The Contemporary City
This course examines the topics contained in a traditional urban sociology course and applies them to the surrounding urban area of Washington, D.C. It is a service-learning course, which means that you will be providing a service to community residents through your applied research projects as part of your learning in the course. In a sense, we will use the city as a social laboratory to test the concepts, theories and findings presented in the course readings and lectures. The purpose is to discern the knowledge and theory that will help improve the lives of people living here. However, rather than seeing the city as a resource to be exploited for the sake of knowledge, or as a charity case in need of our help, I would like you to view it as a potential partner in our quest for knowledge and in the struggle to remedy injustices.
A major enterprise of the course is a group project designed to identify a significant problem that exists here in Washington D.C. and to develop a proposal for remedying it. Depending on your preferences, you may wish to take steps to act on these proposals, either individually or in groups, this semester or later. You will be undertaking three urban adventures as well, preparing you for city living in general but also to provide you with the tools needed to conduct the larger group project.
The course begins with an historical examination of the growth and development of cities and a comparative approach to describe and locate the contemporary American metropolis. The substantive topics that will be examined are: social life and forms of interaction in urban areas; social institutions in urban society; the political economy of the city; urban social problems; urban policy and planning; and grassroots efforts to address urban problems. The course will end with a discussion of the future of the city and a look at alternative visions of urban utopias.
1.Intellectual: learn about the city and its people by seeing them close-up; make real the concepts and theories learned in class material.
2.Social: develop skills in the areas of leadership, decision-making, critical thinking, communication, problem-solving.
3.Moral: identify with the needs of the oppressed, become an agent of social justice, advance your commitment to service.
Elijah Anderson Streetwise
?William Flanagan Contemporary Urban Sociology
Lyn Lofland A World of Strangers
Course Requirements & Grading
Exam (30%): Material for the exam will be taken from the course readings and lecture material. The group project will account for roughly 40 percent of the grade and is described below. The short papers will account for the remaining 30 percent.
3 Short Papers [3-4 pages each] (30%): The short papers will take you outside Healy Gates, beyond Georgetown into the city. They are urban ethnographies requiring your observation of city life. In the first of the exercises, you will practice getting around the city and examine urban space use in a social setting. In another exercise, you will observe the operations of one of Washington D.C.’s elite institutions and its locational transformation. In the third exercise, you will analyze a collective effort of city dwellers or agencies to improve the quality of life for D.C. residents.
Group Projects in The Contemporary City (40%): You will participate in a group project that is designed to help you learn more about the city in which you live and through which you hopefully will give back something to it. The projects are designed as needs assessments of particular communities within the city through which you will identify, from the actors’ point of view, the needs that confront their community. By the end of the course, you will produce a team report that identifies and describes the local community, the methodology used to gather information, the results of your assessment, and a set of recommendations for addressing the needs you have identified.
The two communities that will serve as the base for undertaking your assessments are: the Hispanic (largely Salvadoran) community in Mt. Pleasant & Adams-Morgan; and the Northwest-1 neighborhood (primarily African American) in Northwest D.C. near North Capitol. We may also work in other communities if class size and interest allow.
The purpose of these projects is to have you understand better the social forces that shape people’s lives and limit opportunities for whole groups and classes of people; understand the uses and exercise of power; identify the obstacles to change; develop a plan to mobilize resources for change; and to become an agent for change yourself.
Evaluation: Your project will be evaluated on the basis of a 20 page group report (guidelines regarding content to be handed out separately); class presentations of progress on the project; and a four page reflective paper on the impact of the project on you.
The criteria for evaluating the projects are:
* are the problems well defined?
* are all of the critical factors considered?
* are all of the appropriate resources and info sources utilized (including documents, community contacts, city agencies, local leaders, outside experts)?
* are terms and concepts well defined and applied appropriately?
* are the relationships among actors and structures specified-i.e. is there a causal model identified?
* is the action plan reasonable — i.e. problem specific, resources identified, costs and obstacles assessed?
Limits: Although you will be working with the community, identifying their needs, helping with their ongoing work as mutually acceptable, and creating an action plan to address some these needs, you will not be providing any actual services (unless you are doing a Fourth Credit project). You should keep in mind that you are there to learn from these outside sources, that you are imposing on their time and resources, and that they are not gaining much during the exchange. It is not until the action plans are actually implemented that any real services are being provided to the community.
Class Topics for lecture and discussion Required reading
1 Introductions, what is urban sociology, and
the central nature of the group projects.
2 Theories of urbanism and community. Flanagan ch. 1
3 Urban ecology and its critics. Flanagan ch. 2
4 The Village-Northton community and the invasion-succession process. Anderson chs. 1,2
5 Living in a world of strangers; the appearential
order of the pre-industrial city and the spatial
order of the modern city. Lofland chs. 1,2,4
6 PAPER 1 DUE
7 Urban learning: how to navigate the city Lofland ch. 5
8 Privatizing public spaces literally and symbolically; how to use the city as a skilled urbanite. Lofland chs. 6,7
9 Urban political economy. Flanagan ch. 3
10 PAPER 2 DUE
11 Dimensions of disadvantage and its human faces: drugs, sex codes, poverty and economic inequality, race and ethnic relations, crime, and violence. Anderson chs. 3-8
12 PAPER 3 DUE
13 The future of the city. Flanagan ch. 5
15 Project presentations.
16 PROJECTS DUE
17 Individual evaluation and reflection due
Make-up exam policy: I expect that all students will take exams at the scheduled time and place. Having to give make-up exams is terribly time-consuming and the result is more difficult to evaluate, so I will consider giving a make-up only with written documentation of an unavoidable emergency. You should contact me prior to the exam if at all possible. All make-up exams will be administered during the study period, December 8, 1994.
Late paper policy: Papers are due by 5 pm on the assigned due date. They may be turned in during class or delivered to my office by 5 pm. Papers handed in late will be penalized one half letter grade the first day they are late, one full letter grade for the remainder of the first week, and an additional letter grade each additional week late.
Make-up sessions: I will be away from campus for two weeks during the semester. We will have to reschedule four class meetings as a result. I apologize for the inconvenience that this will cause. Everyone has tight schedules, so I ask your cooperation in advance in trying to reschedule these classes. (To anticipate your question, the answer is YES, the material covered in these make-up sessions will be on the test.)
Professor: Sam Marullo, Ph.D.
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