Urban Community

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Syllabus (pdf)

Course Description: Do local communities and neighborhoods still matter in an increasingly global and technologically-advanced world? If so, how? This class considers these and other related questions. We will consider patterns of neighborhood difference and spatial inequality, and we’ll discuss whether and how neighborhoods influence the lives of residents in the present and into the future. We will draw on various sociological perspectives in our attempt to explain why neighborhood inequalities arise. Then, we will consider how community processes structure both neighborhood and individual outcomes. Finally, we will consider the major threats to “community” in the broadest sense – including segregation, poverty, urban sprawl, and gentrification – as well as some of the facilitators of stronger communities – such as walkability and the preservation of public spaces.

Seattle is currently undergoing rapid growth and development. The major assignment in the course (inspired by Daniel Sullivan) asks students grapple with that growth by researching recent changes in a local Seattle neighborhood and comparing that neighborhood to the city as a whole. In doing so, students ground the broader theoretical perspectives and concepts from class in their local, community context.

Students presented the results of their neighborhood projects, and they did excellent work. Check out the slide shows they prepared in small groups (.pdf):

This course was originally taught at the University of Washington by Pete Guest. I’ve borrowed liberally from Amy Spring in the current iteration of the class, focusing primarily on the role that place plays in our increasingly “placeless” world.