and colonialism in Hong Kong and in the lives of ‘skilled’ migrants from the global North. It makes extensive use of photographic narratives of Hong Kong as an iconic city landscape and the use of environmental portraiture to capture migrants’ relationships to the city.
- Globalisation, Migration and Urban Life. Drawing on visual empirical research on mosques and African churches in London this session examines the impact of recent and current migration on commerce, religion and city landscape. It sets this in broader debates about globalisation and cities developed from the previous session.
- Material Cultures and Multiple Globalisations. This session draws on some of the more ordinary trajectories of commodities and collaborations composing the global world through small trade between China/Hong Kong and Africa, and Europe and Africa.
- Mega-Cities and Non-City Zones. This session is set in China. It examines architecture, the generic city, land speculation and the dynamics between mega-cities and economic and technical development zones through some of the lives that are lived in them.
- Urban Regeneration. This session examines the politics, debates, conceptualisation and social divisions generated and sustained in urban renewal projects. Who benefits from these projects? How do they reconstruct cities? We will draw specifically on Olympic-related redevelopments in Athens, London, and Beijing.
- Architectural and Planning Politics. This session examines ways in which political and military decisions are embedded in architecture and planning. It draws on Weizman’s Hollow Land and asks questions about whether this involves a radical re-conceptualisation of space.
- Mobilities. This session is concerned with movement and routes as well as the infrastructure and technologies of mobility such as bridges, roads, airports, stations, tunnels, trains, motor transport, and shipping. It asks critical questions about whether these approaches to space generate information about social morphology or social life more generally.
Urban Field Encounters
Urban Field Encounters
Contemporary readings of urbanity stress the manifold unfolding’s of city environments. Pushing beyond geographical territories, urbanity requires us to work across different ideas of time and space and apprehend these from the perspective of ongoing process and change. Urbanities give rise to differential forms of practice – we engage cities and their infrastructures, institutions, governances, capitals and cultures in diverse and irreducible ways. Given the dynamic relations that make up the urban and the people that inhabit and move through it, how do we begin to explore and comprehend questions of city life and our interventions in it?
This course investigates and experiments with a series of methods that can be employed to think about the urban. To engage the complex questions of the urban we require creative sociological methods through which we can observe, make sense of and analyse what we experience without fixing it in place. This course takes as its foundation artistic and sensorial innovations in the social sciences. It groups these over five weeks through themes of Observing, Listening, Assembling, Writing and Intervening. Such methodological innovations allow us to think about the urban in ways that engage multiplicitous publics, voices and forms of participation and practice. Drawing from interdisciplinary developments in visual, sonic and sensory sociologies, this course brings together theoretical literature with practical application and critical reflection.
Dissertation (60 credits)
In the summer term you complete a major practical project consisting of any media and addressing a specific sociological problem. You will meet for individual supervision with a member of the Sociology staff.
The dissertation is a substantive piece of research in which you develop a visual, inventive or experimental approach to a topic of your choice.
One-hour lectures address the core themes of each module, followed by one-hour seminars in small groups of under 20. Urban Field Encounters also entails workshop activities.
You'll be encouraged to attend dissertation classes that train you in the basic principles of dissertation preparation, research and writing. You will be assigned a dissertation supervisor who will be available when you are writing the dissertation (approximately one hour contact time per month).
The main aim of the program is to explore new approaches to thinking about and researching the city formation and urban life. This can be broken down into three inter-related aims:
- To promote an appreciation of the relevance of the social, sociological knowledge and ways of knowing in the understanding of cities, urban economy, culture and politics, and the management of social change, and to encourage a critical understanding of interrelated concepts, debates and themes.
- To enable students critically to engage sociological and geographical theories and methodologies relevant to the studies of cities and urbanities, controversies and social change, and conduct an intellectually informed sustained investigation.
- To expose students to a lively research environment and the relevant expertise of the Department of Sociology and related departments and centres to provide a catalyst for independent thought and study.
Expert walks and seminars
The course is accompanied by a series of expert 'London walks' spread across the year. These are led by a range of researchers from within the Centre for Urban and Community Research, as well as guests from various institutions across the city, and take students through the sites of that their work focuses on.
Alongside core modules, the convenors will also run an Urban Film Series, a series of evening screenings of various documentaries and films relevant to the themes of the course.
The Centre for Urban Community research also holds regular seminars with a range of urban professionals, architects and academics from outside the university, giving the MA Cities and Society a space to join in with the Centre’s intellectual community.
Assessment consists of coursework, extended essays, reports, presentations, practice based projects or essays/logs, group projects, reflective essays, and seen and unseen written examinations.
MA granted on the completion of 180 CATS (all coursework and dissertation); Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education granted on the completion of 120 CATS (all coursework without dissertation); Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education granted on the completion of 60 CATS (the completion of two core modules).
Download the programme specification, for the 2019-20 intake. If you would like an earlier version of the programme specification, please contact the Quality Office.
Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.