List of classes taught by Alejandro Abbud

Besides lectures, presentations and debates with expert guest speakers, all classes include case studies and thematic role plays simulations allowing students to gain a better understanding of the stakes and different negotiation processes among social actors and interest groups. A short description of the courses accompanied by the list of international expert partners is provided below.


Being an actor of the City. A Panoramic Perspective: Cultural, Urban and Municipal Politics

Throughout most of human history, the world rural population has been higher than the urban population. Even in the middle of the XXth century, only 30% of the world population was urban. Today the urban population is higher than the rural one and its expected that by 2050, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas.

The city has always been a center of innovation and change, of opportunities and riches, but also of a vast array of environmental, social and political problems. In an increasingly urbanized world, the city finds itself at the heart of multiple challenges of the globalized world.

In fact, many challenges of the current global agenda are directly related to the city. Confronting all the implications that climate change brings and finding new solutions for a sustainable development, demands that the cities of tomorrow take on important changes on energy consumption, transportation, housing, water and waste management, pollution reduction, etc.

Capitals and big cities have been frequently a stage for the whole nation. Historically, problems that we tend to associate with the city, manifested themselves first in capitals and large metropolis that with their growth were forced to face problems earlier than other cities. They illustrate interesting case studies in relation to various urban phenomena such as: migration, pollution, insecurity, industrialization, urban expansion, secularization, arrival of multicultural societies, social segregation, crime, etc.

Many innovations spring there before they spread to other parts: urban planning, public transportation and public utilities, water supply, sewerage systems and waste management, public lightning, social housing; but also, the emergence of a cultural center and an image of the capital and the country contributing to the construction of a collective imaginary of the nation. In general, they are supreme laboratories of modern life, magnetic poles that attract capital, investors, artists and creative people from everywhere.

In fact, artists participate in creating new ways of perceiving life, representing of the city as a unique world, in perpetual movement; denouncing its evils and praising its achievements, as we can see it in the works of Balzac, Dickens, Dostoyevsky and many others. This testimonials/records constitute a rich cultural source that will allow us to study how the city in all its aspects is reflected in urban narratives.

The centrality of the city in an ever more urban world, demands a better understanding of the phenomena but also of the problems and solutions that have been generated through out urban history till the present time. This class offers a panoramic overview on the evolution and current state of various European cities: Paris, London, Berlin, Saint Petersburg, Moscow, among others that can be proposed by the students.

We all are familiar with the city, and yet in our daily life, we seldom ask ourselves fundamental questions about it. Since the city offers a pertinent scale to various current problems, more than an abstract study we will try to invite the student to discover in a concrete and interesting manner, new ways to think the complexity of the city in general and the city that surrounds us.

Partners/guest speakers for the class Being an actor of the City. A Panoramic Perspective: Cultural, Urban and Municipal Politics:

  • Informality and Slums (Case of Tepito, Mexico City)
  • Keeping Heritage Cities Lively & Liveable Amsterdam
  • The Creative City: Rethinking Amsterdam after Covid-19
  • Metropole du Grand Paris : Future of Metropolitan Paris
  • Smart cities, KPMG
  • Zaryadye Park Moscow, СEO Citymakers
  • Belgrade Water Front Urban Project, Institute for Urban Politics
  • Open Heritage: the community-led reuse of heritage spaces (Case of Szimpla kert, Budapest), KÉK - Contemporary Architecture Center, Budapest
  • Re-enchanting the Champs Elysées », PCA- Stream
  • Rijeka European Cultural Capital 2020
  • Great Reset: Cities & Real Estate Post COVID-19, Infrastructure and Urban Services Platform at the World Economic Forum in Geneva
  • Affordable Housing in Post COVID-19, OECD
  • Managing the night time economy in the city, Sound Diplomacy
  • The role of City Museums as cultural city actors, Barcelona City History Museum MUHBA and the Helsinki City Museum
  • The Meanings of Industrial Heritage in Global Perspective, Institute for Social Movements at Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum in Germany
  • Resilience at work: planning for urban resilience within complex city-systems: ARUP
  • Cities of the future or future of cities: IFM International Consultants in architecture, urban planning and development projects
  • Transforming transportation in Copenhagen, Municipality of Copenhagen
  • Triangle Tower Project (Highrise buildings in Paris), Groupe Rouge Vif
  • Promoting global cities for international investors: London, Paris, Tokyo, NY
  • Affordable Housing, Paris Habitat
  • Paris 2024 bid for the Olympic games, Paris 2024 Organising committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Languages of the World/World of Languages

Does the world seem different to us according to the language we speak? Does language have an influence on how we think and act? What relationships maintain languages and cultures? In what way do languages impose a particular vision of the world on their speakers? Language is both a complex cultural instrument and a mystery because we do not really know its origins. According to Guy Deutscher, "language is the main human creation. Except it is not a creation. Since it is it that created the man, making us really human. "

At a time when multiculturalism and identity debates are becoming more and more important in our societies, it is essential to remember that, in addition to their multiple communicative functions, languages constitute a privileged window of access to the knowledge of peoples, present and past cultures. Indeed, each language is in a way a cultural reflection of the community that speaks it. From these fruitful questions, this course proposes to explore different historical, cultural, political and social issues, starting from a critical-linguistic perspective.

