Third World Urbanization
(City and Regional Planning: CRP 474/674)

Ben Kohl
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York, USA

Fall 2000


(See below for Ben Kohl's Comments On Teaching This Course).

Course Description
This course explores trends in urbanization, focusing on Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. We first look at the nature of cities and explore different theoretical approaches to understanding cities and urbanization. We ground the theoretical issues through an examination of Brasilia, one of the models of modernist development, and compare it with other cities around the world. We then examine a range of topics that include how a city’s design affects the social lives, how global economic systems affect cities, how urban social movements have responded to economic and cultural globalization, and how global trends in decen tralization affect residents of cities around the world. During the second half of the semester we read texts selected by students that are relevant to their research projects.

During the second half of the semester students will chose readings which reflect their research interests, to complement the assigned texts.
Readings include a number of articles in addition to the following texts:
David Clark
Urban World/Global City
Lisa Peattie
Planning: Rethinking Ciudad Guayana
James Holston
The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia, 1989
David A. Smith
Third World Cities in Global Perspective, 1996 (optional)

Requirements and Evaluation
You must attend class and participate in discussions. I expect you to read and think about the texts before class and have assigned a number of reading responses to ensure that you read closely. I have assigned a number of intermediate assignments - abstract or problem statement, annotated bibliography or literature review -- that will help you prepare the final paper. As I believe that any piece of writing should undergo a number of drafts and that learning to read critically the work of others helps develop writing skills, I require you to turn in a draft of your paper for peer review. I do not expect you to act as a copy editor or write a paper for a fellow student; I do, however, expect you to critically engage the ideas of your peers. The final evaluation serves as an opportunity for you to reflect on the semester as well as for me to improve the course. Your final grade will be based on the following criteria.

25% attendance and participation in discussions
25% a research project
  • problem statement due Oct. 2
  • draft due Nov. 20
  • final paper due Dec. 4

  • undergraduate students: 2-3000 words
    graduate students: 3-4000 words
15% annotated bibliography or a literature review (due Oct. 23)
10% presentations of readings and research results
10% weekly reading responses (3-600 words)
10% peer review of a research paper or case study (due Nov. 27)
5% final evaluation of the class (due Nov. 27)


(Week 1, August 28)
What is urbanization and how can we study it? Why study cities in low- and middle- income countries? What is urbanization and how does it differ in richer and poorer countries? Is there a ‘natural’ form that cities should take? How do events in Los Angeles shape cities in Brazil?
  • Niccolo Machiavelli, "The Prince and the Discourses," pp. 19-21, in Abu-Lughod and Hay, Third World Urbanization
  • Frederich Engels "The Great Towns," pp. 46-57, from the Condition of the Working Class, in Richard LeGates and Frederic Stout, The City Reader, 1996
  • Edward Soja, "It all comes together in LA," in Postmodern Geographies, 1989
  • David Clark, "Global Patterns and Perspectives," pp. 1-11, Urban World/Global City, 1996
  • Janet Abu-Lughod and Richard Hay, Jr., "Introduction," pp. 1-13, in Third World Urbanization, 1977
  • James Holston, "Blueprint Utopia," pp. 31-41, in The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia, 1989
  • Kevin Lynch, "What is the Form of a City and How Is It Made?" pp. 37-50 in Good City Form, 1981

(Week 2, September 4)
Clark’s short book serves as a good introduction to study cities within a global context. We will discuss the major issues and use La Paz, Bolivia, a capital city in a peripheral country, as an example.
  • David Clark, Urban World/Global City, 1996
  • David A. Smith, Third World Cities in Global Perspective, pp. 1-45 (optional), 1996
Reading response, 250 words. Do not restate the reading but use it to help frame a question that you will bring to the discussion. You may use this assignment as an opportunity to introduce yourself to the class and let us know what questions you would like to address during the semester. Post your response to the course website and bring three copies to class.

