Associate Professor, Chair and Sabo Senior Fellow
“We may desire abolition of war, industrial justice, greater equality of opportunity for all. But no amount of preaching good will or the golden rule or cultivation of sentiments of love and equity will accomplish the results. There must be change in objective arrangements and institutions. We must work on the environment not merely on the hearts of men. To think otherwise is to suppose that flowers can be raised in a desert or motor cars run in a jungle. Both things can happen and without a miracle. But only by first changing the jungle and desert.” John Dewey, pp. 19-20, Human Nature and Conduct (1922); emphasis in original.
Lars Christiansen joined the Department of Sociology the Metro-Urban Studies program at Augsburg in 2001. Lars’ teaching and scholarship focuses on urban resilience and sustainability, transportation systems, the philosophical tradition of American Pragmatism, innovative and alternative liberal arts education, social movements, research methods, and work and organizations.
In 2008, Lars was named recipient of Augsburg College’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning – Award for Teaching.
In 2009, Lars and Professor Nancy Fischer received a Canadian Studies Faculty Enrichment Grant from the Government of Canada for the continued development of their “Sustainable Cities in North America” course.
INNOVATIONS IN TEACHING—HIGHLIGHTING FOUR COURSES:
“Divided States of America? A Seminar in Pragmatism”
Co-created/taught with Professor Larry Crockett, this course provides an overview of the American philosophical tradition of Pragmatism as a way to explore the challenges of divisive politics. We explore the work of Louis Menand, William James, C.S. Peirce, John Dewey, Jane Addams, Alain Locke, Mark Johnson, Richard Rorty, Larry Hazelrigg, Bruno Latour, Kennan Ferguson, and others. We address contemporary controversies including Civil War, the Vietnam War, the Black Freedom movement, the abortion debate, the Israel/Palestine conflict, and other events that present the challenges of ideological commitment and the desire to achieve social change.
Integrated Term (I-Term):
“Fate Of The Earth 101: Consumption of Food, Fuel and Media in Contemporary Culture.”
In Fall 2009, Lars and five other faculty members, along with several support staff, created a learning community called “Fate of the Earth 101.” Together the faculty utilize our different disciplinary perspectives and a wide array of creative teaching and learning activities to inquire about the consequences of living in a consumerist society.http://www.augsburg.edu/integratedterm/.
“Sustainable Cities in North America”
In July 2008, Lars and Nancy Fischer taught a new study abroad course called “Sustainable Cities in North America.” This course brought students to Portland, Oregon for one week, and Vancouver, British Columbia for two weeks. We explored and analyzed these cities, as well as the Twin Cities, on bicycles, on foot, and using transit. We met with scholars, policy makers, and community organizers to better understand how these cities are accomplishing progressive planning practices and addressing challenges. This course was taught again in 2010, this time incorporating Victoria, BC, and with assistance from the Government of Canada. For a description of this course, read “Auggies Traverse the Concrete Jungle” at http://www.augsburg.edu/metrourban/. Or, read “Studying Sustainability” athttp://www.augsburg.edu/now/2008_2009/april/articles/sustainable_cities/index.html.
“Legacies of Chicago: Ideas and Action in Place”
In Spring of 2010 and 2011, and in subsequent alternating spring semesters (2013, 2015, etc.) Lars and Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow are teaching “Legacies of Chicago” as the theme for the Honors Senior Seminar. The course theme is on the intersection of network theory and place, focusing on networks of activity or communities of thinkers-doers. Every great place produces great ideas and actions, sometimes to a level of influence that they become gifts (or curses) to the city or even the larger culture, gifts (or curses) from one generation to another. With the help of colleagues in art, business, English, and theater, this course explores major contributions that Chicago has given to U.S. culture and history, including: Deweyan pragmatism and progressive education; Addams’s social ethics and neighborhood building; the Chicago School of Sociology and Urban Ecology; the formation of commodities markets; Chicago architecture (ie., the work of Burnham & Root, Sullivan, Richardson, Cleveland); the literature and film of Chicago; the Alinsky model of social change; and Chicago-style improvisational theater. We finish the course focusing on events in 1990s to the present, from the Chicago Heat Wave of 1995 to Obama’s community organizing in the 2000s. During the semester the class spends a long weekend in Chicago.
