SE International urban studies revisited


Links: TISS 280.299, TUWEL

SE Seminar (Advances Masters‘ & PhD)/ Semester hours: 2.0 / ECTS: 3.0

Aim of course

This seminar series is offered by an international team to advanced master students (and doctoral students) with an interest in urban studies (“Stadtforschung”), with the overall aim of providing an opportunity for the participants to discuss their master thesis (PhD thesis) work as additional support in the development of their research approaches, methods and theories. The course is organized through informal group discussions of the students’ research projects which will be enriched by three overall topics related to planning/design and urban development theory. In particular, the seminar aims to help the students critically review texts, clarify positions, and receive constructive feedback on their own research projects, their aims, objectives, concepts and methods; learn about a range of theories and methods in urban research; develop the capacity for and engage in critical assessment of similar research projects; develop a friendly and supportive group of researchers who can benefit from knowing about each other’s work during the seminars and even afterwards.

Contemporary urban theory has developed apace over the last decade to consider the complex urban processes and issues that have risen as a result of globalisation, economic restructuring, socio-demographic shifts, neoliberal political agendas, migration, and growing concerns on the environment amongst many other salient issues. Urban studies now concerns itself also with new theoretical agendas which focus on questions of city materialities, mobilites, economies, differences, cultures, affect and politics making it an increasingly fascinating and stimulating field of study. Further, there is a growing interest in cities of the Global South, which has also led to new ways of analysing the cities of the Global North which have been better represented in urban analysis to date. The seminar will have a particular emphasis on urban culture and public space, but contributions on other subjects are eligible. Advanced master students (and doctoral students) at any stage of their work from architecture, spatial planning, and more widely from social sciences and humanities, who are researching into urban issues are welcome to attend.

Subject of course

The seminars will be interactive, delivered through several concentrated blocks in the winter semester. After a general introduction, the students will each be allocated a 90-minute slot, in which their work is discussed in the group by the seminar tutors and other students. The students will prepare a text of 5-10 pages about their research and upload it on the course website at least one week in advance, so that the tutors and fellow students can read it in preparation for the session. In their allocated 1-hour slot, the students first present their work (maximum 20 minutes + 40min debate), describing the subject of their research, their aims and objectives, their theoretical framework, their research methodology, and the results of their work so far. Students will be expected also to relate their research to contemporary urban theory through selected readings from the designated course text. The course, therefore, will be subdivided in three themes: Concepts (Teaching Block I, October 13), Structures (Teaching Block II, November 13) and Agency (Teaching Block III, January 14):

  • CONCEPTS (TB I) Planning/design/urban studies paradigm(s) – An overview of planning, design concepts and urban studies approaches
  • STRUCTURES (TB II) Globalization/neoliberalism/postfordism – Late capitalism and the making of cities and cityscapes
  • AGENCIES (TB III) Insurgency/Insurgent Planning/Counter public space – Forms of civic practice as counterhegemonic resistance

The tutors and fellow students will then engage in a discussion about these points with the students, helping to clarify and develop the concepts and methods of the research project. The nature of the seminars is developmental, designed to help the students with constructive feedback. Furthermore, the students will benefit from the range of issues that are covered and discussed. The development of a friendly group atmosphere is an essential part of the course, and so it is important that all participants attend all the sessions and engage in supportive discussion of one another’s work.

Additional Information

Depending on the number of interested master (and PhD) students, applicants might be asked to hand in an abstract of their research project in order to select up to 10 seminar participants.

The seminar will be held within teaching blocks in October and November 2013 and January 2014. Course language is English. Students that did not yet start to work on their thesis projects but seek advice on how to initiate this final career step are welcome as well.

Examination modalities

The students’ performance will be assessed in a twofold way:


  • Plausibility, clarity of individual thesis project presentation according to individual working stage of master/PhD projects (initial, intermediate or advanced thesis stage; master or PhD candidate). (20%)
  • Connection between empirical enquiry and theoretical work (20%)
  • Formulation of research title, question and hypothesis, framing of research approach and translation of the latter into methodological steps (20%)


  • Preparation of respective course readings (both bibliography and colleagues’ texts) (20%)
  • Participation in debate and feedback to other colleagues (20%)