(Week 3, September 11)
A number of different theoretical approaches can be used to understand urbanization. This week’s readings reflect a range of these approaches. One challenge for the class will be to apply some of these approaches to the study of cities outside of North America and Europe. A second challenge will be to link theories based on the analysis of global systems to specific cities.
  • David Harvey, "Contested Cities: Social process and spatial form," pp. 19-27, in N. Jewson and S. McGregor, eds., Transforming Cities: Contested Governance and New Spatial Divisions, 1997
  • John Browder and Brian Godfrey, "Theoretical Perspectives on Frontier Urbanization: Toward an Urban Systems Approach," pp. 20-54, in Rainforest Cities, Urbanization, Development, and Globalization of the Brazilian Amazon, 1997
  • Michael Leaf, "Habitat II and the Globalization of Ideas," pp. 71-78, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 17, 1998
  • Smith, Third World Cities, pp. 39-46, pp. 47-168 (optional)
  • Edward Soja, "Metropolis in Crisis," pp. 95-116, in Postmetropolis: Critical Studies in Cities and Regions, 2000
  • Michael Dear, "Introduction," pp. 1-9, and "Taking Los Angeles Seriously," pp. 10-24, in The Postmodern Urban Condition, 2000
  • Reread Lynch from week 1
Reading response.

(Week 4, September 18)
Cities are not twentieth century inventions. This week we retrace our steps and look at the growth of cities through the 19th century. We see that many of the earliest ‘global’ cities -- Beijing, Cairo, Istanbul, and Cuzco -- are in what is now considered the developing world. Many cities in developing countries were built as part of European colonial expansion.
  • James C. Scott, Chapter 2. "Cities, People, and Language," pp. 53-83, in Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, 1998
  • Jacques Gernet, "Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion: 1250-1276," in Abu-Lughod and Richard Hay, eds.
  • Dora Crouch, Daniel Garr, and Axel Mundigo, "City Planning Ordinances of the Laws of the Indies," pp. 1-47, in Spanish City Planning in North America, 1982
  • Henri Pirenne, "City Origins and Cities and European Civilization," pp. 37-45 in Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout, The City Reader, [1925] 1996
  • Eric Wolf, "The World in 1400," pp. 24-73, in Europe and the People without History, 1982 (optional)
  • Recommended: Gordon Childe, "The Urban Revolution," pp. 20-30, in LeGates and Stout

(Week 5, September 25)
In some places, the design and construction of cities in developing countries has taken the form of monumental architecture. In Latin America, Ciudad Guayana and Brasilia were both constructed as civilizing, nation-building projects. These cities were conceived as model western cities to be built in the wilderness. In both cases, the visions of the planners and architects were not compatible with the economic and social needs of many of the cities’ residents who have actively reshaped both cities.
  • Lisa Peattie, Planning: Rethinking Ciudad Guayana, 1987
  • James Holston, "Blueprint Utopia," pp. 31-58, in The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia, 1989
  • Leaf, Michael L. "Urban Planning and Urban Reality Under Chinese Economic Reforms," Journal of Planning Education and Research, 18, pp. 145-153, 1998

(Week 6. October 2)
We use Brasilia as our case. Holston’s book serves to raise certain questions about urbanization. We complement his work with readings from cities in other parts of the world. In following weeks I will ask you to bring in material from your research projects to compare with the Brazilian experience. As Holston does not address some topics of importance -- urban environments, for example -- we deal with those separately.

One feature of a ‘modern’ city is that streets are designed for cars not for people. The implications of this type of change affect every aspect of urban life. The three readings on Brazil present different perspectives on designing transportation systems in fast growing urban areas.
  • Holston, Chapter 4, "The Death of the Street," pp. 99-144
  • Eduardo Vasconcellos, "The making of the middle class city: transportation policy in Sao Paulo," pp. 293-310, Environment and Planning, A 29
  • Meschack Khosa, "Transport and popular struggles in Africa," pp. 167-88, Antipode 27(2) 1995
  • Jonas Rabinovitch, "Innovative land use and public transport policy: the Case of Curitiba, Brazil," pp. 51-67, Land Use Policy, Vol. 13, no. 1, 1996
  • Fumihiko Saito, "A Continuing Role for Rickshaws in Dhaka, Bangladesh," pp. 281-293, Canadian Journal of Development Studies Vol. 14, No. 2, 1993
  • Amrita Daniere, "Transportation Planning and Implementation in Cities of the Third World: the Case of Bangkok," pp. 25-45, Government and Policy Vol. 13(1), 1995
  • Alan Gilbert and Josef Gugler, "The Urban-Rural Interface and Migration," pp. 62-86, in Cities, Poverty and Development: Urbanization in the Third World, 2nd ed., 1992
  • Additional readings to be assigned
Problem statement for research project.

