Paris: Social Sciences - Urbanism

The group, engrossed in discussion, sits on the steps of the memorial.

Program Term:


Language Requirement:



 Damaris Crocker De Ruiter

Application Deadline:


Please note: Offered in alternating years. Following the Winter 2023 program, the next program will run in Winter 2025.

The College’s new Urbanism sequence in Paris provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to conduct a multidisciplinary study of the dynamism of cities.

    Cities have long been an object of study, from artistic inquiry, to historical interpretation, to scientific exploration. Cities and their components are also the subjects of normative theorizing: proposals for how cities ought to be designed. Most recently, cities have become intertwined with concepts of equity and sustainability—that cities should function as places of resiliency, social diversity, and local economic strength. These explorations and design ideals are reflective of broader social, cultural, and political movements that have long yearned for an urbanism that sustains a high quality of life.

    The Urbanism sequence integrates three disciplinary approaches: the history of cities, the theoretical basis of urban dynamics, and the normative understanding of cities as objects of planning and design. These three approaches—history, theory, design—will make use of a range of conceptual frameworks and methodologies important to the study of cities.

    Apart from classroom work, the Urbanism program offers a series of excursions to sites of academic and cultural interest within and around Paris. Indeed, Paris itself plays a central role in components of the curriculum—the local urban context will offer a grounded exploration of urban historical, theoretical, and normative context. Students will be expected to make full use of the city’s cultural resources.

    The following courses will be taught in Winter 2023:

    HIST 23210/99 Urban History – Leora Auslander, Professor of European Social History, Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor in Western Civilization in the College

    This course is both an introduction to how historians think about cities and a history of cities from the Middle Ages through the Cold War. Most of the examples are drawn from Europe, with a special focus for the version of the course taught in Paris on that city, but significant attention is given to Africa and the United States. The course is chronological in organization, but each class also focusses on a different theme—the place of politics, industrial development, migration, culture, and commerce in the transformation of urban forms and experiences.

    ANTH 23825/99 Social Theory of the City – Alan Kolata, Bernard E. and Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College

    This course explores various historical, sociological and anthropological theories of cities. The course analyzes major theoretical frameworks concerned with urban forms, institutions, economic structures and social experiences as well as particular instances of city development from early modern to contemporary periods. We conclude with a reflection on the future and fate of cities. The course will consist of initial orienting lectures, class discussion of selected texts concerned with social theories of the city, and presentation of research projects by class participants.

    ENST 26005/99 Cities by Design – Evan Carver, Assistant Instructional Professor of Environmental and Urban Studies in the College

    This course examines the theory and practice of city design—how, throughout history, people have sought to mold and shape cities in pre-determined ways. The form of the city is the result of myriad factors, but in this course we will hone in on the purposeful act of designing cities according to normative thinking—ideas about how cities ought to be. Using examples from all time periods and places around the globe, we will examine how cities are purposefully designed and what impact those designs have had. Where and when has city design been successful, and where has it resulted in more harm than good?

    Headquarters for the College’s study abroad programs in Paris is the University of Chicago Center in Paris, the University’s research and teaching arm in Europe. Situated in the thirteenth arrondissement, the Center in Paris is part of an ambitious intellectual project along the river Seine, including the Bibliothèque Nationale and a new home for Université de Paris (formerly Université Denis Diderot - Paris VII). The Center in Paris features classrooms, offices for faculty and graduate students, computer facilities, a small library, and an apartment for the faculty director. For participants in Chicago’s programs, the Center in Paris provides a focus for academic activities, a central meeting place, and a continuing Chicago “presence” within one of the major capitals of Europe.

    Students in the Urbanism in Paris program are housed in a residence hall within the Cité Internationale Universitaire (Cité). The Cité, a park-like residential complex in the fourteenth arrondissement, is the international student campus in Paris, though French students also live there. Students reside in single rooms with a private bath and have access to Cité facilities, including a library, theater, laundry, and athletic facilities. Students will have access to common kitchens in the residence halls and can purchase inexpensive meals at the Cité’s restaurant universitaire.

    It is important to recognize the cultural context of student housing in France and understand that the amenities of dormitory facilities may vary. Although some of these differences may take some getting used to, remember that cultural differences extend to all aspects of your experience abroad. Having realistic expectations for your term in Paris will help you approach the study abroad experience with a positive attitude.

    Participants in the Urbanism program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They receive one credit for each of the four courses offered through the program. The non-language courses have been pre-approved for use in their respective majors. The use of any of these courses in another major is subject to the approval of the undergraduate chair of the respective department. All courses are usable, without further approval, as general electives. The language course will normally count as an elective. Course titles, units of credit, and grades are placed on the College transcript.

    Please note that these courses may not be used to satisfy the general education social sciences requirement.

    Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Urbanism program during the 2023–2024 year are listed below:

    Winter tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

    Study abroad administrative fee: $675

    Paris Social Sciences program fee: $5,460

    Program fee includes:

    Out-of-pocket expenses include:

    • round-trip airfare to and from the program site
    • transportation on site
    • meals
    • course materials
    • personal entertainment and travel
    • communications (including cell phone usage)
    • health insurance and upfront payments for care
    • other miscellaneous expenses

    Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $250 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Paris is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

    Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

    The Urbanism program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

    The program is designed for undergraduates in good academic and disciplinary standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the program courses (aside from the French class) are taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take French on campus before the program begins.

    Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record and personal statement. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

    To discuss the Paris Urbanism program and the possibility of participating, please contact Damaris Crocker De Ruiter.