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Case-studies in Diversity: Public Spaces




Admissions requirements

Social Theory in Everyday or permission of the instructor


Public spaces are an exemplary expression of a social form: they are concrete, taking a physical form, while at the same time they invoke (and invite) a symbolic representation of the public. Think about the public spaces you know: squares, markets, perhaps institutions like museums or universities, or even online platforms. All of them might function as public spaces only when they are able to convey a sense of the public. So the question, what is public? Who belongs to the public? Why and under which conditions? In this course we examine both the material and the symbolic aspects that are necessary to configure public spaces.
From its original conceptualizations and manifestations in the Greek city-spaces to its contemporary expressions in the form of the smart-city, public spaces manifest in many different forms in the urban fabric. Aiming to identify these multiple manifestations of the* public* in space, and the spaces different publics take in the city, this course investigates how different understandings of these key terms (aka, different conceptualizations of “space” and the “public”) go hand-in-hand with multiple experiences and empirical expressions of what account as being (in) public space. While examining the literature on this field, thinking critically about historical and contemporary manifestations of public spaces in Europe and beyond, we will use The Hague as a laboratory to explore the public spaces of the city we inhabit.

Course objectives

This course aims to develop in students (i) a theoretical understanding about public space and its core component concepts (public and space), while also (ii) developing the practical skills to identify, visualize and potentially intervene in contemporary public spaces.
In terms of content, upon completing the course students will:

  • Be familiarized with scholarly debates about public spaces in disciplines such as anthropology, geography, philosophy and sociology.

  • Identify key elements in the definition of public spaces that are of contemporary importance in terms of urban development and the policy rhetoric of social integration.

  • Be able to critically think about the concept of public spaces and its practical implications, particularly in terms of the students’ self-understanding as (global) citizen.

In terms of skills, upon completing the course students will:

  • Be able to elaborate and express a sound argumentative position regarding issues related to the course content.

  • Successfully communicate this argumentative position in speaking (presentations, case-study pitch proposal and class participation) and writing (two critical reflections and final essay).

  • Actively engage with primary sources and conduct qualitative research on public spaces in The Hague.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course runs as a seminar, meeting for two 2-hour sessions per week between weeks 1-7 (week 8 is reading week). There will be invited speakers and probably one field trip to selected location in The Hague. During regular seminars there is a lecturing component and a discussion of the assigned session material led by the students. Discussion leaders & discussants are responsible of kicking the discussion, meaning all students are expected to actively participate and take part in the class debates.


  • Participation 15%

  • Two critical reflections 30% (15% each)

  • Case-study presentation in groups 25%

  • Individual final essay 30%

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The reading list will be available on Blackboard before the beginning of the course.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Daniela Vicherat Mattar