Our American Cities: Problems, Politics, and Possibilities

Alison Gash
Alison Gash
University of Oregon

Alison Gash is a political science professor and a member of the Provost’s Teaching Academy at the University of Oregon, where she has received several fellowships and grants for her teaching. She was recently awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award. Professor Gash has also taught at Berkeley, where she received the Commendation for Excellence in Teaching two years in a row. She is the author of Below the Radar: How Silence Can Save Civil Rights. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, Slate, Politico, and Washington Monthly.


One of the most enduring political divides in American politics is that which exists between urban and rural areas. Cities have been a constant location of political contestation and innovation. They have provided the most awe-inspiring visible testaments to American prosperity through art and architecture, through the promise of political mobility and the miracle of economic revival. They are also the sites of the most devastating inequalities.

In this course, Professor Gash will introduce you to the American city: its promise, pageantry and politics. From the founding to the present day, students will learn about early and ongoing conflicts over the value of cities. Those who view cities as islands of progress–as the very best of American ingenuity–and others who view them as dens of ill-repute. We will understand how current national fights over cities–and their most vulnerable inhabitants–are an extension of these early conflicts. Most importantly, we will look at the lessons that American cities teach us–about the heartbreak and hope of community collaboration, the inspirations and aspirations of urban life and the unbridled humanity of their “huddled masses.”



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