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 horizontally organized political movements, experiments in local governance, new forms of protest and grassroots initiatives, eco-activism and social innovation 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 its traditional institutions cannot meet all the needs arising from urbanization, and that real democratic change must begin from below. These developments demand a new ontology of the political that “sees like a city” and pays attention to urban 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, 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, to be handed in before the beginning of the summer school. In the second phase, 25th of July to 5th of August 2016, students come to Copenhagen for a two-week summer school based around interdisciplinary seminars, lectures, debates, film screenings and field trips to urban activist communities in Copenhagen. Finally, having submitted a final (reworked) synopsis, 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 running 12 days in July/August 2019. Danish and international MA-level students from any discipline and any university with an interest in urban perspectives from the Social Sciences and Humanities 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 (flipped classroom and e-learning); field trips, film screenings and debates.

Online collection of reading texts.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment

Short courses / Copenhagen Summer University

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Excursions
  • 6
  • Exam
  • 44
  • E-Learning
  • 8
  • Preparation
  • 75,5
  • Lectures
  • 22
  • Colloquia
  • 14
  • Practical exercises
  • 37
  • English
  • 206,5