Aditi Mehta, Ph.D. is a scholar and educator of urban studies and planning.

Critical Approaches to Urban Studies

A common approach to studying the city is to quantify the outcome of processes and to rely on the scientific method and quantitative analysis to test hypotheses and ultimately create new knowledge. Critical approaches have been advanced on the belief that the notion of quantification, and that of positivism itself, could be inappropriate, if not altogether flawed. This course introduces students to a variety of critical or alternative approaches to understanding the urban experience. How do we develop knowledge about the city and whose voice matters?

The first portion of the course focuses on understanding theories of justice, knowledge production, and power in the city. The second portion of the course uses these frameworks to recognize the city from various identities: indigenous, feminist, queer, immigrant, racial/ethnic minority, youth, etc. We unpack several examples of participatory action research that address the unique struggles of each population, and discuss how research can be a tool for resistance. Students carry out primary research on a current issue, movement, or organization of interest in Toronto, developing critical qualitative methods skills. Students in this course:

  1. Develop an understanding of the different ways in which scholars and practitioners develop knowledge about urban studies and develop a critical voice about urban research
  2. Learn key concepts about participatory action research
  3. Acquire and practice the ability to conduct qualitative research
  4. Explore the urban experience from various identities, and thus critique urban policy and plans accordingly