Course Offerings in Recent Years

This page contains a catalogue of all the courses that under  the Urban Studies major/minor that have been offered in recent years. Click here to see courses being offered in the upcoming academic year. To focus your exploration to topical courses by pathway, or the methods courses, click on the relevant item in the list below:

Required Courses

YSS2220 Adelaide to Zhuhai: Cities in Comparative Perspective

Students taking this course acquire foundational concepts in Urban Studies, including: centrality (cities as economic and demographic concentrations and extensions); relationality (cities in global and regional networks); positionality (cities as pluralistic units of experience and meaning); sustainability (cities as sites of human-environment interface); and collectivity (cities as sites of collaborative problem solving and collective action). It is a required course in Urban Studies, preparing students for Urban Theory as well as other urban thematic courses. It should be the first course students intending to major or minor in Urban Studies take, and must be completed prior to the Senior Year.

YSS3222 Urban Theory

This course introduces students to key theoretical approaches in urban studies. Throughout the semester, we will read selections from essential texts in the field, examining both their methodological techniques and theoretical contributions to understanding cities and urbanization. The course takes an interdisciplinary approach and is divided into three or four thematic units, which in previous iterations have covered topics such as modernity, justice, economy, spatiality, and infrastructure.


YSS3235 Urban Spatial Representation

This course offers an introduction to spatial visualization tools for the analysis and representation of city forms, infrastructures and social phenomena. Students will learn about the history of urban representational concepts (projection, abstraction, plan, perspective), and a number of current tools (digital model-building and plan/map representation and participatory methods). They will acquire, interrogate and manipulate digital data relevant for urban spatial analysis, and learn how to visualise data such that it effectively communicates three-dimensional urban spatial conditions. The course also introduces students to key software packages used in urban planning and design (AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator, and Sketchup/Rhinoceros 3d modelling packages).

Major: Urban Studies

YSS3273 Geospatial & Demographic Methods

This course is designed to give training in spatial and demographic methods relevant to urban and social studies with three major foci: (a) essential theories regarding spatial and demographic structures and dynamics of cities (e.g., models of urban form, central place theory, rank-size rule); (b) methods of spatial visualization and analysis of urban social phenomena using (GIS) software (e.g., map projections, coordinate systems, spatial data manipulation & visualization, and geodatabase management); (c) techniques to calculate, interpret, and present basic spatial and demographic changes in cities using STATA software (e.g., immigration and ethnic diversity, racial segregation, concentrated poverty, and residential sprawl).

Major: Urban Studies

YSS3231 Methods in the Social Sciences

An introduction to various research methods in the social sciences, including survey methodology, quantitative data analysis, participant observation, and in‐depth interviewing. This course can count as a course in the major for students in Urban Studies, Global Affairs, PPE, and Anthropology. It may fulfil the course requirements for students in Environmental Studies as well on a case‐by‐case basis after consultation with the Head of Studies of that major. The course also fulfils the methods requirement in Urban Studies and Global Affairs. Students in all of these majors should ideally take this course before they commence their capstone project.

Major: Urban Studies; Anthropology; Global Affairs; PPE

YHU2223 Documentary Photography

Photography is becoming increasingly important in our interconnected world. The question needs to be asked has the exponential increase in images resulted in a corresponding increase in knowledge or visually literacy? This course will explore the use of photography as a socially conscious art form, representing, reflecting and commenting on society and our place in the world. Learning from the work of photographers of singular importance within the Documentary genre as well as those pushing the boundaries of the medium, students will work towards creating a body of work that tells a story through narrative, emotion, style and substance.This module fulfills the Art Practice track in the Arts & Humanities major.

Major: Arts and Humanities; Urban Studies

YHU3276 The Historian’s Craft

This is a hands-on course in which students will be introduced to the practices involved in historical research, writing, and presentation. Students will be exposed to a variety of models created by professional historians and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each. Direct engagement with primary sources will be a principal area of focus in this course.

Major: History; Urban Studies; Global Affairs

YSS2211 Econometrics

Does going to college increase your earnings? Does height have an effect your wage? Do episodes like the haze 2013 in Singapore have a major impact to the economy? This course introduces students to the statistical methods that economists use to answer this and similar questions. More generally, this is an introduction to the methods used to test economic models and examine empirical relationships, primarily regression analysis. Although much of the course will focus on the mathematical development of the methodology, emphasis is placed on learning by studying and replicating specific case studies that address current economic questions.

