Sociology 6300: Urban Policy and Planning

Fall 2011. Tuesday, 3:30 - 6:00.

Newcomb Hall, Room 427


Professor: Kevin F. Gotham

Sociology: 220 Newcomb Hall

Phone: 862-3004

Office Hours: By appointment


Course Description

In this course, we will examine processes, policies, and programs that have shaped and affected cities and metropolitan areas in the United States and around the world over the last hundred years or so.  Specifically, we will explore of series of government policies pertaining to urban disasters, post-disaster recovery and rebuilding; tourism and urban cultural production; real estate, housing, and uneven development, urban planning in Europe and Asia; urban mega-projects and mega-events; urban ecosystems, socio-ecological resilience, and sustainable development.  The course will focus on policies that have impacted the built environment and address relationships between cities, communities, and broader socio-political and economic processes. 


Course Objectives

The objectives of this course are to present an overview of urban policies in the historical context of their development, illustrate the links between theory and research, and foster a critical understanding of policy and metropolitan development. We will examine different meanings and definitions of urban policy, how policies are evaluated, and how power relations and social structures constrain policy making and implementation.  You will learn to identify the key processes and policies that have affected the pace and trajectory of metropolitan development; analyze a variety of policies from different disciplinary perspectives; investigate the positive impacts and negative consequences of various policies on cities and built environment; and learn how to design a research project. 


Required Prerequisites: Soc. 304 (Research Analysis) and 322 (Social Theory), or instructor approval.


Recommended Prerequisites: Soc. 206 (Urban Sociology).


Program Outcomes

This course contributes to the sociology major by addressing the impact of policy on cities and metropolitan areas, such that the student will be able to:


Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to

These basic learning objectives will be assessed through an individual (or group) research project, an in-class presentation of the research project, a series of critical essays, and class attendance and participation.


Required Reading


Freudenberg, William R., Robert Gramling, Shirley Laska, and Kai T. Erikson. 2009. Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow. Island Press. 


Immergluck, Dan. 2011. Foreclosed: High-Risk Lending, Deregulation, and the Undermining of America's Mortgage Market. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press


Xuefei, Ren. 2011. Building Globalization: Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 


Sociology Writing Group. A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers. Sixth Edition. Worth Publishers.


Recommended Reading


Gotham, Kevin Fox. 2007. Authentic New Orleans: Race, Culture, and Tourism in the Big Easy.  New York University Press. 


Andranovich, Gregory D., and Gerry Riposa. 1993. Doing Urban Research. Sage Publications.



Course Requirements

The course will follow a seminar format that combines lecture material and group discussion.  As I see them, seminars are primarily for intense analysis and discussion.  I see my role as coordinating and facilitating this process but I take as given the active and enthusiastic participation of all members of the group.  It is essential that each student complete the readings before each class session and come prepared to discuss the material.  All students are required to attend every class period unless they are ill or prevented from attending by exceptional circumstances.  Preparedness, attendance and participation are expected and will have a bearing on final grades.  Requirements for this course include an individual (or group) research project, an in-class presentation of the research project, a series of critical essays, and class attendance and participation.


Urban Research Project (40 percent of final grade).  You are to complete a major research project and paper that can include (1) an analysis of the impact of a policy or program on a major city; (2) an analysis of the post-Katrina rebuilding process; or (3) service-learning project.  You choose which to pursue. 


Option #1: Urban Policy Analysis.  Research the history of one major federal government program or policy and discuss its effects on one city or neighborhood.  You are also welcome to examine the impact of a policy on several cities (or several neighborhoods in a single city).  General areas to focus on can include anti-crime policy, anti-terrorism policy, housing policy, environmental policy, land-use regulation, transportation policy, urban redevelopment programs, tourism and place marketing, anti-poverty policy, education policy, energy policy, military and defense spending, health care, and so on. 


You can describe how the program has affected the organization of the city, various neighborhoods, socio-demographic trends, cultural organizations, urban infrastructure, and so on.  Provide information about the city's demographic and population characteristics, economic base, infrastructure and government system, and social problems. You should use census data to compare population/demographic, economic, racial/ethnic, housing, and employment characteristics since 1960.  Identify the origins of the program, the motivation underlying its creation, and changes in the implementation of the program over time. Discuss the status of the program and its future prospects. 


