Topics in Digital Humanities: Street Food & Urban Farming

Anna Greenspan
Office Hours: Tuesday: 1:00-3:00
Room 938

Course Description 

This course introduces and makes use of digital tools (audio, video and mapping technologies) to research and record an immersive engagement with the city. It also includes a lab-based workshop in interactive media that is designed around a relevant theme. This semester the course focuses on street food & urban farming.

The preservation, adaptation and disappearance of street food raise many issues that are central to contemporary Shanghai:  globalization, creativity and cultural heritage, urbanization, the informal economy, and the environment. This course examines these topics by focusing on the following questions: How is Shanghai working to both integrate and exclude its migrant population? What room is there for itinerant vendors and the informal markets of the streets in the 21st century metropolis? What role does creativity play in the attempts to preserve the city’s culinary heritage? How does street food contribute to the city’s attempts to provide safe, affordable and nutritious food for its ever-growing population?

Adding an extra dimension to our analysis of food in the city, the course will include an intensive workshop on urban farming led by experts in the field. This will involve; an introduction to the challenges and opportunities of urban farming in China; a tour to a local urban garden, and a hands-on component aimed at building a hydroponic window farm in the IMA lab.


Participation: 15%
Reading Presentation: 5%
Midterm Exam: 20%
Urban farming Blog post: 5%
Personal Foodways Presentation: 5%
Mapping Assignment: 15%
Recorded Interview: 15%
Final Project: 20 %

Week 1:

Mon: Introduction

Wed: Urbanization 

Parag Khanna, Beyond City Limits, Foreign Policy Magazine. September/October 2010

Doug Saunders, By Century’s End We Will be an Entirely Urban Species, The Spectator, Aug 5

Week 2 Urban Farming: Seedlings

Reading: Shulman, Robin. Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York (Book)

Week 3:

Mon: Capitalism vs Markets

Braudel, Fernand, Wheels of Commerce: Civilization & Capitalism 15th-18th Century, (Excerpts); 

Wed:  Migration in China

Fan, Cindy, The Hukou (household registration) System & The Chinese Migrant in the 21st Century in China on the Move: Migration, the state and the household;

Nyiri, Pal, Internal Migration in Reform China, Mobility and Cultural Authority in Contemporary China;

Week 4:

Mon: The Road vs The Street

Le Corbusier. Forward & Chapter 1. City of Tomorrow and Its Planning.

Jane Jacobs. Introduction & The Use of Sidewalks: Safety. Death and Life of American Cities

Sharon Zukin , Philip Kasinitz, Xiangming Chen, “Introduction” Global Cities Local Streets: Every day Diversity from New York to Shanghai,

Wed: Introduction to Mapping

Shannon Mattern, Deep Mapping the Media City (Book)

Itikawa, Luciana, Clandestine Geometries: Mapping Street Vending in Downtown Sao Paola in Street Vendors in the Global Economy,

James Corner, The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention in Mappings (ed Denis Cosgrove)

Week 5:

Mon: Carto Workshop

Wed: Urban Farming Activity

Week 6:

Mon: Mapping Presentations 

Wed: Mapping Presentation + Interview Workshop

Robert S Weiss. Learning From Strangers: The Art and Method of Qualitative Interview Studies (Book)

Week 7:

Mon: Urban Farming: Planting the Window Farm

Wed: Informal Economy

Manuel Castells and Alenjandro Portes, World Underneath: The Origins, Dynamics and Effects of the Informal Economy in Alenjandro Portes ed. ‘The Informal Economy; (Digital Coursepack)

Martha Alter Chen, Rethinking the Informal Economy: Linkages with the Formal Economy and the Formal Regulatory Environment;

Robert Neuwirth. The Shadow Superpower, Foreign Policy, October 28 2011.

Week 8: 

Mon:Street Vendors

Arvind Rajagopal: The Menace of Hawkers: Property Forms and the Politics of Market Liberalization in Mumbai in Caroline Humphrey and Katherine Verdery eds. Changing Property Regimes in Eastern Europe. Wenner Gren Foundation and Bergen Press, London, U.K. pp. 227-250;  (Digital Coursepack)

John C Cross, Pirates on the high streets: The street as a site of local resistance to globalization & Alfonso Morales, Conclusion, Law deviance, and defining vendors and vending in Street Entrepreneurs: People, place and politics in local and global perspective;

Wed: Chengguan

Human Rights Watch (reference) 2012 “Beat Him, Take Everything Away”: Abuses by China’s Chengguan Para-Police

Jiang S., Wu X., & Wang S. (2012). “Cat VS Mouse”: a survey about the itinerant venders’ living condition and their interactive relationship with chengguan in Guangzhou, Chongqing and Hangzhou. Sun Yat-Sen University. Retrieved from

Swider, S. (2014). Reshaping China’s urban citizenship: Street vendors, chengguan and struggles over the right to the city. Critical Sociology. [online before print]. Retrieved from

Human Rights Watch. (2012). “Beat him, take everything away”–abuses by China’s chengguan para-police. Retrieved from

Week 9:

Mon: Street Food

Irene Tinker Interviews: Gourmet Magazine 2009; Portland Tribune 2009

Jhabvala, Renana Forward & Bhowmik, Sharit, Introduction in Street Vendors in the Global Economy, Apr 2011

Wed: Food Trucks

Jay Caspian Kang, Roy Choi’s Master Plan. California Sunday Magazine

Mark Vallianatos, A More Delicious City: How to Legalize Food Trucks in The Informal American City: Beyond Taco Trucks and Day Labor (eds Mukhija, Vinit Loukaitou-Sideris, Anastasia)

Week 10:

Mon: Midterm

Wed: Personal Foodways

Week 11:  Interview Presentations

Week 12:

Mon: Film Screening: In search of General Tso


Mark Swislocki, Culinary Nostalgia: Regional Food Culture and the Urban Experience in Shanghai (excerpts)

Week 12: Urban Farm Field Trip

 Week 13 & 14: Final Project Presentation


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