Spring 2013

PGUD5005: Urban Theory Lab

Tuesdays 12:10 to 2:50
66 5th ave. Room 600F
Instructor: Jesse Goldstein
Email: Jesseg1026 at g m a i l
Cell: 610 405 3972
Hours: by appointment

Municipal governments – New York City’s amongst them – have increasingly come to recognize that they are at the ‘frontlines’ of climate change, and that the social reproduction of their inhabitants likely depends on proper management.  But who will do the managing? Who will be managed? And what will these new projects look like? For every apocalyptic vision of an interminable crisis, there is a utopian vision of a better (greener) possible world. In our seminar, we will look closely at this ever-shifting terrain of crisis, struggle, and hope: impending sea level rises and visions of local food systems; Extreme heat and participatory democracy; Valuing nature while discarding surplus humanity; Tactical urbanism and carceral capitalism. Climate change has reignited a sense that other worlds are possible – that they have to be possible; we have produced a planetary nature that threatens our everyday sense of normalcy, and something, some people, some places, will have to give.

About the Lab:

noun, often attributive \ˈla-b(ə-)rə-ˌtȯr-ē sometimes ˈla-bə(r)-ˌ 
or lə-ˈbȯr-ə-ˌ, British usually lə-ˈbär-ə-t(ə-)rē\
1 a : a place equipped for experimental study in a science or 
for testing and analysis; broadly : a place providing opportunity 
for experimentation, observation, or practice in a field of study
  b : a place like a laboratory for testing, experimentation, or practice
2: an academic period set aside for laboratory work

In this seminar we will take the concept of a theory ‘lab’ at its word, and engage in a collective process of exploration and experimentation. Instead of producing and then excavating a canon of radical urban theory, or ‘surveying the field’ in some superficial gesture towards comprehensive breadth, we will work with/on/through a selection of social theories – some more radical than others, some more urban than others – in the pursuit of new, generative approaches to the practice of design and urban ecology. In other words, this course is not intended to help you bank superficial knowledge, or to proclaim that indeed, you know what so-and-so said.  We are working towards building a better world.

The complexity of urban life will, I hope, be reflected in the complexity of our investigation. However, this also means that the course is messy, by intention. Some weeks focus on specific topics (gentrification, financialization, etc.) while others attempt to tie a few themes together with a more conceptual thread (everyday life, waste management, marginality, etc.). In addition, each week two participants will help us work through a more mainstream text that offers proposals of one form or another for envisioning a green economy. As the semester unfolds, we will try to reconcile our theoretical practice with/against/beyond these mainstream discourses; something like an alchemical approach to green urbanism.


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