Part II. Mid-semester Review
The mid-semester review will help us plot the course for the second half of the semester. I have included some readings and will add others, but, in general, I expect you to take an increasingly active role in shaping the remaining classes. In weeks 7-10 we will continue to parallel Holston’s book. I have, however, left room for you to contribute to the readings on these topics. In the final three weeks we will address topics to be determined by the class.

Students who have not presented readings in weeks 7-10 will work in groups to design the final classes. The group responsible for a particular class will need to meet with me and agree on readings and have a complete set of readings ready to be distributed one week in advance. (Ex. Readings for Nov. 6 must be handed out on Oct. 30. Students should define the agenda and then schedule an appointment with me the week of Oct. 23.)

Projects and case studies should be approved before break.

(Week 7, October 16)
  • Holston, "Typologies of Order, Work, and Resistance," pp. 145-96
  • Lea Jellinek, "Displaced by Modernity: The Saga of a Jakarta Street-Trader’s Family from the 1940s to the 1990s," pp. 139-155, in Josef Gugler, ed. Cities in the Developing World, 1997
  • Carole Rakodi, "Housing Markets in Third World Cities: Research and Policy in the 1990s," pp. 39-55, in World Development 20(1) 1992
  • Other readings to be assigned.

(Week 8, October 23)
  • T. H. Marshall, "Citizenship and Social Class," pp. 93-111, in Gershon Shair, ed. The Citizenship Debates, (1949) 1998
  • Holston, "Rights to the City," pp. 197-255
  • Janet Abu-Lughod, "Contemporary Relevance of the Islamic City," pp. 11-36, in Hooshang Amirahmadi and Salah S. El-Shakhs eds., Urban Development in the Muslim World, 1993
  • Other readings to be assigned.

(Week 9, October 30)
  • Holston, "Cities of Rebellion," pp. 257-88
  • Other readings to be assigned.

(Week 10, November 6)
  • Holston, "The Brazilianization of Brasilia," pp. 289-318
  • Manuel Castells and Alejandro Portes, "World Underneath: the Origins, Dynamics and Effects of the Informal Economy, in A. Portes, M. Castells, and L. Benton, The Informal Economy: Studies in Advanced and Less Developed Countries, 1989
  • Other readings to be assigned.
Assignment (optional):
Outline of research project.

(Week 11, November 13)
  • Kirk R. Smith and Yok-Shiu F. Lee, "Urbanization and the Environmental Risk Transition," pp. 161-179, in John Kasarda and Alan Parnell, Third World Cities, Problems, Policies and Prospects, 1993
  • Daniel T. Sicular, "Pockets of Peasants in Indonesian Cities: The Case of Scavengers," pp. 137-161, World Development 19(2/3) 1991
  • Other readings to be assigned.
Working draft of research project.

(Week 12, November 20)
  • Readings to be assigned.
Assignment due:
Peer review of drafts.

(Week 13, November 27)
Note: We may have to schedule an extra session to allow all students to present their work.
  • Readings to be assigned.
Papers due Dec. 4.

Comments by Ben Kohl On Teaching This Course

This course is offered as part of the graduate program in City and Regional Planning and is one of the recommended courses for the International Studies in Planning stream. The course was designed to help students understand the processes related to urbanization. The course attracts 12-18 (mostly non US) graduate students with international interests from Planning, Rural and Development Sociology, and Anthropology and is offered alternate years.

I structured the course as a seminar and required students both to write weekly reading reports and present the readings in class. We began this the first class during which, after a brief presentation, I distributed a number of short readings and divided the students into groups to discuss the material and then present their findings to the group. That exercise served to set the tone for the course. Given the diversity of the students -- two-thirds were non-native English speakers - I assumed that few students would do all the readings. To ensure the basis for discussion, students were responsible for reading the reviews posted by their peers.

I taught this course only once and would change the readings if I were to do it again for the same student body. I organized the middle section of the course around Holston's study of Brazilia, The Modernist City. The students, with little preparation in anthropology, found the book very difficult.

During the last four weeks of the semester students took responsibility for identifying and presenting readings related to their research topics.

Syllabus copyright ©2000 Ben Kohl. All rights reserved.
Permission to copy and use under "fair use" in education is granted, provided proper credit is given.