Lars Christiansen

Associate Prof., Sabo Sr. Fellow, Urban Studies Program Dir.

Hagfors CSBR 327
CB 105

Lars Christiansen is Director of Urban Studies, and is on the faculty of the Department of Sociology and Environmental Studies.   Lars joined the Department of Sociology and the Urban Studies Program at Augsburg in 2001. Lars’ teaching and scholarship focuses on urban resilience and sustainability, urban planning and public engagement, transportation systems, social theory, the philosophical tradition of American Pragmatism, innovative and alternative liberal arts education, social movements, and research methods.

In 2008, Lars was named recipient of Augsburg University’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning – Award for Teaching.

Innovations in Teaching

“Sustainable Cities” Away and Abroad (Vancouver, Victoria, Portland (Ore.), Mexico City, Copenhagen, Amsterdam)

Since 2008 Lars and Nancy Fischer have taught study away/abroad courses on the theme of “Sustainable Cities.”  These courses brought students to Portland, Oregon, Vancouver, BC, Victoria, BC, Mexico City, and Copenhagen.  [In May 2020 we were scheduled to explore urban sustainability themes in Amsterdam and other Netherlands’ cities, but this has been cancelled due to COVID-19.]  The course explores and analyzed these cities, as well as the Twin Cities, on bicycles, on foot, and using transit. We meet with scholars, policy makers, and community organizers to better understand how these cities are accomplishing, or working toward the achievement of, progressive planning practices and addressing climate and equity challenges.  For a description of the first version of this course, read “Auggies Traverse the Concrete Jungle” at Or, read “Studying Sustainability” at

“Legacies of Chicago: Ideas and Action in Place”

In Spring of 2010, 2011, and 2013 Lars and Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow taught “Legacies of Chicago” as the theme for the Honors Senior Seminar. The course is about the intersection of sociality and place, focusing on networks of activity or communities of thinkers-doers engaging in creative and innovative work. 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, history, 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; Chicago architecture (ie., the work of Burnham & Root, Sullivan, Richardson, Cleveland); the literature and film of Chicago; the Alinsky model of social change; agricultural cooperatives and commodities markets; 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 experiencing directly various themes of the course.

“Fate Of The Earth 101: Consumption of Food, Fuel and Media in Contemporary Culture.” Integrated Term (I-Term) 

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.  The I-Term was taught again in 2010 and 2012.

“A Seminar in Pragmatism”

Version 2012:  Divided States of America?

Version 2016:  Overcoming Ideology and Embracing the Body

Co-created/taught with Professor Larry Crockett, this Seminar 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 William James, C.S. Peirce, John Dewey, Jane Addams, Alain Locke, Mark Johnson, Richard Rorty, Larry Hazelrigg, Bruno Latour, Cornel West, Kennan Ferguson, Louis Menand, and others. We address historical and contemporary controversies including Civil War, the Vietnam War, Black Freedom movements, the abortion debate, the Israel/Palestine conflict, and other events that present the challenges of ideological commitment and the desire to achieve social change.

Courses Lars Teaches:

  • CityLife:  Introduction to Urban Sociology (SOC 111)
  • Introduction to Sociology (SOC 121)
  • Protest and Social Change: The Sociology of Social Movements (SOC 240)
  • Sustainable Cities in North America (SOC 295), co-taught with Professor Nancy Fischer
  • Research Methods (SOC 363)
  • Disaster and Resilience (SOC 380)
  • City and Regional Planning (SOC 381)
  • Internships (SOC 399)
  • 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 (Integrated Term)
  • Seminar in Pragmatism, co-taught with Professor Larry Crockett
  • Seminar in Marxian Theory


In Progress:

  • Our Better America:  An Ethnography of Movement

This book aims to bridge recent advancements in the science and philosophy of embodiment with transportation policy, practices, and urban planning.  It seeks to place new conceptual tools into the hands of practitioners (urban planners, multi-modal transportation advocates, equity-oriented sustainability organizations), as well as supply embodiment theorists with new applications.

  • The Secret Life of Capital

This book presents an analysis capital drawing on a version of Marxian theory few know.  While critics of capitalism typically focus on the maldistribution of income and wealth, a more potent version of Marx that focuses on the central role of abstract labor, work- and money-dependency, and the organization of time, better equips us with an understanding of how capital dominates people. It also shows us practices that we already engage can and should be understood as clues to a post-capitalist future.


Christiansen, Lars D. and Nancy L. Fischer.  2016.  “Working in the (social) construction zone.”  Pp. 3 – 11 in Introducing the New Sexuality Studies, Third Edition.  Routledge:  New York, New York.

