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Key words – space, place, everyday, public, architecture, city planning, preservation, urbanism, urbanization, modernism, consumerism, suburbanization, gentrification

The city is a universal development of civilization, a form of spatial organization combining administrative, economic and political functions. But cities and their urban networks are also particular cultural formations that can differ from one to society to the next. The central premise of this course is that much can be said about a society in terms of how its cities developed and how they are understood and experienced.

In classical Greece, the city was indivisible from the common life and entailed such concepts as citizenship, politics, the state and even human nature. Classical urbanism in effect defined humankind as a political animal (Aristotle). In the making of modern Europe capital cities became the official expression of the state and the nation – an urbanism centered on architectural and monumental expressions of State power: the city became the “head” of the national body.

The place of cities in U.S. American society has never been secure. American cities might be said to embody something of a paradox: at once powerful expressions of technological inventiveness and economic might they have been rejected by a majority of the people as a suitable places to live. At the same time, cities reflect much about America: their development in many ways broke with established patterns; representations of the city in architecture, city planning, film and social/political movements opened up a cultural space focused on urbanism revealing deep seated conflicts in American culture. Indeed the American city has been subject to three conflicting interpretations and visualizations throughout U.S. history:

  1. the focal point of the realization of the republic, a form of local self-determination,
  2. the producer of great wealth and power, and
  3. the progeny of the pastoral dream. These interacting and often opposing concepts of urbanism lie at the center of important divisions, which have long burdened American society: the division between ruthless realism and overreaching idealism, and between European origin and an imagined “American” destiny. The thesis of the course, then, is that the articulation of urban ideals lays bare the contradictions of American national life, but also that it provides insight into the possibilities and limits of our own global age of urbanism.

Learning outcome

After completing this course, you:

  • know how to read the social world through geography, i.e. through spatial Development,
  • know how to think across boundaries and to creatively ask questions,
  • know how to apply a conceptual framework to reading a book on your own and to your term paper.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

The minimum number of students admitted to the course is 3, the maximum 15. The department will not offer an extra seminar if there are more applicants.


Recommended previous knowledge

There are no specific prerequisites. It is helpful if students have taken courses in human geography, sociology, architecture or philosophy.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with NORAM4515 – Cities and American Life (continued)


Seminar, two hour per week, for 10 weeks, 20 hours in all.

Attendance is obligatory at least 8 out of 10 seminars. Additional absences must be justified by documentation given to the exam coordinator.

There are two in-class oral presentations required to qualify for the exam. Read more about guidelines for compulsory activities.

All obligatory attendance and assignments are only valid the semester you attend the course.


The exam consists of a portfolio of three written assignments.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

A term paper or equivalent that is passed may not be resubmitted in revised form.

If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

A term paper that has recieved a pass grade, cannot be submitted later in a revised version.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Reports from periodic evaluations (in Norwegian)

Facts about this course






Spring 2018

This course is offered irregularly


Spring 2018

Teaching language