Rethinking Suburban History upd

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Rethinking Suburban History

Professor Margaret Crawford (

Wednesday, 10-1, Gund 505

Office Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays 1:30-2:30 323a Gund Hall
Recent historical research about American suburbs demonstrates that they are much more varied and complicated than previously imagined. Descriptions of “the suburbs,” as a generic environment are no longer convincing. We are now aware of African-American, working class, industrial and agricultural suburbs. Continuing exurban development is currently producing phenomena as different as gated communities, ethnoburbs, lifestyle centers, and restructured rural towns. With more than half of the U.S. population now residing outside of central cities, even the name “suburb,” implying dependence on a central city, must be questioned. This seminar will examine, using both scholarly and popular explanations, the economic, social, and cultural debates that have shaped our interpretation of this form of urban development. Topics will include the following: defining the suburb (metropolitan region vs. “shrinking city;” the historiography of the suburb; cultural representations of suburbia (films, novels, comics, popular music and video); comparative exurban development (zwischenstadt, citta diffusa, etc.); race and the suburbs; gender and the suburbs; suburban building and planning typologies; designed vs. vernacular suburbs; and exporting suburbs. Students will be expected to conduct original research on a suburban topic of their choice.
Format: Although the seminar is organized around reading and discussion, there may also be several short lectures or slide shows. Each week, several students will be assigned to pose questions based on that week’s readings and select images to illustrate them. There will also be short typology and representation assignments.
Books: Nicolaides and Wiese, The Suburb Reader and D.J. Waldie, Holy Land are required texts. They are available on line and at the Harvard Coop. A selection of basic literature on suburbs is on reserve in the library. A list of titles is included.

Other readings will be available on the class web site.

Requirements: Students are expected to attend all classes, read all assigned materials, present questions and images for one session, complete short assignments, and (except for those enrolled as a reading class) submit a research paper by the end of the term. No incompletes will be given. Information about the class will be posted on the website. Students are responsible for keeping up with any changes.

January 28 Introduction
Febuary 4 Rethinking the Suburbs:

“Introduction” The Suburb Reader (pp. 1-10)

Wunsch, “The Suburban Cliché”

Hanlon, Vicino, Short, “The New Metropolitan Reality: Rethinking the Traditional Model”

February 11 Elite and Working Class Suburbs

Suburb Reader, Chapter 6, pp. 182-19

Case Studies: Llewellyn Park; Riverside; Chagrin Falls Park; Southgate; Goodyear Heights

Suburb Reader, Chapter 7, pp. 193-207

Planning Community: Entrepreneurs and Idealists Birch, “Radburn and the American City Planning Movement”

Suburb Reader, Chapter 8, pp. 225-247

Loeb, Chpt. 3, “Westwood Highlands: The Rise of the Realtor”

Teaford, “The Visionary and the Realtor” from Entrepreneurial Vernacular

Case Studies: Radburn; Greenbelt; Country Club District; Westwood Highlands

February 18 Debates about Postwar Suburbia

Suburb Reader, Chapters 9 and10 (pp. 257-320)

Waldie, Holy Land

Wiese, Chpt. 6, “The House I Live In” from A Place of their Own

Case Studies: Levitttown; Lakewood; Westlake

February 25 Critiques of Contemporary Suburbs

Suburb Reader, Chapter 16 (pp. 469-495)

Hayden, A Field Guide To Sprawl

Case Studies: New Urbanism; Smart Growth; Film and TV: American Beauty
March 4 Race and the Suburbs

Suburb Reader, pp. 341-3

Harris, “Race, Class and Privacy in the Ordinary Postwar House, 1945-60,” from Landscape and Race in the United States, (2006)

Harris, “Clean and Bright and Everyone White: Seeing the Postwar Domestic Environment in the United State,” from Site Unseen: Landscape and Vision (2007)

March 18 Representing the Suburbs

Nicolaides, “How Hell moved from the City to the Suburbs” from The New Suburban History

Archer, “Analyzing the Dream” “Conclusion: Reframing Suburbia” from Architecture and Suburbia

Video: P. Diddy “ Bad Boys Forever;” TV: The O.C; Weed; Exhibition and blogs: Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis)
March 25 No Class: SPRING BREAK
April 1 Suburban Sprawl or Regional City?

Fishman, “America’s New City: Megalopolis Unbound” Woodrow Wilson Quarterly

Sieverts, Cities Without Cities: Zwischenstadt

Case Studies: SoCal, Bay Area; South Florida, Northeast Corrido

April 1

April 8 Pieces of a New City: Suburban Typologies

Findley; Magic Lands

Garreau, Edge City;

Lang, Edgeless Cities

Case Studies: Stanford Industrial Park; Sun City; Silicon Valley; Tyson’s Corners; the Mall: the Strip: the Highway: the strip Mall; the Subdivision; the House; Multi-family units; garden apartments; townhouses

April 15 Boundaries, Restrictions and Gates

Fogelson, Bourgeois Nightmares

McKenzie, Privatopia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994)

Low, Behind the Gates: Life, Security and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America (New York: Routledge, 2004)

April 22 Globalized Suburbs: the Ethnoburb, European and Asian suburbs Fong “ From Ramona Acres to the Chinese Beverly Hills

Li, “Anatomy of a New Suburban Settlement: the Chinese Ethnoburb in Los Angleles;”

EEA Report, “Urban Sprawl in Europe”

April 29 ReReading the Suburb: New Histories, Analysis, Representations, Design

May 20 FINAL PAPERS DUE, 5pm, Instructor’s Box, 3RD floor

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