Christiansen, Lars D.  2015.  “The Timing and Aesthetics of Public Engagement:  Insights from an Urban Street Transformation Initiative.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 35 (4):  455 – 470.

Trudeau, Daniel and Lars Christiansen.  2014.  “Cities and Politics.” Pp. 139 – 145 in Encyclopedia of American Political Culture.

Christiansen, Lars D. and Micheal J. Lansing.  July 24, 2013.  “Educating for democracy: the power of presence.”  MinnPost. 

Dvorak, Andrea M.W., Lars D. Christiansen, Nancy L. Fischer, Joseph B. Underhill.  2011.  “A Necessary Partnership:  Study Abroad and Sustainability in Higher Education.” Frontiers:  The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad.  Volume XXI: Fall:  143-166.

Christiansen, Lars D.  2011.  Review of Jeffrey Craig Sanders’ Seattle and Roots of Urban Sustainability: Inventing Ecotopia for Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews vol. 40 no. 6 (November):  747-749.

Christiansen, Lars D., and Nancy Fischer.  2010.  “Teaching Urban Sociology and Urban Sustainability on Two Feet, Two Wheels, and in Three Cities:  Our Experience Teaching Sustainable Cities In North America.”  Teaching Sociology 38, 4:  301-313.

Lars Christiansen, Mindy Stombler, and Lyn Thaxton.  2004.  “A Report on Librarian-Faculty Relations from a Sociological Perspective.”  Journal of Academic Librarianship Vol. 30, No. 2:  116-121.

Isaac, Larry W., and Lars Christiansen.  2002.  “How the Civil Rights Movement Revitalized Labor Militancy.”  American Sociological Review 66, 6:  722-746.

Isaac, Larry W. and Lars Christiansen.  1999.  “Degradations of Labor, Cultures of Cooperation:  Braverman’s ‘Labor,’ Lordstown, and the Social Factory.” Pp. 111-148 in Rethinking the Labor Process, edited by Mark Wardell, Peter Meiksins, and Thomas L. Steiger.  New York:  SUNY Press.


Lars is currently a Hagfors Fellow and a Sabo Scholar for the Sabo Center for Citizenship and Democracy.  After having completed a six-year stint as Chair of Sociology, Lars is now Director of Urban Studies.  Lars is past member of the board of directors of the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) (2009 – 2012).  He is also 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), and is currently advisor to Augsburg’s Urban Studies Club.

Off campus

Community organizing and transportation equity advocacy

A resident of Saint Paul from 2001-2019, and now a resident of Minneapolis, Lars is active in community formation and development.  He has a decade of experience community organizing, and is particularly focused on inclusive planning processes.  He served as Founder and Director of Friendly Streets Initiative (2009 – 2016), and is a founder and past member of the Board of Directors of ReConnectRondo (2017-2018), and a former Board member of Cycles 4 Change (2014-2016), Nice Ride Minnesota (2009-2012),  St. Paul Smart Trips (2010-2012), and Transit for Livable Communities (2013 – 2016).


A 10-year member of Adventure Cycling Association, Lars enjoys bicycle touring and mountain centuries, and commutes by bicycle in the Twin Cities year-round.


A lifelong musician, composer and guitarist, Lars cannot seem to get enough of: The Bad Plus, Bela Bartok, Beastie Boys, The Beatles, John Cage, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Deftones, Bill Frisell, Phillip Glass, Michael Hedges, Dave Holland’s Prism, Vijay Iyer, Jane’s Addiction, Led Zeppelin, Living Colour, Mahavishnu Orchestra, (the) Melvins, NIN, Nirvana, Oceansize, Phish, Porcupine Tree, Primus, Public Enemy, Radiohead, Steve Reich, Erik Satie, Arnold Schoenberg, Self-Evident, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Igor Stravinsky, Swervedriver, System of a Down, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Tool, Tortoise, Traindodge, Van Halen, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, and John Zorn & Electric Masada.  With numerous groups Lars has performed in the Twin Cities at 7th Street Entry, 400 Bar, Fine Line, The Hexagon Bar, Intermedia Arts, Kitty Kat Club, Nomad World Pub, The Varsity, and Triple Rock Social Club.


Lars is a poor chess player, but enjoys it anyway.


  • The bicycle, the road, mountains, trees, rivers, cities, community organizers, and creatures of the Earth
  • B.A. Clark University, Music and Sociology (1991)
  • Ph.D. Florida State University (1999), Sociology, with an emphasis on political economy, social movements, and comparative-historical methods