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Unit information: City Futures: Migration, Citizenship, and Planetary Change in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name City Futures: Migration, Citizenship, and Planetary Change
Unit code UNIV10005
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Kirk Sides
Open unit status Open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

A trailer is available for this unit here and social media shorts here

This interdisciplinary unit explores a series of questions: How urban spaces shape our ideas of citizenship and belonging? How a rapidly changing planet is shifting our conceptions of what constitutes a city? How we construct cities, who lives in them, how we define their boundaries, as well how we imagine cities and our relationship as a species to them? We will interrogate how the structural dynamics of cities both produce social and economic displacement, but also act as spaces of refuge for immigrants of all kinds, creating a continually shifting terrain of extra-political belonging. City-spaces are also some of the most notoriously polluted and polluting infrastructural configurations on the planet, while ‘smart cities’, vertical forests, ‘cybercities’ and green-tech hubs are offering some of the most progressive solutions to urban living today. We will consider how cities are both contributing and responding to global climate change, and what this means for how people live in and imagine life in urban spaces. Looking at both specific instances of regional migrations to cities, but also at global trends in migration to urban spaces over the last two hundred years, the unit offers students the chance to consider different narratives of human life in the modern era through the lens of urban space. The unit will bring together a range of materials, from policy reports on urban planning, and migration, as well as environmental and geological studies on human induced climate change, to science fiction, cli-fi (climate fiction) and city-writing, in order to consider how cities are located at the centre of our shifting theories – both scientific and creative – about what it means to belong to and belong on a changing planet.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. Display, through written reports and presentations, an introductory knowledge of urban studies and writing on cities.
  2. Introductory understanding of contemporary discourses on environmental history, citizenship, and migration.
  3. Ability to collect a range of materials and sources, from textual to sociological and ethnographical, as well as to use these materials to write reports and in the creation of final video projects.
  4. Engage with unit assets, textual and material collected by students, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
  5. Participate in student-led learning and project-oriented assessments, such as video presentations.

Teaching Information

1 x two-hour workshop/weekly – a student-centred learning space where students work through online tutorials/materials; each workshop is driven by student groups and overseen by TA’s. These workshops will run in 2 week thematic sections, upon which students are to write “workshop reports”, with 5 workshops in total, each addressing one of the broad unit themes.

1 x two-hour video presentation workshop/once – a workshop dedicated to helping students develop their video project. Student groups will workshop their materials in order to finalize their video projects.

1 x online workshop dedicated to student groups working collaboratively (with supervision) towards their final video project. 1 x optional mini-conference at the end of term where students will display their final video projects.

Assessment Information

Bi-weekly (twice a month) workshop reports – 500 words each; 5 reports in total – to create a portfolio of reflection on each of the broad unit themes. (50%). [ILOs 1-5].

One group video presentation (5-10 minutes) (50%) to be uploaded to course website [ILOs 1-6]. These videos will be the result of students’ synthesis of course materials and workshops, as well as students’ engagement with various sites across the city of Bristol. Videos will be topic driven/site specific depending upon student-directed interest. The making of the video is part of a mobile learning structure where students can watch online course content while interacting with designated sites in local urban surroundings. The aim is for students to partake in an exploration-based learning activity which asks them to utilize course materials in real time while engaged with surrounding urban environments.

These videos will form part of students’ overall assessment. As students will upload their videos presentations to the course website, these will also form part of the course materials/content for future classes. The videos will be produced in groups but assessed individually. Guidance and support in the making of the videos will be in the form of both online materials, as well as a portion of workshop time dedicated to this process, and under the direction and supervision of teaching assistants.

Videos will be displayed as part of a one-day mini-conference at the end of the course. Students will display their video-projects, speak to audience about the making of these, as well as view their peers’ projects.

Reading and References

Abdumalique Simone and Edgar Pieterse, New Urban Worlds: Inhabiting Dissonant Times, 2017 Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, 2011. Martin J. Murray, The Urbanism of Exception: The Dynamics of Global City Building in the Twenty-First Century, 2017. Anna L. Tsing et. al., The Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts/Monsters of the Anthropocene, 2017. Johannesburg: Elusive Metropolis, Sarah Nuttall, Achille Mbembe, and Abdumalique Simone, 2004. Teju Cole, Open City, 2014.