Fall 2015 - HIST 486 D100

Studies in History II (4)

Class Number: 6716

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2015: Wed, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



Special topics.


Urban Imaginaries *

“Sire, now I have told you about all the cities I know.”
“There is still one of which you never speak.”
Marco Polo bowed his head.
“Venice,” the Khan said.
Marco Smiled. What else do you believe I have been talking about?”
The emperor did not turn a hair. “And yet I have never heard you mention that name.”
And Polo said: “Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.”
        -  Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

 In Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, a fictional Marco Polo describes his native Venice as being at once unique among cities, and sharing something with all cities. Indeed, every city has its own story, its own spaces and places, its own social dynamics and historical trajectory. At the same time, individual cities must also be thought of in terms of their innumerable connections to other cities around the world, links that over the past two hundred years have been defined by the transnational flows of people, goods and ideas. Drawing on the notion of ‘urban imaginaries,’ this course will explore how urban dwellers relate to and represent the cities in which they live. What role do cities play in the drama of modern history? Exploring urban centres from the nineteenth century to the present day, we will discuss the way large-scale processes like globalisation, industrialisation, migration, neoliberalism and colonialism have, and continue to shape the way individuals imagine, perceive, and feel at home in the material, tangible urban environments that frame their everyday lives. We will examine these questions in settings throughout the world, and from a variety of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives. Meeting at Harbour Centre, we will also have the opportunity to leave the classroom and reflect on the ways in which these themes play out right in downtown Vancouver.  

* NB. This is a preliminary outline. Course content is subject to change, and a definitive syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class. For additional information, please contact me at nicolas.kenny@sfu.ca.


  • Seminar participation and presentations 25%
  • Group walking tour 20%
  • Urban biography 10%
  • Major research paper 45%



The following books have been ordered through the SFU bookstore. Titles marked with an asterisk are available for free in electronic format via the SFU library catalogue:

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (Harcourt Brace, 1978)

Brian Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998)*

Marc Matera, Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonisation in the Twentieth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015)*

Katharyne Mitchell, Crossing the Neoliberal Line: Pacific Rim Migration and the Metropolis (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004)

Additional materials will be made available through Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html