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Courses : Syllabi : 354

Geography 354 Geography of Cities


Pascale Joassart Marcelli

Course Description

This course focuses on the multidimensional processes of urbanization and how they produce cities characterized both by common and unique geographical characteristics. In the first part of the course, we study the historical development of cities with an emphasis on recent changes and the role of globalization. Next, we turn to the theoretical tools traditionally used to understand cities and urban life and consider alternative discourses that have been put forward as explanation for new urban forms. We conclude by examining a variety of topics of importance to urban geographers, including poverty, crime, race, ethnicity, gender, housing, sprawl and environmental degradation, using the theoretical tools studied earlier. This part of the course includes discussions about policy solutions and alternatives.

This course will give you the ability to look at the urban condition from a variety of perspectives and angles. Cities are like “palimpsests” old parchments, written upon several times, with earlier writings erased by new writings. In cities, people erase the old, build anew, and forget. But if you look closely, you will be able to see the social, political, economic, and cultural processes that shape places, making them prosper or decline.

You will also be able to identify different types of spaces in cities and how they relate to class, ethnicity, race, gender, and sexuality. Cities, including San Diego, are human laboratories to study how patterns of difference are produced and reproduced.

You will develop the ability to analyze urban “problems” using a variety of theoretical and empirical tools. A greater awareness of these issues will help you put daily life experiences in broader perspective and evaluate policy solutions.


Geography 101 or 102 recommended


Your grade in this course will be based on the following elements:

You are required to read the material listed in the printed class schedule before each class. This is extremely important because it will enhance your learning experience and promote better informed and more challenging class discussions. There is no textbook that needs to be purchased for this course. All reading materials are posted on Blackboard.

Throughout the course, you will be asked to write 4 short essays. In these three-page papers you will be asked to apply the material discussed in class to analyze a current event or recent trend in cities. Essay questions will be given in class and posted on Black Board at least a week before the due date. No late paper will be accepted.

The class requirements also include a research paper (10-12 pages) that will focus on a specific urban locale. This could be, for example, a city neighborhood, a street, a tourist attraction, a park, or even a single building. You will need to investigate the historical development of this locale, the different forces that contributed to its current form, and its role in the city where it is located. The idea is that places can be read and deconstructed to unpack invisible structural forces and broader trends. You will be expected to refer to theories discussed in the course and to cite other academic sources. You will need to submit a one-page paper topic description receive approval for the paper.

Finally, we will have one final examination that will test your knowledge of topics covered in the readings and discussed in class through definitions and essay questions.

Books and Materials

All readings available on Blackboard.

Weekly Topics

Week Topic
Week One
Part One
Intro to class
Urbanization in Historical Perspective
Week Two Early Cities
Industrial Cities
Week Three World Cities
The Urban Future
Week Four
Part Two
The Ecological Approach
The Neoclassical Approach
Week Five The Rational City
The City Neighborhood
Week Six The Capitalist City
The Informational City
Paper Topic Due
Week Seven The Global City
The Edge City
Week Eight The Postfordist City
The “Ethni-City”
Week Nine
Part Three
The Postmodern City
Week Ten Poverty and Race
Week Eleven Gender
Alternative Economic Spaces
Week Twelve Housing
Week Thirteen Fragmentation Devolution
Week Fourteen Order Disorder
Environmental Justice
Week Fifteen Sustainable City
Research Paper Due

The statements found on this page/site are for informational purposes only. While every effort is made to ensure that this information is up to date and accurate, official information can be found in the university publications.