History | Seminar in Cultural History
H780 | 6642 | Wasserstrom

Topic:  Urban Cultures, East and West

This course is designed to introduce students to some of the main
debates within urban history and the general interdisciplinary field
of urban studies, and to guide them through the creation of a
research paper on a topic in this area.  Readings will include
several recent books about specific cities (Los Angeles, Paris and
Shanghai); a pair of books on the cities of specific countries
(Britain and China); and a collection of short pieces by leading
figures in urban studies, past and present.  The questions we will
address will include: How are the dilemmas posed by trying to do
justice to the history of a big and complex city similar to and
different from those posed by trying to justice to the history of a
nation?  Does the distinction that is sometimes drawn
between “social” and “cultural” history help or hinder efforts to
come to terms with the literature on modern cities?  How do
approaches to urban issues within different national
historiographies differ?  How does one do justice to the often very
disparate ways in which members of different genders, generations,
social classes or ethnic groups experience the same city?  And how
have cities – and the ways they have been studied by historians –
changed between the 1800s and the present?  Though most of the
readings will focus on either North American, Western European or
Chinese cities, students will be free to write their research papers
on urban centers located in any part of the world.