Special Topics: Global Cities, Utopia, and the Environment

JSIS 478

Are cities utopias or dystopias? How is the city increasingly figuring in the cultural landscape? Is the city the nation-state of the future? This class looks at the concept of utopia/dystopia through the lens of the city and environmental sustainability as practiced by urban food cooperatives. We become cultural anthropologists examining the interplay between the city landscape as both booming cultural and economic center, as a place that fulfills human needs and dreams (utopia), but also as a nightmare that forever portends to engulf us by traffic, noise, development and crowded spaces (dystopia). Using cultural tools (for example, popular films) as evidence, we try to make sense of the city in all its permutations. Students are encouraged to bring their own cultural experiences with cities into the discussion. Class combines lecture, group work and discussion in this exploration. There will be short writing assignments, two quizzes and a choice between a take-home final exam or a final project examining an utopia found in culture (book, movie, etc.).