Most important, you should explain how the policy or program has affected the city/cities or neighborhood/neighborhoods over time.  You must draw on the course readings and other scholarly work on cities and urban life to explain the policy impacts.  Different readings will provide you with the concepts, arguments, and models to guide you in the selection of cities/neighborhoods, identify important drivers of urban change, and the interpretation of findings.  Provide an evaluation of the policy outcomes (e.g., identify any conflicting policy goals, dysfunctional effects of program implementation, and unforeseen consequences).  Finally, explain how cities and policy makers can benefit from your research. 


Option #2: Analysis of the Post-Katrina Rebuilding Process in New Orleans.  Research and explain the pace, trajectory, and problems of the recovery and rebuilding process in New Orleans since the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  Your goal is to identify the problems, limitations, and successes of New Orleans's recovery since the storm.  You could focus on one neighborhood and explain in-depth how the area has recovered (or not); compare neighborhoods to explain variation in recovery patterns; identify the impact of various policies on the pace and trajectory of the rebuilding process; analyze the interlocking role of race and class in the nature of recovery; assess the applicability of urban concepts such as resilience, vulnerability, and sustainable development in understanding post-Katrina New Orleans; point to the limitations of existing post-Katrina studies of the city and region; examine the various networks of firms, organizations, and non-profits groups that have helped with the rebuilding effort; and so on. 


For option #1 and option #2, the final research paper must be at least 20 pages excluding the cover page, references, and tables and figures.  Papers are to be typed and double-spaced with one-inch margins and page numbers in the top right hand corner.  Address your final paper to an audience composed of people who know nothing of the material you read, the concepts you use, and the data you have collected.


Do not delay in your choice of topic and starting your research.  One source of data for this research project could be newspaper articles from the Times-Picayune and other local newspapers.  Other articles can be obtained from Factiva and Lexis-Nexis. You must attach all photocopied newspaper articles and data sources to your final paper.  Other data collection for the research project can be obtained from assigned course readings and the following library and documentary resources: local archives, scholarly journals, newspapers, magazines, congressional testimony, planning department documents, government reports and analyses, census bureau data, books, and other written documents. You should search for data at all available libraries, archives, internet web sites, and anywhere else you can find material.  You are to read and consult A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers for directions on using library resources, locating references and material, organizing information, and writing the research paper. 


For option #1 and option #2, you may cite and refer to other researchers’ studies on human subjects (as secondary sources).  You must use the guidelines in chapter 4 of A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers for acknowledging sources, and listing bibliographic references and citations.  Be sure to make appropriate reference citations to other authors’ work when quoting directly from them and when paraphrasing them, otherwise you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.


Sample Outline for Research Paper.  For option #1 and option #2, your final paper should be divided up into the following six sections:



Indicate clearly and briefly the research purpose.  Briefly identify the major issues or problems the paper addresses and the major sources of data used in the paper.  Very briefly and succinctly state the core findings of the paper and how the paper will be organized.  Do not report on every little detail and finding; be short, clear, and to the point.  This introduction section should be no more than three double-spaced pages.


Literature Review

Briefly summarize the current scholarly research on the research topic you are studying. You should include other scholars’ empirical findings, concepts, and theories that link your study with existing research on the same topic. 


Analysis and Findings

Provide a general overview of your theoretical argument and then discuss the major findings of your research and data collection.  You should show how your findings support your theory and relate to findings of other researchers.   Refer to scholarly journals for examples on how to write your findings and implications.  You can sub-divide this section into separate units.



Discuss the implications of your research. How is your research and its findings relevant and important to urban studies and related urban policy oriented fields?  How does your research connect to the course readings?  Be very clear and specific.  



You must have at least 20 citations in your reference section.  Cites from textbooks, encyclopedia, or other non-scholarly sources do not count.


Methodological Appendix

Provide a description of how the research was done.  You should identify the types and sources of data collected.  You should draw upon written histories, archives, census materials, newspaper files, planning department documents, and any other sources you can locate.  You should include data in tables, graphs, and/or figures if you have large amounts of quantitative data.  Put each table, graph, or figure on a separate page with a descriptive title over it.  In the text of the research paper, refer to the table or figure by number and then explain it.  Consult A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers by the Sociology Writing Group for assistance in writing a methodological appendix.


