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UC Berkeley


Urban Planning and Sustainability

Field Description

UC Berkeley offers a rich and diverse set of undergraduate courses across campus to pursue the multiple intersections of science, technology and society (STS). The ISF Research Field in STS is the only place at Berkeley where undergraduates can pursue a research program in this subject.  Students in this field study not only the social preconditions for scientific investigation but also the social consequences of scientific and technological developments and the ways in which these processes are themselves shaped by society. STS is premised on a specific demarcation problem–not the classic demarcation of science from non-science but the difficulty, if not impossibility, of demarcating science and technology as autonomous activities and objects, independent of the society out of which they arise and presumably serve.

Students studying STS will find challenging courses in Anthropology, English, ESPM, ERG, Geography, History, Political Science, Rhetoric and Women’s Studies as well as in many of the Science Departments themselves.  The range of topics covered in STS is capacious and includes: the social history of the scientific revolutions; the contexts of discovery and the rhetorics of justification for scientific developments; the social determinants of technological pathways; the cultural aspects of new probabilistic modes of rationality and explanation; the traffic between political economy and the biological sciences in the long nineteenth century; the uses to which science was put in defense of apartheid and Empire and the naturalization of sexual differences; how and why the social sciences often become mathematized and positivistic in nature; the responsibilities of scientists in the Atomic Age; how the Cold War shaped the development of science and technology; the political and legal dimensions of pharmaceutical and stem cell research; the use and misuse of tests of statistical significance in the study of climate change; the ways in which Big Data change and even create social phenomena; the politics of transition in energy systems; the exploration of what speculative and science fiction says about the hopes and anxieties about bioengineered post-humans and “amortal” cyborgs; and the normative and empirical study of the ways in which science is, or should be, held accountable to democratic procedures.

Library Resources is forthcoming; meanwhile, please contact Lynn Jones at

Recent ISF Senior Theses

  • Promoting Agriculture in the City: Urban Agriculture, City Planning, and Public Policy in Cuba and Brazil
  • Getting Around: The Failure of Mass Transportation and the Advent of Car-Sharing in Modern Western Cities
  • Urban Renewal in the Modern City: Can We Redevelop Without Marginalizing?
  • Greening the City: What can Detroit learn from Sussex?
  • The Present and Future of Sustainable Buildings: How They Emerged, Why They Matter
  • Healthy Cities? How Cities in Western Europe and the United States are Becoming Spaces for Longer, More Meaningful Lives
  • Public Housing Programs in Singapore and the United States: A Historical and Comparative Analysis
  • Planned Urban Development? How Rocinha Was Integrated into Rio de Janeiro
  • Going “Green”: How and Why Buildings are Turning the Leaf and Adopting Greener Practices
  • What Would Happen if Our Policies Worked? The Consequences of Eliminating Urban Informal Sectors in Developing Countries
  • The Democratic Transition to Sustainability in Urban Environments
  • How Do We Protect Them? Disaster Planning for People with Disabilities in Modern Urban Contexts

Relevant UC Berkeley Courses

  • Sociology 136: Urban Sociology
  • Education C181: Race, Identity, and Culture in Urban Schools
  • Environmental Design 102: Critical Debates in Sustainable Urbanism
  • Architecture 170A: An Historical Survey of Architecture and Urbanism
  • City and Regional Planning 140: Urban Design: City-Building and Place-Making
  • City and Regional Planning 119: Planning for Sustainability
  • Economics 155: Urban Economics
  • Anthropology 189: Cities and Citizenship
  • History 134A: The Age of the City, 1825-1933
  • International and Area Studies 158AC: Social Movements, Urban Histories, and the Politics of Memory

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