Cities and Power

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
10 May 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA LL36 Social Anthropology,
BA LL3P Social Anthropology (Including Year Abroad),
BA LL6P Social Anthropology (Including Placement Year),
BA LL37 Social Anthropology with Human Rights,
BA LL38 Social Anthropology with Human Rights (Including Year Abroad),
BA LL39 Social Anthropology with Human Rights (Including Placement Year)

Module description

In the past few decades, an unprecedented demographic change has taken place. For most of human history, the vast majority of the world`s population lived in rural areas. Now, over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and the United Nations predicts that this proportion will increase to over 70% by 2050. This development raises a fundamental challenge to ethnographic practice and anthropological theory, which has historically focused on the life ways and societies of rural areas. Increasingly anthropologists have to come to terms with highly complex urban assemblages that are, paradoxically both longstanding and deeply unstable. Cities are contested spaces. They are sites of intense social, political, and economic struggles, which are waged by coalitions of actors representing a wide variety of sometimes complimentary and sometimes contradictory set of interests, with battle lines being continually drawn and redrawn in relation to a shifting social terrain.

By utilising a wide range of readings and examples including both the global north and the global south, this module will ask how we are to understand these developments anthropologically. We will pay particular attention to 1) the ways in which cities have been understood as ethnographic sites, 2) the past, present, and future of cities, and 3) the social, political, and economic role of cities and how this shapes emerging forms of inequality. Students will come to understand how anthropologists see the city, the methods they use, the data they cultivate, the topics they address, the hopes and possibilities they see contained there, and the ways that condensations of culture and power are visible in both infrastructural, representational, and social practices.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To explore different anthropological and theoretical approaches adopted in the study and conceptualisation of the city

  • Provide students with an understanding of the complex organisation and contested nature of urban social, economic and political processes

  • To equip students with the skill to critically engage with the materials presented

  • To equip students with the skills to examine how the topics discussed in a variety of global settings affect local urban processes.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Critically and analytically read texts and articles pertaining to urban anthropology

  2. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of key concepts, ideas, theories and themes in the field of urban anthropology.

  3. Communicate ideas and formulate arguments about these key concepts, ideas, theories and themes in urban anthropology—both verbally (through in-class debates) and through written work.

  4. Undertake a thorough analysis of ethnographies and case studies, understand how anthropologists have used their methodologies to contribute to key themes, ideas and theories in urban anthropology.

Module information

  • Topic 1 - Introduction: Theorising the City

  • Topic 2 - Colonial and Post-Colonial Cities

  • Topic 3 - Film, “The Battle of Algiers”

  • Topic 4 - Modernist Cities

  • Topic 5 - Socialist and Post-Socialist Cities

  • Topic 6 - Film: Goodbye Lenin 

  • Topic 7 - The Social Life of Infrastructure

  • Topic 8 - Enclaving

  • Topic 9 - Dystopian Cities

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via a 2-hour, face-to-face seminar each week where attendance is expected and participation will be assessed.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Observation     30% 
Coursework   Film Review    65% 
Practical   Participation    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Jason Sumich, email:
Dr Jason Sumich



External examiner

Dr Umut Erel
Open University
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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