The American Urban Experience: Anthropological Perspectives
A: Films and Videos
People Like Us: Social Class in America (PBS) (2001): A sprawling look at the class system in the United States, ranging from WASP elegance to trailer-park desperation, with lots of other stuff in between. Teachers Guide here.
Urbanized (2011) Gary Hustwit: Cities are a mixture of deliberate design, accident, history, geography, and countless small collective decisions by the citizens that impose themselves. For example, it is well known that in parks and public green spaces, people will walk where there should logically be a path, whether one is provided or not. On campus quadrangles, planners give up and pave the way. The doc argues that the most disastrous city planning decisions have been marred by the grandiosity of the planners. From the air, Brasilia, the capitol of Brazil, built from scratch in the jungle, looks like a magnificent grouping of sculptures. But for whose eyes? Aliens? On the ground, it is apparently not a very pleasant place to live. Robert Moses, the megalomaniac planning czar of New York City, saw organic neighborhoods as an impediment to his vast rebuilding schemes. Venice, by contrast, grew up island by island, structure by structure, in a shallow lagoon, with no coherent planning at all, and today is arguably the most agreeable city on earth, despite its undeniable inconveniences.
Rubble Kings (Netflix)(2015): Director Shan Nicholson takes special interest in the ubiquitous South Bronx gangs that materialized after the Cross-Bronx Expressway caused the borough’s middle class (and predominantly white) residents to flee upstate. So while “Rubble Kings” features cultural figureheads like former Mayor Ed Koch and hip-hop pioneers. The film focuses on Ghetto Brothers founder Benji “Yellow” Melendez and Ghetto Brothers president Carlos “Karate Charlie” Suarez. That myopic focus is sometimes frustrating since Nicholson never presses his subjects hard enough to get them to answer follow-up questions. But “Rubble Kings” is an exciting glimpse at a subculture that most urbanites only know exists thanks to NYC-sploitation gems like “The Warriors.”
The Myth of Pruitt-Igoe (2012): (Brooklyn College Library): It began as a housing marvel. Two decades later, it ended in rubble. But what happened to those caught in between? The Pruitt-Igoe Myth tells the story of the transformation of the American city in the decades after World War II, through the lens of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing development and the St. Louis residents who called it home.
Gentrification Express: (You Tube) This documentary is about the BQX transportation project.
The (sub)Urban podcast: The (sub)URBAN Podcast is based in Huntsville, Alabama. The (sub)URBAN Podcast provides listeners with hours of sometimes explicit entertainment. Our Hosts, Juice and Kim provide insight on growing up black and in the suburbs. Each week they discuss everything from Music, Politics, Religion, Racism and Sexism. Just two suburban kids discussing blackness in white spaces.
Invisible City: Examines the global conversation on 21st century city building and shares unique stories providing insight into the complexity of modern city living.
Planners Under the Influence: This is a podcast about becoming urban planners. Join Diego and Heather as they share their experiences studying Urban Planning and interview students, academics, and practitioners on what it’s like to become an urban planner. We believe Jan Gehl said it best: “A good city is like a good party.” So pick up a drink and let’s talk cities.
Isn’t That Spatial: The podcast dedicated to casual geography and the spatial component of whatever. ITS is hosted by Amanda King, an urban planner based in Columbus, Ohio.
Technopolis (city Lab): Hosted by urban innovation professor Molly Turner and startup advisor Jim Kapsis, Technopolis explores what needs to change for tech to help solve more problems than it creates.
There goes the neighborhood: Los Angeles is having an identity crisis. City officials tout new development and shiny commuter trains, while longtime residents are doing all they can to hang on to home.