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Last updated:

April 8, 2022


Unlimited Duration


This course includes:

Unlimited Duration

Badge on Completion

Certificate of completion

Unlimited Duration


Urban processes are increasingly held to be responsible for causing a variety of problems environmental destruction, social injustice, global financial instability. They are also identified as harboring the potential to meet these challenges through urban experiments in sustainable living, a creative culture and alternative economies. This course, Changing cities, explores how contemporary processes of urbanization challenge how we think about the political agency, providing a framework for the analysis of the causes, implications, and responses to issues of common concern.


This course explores the ways in which urbanization processes help to generate issues of public concern. It elaborates a theoretical framework of critical spatial thinking that can be used to analyze the complex ‘agency’ of urban processes in generating, identifying and resolving the myriad issues associated with contemporary urbanization. This framework draws on the traditions of urban thought and spatial theory in disciplines such as geography and anthropology, development studies, planning, political science, and sociology. The framework developed in this course is meant to serve as an analytical heuristic, a device for framing the questions that should be asked when seeking to understand any particular urban issue or a place-based problem.

Learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key theories and styles of critical spatial thinking and decision making as they relate to the challenge of transforming urban areas
  • Apply a range of critical spatial and social theories to the analysis of specific issues
  • Track the way that issues and challenges facing specific places emerge and manifest themselves
  • Negotiate between a global level of analysis and the issues that are manifest in specific places.

Course Curriculum

    • Making use of critical spatial theory 00:40:00
    • What do we mean by ‘theory’? 01:00:00
    • Acting locally in a world of connections 00:40:00
    • Places shaping and responding to global change 00:40:00
    • Three ways of thinking about urban agency 00:40:00
    • From urban theory to the problematization of urban living 01:00:00
    • Problematizing urban processes 00:40:00
    • Three types of questions about agency 00:20:00
    • Explaining urban issues 00:40:00
    • Urban theory and case studies 01:00:00
    • The globalization of urbanization 00:20:00
    • Living on the knife-edge 00:20:00
    • The right to the city 00:20:00
    • Limits to explanation 00:20:00
    • Understanding urban issues 00:20:00
    • Urbanism as a way of life 01:00:00
    • Living with others 00:20:00
    • Urban space and the public sphere 00:40:00
    • Two types of solidarity 00:40:00
    • Cities as communicative spaces 00:30:00
    • Urban spaces of public address 00:30:00
    • Acting on urban issues 00:20:00
    • The politics of urbanisation processes 00:20:00
    • The limits of localism I: the limits of inclusion 00:30:00
    • The limits of localism II: the limits of efficacy 00:20:00
    • Making use of the critical spatial thinking framework 00:30:00
    • Conclusion 00:20:00

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Open University UK