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Professor Colin Mcfarlane


Professor in the Department of Geography+44 (0) 191 33 41959


My work focusses on the experience and politics of the city. I explore how cities are known, lived and politicised. This includes research on urban living, densities, fragments, and learning across different cities, focussing in particular on the economic margins. My current work seeks to understand:

1: The production, experience and perception of density in cities ( This research examines how high urban densities are shaped and lived in different domains, including density and crowds in public space, on the move, and in the neighbourhood and home. This work is supported by a European Research Council Consolidator grant;

2: The making and remaking of urban worlds. I am interested in how urban 'fragments' of different kinds - material bits-and-pieces, forms of knowledge, and styles of expression - become caught up in the experience and politics of being urban. This work closely connects with my interest in densities and is brought together in Fragments of the City: Making and Remaking Urban Worlds (University of California Press, 2021);

3: The relations between sanitation and the city. Much of my work focusses on the growing urban sanitation crisis, including how it unfolds at different intersections of place, density and inequality, and how to respond to it. This work also connects to my research on urban poverty and equality, for example through an ESRC-GCRF project on equality in which I am one of several co-investigators (

I am author of 'Learning the City: Knowledge and Translocal Assemblage' (Blackwell), a book focussed on the intersections between urban inequality, politics, and learning, as well as related edited collections, including: 'Global Urbanism: Knowledge, Power and the City' (Routledge, with Michele Lancione), 'Smart Urbanism: Utopian Vision or False Dawn?' (Routledge, with Simon Marvin and Andres Luque-Ayala), 'Infrastructural Lives: Urban Infrastructure in Context' (Earthscan-Routledge, with Steve Graham), 'Urban Navigations: Politics, Space and the City in South Asia' (Routledge, with Jonathan Anjaria), and 'Urban Informalities: Reflections on the Formal and Informal' (Ashgate, with Michael Waibel).

My work has been previously supported by a Leverhulme Prize, an ESRC project on urban sanitation (, with Stephen Graham and Renu Desai), and an ESRC project on urban social innovation (, with Joe Painter, Paul Langley, Sue Lewis, and Antonis Vradis).




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