Cities - Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles & Somerville

Mapping Stories of the City

This page is the syllabus outline for my Fall 2015 class at Tufts. For my previous teaching history, please see the teaching summary page.

Mapping Stories of the City

Tufts Environmental Studies Program, Special Topics / Fall 2015 Co-sponsored by Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service

Course ENV 195-1, Mon/Wed 3-4:15 , fulfills Tracks I and III for Environmental Studies major; also fulfills Urban Studies minor and UEP graduate course credit

What makes a city thrive? What role does community play in urban vitality? We explore these questions by reading essays on urban planning, viewing films, and reading fiction and nonfiction about city life after World War II. The aim of this course is to demystify some of the political and economic policies that have shaped the racial, social, and environmental characteristics of four US cities, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and Somerville, Massachusetts. We will pay particular attention to ideas of community-making and environmental justice. As part of this, students will engage with Somerville community members to create an interactive neighborhood map for the final project; hands-on work with visual mapping tools will be a key part of the class.

Each of the literary texts reflects a flashpoint in American urban life since World War II. They delve into the effects of 1950s-60s urban renewal and race segregation; 1950s-70s middle-class white flight and the problem of a “decaying” social urban center; city sprawl; and present-day trend for urban living among young professionals. We will consider themes of community identity and urban revitalization and learn about economic shifts post-World War II and their effects on urban demographics in these four cities. By the end of the semester, you will have a better grasp of the social and economic forces that have shaped major US cities today. You will also have a more nuanced understanding about the relationship between the discourse of community and the politics of community building through direct community engagement.

Required Texts:

Other assigned readings will be available on the Trunk class website.

Assignment 1: Personal Mapping Project

You will create a personal map of the community most familiar to you, your home and its surroundings, by using Social Explorer and Google maps. We will have a research session that will familiarize you with this application and with the resources available for developing your map. You will be expected to integrate the key planning concepts that you learn over the first half of the semester. More information about the breakdown of work and expectations is on the assignment sheet.

Assignment 2: Somerville Mapping Project

This will be your second mapping project and will begin with a library research session about half way through the semester. Building on the mapping skills from the first assignment, students will create a map and website about Somerville with a specific theme informed by our class topics. During and outside of class time, you will have the opportunity to meet Somerville community stakeholders and urban planners to help develop ideas for your map.

Community Partners for Somerville Mapping Project include: City of Somerville Historic Preservation Commission, Mystic River Watershed Association, Somerville Community Corporation, and    GroundWork Somerville.

* * *

Please note: schedule and readings subject to change

Week 1

Introduction to course; we discuss the language and history of urban development after World War II and practice our first mapping exercise.

Week 2

Race and Class Borders

Readings due: Jon C. Teaford, The Metropolitan Revolution: Introduction and Chapter 1 “1945”; Langston Hughes, “Harlem” (1951); Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun, Acts 1 and 2

Related Links:

Week 3

Red-lining, Contract Sales, and the Politics of Sentiment

Readings Due: The Metropolitan Revolution Ch. 2, “Reinforcing the Status Quo”; A Raisin in the Sun, Act 3

Class materials: Woodlawn Block Club Council papers 1958-1960 (from the Chicago Public Library Special Collections), Hansberry’s personal recollection of violence (from the Lorraine Hansberry Papers at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture),

Related Links:

Week 4

Urban Renewal, the Discourse of Blight and Gentrification

Readings Due: The Metropolitan Revolution, Ch 3 “Coming Apart”; Clybourne Park; Public Radio Marketplace’s Highland series.

Related Links:

Week of 5

1970s-1980s White Flight, Urban Core, and Boston Busing

Readings Due: All Souls; The Metropolitan Revolution, Ch 4, “The Debacle”; Jeanne Theoharis “ ‘They Told Us Our Kids Were Stupid’: Ruth Batson and the Educational Movement in Boston,” Groundwork (2005)

Due: Personal Mapping Project

Field Trip: Urban Geography, Somerville Tour 1

Related Links:

Week 6

Urban Renaissance, Somerville

Readings due: J. Jacobs “The Conditions for City Diversity” from The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961); J. Wolch, “Green Urban Worlds,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers (2007); “Somervision,” City of Somerville Masterplan.

Related Links:

Week 7

Actors in Urban Planning and Community Engagement

*Guest Speaker, Urban Planner and Architect

Students participate in a “community” charrette, outlining their visions for future Somerville changes

Field Trip: “Wicked” Somerville Tour 2

Week 8

Library Session, Multimedia Mapping and Somerville Website Research

Readings Due: Students research 3 local websites showcasing changes to and/or current events about Somerville, may include nonprofits.

Related Links:

Week 9

Los Angeles, America’s City of the Future?

Readings Due: The Metropolitan Revolution, Ch 5 “The New Metropolitan World”; Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange (1997); R. Weinstein, “The First American City” in The City

Related Links:

Week 10

Global City, LA

Readings: A. J. Scott, “High-Technology Industrial Development in the San Fernando Valley” in The City, Saskia Sassen, Ch 1 and 2 from Cities in a World Economy (2012); chapters from Frederick Mayer Interpreting NAFTA (1998) and The Cultures of Globalization (1998) edited by Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi.

Week 11

New Economy, Environmental Justice, and Urban Space

Readings Due: D. Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (2012); J. Agyeman, “Introducing Just Sustainabilities” from Introducing Just Sustainabilities (2013)

Related Links:

Week 12

NIMBY: Transit-Oriented Development, Open Space, and the Language of Affordability

Readings: TBA

Related Links:

Week 13

Somerville Mapping and Website Project Due. Students present final project.