Spring 2021 - URB 620 G100

Urban Communities and Cultures (4)

Class Number: 4595

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 5:30 PM – 9:20 PM

    5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 1700, Vancouver

    5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 1700, Vancouver



This course is an introduction to the anthropological and sociological study of complex urban societies in comparative perspective. It includes study of anthropological and sociological approaches to urbanization, the nature of the city as a social system, and urban communities and cultures.


This course will explore the social construction of lives, cultures and communities in urban and suburban settings.  Its point of departure is provided by recent ethnographic investigations that seek to take account of not only the structural features of cities, but also the varying everyday practices that people devise in attempts to shape more or less satisfying lives within complex locales.  A continuing search for identity, sociality and community lies at the heart of urban and suburban experiences, juxtaposed to the mundane tasks of obtaining livelihoods and making homes.  The broad but critical definitions of "community" and of "culture" to be developed in this course oblige us to take account of the processes by which individual lives may be reconciled with participation in formal and informal groups, including occupational, residential, lifestyle, life-cycle, gendered, ethnic and recreational communities.  

The reading materials for this course combine contemporary anthropological and sociological theories of urban lives, cultures and communities with ethnographic accounts drawn from cities and suburbs around the world.

The reading materials for this course combine contemporary anthropological and sociological theories of urban lives, cultures and communities with ethnographic accounts drawn from cities and suburbs around the world.

NB: There may be provision for two in-person sessions to be held. If so, it will still be possible for those unable to attend such in-person meetings to complete the course satisfactorily.

Planned Face-to-Face Activities
Two face-to face activities are planned for this course, on March 8 and 15.
Students should consider these plans and dates as tentative and subject to confirmation by the instructor in the syllabus (which students will receive on the first day of classes) as well as subject to any provincial public health restrictions in effect at the time.


  • Seminar participation 25%
  • Ethnographic observation exercise 5%
  • Group class presentations 25%
  • Term paper 45%



Eric Klinenberg (2018) Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civil Life. New York: Crown.

*This book is readily available for purchase online in paperback or as an ebook.

Most of the remaining required readings for the course are journal articles which can be accessed through the Electronic Journals selection on the SFU Library website. A few other items are available as electronic resources or Reserve Desk readings through the SFU Library.

The instructor will provide additional suggestions concerning supplementary reading.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/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


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).