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Based on the detailed reading of five ethnographic monographs, this subject considers the peculiar problems of studying the intimacy of social life in urban contexts and amid serious conflict and dislocation. Examples are taken from a range of contexts such as southern Europe, southeast Asia, Japan, and Latin America, and students are invited to discuss Australian and other examples familiar to them. The course considers issues such as the impact of urban life on rural migrants; the effects of gentrification and other forms of class discrimination; the sacred forms underlying secular urban spaces; the problems of cultural interaction and historic conservation in densely populated spaces; and the relation between capital cities and their respective nation-states. Written work is focused on careful reading of the ethnographic examples and on students’ skills in comparing cases and understanding the significance of the urban as a distinctive kind of context.
Intended learning outcomes
On successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
- demonstrate a thorough understanding of how anthropology addresses the urban condition and why its approach differs from those of other social sciences;
- critically inspect ethnographic works addressing the concept of the urban (and of associated manners and values) and the relevance of such work for assessing the dynamics of everyday life in cities;
- discuss and analyse the particular features of urban conflict, including forms of conflict based on class and race, and relate these areas of contention to spatial form and land use;
- offer intellectually coherent explanations of culturally specific uses of urban space as well as of the economic and other pressures that constrain and distort such cultural forms;
- evaluate anthropological writings about cities and situate them in their appropriate theoretical frameworks; and
- discuss relevant ideas in writing and in oral presentation, showing a clear understanding of the requirements of both academic and public discourse (and the relevance of both for city life).
Last updated: 5 December 2019