New Urban Life Across the Globe: Activism and Change in a World of Cities

Course content

For the first time in human history, more people now live in cities than outside them, and many of the major political contestations of the 21st Century occur in urban settings. Recent years have thus seen a surge in new urban-based political and social movements, experiments in local governance, innovative forms of protest, activism and grassroots initiatives in cities and smaller towns spanning from Barcelona to Istanbul, Hong Kong to Detroit, and Bogotá to Cape Town. Uniting these trends is the belief that the state and traditional political and social institutions cannot meet all the needs arising from urbanization, or that real societal change must begin from below. These developments demand a new ontology of the political that “sees like a city” and pays attention to urban political life as both localized and globalized, as well as a new epistemology of “the urban” that can take into account the diverse field of politics emerging in cities.

During this summer school, the students will be immersed in critical urban theory and practical approaches to urban ethnography, drawing from a broad range of excellent research at three faculties of the University of Copenhagen.

The course consists of three phases. In the first phase, prior to arriving at University of Copenhagen itself, students study the syllabus with the aid of online lectures. Students are expected to undertake a short ethnographic exercise and write a synopsis about it, which is to be handed in during the summer school. In the second phase, 24th of July to 4th of August 2017, students come to Copenhagen for a two-week summer school based around interdisciplinary seminars, lectures, debates and field trips. Finally, having submitted a final (reworked) synopsis during the second week of the summer school, the student finishes the course with an oral presentation based on the synopsis.

The aim of the course is to cultivate knowledge of the relation between the urban and social and political change today. Students will develop a general skill in applying urban theory from the humanities and the social sciences on cases from urban societies across the world. Special emphasis will be placed on combining theory from the global north and south. Methodologically, the students will be trained to conduct urban ethnography and to gather qualitative data on selected processes of social and political change that could include activist communities, issues of contested authority, planning controversies and everyday city-making. Finally, they will be trained to work analytically with this kind of data, and to discuss urban theory in relation to the ethnography.


Master’s level in Global Urban Studies, the 2015 curriculum

International summer school. Danish and international MA-level students from any discipline and any university with an interest in cities and culture are encouraged to apply.

Learning outcome

Master’s level in Global Urban Studies, the 2015 curriculum

Specialized Urban Topic (Summer School), Master’s Elective in Global Urban Studies, Activity Code: HTÆK03381E

Lectures and seminars; online lectures; field trips, tutorials and debates

Compendium of texts.

Good English skills are required.

The summer school is open to all MA-level students from all disciplines but priority is given to those interested in urban issues generally and urban politics particularly. Apart from good English skills, it is required that the student conducts a limited ethnographic fieldwork prior to the summer schools and that the student submits a draft synopsis based on that fieldwork in the first week of the summer school. The pre-summer school fieldwork is estimated to amount to approximately 40 hours. Students are also welcome to use fieldwork data generated for the purpose of other courses and the summer school is particularly suited for students working on their MA dissertation research.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment

Short courses / Copenhagen Summer University

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Excursions
  • 8
  • Exam
  • 20,5
  • E-Learning
  • 2
  • Preparation
  • 102
  • Lectures
  • 22
  • Colloquia
  • 12
  • Practical exercises
  • 40
  • English
  • 206,5