The City: An Unfinished Story

Instructor: David Selim Sayers

Our ancestors were nomads, hunter-gatherers who moved in small groups and had few material belongings. Today, most of us are city-dwellers, leading sedentary lives surrounded by people and possessions. The urbanization of the world has unlocked formidable potential in the fields of culture, politics, and economy. But the rise of the city has also unleashed a host of challenges, from ecological crises to class divides and individual alienation. Why do cities exist? Which path of history took us from the harsh but resilient, basic but self-reliant lifestyles of our nomadic ancestors to the colorful but exhausting, convenient but codependent urban lifestyles we practice today? Are cities playgrounds for us to act out our dreams, or are they concrete graveyards where dreams go to die? In this course, we will explore the history, theory, and global varieties of urbanization, seeking to answer these questions.

Starting with an appraisal of hunter-gatherer communities, we will proceed to the rise of agriculture, which enabled the first urban settlements. Moving through different forms of the agrarian city, we will arrive at the industrial revolution, which made cities the globally dominant form of human settlement. Our historical overview will conclude in the 21st century, in which social movements such as Black Lives Matter and pandemics such as Covid-19 have caused a critical reassessment of urban spaces. Throughout this journey, we will examine the city’s relationship to concepts such as the individual, society, creativity, production, and power in an effort to understand the causes and effects of urbanization. By the end of the course, we will not only have surveyed the biography of the city, but also gained the capacity to critically question a form of human organization that is too often simply taken for granted.

Maximum enrollment: 10


Thursdays, 19:00 – 22:00
21 October – 25 November
18 hours (6 weeks)


5 Rue des Fontaines du Temple
75003, Paris

All PICT courses are held in person.


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