Urban Geography [CRN 31311]

Discipline: Geography
Instructor: Burnett
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 0800
End: 0920
Field Work: Day 1 | January 24, 2019 | Japan
Prerequisites: One (1) introductory geography course Download Syllabus

This course is an introduction to urban geography as it can be observed in the era of globalization. It uses a geographic perspective to understand cities, and the economic, political, social and cultural processes that shape them. The class addresses two major areas. First, the historical development, internal structures, basic urban functions, and a range of contemporary issues such as suburbanization, inequality, housing, gentrification, and homelessness in both developed and developing world cities. Second, the notion of ‘global cities’ and the transformations that the relationship between urbanization and globalization have brought to cities around the world.

Most of the cities we shall study are destinations on our SAS voyage in Spring 2019. For each of the cities on our itinerary, we shall be asking a series of questions, including:

  • How has the city evolved through time?
  • How is it organized spatially and what plans have emerged to shape its future?
  • How do its residents make a living, and what problems do they regularly encounter?
  • How and how well is the city integrated into the global economy?
  • What are the prospects for enhancing its economic status in the regional and global economy?

We shall pay particular attention to the way each city has (or does not have) a specific and unique ethos or spirit that makes it immune to the homogenizing forces of cultural and economic globalization. We shall look closely at geographical and social inequalities: how they begin, why they persist over time, and what can be done to redistribute wealth more equitably. In particular, we shall be focusing on the role that urbanization has to play in the reduction of poverty and inequality in each city and region we visit, investigating the fine line that exists between the ‘benefits’ and ‘costs’ of rapid urbanization. One of the ‘costs’ we shall be looking at, for example, involves the environmental impacts of rapid urban growth, measured in terms of ecological degradation, as well as the implications for human health and safety. Finally, and crucially, we shall be immersing ourselves into some of the methods and tactics used by urban residents — acting as individuals and in social movements — who are trying to resist and adapt to the powerful and often irreversible forces of economic and political globalization.

Learning Outcomes

  • describe and interpret critically the theories and research practices of urban geography
  • identify what it is that makes a specific city unique in the face of economic and cultural globalization forces
  • evaluate the ‘costs’ and ‘benefits’ that occur as a result of rapid urbanization
  • appreciate the workings of the global economy and the way different cities respond to and manage the demands of an increasingly inter-connected world
  • understand the extent to which individuals and groups in specific cities are able to resist the dominant forces of economic and cultural globalization.

Field Work

Country: Japan
Day: 1
Date: January 24, 2019

Field excursion to the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution, the Kobe Disaster Memorial Park, and the Arima Historical Retreat and Spa.

During this field experience students will visit, first, the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution, otherwise known as the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum, where they will see exhibits and experience realistic, multimedia recreations of the earthquake, as well as meet survivors of the earthquake. Second, the students will visit the Kobe Disaster Memorial Park, a preserved section of the city showing damage that occurred along the waterfront of Kobe. After discussing and observing the dangerous and negative destruction caused by plate tectonics activity, the day will end with a visit to the hot springs at the Arima Historical Retreat and Spa. This is one of the oldest, continually used hot springs in Japan. The hot springs result from magmatic activity that heats the local ground water and enriches it with minerals.

Learning Objectives:
1. Discover how the Great Hanshin Earthquake (1995) impacted the city of Kobe.
2. Learn how physical geography-geology shapes cities in Japan.
3. Gain a sense of how the people of Kobe live and adapt to such powerful geologic forces.