Major: Economics; Urban Studies; Global Affairs; PPE

YSS3202 Ethnography

In this course, students will understand what constitutes ethnographic field methods, what makes ethnographic writing different from other kinds of nonfiction writing, and the ethical and theoretical considerations within ethnographic research. Over the semester, students will conduct their own, small‐scale ethnographic fieldwork, interviews and participant observation based in Singapore.

Major: Anthropology; Urban Studies; Global Affairs


YSS3217 Urbanization in China

This course investigates the dramatic urban transformation that has taken place in mainland China over the last four decades. The scale of this transformation means that it has far-reaching consequences for Asia and the world, influencing everything from climate change to the price of bread. The path of Chinese urbanization even affects the likelihood of regional military conflict. Understanding how and why China has urbanized is therefore of critical importance. Over the semester, we will take an interdisciplinary approach to this investigation, using perspectives from history, geography, political science, anthropology, urban planning, and cultural studies, among other disciplines.

Majors: Urban Studies; Chinese Studies Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Transnational and International Development

YSS3218 Urban ASEAN: The Changing Southeast Asian City

This course offers a critical reading of the past, present, and future of urban transformation in Southeast Asia. The course will consider the specific features of urbanization in Southeast Asia and the ways these are linked to the restructuring of economic, political and social agendas. Students will also be exposed to the different professional fields which engage with matters related to urbanization in the region. Key questions addressed in the course include: How is economic transformation driving urban restructuring in Southeast Asia? What are the strategies adopted by local and regional government institutions, urban designers, NGOs, and other organizations and professionals to guide urban development in the region? And what might the future hold for urbanization in Southeast Asia?

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Transnational and International Development

YSS3229 Urbanization and the Environment

This course offers students an understanding of the complex relationship between urbanization and the environment. The course covers a range of topics relevant to thinking about the role of nature in the city, the reliance of urbanization on nature, and the environmental benefits and ills of urbanization. Students will understand the environmental pressures posed by urbanization, as well as the ways in which certain environmental goals (green spaces, clean air) are a key part of urban planning and policy formation.

Majors: Urban Studies; Environmental Studies Pathways: Design and Environment

YSS3245 Key Debates in Urban Planning and Policy

This course explores key debates in contemporary urban planning and policy, including questions of agglomeration, property rights, rationality, democracy, diversity, and justice. While these questions are crucial for successfully intervening in contemporary urban transformation, they are not new. Rather, they are part of ongoing debates that stretch back to the origins of urban planning and policy. In order to understand the issues facing contemporary urban planning, it is therefore necessary to excavate their historical development. Through this excavation, we will develop informed positions on contemporary practice in urban planning and policy.

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Politics and Public Policy

YSS3246 Cities of the Global South

This course offers students an in-depth inquiry into the characteristics of urban organization and development in cities of the Global South, where there are high rates of urbanization. Students will examine a range of topics: migration and urbanization, formal and informal governance, housing and infrastructure, food security and environment. Students will also learn about the competing theoretical constructs used to explain such urbanization. Case studies will be drawn from a range of geographical locations.

Majors: Urban Studies; Global Affairs; PPE Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Society and Culture; Transnational and International Development

YSS3250 Cityscapes and Urban Form

This course teaches students how to analyse and visualise the urban built environment. Students learn about different city morphologies and the cultural, political and economic reasons they formed. Students will learn about how to discern, describe and depict elements in the urban built environment and do so at a range of scales – block, street, neighbourhood, city. They will also explore the ways in urban design engages with and seeks to re-shape cityscapes. This course includes practical training in manual and digital visualisations.

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Design and Environment

YSS3251 Urban Political Ecology

Contemporary cities face pressing environmental and infrastructural challenges that unevenly shape the nature of urban space and everyday life. This course introduces students to urban political ecology (UPE) as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry for examining critical socio-ecological processes and problems in cities. Through UPE case studies on water, waste, pollution, green spaces, environmental (in)justices, and smart/sustainable cities, we consider interwoven social, political and ecological processes that produce differing urban environments for city-dwellers. This course provides a critical toolkit for grasping and analysing the complex human-environment networks that constitute our cities, while considering possibilities for greater social and environmental justice.

