East Asian Cities: Urbanization and Big-City Life in Japan, China, and Korea

Course content

The East Asian region (China, Japan, the two Koreas, Taiwan, and Hong Kong) is home to about 1/5 of the world’s population and three of the world’s 11 largest economies. The region has undergone massive economic, social, and political changes in recent decades, most conspicuously expressed in mass-scale urbanization. Today, East Asia hosts about half of the world’s 50 largest cities, and the rural-to-urban development continues at a staggering pace. But how do people live in East Asia’s sprawling cities? What types of social environments and meaning making, everyday realities, and new problems emerge in these vibrant and ever-changing localities? How can the region’s vast cityscapes be approached ethnographically, as a complex field of anthropological enquiry?

In this course, we will engage these questions by focusing on the region’s three most populous countries and four overall themes: living, working, relating, and consuming. Studying and discussing recent ethnographic accounts and region-specific theorizations grounded in the four themes will give us both panoramic and critical insight into urbanization processes, social realities, and new phenomena in East Asia’s cities. What type of atmosphere defines “home” in Japanese middle-class suburbia? How do China’s migrant workers deal with social and spatial  marginalization? How do young South Koreans juggle a precarious job situation, family obligations, and soaring housing prices? And what does the “old” countryside mean to contemporary city-dwellers? Engaging these and related questions involves a range of central anthropological concerns, including development, gender, kinship, insecurity, mobility, and nostalgia. Engaging with the literature, we will train our critical and analytical skills, develop systematic reading skills and train our ability to read “beyond the facts” to identify textual layers and critically reflect on research questions, methods, arguments, and the position of the ethnographer in the course readings. The course ends with an exam essay aiming to combine such skills and concerns with newly acquired regional knowledge. 

Learning outcome

Skills

  • Be able to critically and systematically engage ethnographic accounts of region-specific issues and developments through a focus on central concerns in the anthropology of East Asian cities.     

 

Knowledge

  • Be able to demonstrate an overview of the social, economic, and political circumstances underlying urbanization as well as in-depth awareness of some of its social consequences in one or several East Asian countries.

 

Competences

  • Be able to critically discuss ethnographic literature on urbanization and big-city life in East Asia, including an ability to identify research methods, suppositions, and central arguments in a selection of the academic literature. 

Weekly lectures + Discussion-based seminars.

BSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature

MSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature + 200 pages of literature chosen by students

Literature chosen by students must be relevant to the course’s subject matter.

Course literature will be uploaded to Absalon.

Oral
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Written feedback and comments from teacher on ongoing essay writing on the basis of students submitting draft version to teacher towards the end of the course (scheduled activity).

Essay topic- and exam-related discussions integrated into the lectures throughout the course.

ECTS
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, .
Essay length: 21,600–26,400 keystrokes for an individual submission. 6,750–8,250 keystrokes per extra member for group submissions. The maximum number of students who can write an essay in a group is four.
Aid
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Exam
  • 84
  • Preparation
  • 81
  • English
  • 207