BA Geography with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Global Urban Futures

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG32042
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course critically engages with contemporary global urbanization and ideas and imaginaries of the urban future. Critically, however, this course introduces students to these dynamics in a global geography of contemporary urbanization. Situated in a world of cities, an understanding that most urban dwellers live far from the historic centres of urban thought like London or New York City, this course will introduce students to key contemporary urban dynamics in the global south. That we are living in an ‘urban age’ has become a common observation, but what that means for residents of cities like Luanda, Karachi, Johannesburg, São Paulo, and Delhi remains to be seen. There are many pundits and analysts eager to describe what the future will look like, but often these visions are completely decoupled from the lived experience of most urban dwellers. By focusing our attention on cities around the world, we will aim to develop a more comprehensive understanding of contemporary urban patterns—and their implications for the future. What kind of city will mark the future, and where will it be located? 

Specific attention will be paid to cities as environmental actors, as key sites for climate change politics as well as key places that allow for us to explore ideas of political ecology, environmental justice, and infrastructural politics. Throughout the course we will consider the relationship between cities and the infrastructures that underpin them: the material networks that make urban life possible in highly diverse ways. While this will involve attention to the specificities of electrical grids, water distribution networks, and internet connectivity, it will also focus on creative and speculative engagements with urban materiality. 

Ultimately, this course will introduce you to key contemporary debates within global urban studies, with critical implications for thinking about urban life, climate change, cultural geographies, and environmental politics going forward. Rather than understand cities strictly through lenses of political economy or economic geography, we instead consider cities in a multifaceted way, drawing from architectural history, cultural geography, and political geography. We will read widely and extensively, including academic journal articles as well as book chapters, creative explorations of city life, and popular engagements with urban life. 


The unit aims to:

  • Introduce students to key dynamics of contemporary urbanization
  • Broaden students’ understandings of urban theory and urban geography through attention to urban processes outside the Global North and away from the classical locations of urban thought/theory.
  • Develop students’ critical understandings of concepts like the ‘urban age,’ ‘urban futures,’ and ‘peripheral urbanisation’ 
  • Develop students’ understandings of the politics of infrastructure, especially amongst cities in the Global South.
  •  Develop ways of thinking creatively and critically about contemporary urbanization and development studies in ways that prioritize potential innovations and solutions for pressing environmental issues

Teaching and learning methods

This course will be structured through weekly two-hour lectures and one-hour seminars. Students will be assigned key texts ahead of time, and will be encouraged to read additional recommended texts. The readings for the course will be wide-ranging, drawing from academic journal articles and books, popular media and long-form journalism, as well as audio and video resources. All course readings will be available through the University library.

Lectures are interactive and will include discussions of the readings. Seminars will focus on assessment preparation, seminar-style discussions, and close engagements with course texts and materials. Regular attendance and engagement at both lectures and seminars is required to succeed in this module.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Possess an understanding of, and the ability to explain, key drivers of contemporary urbanization outside of Europe and the United States, and key dynamics and issues facing cities of the south
  • Possess an understanding, and the ability to explain, different theoretical perspectives on urbanization, infrastructural politics, and urban futures, as well as the contributions of geographers in understanding and analyzing contemporary urban, environmental, and political patterns facing cities
  • Possess an understanding, and the ability to explain, the relationships between key course themes and their own research (namely the dissertation)
  • Possess an understanding of, and the ability to explain, the importance of infrastructure to understanding contemporary cities and urban life through a number of distinct, geographically expansive case studies

Intellectual skills

  • Critical thinking and reasoning skills
  • An ability to develop and articulate written and oral arguments
  • Self-directed learning
  • Information-handling skills

Practical skills

  • Information handling skills, evaluation and analysis of different kinds of evidence
  • Reading, writing, and analysis skills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • An ability to structure and present material in creative ways
  • Motivation and self-directed learning
  • Awareness of global patterns and issues
  • The capacity to synthesise, distinguish and critically evaluate a range of arguments and evidence
  • The capacity to find and critically analyse appropriate materials for developing arguments and analyses

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

Formative feedback of paper outlines given during seminars and written feedback via Turnitin provided before exam period begins. Formative feedback on paper outlines given during office hours. 

Written feedback via Turnitin

Recommended reading


  • Caldeira, T. P. (2017). Peripheral urbanization: Autoconstruction, transversal logics, and politics in cities of the global south. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 35(1), 3-20.
  • Cohen, D. A. (2016). The rationed city: The politics of water, housing, and land use in drought-parched São Paulo. Public Culture, 28(2 (79)), 261-289.
  • Datta, A. (2019). Postcolonial urban futures: Imagining and governing India’s smart urban age. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 37(3), 393-410.
  • Danyluk, M. (2021). Supply-Chain Urbanism: Constructing and Contesting the Logistics City. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 1-16.
  • Davis, M. (2006). Planet of slums. Verso.
  • Furlong, K., & Kooy, M. (2017). Worlding water supply: Thinking beyond the network in Jakarta. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 41(6), 888-903.
  • Guma, P. K. (2021). Recasting Provisional Urban Worlds in the Global South: Shacks, Shanties and Micro-Stalls. Planning Theory & Practice, 1-16.
  • Knuth, S. (2019). Cities and planetary repair: The problem with climate retrofitting. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 51(2), 487-504.
  • Lancione, M., & McFarlane, C. (Eds.). (2021). Global Urbanism: Knowledge, Power and the City. Routledge.
  • Larkin, B. (2013). The politics and poetics of infrastructure. Annual review of anthropology, 42, 327-343.
  • Lemanski, C. (2020). Infrastructural citizenship: The everyday citizenships of adapting and/or destroying public infrastructure in Cape Town, South Africa. Transactions of the Institute of British geographers, 45(3), 589-605.
  • Long, J., & Rice, J. L. (2019). From sustainable urbanism to climate urbanism. Urban Studies, 56(5), 992-1008.
  • Robinson, J. (2002). Global and world cities: a view from off the map. International journal of urban and regional research, 26(3), 531-554.
  • Simone, A., & Pieterse, E. (2018). New urban worlds: Inhabiting dissonant times. John Wiley & Sons

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nate Millington Unit coordinator

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