Writing Assignment 2
Otherness and the Sociological Analysis of Urban Space
Urban sociologists such as Lewis Mumford, James Conlon and Jane Jacobs argue that spatial features are instrumental in influencing social experience and consciousness as well as our ways of being with others in the world. Throughout history, urban spaces in particular have facilitated a social dynamic in which people are stimulated and enriched by the ongoing encounter with people of different backgrounds and experiences.
Articulate a time when you experienced what James Conlon refers to as an encounter with Otherness. When did you come across something or someone that seemed strange to you, and how did that then disrupt your taken-for-granted relation to the world. Describe the situation and its challenge to your normal framework of thinking and acting. Conlon suggests that good urban form can offer the opportunity to confront radical difference, so as you reflect on and articulate your experience with difference, you should also describe how the spatial environs participates in the construction or identification of difference.
In the context of your everyday life now, look for a site that you are regularly a part of and consider how its form contributes to Conlons opportunity for philosophy, allowing you the chance to acquire a sense of both your and others particularity in the context of the larger, variegated social landscape. That is, to do this assignment, you will need to consider where you are usually surrounded by diverse strangers (e.g. an airport, a hotel lobby, a club, a performance venue).
Identify that space and spend some time directly observing it (in your paper you should state when the observation took place). As with the first assignment, your objective is twofold: first, you want to think about how that space, through its design, brings differences together and sets up expectations and relations between them. Consider what those differences are, and how we see them, as well as how differences are asked to interact within this space. (Difference can be represented in many ways: different bodies, different ages, differences in race, class or gender, difference in status or roles, etc.) You are also, as with the first assignment, working out how this space sets up parameters for thinking and acting for all who are here. Remember the question, if you did not know what this space was, how would it tell you? In terms of the social difference that you see here, does it set up expectations equally, or are hierarchies created? Are differences equally valued? What are the various categories of persons, and how does the space set up a sense of who is normal, or who is seen as Other? That is, consider how an urban space is not simply a container of difference, but is an active agent in the construction of difference.
Finally, with the help of TWO of the theorists we have studied in this course, evaluate this space according to their criteria. What would these theorists think of the example of city life that you have chosen, given their argument about urban space?
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Note: You will need to clearly identify the space that you are examining and its location in the city in the first paragraph of your essay.
Note: This assignment requires both direct observation of the space chosen and careful reading of the theorists being utilized (course notes / lecture references are not sufficient).
Due Date: IN CLASS Tuesday, January 9th.
Please bring a hard copy to class as well as submit an e-copy through Blackboard Assignments. If you cannot make it to class, make sure you have submitted through Blackboard and bring a hard copy to class the following week.
Format: 4-6 pages, double spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins
Note: THIS IS NOT A RESEARCH PAPER. Please do not use sources that are not part of our course materials. The course articles and materials that are used in your analysis must be properly referenced and all ideas not your own must be properly sourced (e.g. quotation marks and footnotes marking all material not your own, proper referencing of articles, etc.). Essays that have reproduced material that is not your own without adequate sourcing (i.e. plagiarism) will receive a grade of 0.
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