Urban Geography [CRN 27350]

Discipline: Geography
Instructor: Smith
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 13:40
End: 15:00
Field Work: Day 4 | February 13, 2017 | Vietnam
Prerequisites: One (1) introductory geography course Download Syllabus

This course provides an introduction to urban geography as it can be observed in the era of globalization, exploring the complex relationships between people and the cities they inhabit. Most of the cities we shall study are destinations on our SAS voyage in Spring 2017. For each of the cities in the syllabus, a combination of readings, lectures, films and field trips are designed to explore specific cities and the regions and countries in which they are located. We shall be asking a series of questions as we travel, 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 do 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.


Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • 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 rapidly 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: Vietnam
Day: 4
Date: February 13, 2017

The field class will include a visit to and a lecture at the urban planning office of Ho Chi Minh City, to assess some of the most significant problems associated with the city’s rapid rate of economic and demographic growth over the last two decades. A briefing at the United States Consulate will also be scheduled (perhaps before we depart the ship) to inform students on current events and major economic concerns in contemporary Vietnam. With the help of our local tour guides we shall also visit a sample of the noteworthy sites in the HCMC area: either the War Remnants Museum, or a trip down the Mekong River to see and experience some of the economic development projects on the urban fringe.

Learning Objectives:
1. To assess and analyze some of the problems and prospects associated with urban and economic development in the Ho Chi Minh City region as a result of the Vietnamese economic reform movement.