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School of Environment, Education and Development

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BSc Geography

Study a course tailored to you at the university ranked fourth in the UK for Geography (Guardian University Guide).

BSc Geography

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
European Cities

Unit code GEOG30652
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The question of Europe has dominated recent political debate, whilst European cities have always been central to the study of urban change. From the development of urban cultures of modernity, the recent refugee crisis and the Brexit vote, the course will critically examine how socio-cultural, economic and political changes have shaped European cities and the geographies of difference.


The course will ask what makes the European city distinctive. In so doing, and through looking at hallmark accounts of the modern metropolis, from Benjamin’s Parisian ‘flaneur’ through to Simmel’s interpretations of fin-de-siècle Berlin, the course will consider how writings on the European city have informed urban enquiry and the study of urban experience, culture and heritage.


Alongside a consideration of the ways in which European cities have informed urban theory, the course will question how the political landscape of Europe has shaped its cities. As debates roll on about the future stability of Europe, this will involve looking at the construction of the ‘European project’ and the effects of ‘Europeanisation’, which includes ongoing arguments about the cultural boundaries of Europe and the place of religion. It will also consider how crises and war have shaped the European city, from the politics of memory in postwar Europe and the transformation of post-Socialist cities, through to the urban devastation of the Bosnian war, as an important example of the deliberate and violent destruction of buildings and the urban fabric.


Finally, the course will address a series of key socio-cultural issues. As the economic and refugee crisis continues, questions have been raised about the rise of nationalisms, far-right populisms and the so-called ‘backlash’ against multiculturalism across the continent. As such, the course will critically examine geographies of difference in the context of the European city and will look at the politics of resistance and the rise of insurgent public spaces where conventional politics is being challenged and new claims to the city are being made.


The course will cover a range of city case studies (e.g. Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Istanbul, Moscow, Paris, Sarajevo, Sofia, Vienna, Warsaw), socio-political events (e.g. the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Norway massacre, the refugee crisis) and a number of theoretical concepts (e.g. cosmopolitanism, urban materialities, insurgency and urbicide).  


  • To examine how writings on the European city have informed urban theory and inquiry.
  • To critically examine how European cities have been shaped by economic, political and socio-cultural transformations;
  • To theorize the emergence and restructuring of the European city in the context of political and economic change;
  • To examine the geographies of difference through European city cases.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the different theoretical perspectives through which the transformation of European cities are understood;
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the social and cultural geographies of European cities;
  • Demonstrate an ability to situate key political events within wider geographical debates on European cities.
  • Illustrate your arguments with examples and case studies drawn from European cities. 



**Indicative** Course structure:

1:            Introduction: European urbanisms

2:           The modern metropolis

3.            Capitals of culture and heritage

4:            Europeanisation, Brussels and the ‘crisis’

5:            Cities of difference: immigration, multiculturalism and the backlash

6:            Study week

7:            Social exclusion and insurgent public space         

8:            Urban change and memory

9:            Study week

10:          Urbicide – the destruction of the European city?

11:          Post-socialist cities

12:          Conclusion – European futures 

Teaching and learning methods

The course unit will be delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars – a two hour lecture and a one hour seminar each week. The lecture sessions will be interactive and include a variety of individual and group activities. Each seminar will be based upon either; a) student-led discussions of pre-circulated readings. Students will be expected to read at least two papers per week for these discussions and to present their thoughts and reflections on these papers at the weekly seminar; b) student-led discussions of policy documents or media sources related to the course; or c) the showing of films relevant to the course themes and their subsequent discussion. A high level of student participation will be required from all students throughout the course. One seminar session will also be dedicated to the course assessment.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Critical thinking, reflection and self-awareness;
  • Information handling skills, evaluation and analysis of different kinds of evidence;
  • An ability to assess the merits of contrasting theories, explanations and their policy implications;
  • An ability to develop, articulate and sustain structured and reasoned written and oral arguments;
  • An ability to structure and present material in creative ways;
  • Inter-personal and group working skills;
  • Motivation and self-directed learning;
  • Awareness of your responsibility as a global citizen.

Assessment methods

This course will be assessed through one piece of coursework (33%) and one exam (67%) 


Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • extensive verbal feedback through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures and seminars;
  • verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours;
  • ongoing peer feedback through peer study group meetings;
  • detailed written feedback on the coursework assignments.

Recommended reading

Selected Reading:


Amin, A. (2004) Multi-ethnicity and the idea of Europe, Theory Culture & Society 21:1-24.

Baeten, G. (2001) The Europeanization of Brussels and the urbanization of 'Europe' - Hybridizing the city. Empowerment and disempowerment in the EU district. European Urban and Regional Studies, 8, 117-130

Beck, U. and Grande, E. (2007) Cosmopolitan Europe. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Coward, M. (2009) Urbicide: The Politics of Urban Destruction London: Routledge.

Frisby, D. (2001) Cityscapes of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hirt, S. (2012) Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space in the Post-Socialist City. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Mills, A. (2010) Streets of memory: landscape, tolerance, and national identity in Istanbul. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Till, K. E. (2005) The New Berlin: memory, politics, place. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Vasudevan, A. (2015) Metropolitan Preoccupations: The Spatial Politics of Squatting in Berlin Wiley-Blackwell.

Vertovec, S. and Wessendorf, S. (eds.) (2009) The Multiculturalism backlash: European discourses policies and practices. London: Routledge.



Key Journals:

The majority of the lecture readings for this course will be in the form of journal articles. These are journals that you will encounter a number of times over the course. You should familiarise yourself with them.


Cultural  Geographies

European Journal of Cultural Studies

International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

Social and Cultural Geography

Urban Geography

Urban Studies

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Helen Wilson Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Comprises of Lectures and Seminars. Please refer to course content information for further details.


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