Fall 2020

Racism and the City

Listed in: Anthropology and Sociology, as SOCI-209  |  Architectural Studies, as ARCH-207  |  Black Studies, as BLST-319

Moodle site: Course


Utku B. Balaban (Section 01)


(Offered as SOCI 209, ARCH 207 and BLST 319) Defying the hopes of many for the future of democracy, cities continue to be the hotbed of racial oppression, exploitation, and injustice in the United States. In this course, we will focus on this connection and discuss the alternatives.

The first theme of the course is the intellectual origins of structural racism in urban theory. The redefinition of racism in the early twentieth century as a predominantly urban phenomenon happened at the same time as (if not as a result of) the foundation of urban sociology in the United States that implicitly justifies racial stratification as a “natural” component of “urban ecology.”

The second theme is the role of U.S. urban planning and policymaking in structural racism. The formation and transformation of urban spaces and institutions such as suburbs, the highway system, the police force, and homeowner associations account for a complex matrix that keeps both the illusion of legal equality and the reality of social inequality intact.

The third theme is urban resistance against structural racism. Both well-known and mostly forgotten incidents, such as the protests in the Watts region of Los Angeles or the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, and the global demonstrations about the death of George Floyd inform us about the actors of urban collective action in the post-WWII context. We will embark on studying the literature concerning social movements to relate these instances to a broader discussion about how urban resistance could both facilitate and contain anti-racist mobilization.

Last, we will focus on the urban elements in alternative political, intellectual, and artistic visions and practices such as the African American communal experiences, separatism, and Afrofuturism. In this section, the goal is to develop ideas collectively about anti-racist urban political action and policymaking in the years to come.

Fall semester.  Visiting Associate Professor Balaban.


Attention to Issues of Race, Online Only


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2021