The title chosen reflects the desire to combine two different approaches. On the one hand, the study of languages in the world from a global perspective, comparative and descriptive, and on the other hand, the world of languages studied from the inside, that is to say focusing on their internal structures, their evolution through time and their mutual influences. As cultural subjects, languages are long-lasting and often exceed those of states or political regimes. They are both alive and historical; transcending any form of boundaries (geographical, religious, ethnic), and offering a unique look when studying their role in history and in the contemporary world. In retracing their journey, we will try to draw a new perspective on the history of the world.

Firstly, we will focus on the international and national double dimension of world languages, studying the geopolitics and dynamics of dominant languages and peripheral or minority languages; the logic at work in multilingual and monolingual states, as well as the role of the competent international organizations (UNESCO, EU, etc.), in the field of language promotion in educational, cultural and development projects and as a vector of influence and "soft power".

We will also discuss the role of language in politics, using examples such as the militarization of the German language during the Third Reich or the pacifist project of Esperanto, an artificial and a-national language. We will see that this role can be enigmatic, at the same time instrument of communication, knowledge or progress, but also manipulation and lies.

The internal world of languages, is not closed in on itself, since translation exists since the night of time. What are the cultural functions of the latter? Can we translate everything? We will be particularly interested in the role played by figures such as polyglots and translators throughout history, in the dissemination of ideas, religions and alphabets. We will also reflect on the scope and limits of translation through different historical cases.

We will complete these questions by studying some of the major evolutions that have marked modern thought after the "Linguistic Turn" engendered by analytic philosophy for philosophy and the social sciences of the twentieth century. In short, this course invites students to deepen their awareness of fundamental linguistic phenomena and to develop a better understanding of their personal relationship with the languages they speak. Language allows communication between people, but also introspection and dialogue with oneself, with our own culture and with others. It determines our identity and builds our reality. It is an indispensable mirror that allows us to discover ourselves as much as the world around us.

Partners/guest speakers for the class Languages of the World/World of Languages:

  • Language policy of the European Union
  • UNESCO language policies, multilingualism and international year of indigenous languages
  • Planetword Language Museum in Washington
  • Mundolingua Paris
  • Instituto Cervantes
  • Panel of Harry Potter translators into minority languages (Hawaiian, Yiddish, Faroese Gaelic, etc.)
  • Language scholars and writers

Music and Power

Sounds of the world: Music as mirror of the intimate of the collective

In our contemporary society, thanks to modern information technologies, the omnipresence of music is greater than ever before. It has multiple roles which go well beyond music as a mere object of consumption or a hobby. Historically, music has played a central role in the representation of spiritual and temporal powers, in religious rituals and ceremonies, in the exaltation or legitimization of political powers or even in the formation of collective identities.

The object of this course will be to explore the diverse uses that have been made of music by official and informal powers and counter powers, by dominant and dominated cultures. We will strive to show not only how music provides a means of transmitting messages but also how it expresses cultural identities, surpasses frontiers and occupies political and social spaces.

We will study, through historic and contemporary analysis, the links and tensions that exist between music and different forms of power. We will review some classical tensions such as classical vs popular, traditional vs modern, local vs foreign, official vs underground. The tensions that animate these divisions go beyond purely musical debates, covering frequently deeper identity issues, that can reflect, accompany or even provoke social transformations.

In order to highlight the diversity of this field of study, we will cover a large spectrum of the musical repertoire. We will deal with works from the classical canon (R. Wagner, E. Grieg, D. Shostakovitch, I. Stravinsky, K. Weil), as well as popular and contemporary (Beatles, Sex Pistols, Bob Marley, etc.) and “world music”. These works will be presented, discussed and analyzed in their historic and political context, inviting students to develop an open and critical perspective on the music and the culture that surrounds them.

Partners/guest speakers for the classes Music and Power, Sounds of the world: Music as mirror of the intimate of the collective:

  • European Music Council
  • EMEE (European Music Exporters Exchange)
  • Finnish Music Council
  • European Choral Association - Europa Cantat
  • European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA)
  • Paris Philharmonic
  • Yad Vashem Music and the Holocaust
  • Sound Diplomacy
  • Kabul dreams (Afghan rock band)
  • Ukranian Music Export Agency
  • Zone Franche French World Music Network
  • Norrkoping Music City (Sweden)
  • Brazilian Documentary Film Directors: Amazonia groove and Taking Iacanga
  • Captive Songs Project
  • Composers and musicologists