- B.A. Clark University, Music and Sociology (1991)
- M.S. Florida State University (1993)
- Ph.D. Florida State University (1999)
Current Research Projects
Informed by classical and contemporary Pragmatism, social psychology and neuroscience, Lars is engaging three projects that explore the relation between sense, aesthetics, bodies and urban experiences.
“The Underappreciated Role of Sense, Embodiment and Ludic Activity in Public Engagement Processes: Insights from an Urban Street Transformation Initiative.”
This paper analyzes an urban street transformation initiative in Saint Paul, Minnesota—the Central Corridor Friendly Streets initiative—from the perspective of Latour’s flat ontology and his notion of assemblages. It offers a critique of a public engagement processes that ignore aesthetics and treat public engagement processes as merely means to other ends, as opposed to producing enjoyable community organizing experiences as ends in themselves.
“In Their Own Worlds? The Social Psychology of Bicyclist – Motorist Conflict.”
This project examines the phenomenological and other social psychological conditions of bicyclist-motorist conflict, with particular attention to situational conditions and their relation to bodily senses. Research assistance provided by Walker Krepps.
“The Aesthetics of Walking and the Cultivation of Urban Identity and Citizenship.”
This paper explores how urban design impacts the aesthetic dimensions of walking experiences, and how that can contribute to civic identity. Paper written under the auspices of the Sabo Center for Citizenship and Democracy. Co-authored with writer and journalist Jay Walljasper.
Lars has published in the American Sociological Review, Frontiers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, International Review of Social History, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, andTeaching Sociology.
Lars is a member of the American Sociological Association and the Midwest Sociological Society.
Service at Augsburg
Lars is a Senior Fellow for the Sabo Center for Citizenship and Learning. Lars also currently serves on the board of directors of the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA).He is a past member of the Augsburg faculty senate (2005-2007), the Social Science Collaborative, and the assessment committee. He was also faculty advisor for Augsburg’s Sociology Club (2002-2006).
Service and Interests beyond Academia
A resident of Saint Paul, Lars is a member of the Hamline-Midway Coalition (St. Paul District Council 11) and serves on its Transportation Committee. In that capacity he is chairing the Central Corridor Friendly Streets initiative. He is also a member of the Bicycle Association of Minnesota, the League of American Bicyclists, and Adventure Cycling. Lars enjoys bicycle touring and mountain centuries and commutes by bicycle in the Twin Cities year-round. As a former musician and now merely a discerning fan, he can’t seem to get enough of The Bad Plus, Self-Evident, John Zorn & Electric Masada, Frank Zappa, Tortoise, Traindodge, and (the) Melvins.
Lars served on the board of directors of Nice Ride Minnesota (2009-2012), the non-profit organization that is responsible for creating and implementing Minneapolis’ bike share program (https://www.niceridemn.org/). Lars is also served on the board of directors of St. Paul Smart Trips (www.smart-trips.org) (2010-2012), an organization advocating for the viability of multiple modes of transportation in St. Paul.
Courses Lars Teaches
- Human Community and the Modern Metropolis (SOC 111)
- Introduction to Human Society (SOC 121)
- Office Space: Understanding the Modern Workplace (SOC 222)
- Protest and Social Change: The Sociology of Social Movements (SOC 240)
- Sustainable Cities in North America (SOC 295), co-taught with Professor Nancy Fischer Photo Album
- Living in Jurassic Park: The Sociology of Disaster (SOC 300)
- Research Methods (SOC 363)
- Suite Crimes: Organizational Deviance (SOC 377), co-taught with Professor Diane Pike
- Internships (SOC 199 & 399)
- City Seminar: Experiential Education (GST 209)
- Legacies of Chicago: Ideas and Action in Place (HON 490) co-taught with President Paul Pribbenow
- Fate of the Earth 101: Consumption of Food, Fuel, and Media in Contemporary Culture, currently co-taught with Professors Sarah Combellick-Bidney and John Harkness
- Divided States of America? A Seminar in Pragmatism, co-taught with Professor Larry Crockett