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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Matthew Sparke
HUM 597
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in the Humanities

Credit/no-credit only.

Class description

MIKE DAVIS AND THE PRODUCTION OF SPACE A micro-seminar series on work by and related to the research of Mike Davis In preparation for the UW visit of Katz Lecturer Mike Davis, this seminar series will devote close study to several selections of his work, paying particular attention to his innovative but constantly critical geographies of cities, slums, nature and disease. Course Description: We will hold three seminars before Mike arrives, and one afterwards aimed at drawing conclusions about the relationships between his written work and his public presentations at UW. He is an extraordinarily prodigious writer, and it is very hard to do justice to his many contributions. In order to keep costs down, we will only be reading a couple of his books online, along with key published articles (of course, if you already have the books that were based on these articles please read them and bring them to the seminars). Reading the online chapters and articles will also allow us to read a more focused selection of his writings addressing the cultural-and-political-economy of the production of space. Three key foci stand out in this regard. They are: Cities and Slums, Nature and Society, and Geopolitics and Disease. The three seminars we have before he arrives will therefore be focused on each of these themes in turn. Davis is renowned for his post-disciplinary ability to draw on a multitude of critical theories, including much humanities scholarship, to organize his research and writing. While separating out the three themes for the first three seminars risks obscuring the resulting interdisciplinary achievement of his work, it will nevertheless make it possible to examine the different ways in which his contributions have been received and reviewed by different audiences in different fields. Preparation for each seminar will also therefore involve reading various recommended reviews, as well as one related article by a critical geographer designed to open up questions about how the approach of Davis to the production of space differs from more disciplinary scholarship.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction


Recommended preparation

Read anything by Mike Davis!

Class assignments and grading

Reading as listed here:

Oct 14th Cities and Slums

Required reading 1) Mike Davis, 2004: PLANET OF SLUMS, New Left Review 26, March-April 2004. 2) Mike Davis, 1987: ‘CHINATOWN’, PART TWO? THE ‘INTERNATIONALIZATION’ OF DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES, New Left Review I/164, July-August. 3) Mike Davis, 2006: FEAR AND MONEY IN DUBAI, New Left Review 41, September-October. 4) David Harvey, 2008: THE RIGHT TO THE CITY, forthcoming in New Left Review, and downloadable from

Recommended reading 1) Review of Planet of Slums by Jeremy Harding; Mike Davis, The London review of books. 29, no. 5, (2007): 25 2) Mike Davis, 2007: THE DEMOCRATS AFTER NOVEMBER, New Left Review 43, January-February 2007 3) Mike Davis, WHO IS KILLING NEW ORLEANS? Mayor-appointed commissions and experts, mostly white and Republican, propose to radically shrink and reshape a majority-black and Democratic city, The Nation. 282, no. 14, (2006): 11

Oct 21st Nature and Society

Required reading 1) Mike Davis: Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World, please read every part of the book that is available online at,M1 2) Mike Davis, 1996: COSMIC DANCERS ON HISTORY’S STAGE? THE PERMANENT REVOLUTION IN THE EARTH SCIENCES, New Left Review I/217, May-June. 3) Mike Davis, 1993: THE DEAD WEST: ECOCIDE IN MARLBORO COUNTRY, New Left Review I/200, July-August 1993. 4) David Nally, “‘THAT COMING STORM’: THE IRISH POOR LAW, COLONIAL BIOPOLITICS, AND THE GREAT FAMINE,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 98 (3): 714 – 741.

Recommended reading 1) S Stoll, Review of Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World by Mike Davis by JOURNAL OF INTERDISCIPLINARY HISTORY, 33, Part 1 (2002): 98 2) Mike Davis, CALIFORNIA BURNING, The nation. 277, no. 17, (2003): 6

Oct 28th Geopolitics and Disease

Required reading 1) Mike Davis, The Monster at the Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu, New York: The New Press, please read every part of the book that is available online at,M1 2) Bruce Braun, BIOPOLITICS AND THE MOLECULARIZATION OF LIFE, Cultural Geographies, 2007: 14, 6 – 28.

Recommended reading 1) Review of THE MONSTER AT OUR DOOR: The Global Threat of Avian Flu - REVIEWED BY MATT STEINGLASS, The New York times book review. (November 27, 2005): 27 2) Review of The Monster at Our Door - The global threat of avian flu, by Anne Hardy, TLS, the Times literary supplement. no. 5372, (2006): 26 3) Nicholas King, 2004, THE SCALE POLITICS OF EMERGING DISEASES,” Osiris 19: 62-76.

Nov 18th Taking Place Back

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Matthew Sparke
Date: 09/21/2008