urbs last

Final Exam Study Guide


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urbs last
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Please review the following questions and be prepared to write a short answer response for your final exam. The final exam will be open book and notes, but you must put your responses in your own words. You may use quotes, but very sparingly and only to support statements you’ve already made—i.e. you can’t use the author’s words to respond to the question, you must demonstrate comprehension. You can begin preparing your responses in advance of the final exam and bring them to the final. The final exam will be in class. If you don’t have a laptop please let me know.


I will choose a selection of these exact questions for the final exam.




David Harvey’s text provides an analysis of how the need to expand markets under capitalism impacts urban development, often favoring the interests of investors over the urban public. He describes the many instances in modern history where government regimes and private interests have identified urban expansion and “revitalization” programs as a means of reinvesting surplus product to create surplus value (i.e. profits). For this question, explain:

1.    Why does Harvey believes the process of finding new markets to reinvest surplus value is relevant to a discussion on urban development? In your answer, explain what surplus value is and why capitalists need to constantly find new markets to maintain profits.

2.    Explain how this process was manifested historically by relaying one of the examples in Harvey’s text (i.e. Haussmann’s reconstruction of Paris under Louis Napoleon, postwar suburban development in the U.S, etc.)



Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was an attack on city planning. It came at a time when cities across the country were feeling the negative impact of Title I, Title 2, and Title 10 legislation by the federal government, and the private real estate development industry’s capitalization on that legislation. This included increased suburbanization, in which predominantly white middle income families were provided with incentives and support to purchase homes outside the city. This also meant they took their tax dollars with them—and often jobs relocated to the suburbs as well. As a result, center cities began to deteriorate, and those that remained found it difficult to secure good paying jobs. As the housing stock declined, those with profit interests in the city advocated widespread “slum clearance,” replacing older communities with new public and private housing towers. This led to a lot of displacement, upsetting tight knit communities and leaving many low income and ethnic and racial minorities in insecure housing situations—and sometimes even homeless.

1.    How might terms like “urban renewal” or “urban revitalization” be used politically to enact slum clearance or other programs that, in Jane Jacobs’ observation, eradicate great neighborhoods?

2.    What did she see was so great about those run-down communities as opposed to the “revitalized” ones?

3.    For a city to be truly vital, Jacobs suggests it needs to be diverse. What criteria did Jacobs suggest is needed to create urban diversity? Be able to explain why these criteria are important.



Mike Davis discusses the “neoliberalism” of the contemporary city and how it has divided urban areas into distinct social spaces. Much of this division is not only social, it’s physical—i.e. the decisions made about how to design plazas, parks, bus benches, etc. and how those designs send certain messages about who belongs and who doesn’t. We put this theory to the test in our exploration of the Bunker Hill area in Downtown L.A.

1.    What does Davis mean about “fortified cells” vs. “spaces of terror?” Give an example.

2.    Also, how does this urban circumstance impact public space? Provide a clear definition of public space and an example of a public space vs. a semi-public or private space from the field trip.

3.    How does Davis define or describe the “architectural policing of social boundaries” in urban communities and how is it manifested through urban design? What does it mean to police behavior through design? Provide 2-3 examples of these designs that “police behavior” and the messages they send.



Sharon Zukin suggests that a lack of social diversity in urban neighborhoods kills the authenticity of a city and denies it a soul. She blames much of this on the cycle of displacement that accompanies gentrification.

1.    What is the cycle of displacement as laid out by Zukin? This should include a description of the change from “authentic” working class neighborhoods, to transitional communities, to high-income communities. What are some of the signs that show these different phases are occurring according to Zukin?

2.    Identify some of the factors that pique developers’ and real estates’ interests in gentrifying a neighborhood.

3.    In our discussions, I asked you to consider whether gentrification is “inevitable.” Most of you said yes, but some suggested it was because humans constantly want to “progress” or cities need to become more “developed.” I’d like you to rethink this response. For this question, explain why interpreting gentrification as “progress” only gives a limited perspective on what creates an exciting, functional urban environment. How might an association of gentrification with “progress” impact lower income residents who don’t own property in the “revitalizing” or “transitioning” neighborhood? Do you think lower income residents universally believe their communities aren’t already “vital?” Explain.



In our week discussing borders we looked at many different ways divisions, gates, walls, and metaphorical divisions shape urban environments. Many of the examples we considered focused on housing: gated communities in upscale neighborhoods, economic and spatial boundaries between poor immigrants and housed citizens, and so on. These divisions between people who are unlike us can create uneasiness when we find ourselves occupying the same space. They can encourage us to vote in our own narrow self-interests, and not for the betterment of a diverse citizenry. And they can even encourage us to think that those who are unlike ourselves are somehow “less human” or worthy.

1.    How does Setha Low find the decision to set up borders or boundaries reinforce certain views of people who may be different from those living in gated communities (i.e. does this separation reinforce feelings of fear, even if those fears are unjustified in reality)? How might these perceptions of difference or insecurity shape continued economic and social disparity (injustice, inequality) in cities?

2.    Describe some of the psychological topics Low applies to her research into gated communities. Choose social splitting, purified living, or racialization and describe how they might apply to the psychology of someone living in a largely homogenous, gated community.

3.    How does TC Boyle suggest Delaney’s community has been inculcated with certain messages from the media about their urban environment? How has this impacted their feeling of safety and their desire to build a gate barring entrance to their community–one removed from the central city? What are some of the race and class assumptions that Boyle imagines lie at the base of many gating projects in cities?



1.    In Naomi Klein’s article she talks about the way urban “shock” is used as an opportunity for transforming cities in certain ways. What does she mean by “shock” and how does it relate to the concept of “disaster capitalism” or the “disaster industry.” Be sure to describe these terms in your response.

1.    What do you think is Naomi Klein’s concern about this quote: “The vast infrastructure of the disaster industry, built up with taxpayers’ money, is all privately controlled.” Use an example to support you point.

2.    Can you find any parallels between the urban theories of Naomi Klein, Mike Davis, and Sharon Zukin? If yes, describe using an example.



1.    What are some parallels you can find between any of the authors’ theories we’ve read this semester? Identify and explain where you think their views of urban development, urban investment, and the urban experience overlap. Describe 1-2 examples.


2.    What urban theory did you find most instructive or compelling this semester? Identify the author, explain the theory, and describe why it particularly resonated with you.

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