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Design and Environment; Politics and Public Policy

YSS3256 Youth Urbanism: Global Trends, Local Perspectives

This course explores the relationship between youths and their urban environments from a global perspective. More than half of the world’s young people live in cities today, where they contribute to urban life from everyday use of street space to participation in politics and transnational mobility. Yet, structures of inequality continue to frame their lives. Through the lens of youth urbanism, students examine theories, debates, and policy concerns across social inequalities, education/employment, migration, citizenship, and politics – themes relevant to the fields of Urban Studies and Global Affairs. Critical evaluation, writing, and project-work skills will also be developed through assignments.

Major: Urban Studies; Global Affairs Pathways: Society and Culture; Transnational and International Development

YSS3269 Water and Waste in Urban Environments

This course will focus on water and sanitation (W&S) services in cities across the world, especially in developing countries. The seminar will develop critical thinking skills on the following issues: health and non-health impacts of W&S improvements; components of infrastructure, and institutional arrangements for the provision of W&S in developed and developing countries cities; supply versus demand oriented planning of W&S services; political, environmental, institutional, economic and financial challenges of improving W&S services in cities; strategies to target the poor and underserved; privatization; behavioural change theory; handwashing; and water scarcity. Examples will be used from cities around the world.

Majors: Urban Studies; Global Affairs Pathways: Design and Environment; Politics and Public Policy; Society and Culture; Transnational and International Development

YSS3274 Urban Singapore

The module aims to provide students with a deeper understanding of the development of Singapore as a city-state. It will examine:

  • the various components of the master plan that integrates the island as one single planning unit which guides the total physical transformation of the island into the contemporary high-rise, high density city,
  • the melding of the hegemonic one-party parliament and the civil service into an efficient and efficacious urban growth machine,
  • the societal and cultural developments engendered by six decades of practically continuous national economic growth and
  • the future of the city state.

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Society and Culture

YSS3275 Social Life of Cities

This course offers a window into the complex arrangements of social life in cities. It explores the ways in which social structures and dynamics are folded into and through urban contexts, specifically by imagining the city from four planes of social life. We examine:

  1. ‘cities of difference’
  2. ‘cities of scales’
  3. ‘cities of relations’
  4. ‘cities of actions’

At the end of the course, students will gain clearer recognition of the darker structures in urban life, the complicity of society and culture in stabilising them, but also a deeper appreciation for spaces of hope that allow for change.

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Society and Culture

YSS3282 Architecture and Society

This module offers students the opportunity to inquire into the relationship between architecture and society, with a focus on the late modern to contemporary era (nineteenth century to now). The course will look at the relationship between architecture and specific social institutions (the family, secular welfare, the nation, the state), as well as attending to the role of architecture in a range of social processes, including the exercise of power, identity formation, care, production and reproduction, and consumption. It will also address the emergence of a professionalised field of architecture and the establishment of building standards.

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Society and Culture

YSS3284 Healthy and Resilient Cities

The concentrated population of city living has long posed a challenge to the human health. This problematic is the focus of this course. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the course examines the relationship between urbanization and public health, including understanding how cities might become healthier and more resilient. Students will be introduced to key analytical concepts and theories relevant to understanding urban public health generally, and in relation to urban environments, specifically. They will also be given an historical perspective on why urbanization and poor health are related.

Majors: Urban Studies; Historical Immersion Pathways: Design and Environment; Society and Culture

YSS3297 “Green” Cities and Urban Natures

This module investigates the hypothesis that urbanism does not necessarily mean ecological failure but can be understood as bringing the natural and the cultural into new relationships. The course will introduce students to the history of the “green” city as a concept, using case studies from Renaissance urban design to the “eco-city” of Masdar in Abu Dhabi. Using Singapore as a site for field study, students will explore how anthropogenic factors (species introduction, hardscapes, designed landscape, and waste) give rise to new ecological conditions. Urban issues such as biodiversity, Heat Island Effect, and ecosystem services will also be considered.

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Design and Environment

YSS3303 Cities and Economic Development

The previous century has been characterized as a period of tremendous economic growth and industrial transformation. This seminar examines how these changes intersect with urbanization, including the physical built environment and urban spatial practices. The course begins by considering the urban implications of industrialization and de-industrialization in a global context, then focuses on linkages between economic transformation and urbanization today. What is the role of cities in fostering innovation, and how are new technologies, such as digitization, artificial intelligence, and the “internet of things” driving changes in urban design and governance?

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Transnational and International Development

YSS3304 Port Cities: Logistics, Transnationality, Urbanization

Port cities across the world have long played a crucial role as nodes of exchange and interaction in ever more extensive networks of production, culture, and power. Conversely, global flows of capital, people, and knowledge have been increasingly preponderant in shaping processes of urbanization since the dawn of maritime trade. Based on a program of field visits to relevant sites across the city, this module takes Singapore as an example to consider patterns, functions, and images of port cities as well as the transnational currents that have given shape to urbanism past and present.

