Liberal Arts and Management Program | Cities, Business and the Environment in East Asia
L416 | 13825 | Scott O'Bryan


In 2008, demographers estimated that, for the first time in human
history, more than half of the people of the world lived in cities.
Moreover, urbanization promises to continue apace in the decades to
come: Researchers forecast that 60% of the worldís population, or 5
billion people, will live in cities by 2030. It is no surprise,
perhaps, that cities are thus becoming the central focus of
contention in debates about our global economic and environmental
dilemmas. There is no doubt that in the near future they will be the
critical testing grounds for our attempts to create workable
paradigms for future human health, wealth, and happiness and for
preserving the environmental systems that sustain all life on a
planetary level. No where are the changing lives of cities--their
growing sizes, their central importance to economic dynamism, their
key to national and supra-national regional prosperity, and their
environmental challenges and successes--more manifest than in East
Asia, one of the most population dense areas on the planet and long
one of the most highly urbanized.

Taking up East Asian examples as lenses onto the broader roles of
metropolises around the world, this course will examine cities along
three axes: the shifting contexts of their historical development in
East Asia, their continuing contributions to the economic and
business lives of their larger societies and the world beyond, and
as places of deep environmental consequence, plagued by
environmental challenge, but perhaps holding the promise of feasible
long-term solutions as well. A constellation of fascinating
questions will organize our thinking across the semester: Why do
cities exist in the first place and what exactly makes a city
successful? How should urban success be measured? And why do cities
often go into steep decline and decay, sometimes quite literally,
rising and then falling? Why, moreover, do some believe, despite
their manifold environmental problems, that cities hold the key to a
sustainable future for human civilizations?

The course will make use of a wide variety of materials, including
documentary film and other visual evidence, popular feature films in
the history of East Asian cinema, and readings in the scholarly
literature of cities from a variety of perspectives, including
history, sociology, economics, anthropology, and environmental
studies. A seminar project will be required in which students report
on an East Asian city or regional grouping of cities of their
choice, analyzing the life of the city across the three dimensions
being explored in the course: historical, business and
environmental.