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Planning? Anthropology and urban planning

kurtis_p

Member
Messages
3
Points
0
Hello rockstars --

I have a degree in anthropology and will begin a masters in urban planning this fall. I am wondering if you, the person reading this post, also have a background in anthropology/sociology and can speak to your experience transitioning from a social science to urban planning?

Stay excellent.
 

monchichin

Member
Messages
1
Points
0
Hey,

I am in the exact same position. I got my bachelor's degree in Anthropology and now I want to branch out and get my master's degree in Urban and regional planning. They seem like similar, yet quite different worlds. I wonder what it will be like.

I am quite curious as to how they two subjects connect.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
15,628
Points
53
I can't give the best answer since I have a planning undergrad and no anthropology background, but I'll try anyway. I think knowing how and why people react to things provides a good background for planning. Part of it is obviously knowing how cities are formed, how people react to different designs, street patterns, things like that. I think planning classes can add a good amount of regulatory methods to making those designs happen.
 

ursus

Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
Messages
5,070
Points
27
I studied geography and anthropology and came to land use planning. You'll transition well, because land use is a human system. I didn't do grad school, but I know that the body of planners with whom I interact value diversity of background (don't worry about being respected by your peers, your anthro degrees will make you interesting and you'll bring a fresh perspective to many discussions). If any group (outside of faculty members) is still representing the "renaissance" approach to their own discipline, it is every day city planners. Again, grad school I don't know, but out of school and in the field you will transition better than fine.
 

wahday

Cyburbian
Messages
3,959
Points
23
I have a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a Masters in Folklore as well as a Masters in Community and Regional Planning. So, social science, humanities – I’ve run the gamut.

First thing I will say is that the planning field is DIVERSE. Policy planners deal a lot in the Big Picture, Sociology realm, rubbing elbows with statistics and matrices. That does not seem like a big leap from the social science arena. On the other end of spectrum are community planners – maybe a private firm that specializes in working with local communities to distill public input into a plan (we have one such firm here that contracts with the City to write local area plans, for example). That kind of work is much less precise and statistical and more “squishy” in terms of how you rank participants’ comments, how you weigh “what the community wants” against what in your professional experience says is realistic and feasible, and ultimately what makes it into the final plan, etc.

Physical planners, transportation planners and urban designers (which in my experience is largely dominated by architects) are more in the scientific end of things, too. Streets have a certain width based on their use, setbacks are a specific number of feet from the property line and not really up for interpretation (requesting a variance notwithstanding). I work in affordable housing which, in my specific role, has nothing to do with the physicality of house building and everything to do with designing for the right demographic (and knowing who that is), pitching the need to the right people and identifying opportunities for enhancing disinvested areas by promoting homeownership and community stability.

So, I think there is plenty of room to position oneself in an area that is comfortable to you. For me, the common element is that planning and anthropology both deal with human behavior. One tries to study from a safe distance and not directly impact communities. The other tries to directly impact communities by creating an environment that elicits certain kinds of behaviors (slower driving, public life, safe streets, front porch monitoring of the neighborhood, etc.) They really aren’t that different in concept, though their application is pretty distinct. With the exception of Applied Anthropology.

As Ursus said (like the good Structural Functionalist that I know he is) you are still dealing with human systems. Land Use, Housing, Transportation, Economics, etc. Just like any good mid-century ethnography! The difference being that you are trying to actually “program” those areas to create desired results.

My personal interest in planning as I came from these other more academic fields was in actually DOING things and trying to have a positive impact on communities to empower them and see improvement in peoples’ quality of life. Anthropology and even the Folklore program I was in, was very shy about engaging too intimately with communities. That was considered an “impure” use of those skills. Apparently, writing a book about it, featuring your name and perhaps a little book advance while your subject community stays the same (despite any desires and ambition they might have) is another matter…
 

jhenry

Cyburbian
Messages
28
Points
2
Planning is so broad and they coursework is as well. I'm currently a planning student and their are two people in my program who came from anthropology. They seem to be doing well in some classes (especially the theoretical or sociological ones) but have been struggling at design and physical planning
 

Eleanor Chep

Member
Messages
1
Points
0
Hello rockstars --

I have a degree in anthropology and will begin a masters in urban planning this fall. I am wondering if you, the person reading this post, also have a background in anthropology/sociology and can speak to your experience transitioning from a social science to urban planning?

Stay excellent.
I'm a BA anthropology student in Kenya on my finals and wanted to major in urban planning for my masters rather, but at first I thought how hard it is to venture into something that not all would have thought about it..but when I saw your text while googling through urban and anthropology I feel so confident..
 
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