Majors: Urban Studies; Global Affairs Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Transnational and International Development

YSS3308 Boulevards, Arcades and Sewers: Paris 1830-1870

The Paris of the mid-nineteenth century was a defining stage in the unfolding of modernity. The various improvement plans completed under the auspices of public works commissioner, Baron Haussmann, established a range of tools fundamental to the modernization of cities: infrastructures, knowledges, institutions. The transformations the city underwent had an enduring effect on the experience and habits of modern urban life. Focusing on the period from 1830 to 1870, this module considers both the preconditions and the effects of the rationalization of urban space that took place in Second Empire Paris. Immersing themselves in a range of evidentiary fields – from art, to literature, to photography and political discourse – students learn about the lineaments of urban modernity.

Majors: Urban Studies; Historical Immersion Pathways: Design and Environment; Society and Culture

YSS4220 Housing and Social Inequality

Housing is an essential necessity for living. The housing unit is concurrently a consumption good and an investment good. As a commodity, the quality and quantity of housing distribution and consumption are unequal, reflecting intrinsic social and economic inequalities in the society. As the logic and practice of the housing market unavoidably fail in providing adequate housing for all, the state is left with the responsibility of providing for those that the market has marginalized. This module will examine the role of the market and the state in engendering and perpetuating social and economic inequalities through the housing provision.

Majors: Urban Studies Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Society and Culture

YSS4234 Urban Heritage: Place, Memory, Identity

The course offers an advanced-level, in-depth understanding urban heritage, both as it manifests in the built environment but also in intangible social and cultural phenomena. The course begins by defining what heritage is in urban contexts and inquiring into the special pressures urbanisation places on “inherited” built forms and ways of life. The module will draw on historical developments in urban heritage politics and planning in both North America and Europe, but the key emphasis will be on in-depth understanding of the emergence of urban heritage landscapes in Asian cities. The course will tackle the following topics:

  • the contested politics of whose past becomes heritage, and why?
  • the relationship between urban heritage places, memory and identity
  • civil society interests and political activism
  • scholarly architectural debates about how to preserve the past: restoration, preservation, conservation, renewal etc (Ruskin et al)
  • state-based processes of recognition and preservation
  • international frameworks for conservation
  • tensions between heritage, tourism and authenticity

Majors: Urban Studies; History Pathways: Society and Culture; Politics and Public Policy

YSS4247 Global and Transnational Urbanism

This module examines the multiple ways in which cities are built across national boundaries. Processes of urbanization have been long shaped by global flows of capital, people, and knowledge. These transnational currents raise important questions for how we understand urban development, past and present. From the effects of colonial expansion on cities, through to the contemporary trend of itinerant urban expertise, the module will offer varied perspectives on the phenomenon of transnational urbanism. The seminar will draw on a broad array of theoretical approaches (e.g. postcolonial, neo-Marxian, developmental) and range across political, economic, social and cultural formations.

Majors: Urban Studies; Global Affairs Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Transnational and International Development

YSS3201 International Migration

An introduction to foundational theories that explain why people migrate and their post-migration experiences. The first half of the course focuses on factors that influence the decision to leave one’s home country and migrate elsewhere. The second half of the course focuses on the impact of migration on the migrants themselves, the countries they move to, and the countries they leave behind. Over the course of the semester, students will also research specific migration streams to Singapore of their choosing in a structured manner.

Majors: Global Affairs; Urban Studies; Anthropology Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Society and Culture; Transnational and International Development

YSS3254 Globalization on the Ground

This course takes an ethnographic approach to the study of globalization, focusing on the impact it has on the daily lives of individuals, families, and communities around the world, and how they have responded in turn. Introducing students to how interpretative social science disciplines have approached the study of globalization, students will be assigned readings on different manifestations of globalization, including but not limited to the McDonaldization of society, the materials that enable globalization to take place, the international labor migration industry, the structure and composition of global cities, global crime, and the rise of anti-globalization social movements.

Majors: Global Affairs; Urban Studies; Anthropology Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Transnational and International Development

YSS3265 Urban Economics

This class studies the economics of cities and urban problems by understanding the effects of geographic location on the decisions of individuals and firms. Traditional microeconomic models are typically spaceless, yet location and distance plays an increasingly important part in modern economics. We will study questions such as Why do cities exist? How do firms decide where to locate? Why do people live in cities? We will analyze the economic problems that arise as people and firms cluster in cities. We will also discuss specific urban economic problems such as firm location, crime, transportation, housing, education, and local government economics.

