First Year: The Global City

Students at Powell's Books

Lay the Groundwork

Form tight bonds with your peers in a small, year-long course, focused on developing advanced writing skills through intensive study of the urban environment

The Global City introduces ways to think critically about the urban environment and the interdependence between the city and the global world. It begins with the study of representations and perceptions of the city, the city in historical context, and the processes that shape the city’s geopolitical manifestations. 

This year-long sequence is designed to serve as a foundations course in the four-year University Honors College curriculum. Aimed at high achieving students entering the university as first-term first years, it provides the basic intellectual framework for the social, cultural, political, and material study of the urban environment. In addition, it provides and rehearses the reading and writing tools and skills necessary for the successful completion of a senior thesis.

Each section of the course will have different material, but the writing tools studied throughout the year are the same from section to section.

All freshmen begin with these courses, including those with college credit earned prior to high school graduation.

HON 101A, 102A, and 103A

Dr. Pelin Basci

This Global City sequence will focus on cosmopolitan cities from the twentieth and twenty-first-century Middle East and Balkans as case studies in the exploration of forces that came to shape the modern city and in turn were shaped by them: women, nationalism and migration.

During Hon 101 we will examine women’s lives in modern Middle Eastern cities like Cairo, Tehran and Istanbul, investigating how women negotiate their roles and responsibilities, seek to attain power, expand their influence, and resist injustice. During Hon 102 we will examine how nationalism reshaped the human experience in cosmopolitan Balkan cities like Thessaloniki (Greece) prior to World War II. During the final part of the Global City in Hon 103 we will focus on migration since mid-twentieth century through the example of the nation-state of Turkey, which has been shaped by human mobility.

The Global City 101-103 sequence is offered in a seminar format. The course presents an interdisciplinary investigation within a historical context. Our sources come from social science scholarship and literature and cinema involving representations of women, nationalism and migration. Requirements include active and well-prepared participation, quizzes, and various writing assignments.

HON 101B, 102B, and 103B

Dr. Eric Rodriguez

To many people in the United Sates America, Portland is seen as a city in near constant conflict. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush referred to the city as “Little Beirut” (a reference to the Lebanese city rocked by civil war in the 80s). What is it about the city of Portland that has created this contentious reputation?

In this course, we will examine various texts, including treaties, manifestoes, and zines, to examine how writing practice, both analog and digital, affects representations and perceptions of Portland. We will examine the various ways state-sanctioned entities and activist networks engage in writing practice to assert power or animate communities to answer the following question: “How does writing change, both literally and metaphorically, urban environments?"

HON 101C, 102C, and 103C

Dr. Kathleen Merrow

The intellectual project we will pursue in the sequence I teach over the course of the year is focused upon the ways that social relations, politics, art, architecture, urban planning, maps, academic disciplinary discourse, etc. produce an “imaginary city” or, an ideological city, that shapes our relationship to the lived city through the normative notions and images that underline these different forms of discourse about the city.   Each term we will make a different case study that frames our discussions of this relationship. 

HON 101, Fall term we begin in Chicago in 1893, the year of the “White City:” The World’s Columbian Exposition, or World’s Fair, held in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of America.  This particular moment crystallizes significant components of urban modernity at the turn of the century and our readings will focus on the Exposition, including work with the graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware. Written assignments will focus on the academic scholarship on the fair.

HON 102, Winter term we shift from the modern industrial city (Chicago) to the post-modern digital city using  texts and film about Los Angeles as the paradigmatic “global city.” Our core text for the writing assignment is William Gibson’s novel  Idoru, set in Japan but written with the Los Angles of Blade Runner in mind. 

HON 103, Spring term we then continue developing this framework for thinking about the relationship between the imaginary and the real city by focusing on the power of maps  to construct the city as a totality, studying key works in cartographic theory as well as working with maps and map-making. This term the writing assignment gives students the opportunity as well to study the disciplinary contours of their own chosen field of study (or one they are interested in). 

HON 101D, 102D, and 103D

Dr. William "Harry" York

In this section we will consider different representations of the city as a space for building diverse and inclusive communities as we develop methods for thinking about the modern geopolitical city. We will begin by developing a framework within which to consider the concept of the “imagined city” and the ways in which people of different backgrounds are incorporated into the city (or nation). We will explore the theme of identity formation within the city, including the ways in which concepts of self/otherness inform the ways in which ideas of citizenship are formed. What does it mean to become a citizen of a city? How is this citizenship performed? What does it mean to identify as an “urbanite” or “urban citizen?” How have people forged citizenship and identity in response to conquest and colonial oppression? Whose culture should shape citizenship and identity and how? How should we think about the process of self-identity formation in relation to that of shaping one’s identity as a member of an urban community? We will approach these questions and others through an examination of the ancient city of Rome and the 20th-century city of Lagos, a city in Nigeria under British colonial rule. In all of our work, we will continue to think about the implications for our own day, as we seek define “American” identities in the context of an increasingly urbanized and globalized world. Although many of our readings may focus on a city in ancient Europe, the themes we will explore are relevant today and students are encouraged to draw connections to contemporary issues in discussions

HON 101E,  102E, and 103E

Dr. Federico Perez

This year-long course is an exploration of the history, representations, and contemporary politics of global urbanism. During the fall we examine the historical precedents of what we now call globalization. Focusing on the rise of European colonialism since the fifteenth century, we trace the power struggles––the forms of domination and modes of resistance––that have shaped cities across the globe and into the present. In the spring we continue our exploration of global life in the aftermath of decolonial struggles and as Western imperialism was reconfigured across the globe. We pay particular attention to urban violence and conflicts associated with the rise of nationalism, ethnic and racial divisions, and deepening socioeconomic inequalities. Of particular interest during this term is how violence is represented in different genres and media and with what social and political implications. Finally, in the spring we conclude our intellectual journey by considering the legacies of these global histories––the afterlives of colonialism––in contemporary battles over land and resources, racial and social justice, and political mobilization and citizenship. The course draws heavily on anthropology, history, urban studies, journalism, graphic non-fiction, and film. We will read about cities North and South, East and West.

HON 101F, 102F, and 103F

Dr. Paul McCutcheon

On May 26, 2020, Minneapolis protesters gathered at the intersection of 38th and Chicago to memorialize George Floyd, an unarmed African American killed by a police officer the previous day, in the first public demonstration in what has become prolonged public struggle against police brutality and police violence. The protest spread like wildfire. Within days, solidarity protests had erupted across hundreds of U.S. cities. By the beginning of June, the protest was global in scale, with solidarity protests erupting in over 60 countries over the world. In Australia, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to condemn the racist murder of George Floyd and call attention to racial disparities in incarceration within Australia. Protesters in Tel Aviv, Haifa and East Jerusalem chanted "Justice for George" and "Justice for Eyad,” in reference to the unarmed Palestinian man killed by Israeli police just days after the Floyd was killed. In New Zealand, tens of thousands of protesters marched to the U.S. Embassy to condemn racist police policies and demand racial equality for the Māori people.

To make sense of this, this section of The Global City will explore the transnational history of capitalism, colonialism, segregation, imperialism, settlement, protest, and political struggle. We will travel across the networks of racialized capital that developed in the 17th century and follow them across time and space to consider how the development of a global color line shapes the contours of contemporary urban space. As we travel, we will consider how urban activists linked urban segregation and ghetto formation to global conditions to forge transnational alliances with anti-colonial movements across the world.