Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Robert F. Reid-Pharr

Subject Categories

Other Sociology | Sociology


City, Federico Garcia Lorca, Frank O'Hara, Jane Jacobs, Jurgen Habermas, Lewis Mumford


This portrait develops a new understanding of how and why cities function and their importance to humanity. Past attempts at understanding cities have focused on their economic roles or cultural centers but have overlooked their great ability to engage conversation and spark new ideas. Drawing upon ideas and theories of architectural layout such as Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities, city planning (Lewis Mumford's What is a City? and Samuel Delany's Times Square Red, Times Square Blue), and social landscape (Jürgen Habermas), this project will develop a theory that considers how the city functions as a communicator. To further illustrate and illuminate the fine points of the proposed theory, this portrait will draw on portrayals of cities in literature, specifically Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, selected poems from Federico Garcia Lorca and Frank O'Hara, and Phaswane Mpe's Welcome to Our Hillbrow. The exploration will highlight the important role cities have established for themselves, as more than centers of business and scenes for artists, stockpiling resources and cultural touchstones, but as the heart of discourse and the catalyst of invention.