HUMN 2058 Urban Life/Urban Culture

Credit Points 10

Legacy Code 100291

Coordinator George Morgan Opens in new window

Description Big cities can be frantic, difficult, polluted and often dangerous places in which to live. Yet cities also contain possibilities for social and cultural stimulation not available elsewhere. This subject traces the origins and development of modern cities in all of their complexity. It looks at how industrial cities emerged in Europe and Australia, and at the threat that uncontrolled urban growth posed to social order. We examine the conditions of urban life that promote alienation and anonymity, and how people overcome social fragmentation. There is discussion of modern cities - from those that sprawl, like Sydney, to the relatively compact and dense centres of Europe, the north-eastern United States and Asia. We look at the gendered nature of public space, and how class and ethnic tensions are played out in cities. Students read a range of texts on urban culture and society. These include classic works by writers like Friedrich Engels, George Simmel and Walter Benjamin, to the contemporary work of David Harvey, Richard Sennet and Mike Davis.

School Humanities & Comm Arts

Discipline Human Geography

Student Contribution Band HECS Band 4 10cp

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Level Undergraduate Level 2 subject


Successful completion of 40 credit points of study in currently enrolled program.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

  1. describe the processes by which early industrial cities were formed;
  2. evaluate the public and political responses to social tensions and inequalities in these cities;
  3. analyse the forces that promote urban redevelopment and associated social and political reform;
  4. evaluate the motivations behind, and consequences of, urban ethnographic writing and reportage in late nineteenth century Britain and Australia;
  5. explain how and why suburbanised low density cities (particularly Sydney) emerged in the period after World War II; and
  6. assess how social identities are influenced by urban forms - size, density, zoning practices, division of labour.

Subject Content

Growth of cities in early industrial England
Revolution and Rebuilding in Paris - the legacy of Haussman
Henry Mayhew and the London Poor
The Slum Clearance movement in Britain and Australia
Modernism, Town Planning and the cultivation of social order
Sydney and the suburbs
Urban Disorders, Moral Panics and Defensible Space - From Sydney to Los Angeles
Gender and Public Space


The following table summarises the standard assessment tasks for this subject. Please note this is a guide only. Assessment tasks are regularly updated, where there is a difference your Learning Guide takes precedence.

Type Length Percent Threshold Individual/Group Task
Presentation 10 minutes minimum 20 N Individual
Essay 2,000 words 40 N Individual
Final Exam 2 hours 40 N Individual

Teaching Periods

Spring (2023)

Bankstown City


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Penrith (Kingswood)


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Parramatta - Victoria Rd


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