Option #3: Service Learning Project.  For students who choose this option, you will be required to participate in a service learning project for a minimum of 20 hours and write a final paper based upon your experience.  The primary goal of the service learning project is to link your community work and experience in the New Orleans community to the course material.  Service learning is also a way of illustrating the larger substantive elements to which the course pertains.  Students become engaged and provide service to the community with measurable outcomes such as: completion of hours; reflection assignments; and/or completion of a final project related to their service learning assignment.


There are three components to any service learning activity: service, personal insight, and academic knowledge.  The service component provides the context and content of the volunteering experience as you enter into the community to donate time and skills.  The personal experience of volunteering often forces you to learn about yourself, to question your own beliefs, values, prejudices, ways of viewing the world, and the like.  Academic learning occurs as you connect classroom learning with the real world, observing and participating in practitioners’ daily activities.  The service learning work will help reinforce the theoretical concepts and ideas introduced in the readings and discussed in class through interactions with people in the New Orleans community. You will discover on your own the congruencies and discrepancies between theories and reality, and more important, learn to think sociologically. 


In addition to participating in 20 hours of service learning work, you are required to attend at a 60 minute discussion session where you will discuss your service learning experience with others. 


Finally, you are required to write a 20 page paper that links the course material - e.g., concepts, theories, and related academic knowledge about cities and urban life - with your service learning experience.  Below are my expectations for this paper.



Describe your service learning site, including its official purpose, the clientele it serves, the structure of the program, the training and use of personnel, and your role as a volunteer.  When you are writing about your site, keep in mind the significant differences between comments that are descriptive (observations), comments that discuss your feelings about what you are describing (reactions), and comments that detail conclusions about what you saw (interpretations).  You should not spend a lot of time describing mundane or ongoing operations of the various small groups or their formal, routine activities at the site, or what you did each time you visited the site.  Keep in mind that your description should provide information that will give the necessary context for the more important components of the paper: your analysis and reflection. 



Provide a critical analysis of your service learning experience.  Discuss how the concepts from the readings are illustrated in your activities or in the group’s operations or the community’s organization.  Answer the following questions: What kinds of urban problems are being addressed by the community organization(s) you are involved with?  What impacts do you see the organization or agency making on the New Orleans community?   What are the manifest and latent functions of the organization?  What barriers and constraints (organizational, institutional, political-economic, etc.) does the organization face in achieving its goals?  Finally, and most important, which concepts and theories addressed in the readings and class help you to understand the organization you are involved with?



Discuss what you learned from your service learning experience.  This may include discussions of emotional responses, contemplation of political implications, and reflections on your own personal views of how the service learning experience has caused you to think differently about cities, urban life, and urban policy. What impact is your service learning work having on you?  How does your service learning experience relate to your understanding of class readings, course concepts, and different theories of cities and urban life? How has your service experience affected your views of New Orleans? How has your engagement with the course readings and service learning helped you understand the impact of power, conflict, and inequality on the formulation and implementation of urban policy. 


Your paper should build upon your practical experiences at the service learning site and reflect your thoughtful engagement with the subject matter of urban sociology.  You should deliberately apply the sociological concepts and theories learned in the class to your description, analysis, and reflection.  The three parts - description, analysis, and reflection - should not be kept artificially separate, but should instead be interwoven as appropriate throughout your paper.  Grammar, organization, spelling, and clarity all count.  Through your service learning experience, you will learn how government programs and policy making have shaped the organization of cities and metropolitan areas.  You will also see the kinds of community and political struggles that have historically affected public policy at the urban, regional, and national levels and come to understand how urban policy is embedded within larger socioeconomic processes, power structures, and global forces.  Finally, the service learning experience will inform the readings in the course and provide an opportunity for you to witness how urban policies are impacting the process of post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans.


Final papers will be graded on a scale of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, and D-. One letter grade will be deducted for each day the paper is late.  I will not accept any faxed papers or emailed papers.  You are required to hand in two copies of your paper.


