The Suburbs: Divided We Sprawl
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Department: Social Sciences
Course Number: NANT 2629
Course Format: Lecture
Permission Required: No
- Social Sciences
- Urban Studies
With housing developments bordering dairy farms, office parks adjoining urban centers, and New Urbanism projects flanking strip malls, it is difficult to demarcate suburban, urban, and rural. In their article, “Divided We Sprawl,” Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley suggest that we shed these divides and imagine ourselves as part of a metropolitan whole. At stake are not just interrelated problems of transportation, housing, education, food, jobs, and the environment. With “frantic privacy” winning out over “spontaneous public life,” what becomes of our ability to mingle in crowds, encounter difference, and collectively tackle societal problems? In this course, we explore history, culture, politics, and design of metropolitan centers, from the vantage point of the suburbs. Beginning with the origin of the Anglo-American suburb in Britain and its colonies in the 18th-century, we work our way to contemporary debates over gated communities and New Urbanist developments, both in the United States and abroad. We examine tensions between “public” and “private” in spaces ranging from living rooms and lawns to highways and malls. Readings include historical texts, ethnographic accounts, sociological commentaries, popular culture parodies, and period films. Student projects will further explore these issues through an in-depth examination of a suburb of their own choosing.