The Subject and the City

This seminar then takes as its premise that a history and theory of the city cannot be known without an accompanying history and theory of the urban dweller.  We will begin by interrogating the subject—the urban dweller as subject and the city as subject. We will interrogate the subject not as a transcendental universal consciousness but as a body and being co-produced by urban social environments. The city then is positioned as a key component in the modern project concerning the “culturation of the self.” Drawing initially on theories of subjectivity articulated by Bourdieu and Foucault, we will examine these culturations of the self by articulating a theory of reflexive spatial practice and continue on by studying the encounters between various forms of identity—such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and class—and the various forms of urbanism.


Although the topics covered are broad, we will reflect on examples of North American urban conditions in throughout the twentieth century. We will seek to complicate certain dichotomous relationships, such as subject/object and urban/rural, in efforts to reveal the range of complications linking people and places. In this way, the course offers a general perspective on the co-production of subjectivities and cities while more specifically focusing on aspects of modern American urbanism.

Fall 2016: University of Michigan; Spring 2015, Spring 2014, Fall 2013: Harvard University.