Graduate Course Syllabi

  • URB STD 450G-001 Urban Growth and Development: A Global View , Spring 2024
    Instructor: Jamie Harris (
    Urbanization is advancing at an unprecedented rate around the world, with most of that growth occurring in the “developing” Global South, often in informal settlements. More than 1 billion people now reside in informal settlements, and many megacities will be approaching populations of 30 million over the next decade. Rapid urbanization, and the shadow cities that accompany this kind of development can have broad implications for urban poverty and inequality, migration, and the impacts of climate change. Along with this explosion of urbanization, the last two decades have witnessed much new theorizing and empirical research focused on cities and urbanized regions of the Global South. Many of these scholars have challenged conventional urban theory and critiqued the field of urban studies that emerged in the 20th century for its decidedly European and North American orientation. Unable to fully account for the complexity and diverse historical, political and cultural basis of different urbanisms that were emerging, these scholars, many from outside the West, began to formulate new approaches and concepts to more fully understand urban change and development. This interdisciplinary, hybrid course will examine some of these debates and explore some of this new empirical work as we delve into an array of urban contexts across several regions and countries outside the U.S. Particular attention will be given to urban informality and territories of exclusion in Brazil, Ghana, and India; state-led urbanization in China; Global City formations in a number of cities; greening cities and climate disaster and resilience in Europe, Asia, and Canada; urban citizenship, tactical urbanism and 'right to the city' campaigns, and the role of urban space in shaping and fostering political mobilization for gender equality, poor people, and climate justice, across a number of cities and countries.

  • URB STD 901-001 Urban Social Structure , Fall 2023
    Instructor: Marcus Britton (
    This seminar is a comprehensive survey of topics relevant to studying in the institutional and organized rela- tionships of people in cities. The reading, class discussions, and projects will largely examine and assess the competing theoretical perspectives of cities and urbanization, alternative methods or urban social research, and different urban policy directions. In the study of cities, social theory is focused on identifying and under- standing the body of concepts, hypotheses, and perspectives which have been formulated to explain the emergence and growth of cities, the external and internal macro sociological structuring of cities, the social consequences of city life, and the social interventions and polices needed to address urban problems.

  • URB STD 921-001 Seminar: Research Methods in Urban Studies , Fall 2023
    Instructor: Joel Rast (
    This is a primarily qualitative research methods course that focuses on methodologies most often used in the field of urban studies. Key themes will include sociology of knowledge, research design, field research and interviewing techniques, qualitative data analysis, community-based participatory research, content anal- ysis, comparative/historical research, and case studies. Appropriate for master’s and PhD students from Urban Studies, Sociology, Geography, Political Science, and History with an interest in qualitative meth- ods and urban affairs. Course readings will both illustrate methodological themes and approaches and il- luminate key topics of interest in urban studies. For syllabus, contact Prof. Joel Rast (

  • URB STD 945-001 The Internal Structure of the City , Spring 2024
    Instructor: Anne Bonds (
    The original name of this course – The Internal Structure of the City – comes from 20th century urban and economic geographic theories of urban spatial structure. Geographers working in this vein examined both the “internal” and “external” structure of cities to understand urbanization and urban form. “External” examinations focused on links among cities and the development of larger urban systems, while “internal” approaches considered patterns and processes occurring within cities. This approach to studying cities was especially prevalent during Anglo-American geography’s ‘quantitative revolution’, when spatial scientists modeled, quantified, and mapped urban structure, focusing on particularly on urban markets and land use. The title of the course, then, refers to a particular epistemological approach to studying ‘the urban,’ one that has been significantly contested by critical urban scholars, who focus on cities as sites everyday life, of difference, struggle, and geographically uneven development shaped by relations of power and unequal access to resourcesI retain the title as a foil: an epistemological contrast to the approach we will develop this semester, one that understands the city as lived and embodied space, made and remade through socio-spatial relations. We will consider the production of urban space through political economic, social, and cultural forces. In particular, we will critically consider knowledge production about ‘the urban’ and the ways in which social difference is both produced through and productive of capitalist urbanization. We will develop a framework that considers urban processes as produced through a range of scales. With our focus on housing and justice, we start from the premise that “Freedom as a Place” as emphasize by Ruth Wilson Gilmore. Just as places are enacted, imagined, and contest so too are struggles for justice and freedom. We will draw from the urban humanities - an interdisciplinary field drawing from the humanities, geography, planning, and design - to develop a lens of spatial justice, within which “inquiries are centered on the micro settings of everyday life” (Cuff, et al). We will also participate as community researchers in the Mapping Racism and Resistance in Milwaukee County (MRR-MKE) Project, which examines and maps restrictive housing covenants and resistance to them in Milwaukee County. This course includes several guest lectures from Dr. Derek Handley (UWM English & Urban Studies) to expand our interdisciplinary focus and learn more about the rhetorical construction of place.

  • URB STD 979-001 Qualitative Research Methods , Fall 2023
    Instructor: Esther Chan (
    Qualitative methodologies are one of the key methodologies of the social sciences. In this course, you will become familiar with a variety of qualitative methods, including and not limited to methodologies such as ethnography, participant observation, and in-depth interviewing. We will evaluate key empirical works that have utilized these methodologies and consider the logic and limit of each method. This course will also include hands-on assignments to begin building a sociological practice of qualitative methods. We will also consider the ethics of qualitative methods as well as practical approaches to managing qualitative data.