During most of the 19th and 20th centuries, sociology was concerned with explaining (and forecasting) the making of the world, applying a preconceived picture of what modernity was supposed to be. Conceptualizations like “stages of development”, “phases”, and “backwardness” were expressions of the social as intervals on a time-scale. Difference was explained from a perspective of stage or phase difference, thus time. Eventually, the obsession with time and history in modern thought came together with a loss of a “spatial consciousness.” In this course, we critically engage with the spatial turn in social sciences developing since the 1970s. Building upon a brief introduction into the return of spatial thinking in the social sciences, we will discuss three themes: the construction of the rural (in relation to the urban), our understanding of local (in relation to the global), and constructions of nature (in relation to culture, or society).
The course will conclude with a special session by Prof. Ash Amin of Cambridge University on the spatial dimensions of democratic renewal.
The course “Spatial thinking in the social sciences” is intended for PhD students in the social, environmental, and political sciences. In this course, we will move between close reading of texts, workshops, and discussion. Students following this course will not only learn to think about place as an analytical category, but also learn to “work with place,” by applying various perspectives to concrete cases.
After successful completion of this course students will be able to:
- Understand the relational approach to the study of place and space (the urban and the rural, city and village)
- Critically reflect on the relational approach and evaluate its value for social science research
- Apply a spatial-relational approach to her/his own field of research
- Compare and critically assess different approaches to study the character of place and space in a globalizing and urbanizing society
- Engage in active learning and critical thinking.