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Literature Seminar


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA Urban Studies programme.


The seminar focuses on 20th-21st c. scholarship of particular relevance and significance to the field of Urban Studies. The seminar is premised on the conviction that the study of current urban issues benefits from a familiarity with landmark theoretical works and other major studies which traverse established disciplines. Accordingly, the purpose of the seminar is to inform and deepen your understanding as students of urban issues and to enable you to situate your knowledge in a broader intellectual context.

The seminar flips the classroom, making you co-creators of the course’s outcomes. This is first enabled by its modular structure; at the start of the term you will attend three plenary seminar lectures on each of the three thematic streams of the seminar: i. walking, ii. controlling and iii. worlding the city and you will be invited to indicate (via Qualtrix) your order of preference for one of them. You will in turn join a small group, in which you will pursue your own research interest within the thematic unit chosen. The research undertaken will be individual, but you are strongly encouraged to exchange ideas and form connections in the group that will mutually aid the realisation of your project.

The second way in which the literature seminar flips the classroom is by eschewing, at large, instruction, aiming to enable and guide you to conduct independent research by providing you with a comprehensive theoretical framework to do so. The plenary seminar lectures at the start of the term intend to familiarise you with theoretical writing and give you entry points into a set of concepts relevant to each stream, but also initiate dialogue and inspire your own research. Upon choosing a stream, you will be thus free to explore a topic relevant to your interests and studies, within the scope of the stream’s thematic. Numerous threads of contemporary issues run across all three streams (e.g. mobile-phone surveillance during the covid-19 crisis), yet each stream engages with a distinctive problematic and offers a certain perspective from which an issue can be examined.

The opening plenary sessions are complemented by an individual meeting with the instructor in which your ideas are discussed and developed. The meeting takes place on the basis of an outline of your essay idea (further details below) and builds upon the latter. You are always encouraged to communicate with the instructor as you develop your ideas and conduct your research. The literature that the seminar provides, a framework with a distinctive scope and logic for each thematic stream, within which your research can be undertaken, but it is neither exhaustive, nor restrictive. It enables you to conduct your own research, applying its outcomes to a specific urban issue.

Finally, the literature seminar closes with a plenary session (workshop) of presentations where you share the outcome of your research with your peers and staff. It is an opportunity not only to show your work, but also to benefit from the ideas and projects of your stream-mates, giving and receiving feedback, which will help you as you finalise your project into an essay draft for submission.

Desciption of the three streams:

Walking the City: Psychogeographies, Mobilities and Everyday Space

This unit theorises modes of experiencing, appropriating and transforming the lived city. It has its point of departure in Michel de Certeau’s reflections on the practices of everyday life that contest the habitation of space as well as in Henri Lefebvre’s reflections on the ‘right to the city’. The creative playfulness and later political militancy of psychogeography condensed in the practice of dérive (drifting), pronounced and practiced by Guy Debord and the Situationists offers the background of Certeau’s and Lefebvre’s theoretical investigations, setting the stage for an examination of contemporary regimes and practices of mobility in and through the cityscapeboth as expressions of the lived city and as forces that lead to its reconfiguration.

Worlding the City: Global Futures and the Post-Metropolis

This unit queries the future of the city as the world becomes increasingly global. Cities remain, while the empires and nation-states they belong to, change; yet cities are unavoidably also transformed in the process. Setting out from Walter Benjamin’s pioneering reflections in his Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century, this unit draws on Zygmunt Bauman’s liquidity, Jean Braudrillard’s hyperreality as well as Bruno Latour’s actor-network-theory, in order to offer insights into the future of metropolitan space in the highly interconnected, material, post-capitalist world. The unit also draws on Jacques Derrida’s key notions of cosmopolitanism and hospitality, which form an integral component of the discourse on the ethics of globalisation.

Controlling the City: Biopolitics & the Wall

This unit explores the exercise of power and modes of resistances in the city. It does so by drawing on the work of authors such as Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Achille Mbembé to examine the way in which power-structures invest the planning, delineation and regulation of life in the city, in territorial forms of biopower. It presses moreover, on the particular ways in which modes of division and exclusion, along with their counterpart modes of inclusion, are set up in the form of thresholds. Here, Jacques Derrida and Giorgio Agamben’s reflections on Kafka’s Before the Law are paramount, as well as Wendy Brown’s work on walls which thematises the physicality of barriers and the symbolic performativity that they effect.

Course objectives

General learning outcomes

See tab Additional information for the overview of the programme's general learning outcomes. In the assessment methods below is outlined which general learning outcome will be tested through which method.

Course objectives, pertaining to the Literature Seminar

At the conclusion of the course you will have acquired the ability to:

1) Analyse and evaluate important fiction and / or non-fiction texts with the goal to situate Urban Studies in a larger academic and societal context.
2) Give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on the insights gathered through the critical engagement with these works, that are relevant to current issues and challenges of urban society. The instructor may give specific directives with respect to the content of these reports.
3) Provide constructive feedback to and critique constructively the work of others and evaluate and incorporate such critique and feedback on one’s own thinking.
4) Participate in advanced intellectual debates on theoretical and empirical issues that are of importance to the study of urban life.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Students and instructor work on an individual (one-to-one) and a plenary basis (student presence is mandatory at all meetings). One individual and four plenary meetings are scheduled:

  1. Plenary meetings (three two-hour lectures for all students of the literature seminar): Introduction to the course, including instructions on written assignments and presentations, presentation and discussion of three key texts from the seminar’s literature (one from each stream), exchange of early ideas regarding topics and research questions.

  2. Individual meeting: The individual meeting follow upon the submission of an essay outline which consists of: i. research question, ii. skeleton essay map, iii. indicative bibliography. The individual meeting discusses progress and problems, reshapes the research question and essay structure, proposes new resources, etc.
    Plenary meeting (one three-hour workshop per stream): Presentations by students to fellow students and staff, during which students are expected to give and receive feedback from their peers, as well as from the instructor.

Assessment method


  • An essay applying the theoretical insights that you have developed during the study of your selected literature on a contemporary or historical urban issue. The length of the assignment is 3,500 words (+/-100 words), excluding bibliography and footnotes. An evaluation rubric can be found at the end of the syllabus (appendix).

  • A presentation for and discussion with Urban Studies faculty and students which demonstrates the ability to clearly and succinctly present the outcomes of the literature study and to reflect on the theoretical and empirical relevance of the knowledge and insights gained.

  • Submission of an essay outline consisting of: i. research question, ii. skeleton essay map, iii. indicative bibliography, before the individual meeting. The ouline is not graded, but constitutes an essential requirement of the course.

  • Attendance of all plenary and individual meetings is required to pass the course.


Partial grade Weighing
Written paper 70%
Oral presentation and discussion 30%

End grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.

  • The grade for the Written Paper needs to be a 6,0 or higher.


To pass the course, the paper should be graded 6.0 or higher. If the course is graded as a fail, the paper needs to be revised. No resit for the presentation grade is possible.

Faculty regulations concerning participation in resits are listed in article 4.1 of the Faculty Course and Examination Regulations.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

To be announced.


  • Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

  • Students will be enrolled for Exams by the Administration Office, as long as they have a valid Tutorial enrolment.

  • General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Student Affairs Office for BA Urban Studies