Undead Geographies: the afterlife of urban plans

Every landscape represents an incomplete or interrupted plan that tells time. Physical landscapes provide evidence of successful, failed and emergent development plans, but only the learned eye sees beyond the material culture of the street. “Death” offers a way to conceptualize the unseen, underground, the underneath, the liminal space between what we know, what is actual and what is yet to be. Linking social theory, geography, public policy and planning history, this course asks: How can planners and critical observers of the built environment begin to access the collection of meanings that script the movement, stasis and location of everyday users? In other words, how do we move beyond official maps, plans and histories to consider contested meanings of place as they are lived, exchanged and created. Through weekly examinations of first person documentary accounts including ethnography, historical fiction, autobiography, film and novels, students will analyze the social, political and geographic impact of various land development strategies in the U.S. and beyond. Displacement defines a major theme of this course -- students will examine: 1) How does this happen? 2) What have been subsequent local responses? And, 3) What are the lasting consequences of population dispersals? 

Informed by ethnographic method and archival limits, this course will provide students with an interdisciplinary framework for identifying and describing the social impact of place-based change and dislocation and to advance understanding of urban planning informed by resident-authored analysis.