2. Oral Presentations (20 percent of final grade)

All students are required to present their research during the last two weeks of the semester.   Students should prepare and rehearse their presentation to do it smoothly and not exceed the time limit.  Make your presentation using an outline or note cards; do not prewrite your whole presentation and then read it.   The purpose of the oral presentation is to show that you understand key concepts, definitions, main findings, and can effectively communicate your research to a group of peers.  Do not ramble; be as succinct as possible.  I will provide more information about the organization of the oral presentation of the research project later in the course


3. Critical Essays (30 percent of final grade).  Critical Essays are short papers (about 1000 – 1500 words) that convey your thoughts about and reactions to a particular reading assignment.  You are required to write six critical essays on the assigned reading during the semester.  I will organize the class into three groups of about five students.  The membership of these groups will be in alphabetical order and will remain the same throughout the semester.  Each critical essay must be posted to the Blackboard “Discussion Board” for the course at least 24 hours before class (3:30 on Monday). The critical essays will be graded on a scale of A, B, C, and D. One letter grade will be deducted for each day the essay is late.  Each student should read all essays posted to the Discussion Board and come to class ready to discuss.  Critical Essays should accomplish the following two goals:

1. Reflect your thoughtful engagement with and consideration of the reading assignment.

2. Include questions or issues that you would like to have the class discuss.

Here are questions to guide your thinking about the reading and completing the critical essays:

What are the central arguments in the reading?

What data sources and/or concepts does the author use to support the argument?

What other lines of reasoning or thinking occur to you as a result of reading this selection?  What is it about the chapters that interest you?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the book chapters?  If you were studying this issue, what would you have done similarly or differently?

See A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers for directions on writing a critical essay.


As you write your critical essay, you should select one or two concepts/issues/themes/problems/questions to orient your essay.  It is tempting to try to deal with all the points raised in the readings, but this will generally lead to a paper that sets too broad of an agenda.  Remember this assignment calls for only 1.5 - 3 single-spaced pages.  The essay (not an outline) should reflect your thoughtful engagement with the issues you chose.  It may take the form of an analysis of what is at stake in the debates or it may entail comments/critiques of specific arguments in the readings.  It may also be a critical examination on how the course material connects with your research project and how your research project informs the readings. 


On specified days, the groups writing the critical essays will be in charge of leading the class in discussion of the readings.  I will provide more information about this during the second week of class.  All participants in the course have a responsibility to do the readings for the week, to listen to what is being said by other participants (rather than being overly preoccupied with what you are going to say), and not to interrupt people in the middle of sentences.  We hope to create a setting in which everyone feels comfortable talking, even if they do not have something “brilliant” or “profound” to say.  Sometimes very simple questions can lead to very fruitful discussions.


4. Class Attendance and Participation (10 percent of final grade)

Ten percent of your grade will be based on my evaluation of your participation in class. Class participation includes sharing thoughts and ideas, observations, assessments, and questions during class time. Thoughtful participation means regularly attending class and being prepared to discuss the assigned subject matter.  To encourage class participation and the sharing of ideas, you should identify one or two questions from the assigned readings that you would like to discuss in class. You should always ask yourself how the assigned reading for the day can help you with your own research project. 


Ultimately, the success of a group discussion depends on the participants. Here are a few suggestions to make the seminar and discussions more enjoyable, productive and meaningful:

·         Speak up! Group discussion is like a conversation; everyone takes part in it. Don't expect to be called on to speak; enter into the discussion with your comments of agreement or disagreement.

·         Share your viewpoint and experience! When you find yourself disagreeing with other people’s interpretations or opinions, say so and tell why, in a friendly way.

·         Listen thoughtfully to others! Try to understand the other person's point of view.  Remember, there are several points of view possible on every question. 

·         Be respectful, but also be critical: Don't accept ideas that don't have a sound basis.

·         Be brief! Share the discussion with others. Be ready to let someone else speak. A good discussion includes everyone in the group. 

·         This is a discussion, not a debate! 

·         Come with your own questions in mind! As you read the articles and chapters, make note of the points on which you'd like to hear the comments of members.  If the questions asked don’t address your concerns, raise your own!


