Urban imaginaries: reading cities from across the Globe

Urban imaginaries: reading cities from across the Globe

The course fee for 1-week courses - that includes tuition fee, accommodation (student residence halls with shared rooms 2-3/ room), meals (breakfast and lunch), local transport and the cost of the leisure time programs - is 470 EUR. All applicants are required to pay 70 EUR (out of this 470) as registration fee within 10 days of submitting their application. The registration fee is non-refundable.

Credits: 3 EC
Our course offers ECTS points, which may be accepted for credit transfer by the participants' home universities. Those who wish to obtain these credits should inquire about the possible transfer at their home institution prior to their enrollment. The International Strategy Office will send a transcript to those who have fulfilled all the necessary course requirements and request one.

Venue: ELTE Faculty of Law, 1053 Budapest, Egyetem tér 1–3. A/14 practice room

Opening Ceremony venue: ELTE Faculty of Law, 1053 Budapest, Egyetem tér 1–3., Aula Magna (Monday, 10:00)


For students who do not need visa to travel to Hungary: https://www.elte.hu/en/urban-bsu2023

For students who need a visa to travel to Hungary: https://www.elte.hu/en/urban-bsu2023-visa

Course Description

The course offers an introduction to urban studies through a discussion of key texts as well as a look at cultural representations of cities from the Western world, the Global South and East-Central Europe. The majority of the course focuses on literary and visual (film, photography, etc.) engagements with three global cities, each of which is representative of its respective location: London, Johannesburg and Budapest. Before getting acquainted with representations of the cities, students will also have the chance to familiarize themselves with fundamental topics in urban studies, such as the difference between planning a city space and actually living in it or the various manifestations of spatial injustice within cities. Through the readings and films, students will gain insight into how cities retain their turbulent histories and bear traces of their often violent pasts. They will also be able to grasp the interrelatedness of cultural memory manifested in urban spaces and the textual representation of certain sites of memory. Since the summer university is located in Budapest, students will also get the chance to visit a historically important site that preserves some of the city’s past within the texture of contemporary Budapest.

Requirements: The course is open to all who are currently studying or graduated in the humanities or social sciences, and also to anyone interested in urban studies.


Dr. Ágnes Harasztos, senior lecturer, Kodolányi János University

Dr. Kata Gyuris, lecturer, Eötvös Loránd University

Course Schedule

Day 1
Understanding the city: basic concepts in urban studies (Michel de Certeau, Edward Soja)
Understanding globality and locality in London, Johannesburg and Budapest

Day 2
London, the literary city (in-class discussion of texts, no pre-reading required)

  • The London underworld - Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist (1838)
  • Gothic London - Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
  • The city as a sensual experience - Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Working class London on screen - Mike Leigh: Vera Drake (2004)

Multicultural London - Zadie Smith: NW (2012) (pre-reading of assigned excerpts required)

Day 3

Johannesburg, the postcolonial megacity (in-class discussion of materials, no pre-reading required)

  • Understanding the postcolonial city - OluTimehin Adegbeye: “Who belongs in a city?” (2017)
  • The many faces of the City of Gold - Heidi Holland, Adam Robert (eds): From Jo’burg to Jozi: Stories about Africa’s Infamous City (2011)

Growing up in the apartheid city - Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (2016) (pre-reading of assigned excerpts required)

The apartheid city on screen - Neill Blomkamp: District 9 (2009)

Day 4
Budapest in historical context (pre-reading of assigned excerpts required)

  • Romanticized past - Maurus Jókai: The Black Diamond (1870)
  • The 1920s flâneur - Dezső Kosztolányi: The Adventures of Kornél Esti (1933)

Understanding the legacy of communism (pre-reading of assigned excerpts required)

  • Self-colonization -Malcolm Bradbury: Doctor Criminale (1992)
  • The cultural memory of 1956 - Tibor Fischer: Under the Frog (1992)

Ghettoization on screen - Áron Gauder: The District! (2004)

Day 5
Cultural memory in the public spaces of Budapest: Creating and contesting sites of memory

Visit to Memento Park

Course Evaluation

  • Reading /watching the set materials (provided online prior to class, about 20 pages to read and a film to watch per day)
  • In-class participation
  • Presentation (10-15 minutes, depending on the number of participants)