Majors: Economics; Urban Studies; PPE Pathways: Politics and Public Policy; Transnational and International Development

YSS4242 Urban Ethnography of Asia

An anthropological study of contemporary Asian cities. Focus on new ethnographies about cities in East, Southeast, and South Asia. Topics include rural-urban migration, redevelopment, evictions, social movements, land grabbing, master-planned developments, heritage preservation, utopian aspirations, social housing, slums and precariousness, and spatial cleansing.

Major: Anthropology; Urban Studies; Global Affairs Pathways: Society and Culture

YHU2294 Mean Streets: The Detective and the City

Using short stories, novellas, TV shows and films, this class examines the art of detective writing and traces the narrative complicity of the detective and urban space. The detective moves between different social spaces within the city, with access to both penthouses and crack dens, and the city itself becomes a character in these tales – alternatively helpful, seductive, sullen, and dangerous. Part of the syllabus will be dedicated to texts originating in the Global South, asking how the genre of detective fiction changes when it encounters the postcolonial city.

Major: Literature; Urban Studies Pathways: Society and Culture

YHU3254 From Edo to Modern City: Tokyo

This course provides an in-depth examination of the city of Tokyo and the historical phase in which it transitioned from a pre-modern city called Edo, to the modern city of Tokyo that we know today. It will involve close readings and analysis of visual materials (“floating world pictures” (ukiyo-e)), historical artefacts, literature and film from the later Edo period (1800s) to the modern era to provide an understanding of Japanese culture and history that has conditioned its transformation into one of the major global cities in Asia today. This module fulfills the Art History track in the Arts & Humanities major.

Major: Historical Immersion; Urban Studies Pathways: Society and Culture

YHU3339 Rome in Antiquity

When Rome grew into a world empire, the city of Rome transformed into the caput mundi, the capital world. It was the first – and until London in 1811 – the only Western city to reach a population of a million. Rome reflected the grandeur and diversity of its empire. It was a cosmopolitan, multi-lingual, and multi-ethnic mega-city, which show-cased Roman might, organizational efficiency, and wealth through public works, monumental architecture, and a consumer culture that large swaths of the population could indulge in. The course will deal with the management of a pre-industrial metropolis and its political, cultural, social and economic life.

Major: Historical Immersion; Urban Studies; History Pathways: Society and Culture

YID2213 Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture is a burgeoning movement not just in the Euro-Americas, but also in much of the global South. This module explores the theories and practices of urban agriculture with attention to its social, cultural, political, and material dynamics. Students will not only learn concepts in sustainable food production and the developments and debates in the urban agriculture movement, but also gain skills and experience in growing their own food.

Majors: Environmental Studies; Urban Studies Pathways: Design and Environment

YID3207 China’s Energy and Environmental Sustainability

This course examines China’s key energy and environmental challenges as they relate both within China and abroad. Using a flipped classroom model, this course will be jointly offered with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Majors: Environmental Studies; Urban Studies; Global Affairs; Chinese Studies Pathways: Design and Environment

YID3218 Singapore Biodiversity: Past, Present, and Future

The study of biodiversity is inextricably related to the history of science and society. This module will introduce students to the interdisciplinarity of Singapore’s natural world by connecting the stories of environmental history to the specializations of biodiversity research. It will expose students to the multiple aspects of Singapore’s biodiversity, combining the rigor of scientific concepts and field methods with the wealth of historical perspectives and cultural analyses. While the module focuses on the past and present of Singapore’s natural world, it also highlights the role of environmental history and biodiversity research in addressing future environmental challenges.

Majors: Environmental Studies; Urban Studies; History; Life Sciences Pathways: Design and Environment

YSC3256 Urban Ecological Systems

With an increasingly urbanised human population the interaction of nature with the built environment and its human inhabitants is emerging as one of the greatest sources of both opportunity and inertia to goals of sustainability. In this course you will consider the extent to which urbanisation has changed natural ecosystems leading to the rise of a new urban ecology and consider how humans can value and manage this in a socio-ecological context. We will then address how the confluence of climate change, globalisation and urbanisation are fundamentally altering our living space and the implications for human health and wellness.

Majors: Environmental Studies; Urban Studies; Pathways: Design and Environment