All students are required to abide by the Tulane University Honor Code.  According to the Newcomb-Tulane College website this code "shall apply to academic conduct of each student from the time of application for admission through the actual awarding of a degree, even though academic conduct may occur before classes begin or after classes end, as well as during the academic year and during periods between terms of actual enrollment, and even if the academic conduct is not discovered until after a degree is awarded.  The Code shall apply to a student’s academic conduct even if the student withdraws from school while a disciplinary matter is pending."  "Any student behavior that has the effect of interfering with education, pursuit of knowledge, or fair evaluation of a student's performance is considered a violation. Any student found to have committed or to have attempted to commit the following misconduct is subject to the disciplinary sanctions outlined in this Code." The following are defined as violations:  

·        Cheating -- Giving, receiving, or using, or attempting to give, receive, or use unauthorized assistance, information, or study aids in academic work, or preventing or attempting to prevent another from using authorized assistance, information, or study aids.

Consulting with any persons other than the course professor and teaching assistants regarding a take-home examination between the time the exam is distributed and the time it is submitted by the student for grading. Students should assume the exam is closed book; they may not consult books, notes, or any other reference material unless explicitly permitted to do so by the instructor of the course. 

The above material is quoted from: Tulane University. Code of Academic Conduct. Newcomb- Tulane College.; accessed June 6, 2011. 


Course Grades:

Research Project                                 40% of final grade.

Oral Presentation                                20% of final grade.

Critical Essays                                     30% of final grade.

Class Attendance and Participation    10% of final grade.


I do not give extra credit, extra assignments, nor other opportunities for improving grades.  Moreover, I do not negotiate about grades, except when you believe there is an explicit error in the grading procedures.  No grades will be determined by a curve.  Also, I do not like the informal and impersonal nature of email.  You may not ask me questions about the course over email (or by phone).  If you have questions, please make an appointment and come talk with me.





Introduction to Urban Policy and Planning

Week 1 (August 30). 


Recommended Reading:


Urban Mega-Projects and Mega-Events

Week 2 (September 6). 

Critical Essay (1) due from Groups #1 and #2


Research Workshops at the Howard-Tilton (HT) Library

Week 3 (September 13)


We will meet at the HT library (Room 309) and participate in three workshops on library research skills for the research aspect of this course.  The workshops and their descriptions are below.


1. Managing Your Research Materials

Finding information is one thing, but once you have your stack of books and pile of articles keeping it all organized and maximizing the value of the sources is a whole different matter. Students who attend the workshop will leave with tips for narrowing their topics, critical note-taking, keeping track of meaningful relationships between different information sources, and managing their quotes and citations.  No sign-up is required.


2. The Comprehensive Literature Review

The comprehensive literature review is an essential component of graduate study to become familiar with the published results of research in a discipline and to include in theses and dissertations. With the explosion of information available online and the temptation to use general purpose web search engines, many sources are either inappropriate or incomplete. The library’s Comprehensive Literature Review workshop addresses these challenges by:


3. Keeping Current with the Literature

Due to the high volume of scholarship that is continually produced and the vast number of tools available for searching and managing information, maintaining currency in graduate studies can become overwhelming.  This workshop provides guidance on:

·       automating the delivery of pertinent information using e-mail alerting features available from most databases

·       locating recent scholarship that cites key older works

·       using e-mail management tools to mitigate information overload.


Urban Catastrophe and Post-Disaster Rebuilding

Week 4 (September 20). 

Critical Essay (2) due from Groups #2 and #3


Week 5 (September 27). 

Critical Essay (3) due from Groups #3 and #1. 


Recommended Reading


Creative Cities and Urban Cultural Production

Week 6 (October 4)

Critical Essay (4) due from Groups #1 and #2


Recommended Reading:


Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China 

Week 7 (October 11)

Critical Essay (5) due from Groups #2 and #3


Week 8 (October 18)

Critical Essay (6) due from Groups #3 and #1


Discussion of Urban Research Projects and Service Learning Projects

Week 9 (October 25)


Real Estate, Housing Policy, and Uneven Development

Week 10 (November 1)

Critical Essay (7) due from Groups #1 and #2


Week 11 (November 8)

Critical Essay (8) due from Groups #2 and #3


Recommended Reading:


Urban Ecosystems and Social-Ecological Resilience

Week 12 (November 15) and Week 13 (November 22) (Thanksgiving Break, November 23-25). 

Critical Essay (9) due from Groups #3 and #1


Recommended Reading:


Week 14 (November 29) - Week 15 (December 6). Oral Presentations of Research Projects