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Professor Colin McFarlane


AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Professor in the Department of Geography325+44 (0) 191 33 41959
Professor , Politics-State-Space325+44 (0) 191 33 41959
Professor , Urban Worlds325+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).



Research Projects

  • Everyday Sanitation: A comparative study of Mumbai's informal settlements

Awarded Grants

  • 2018: Density assemblages: intensity and the city in a global urban age(£1075745.00 from Interreg (ERDF) Europe)
  • 2018: Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality (KNOW)(£78793.55 from ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN))
  • 2014: Philip Leverhulme Prize(£70000.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
  • 2011: Assembling Smart Cities(£4700.00 from One NorthEast)
  • 2009: EVERYDAY SANITATION(£175375.21 from ESRC)
  • 2008: EVERYDAY INFRASTRUCTURE(£3816.00 from British Council Manchester)

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Citizenship, state and governance: Cities; urban development; urban politics; urban India.


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

  • McFarlane, C. (2021). Future Densities: Knowledge, Politics and Remaking the City. In Grammars of the Urban Ground. Amin, A. & Lancione, M. Duke University Press.
  • McFarlane, C. (2019). Urban fragments: a subaltern studies imagination. In Subaltern Geographies. Jazeel, T. & Legg, S. Athens, GA: Georgia University Press. 210-230.
  • McFarlane, C (2019). Fragments. In Keywords in Radical Geographical Thought: Antipode at 50. Jazeel, T. Kent, A., McKittirck, K. & Theodroe, N. Wiley.
  • McFarlane, C. (2019). Learning from the City: a Politics of Urban Learning in Planning. In Companion to Planning in the Global South. Watson, V., Bhan, G. & Srinivas, S. Routledge.
  • McFarlane, C. & Desai, R. (2019). The Urban Metabolic Commons: Rights, Civil Society, and Subaltern Struggle’. In Releasing the Commons: Rethinking the Futures of the Commons. Amin, A. & Howell, P. Routledge. 158-173.
  • McFarlane, C. (2019). Assembling the everyday: incremental urbanism and tactical learning. In SAGE Handbook of the 21st Century City. Burdett, R. & Hall, S. Sage.
  • McFarlane, C. (2016). Encountering was it (not) there. In Encountering the City. Urban Encounters from Accra to New York. Darling, J. & Wilson, H. Ashgate. 229-232.
  • Lancione, M. & McFarlane, C. (2016). Becoming Infrastructure: Body, Waste and the City. In Urban Cosmopolitics: Agencements, Assemblies, Atmospheres. Blok, A. & Farias, I. Routledge. 45-62.
  • McFarlane, C. (2015). Learning cities. In Urban Theory: New Critical Perspectives. Jayne, M. & Ward, K. Routledge.
  • Graham, S., Desai, R. & McFarlane, C. (2015). De-Networking the Poor: Revanchist Urbanism and Hydrological Apartheid in Mumbai. In Beyond the Networked City: Infrastructure Reconfigurations and Urban Change in the North and South. Couthard, O. & Rutherford, J. Routledge.
  • McFarlane, C. (2014). Studies in Comparative Urbanism. In Companion to Development Studies. Desai, V. & Potter, R. Hodder Education. 296-298.
  • McFarlane, C. & Vasudevan, A. (2014). Informal Infrastructures. In Handbook of Mobilities. Adey, P., Bissell, D., Hannam, K., Merriman, P. & Sheller, M. Routledge. 256-264.
  • Luque, A., McFarlane, C. & Marvin, S. (2014). Smart urbanism: cities, grids and alternatives? In After Sustainable Cities?. Hodson, M. & Marvin, S. Routeldge. 74-90.
  • McFarlane, C., Desai, R. & Graham, S. (2014). Politics of sanitation: Informality and the constitution of urban metabolic life in Mumbai. In Inclusive Urbanization: Rethinking Policy and Practice in the Age of Climate Change. Shrestha, K., Ojha, H.R., McManus, P. Rubbo, A. & Dhote, K.K. Guilford Press.
  • McFarlane, C. (2011). Sanitation in Mumbai's Informal Settlements: Governance, Infrastructure, and Cost Recovery. In Migration and Integration: Reflections on Our Common Future. Bade, K.J, Lorentz, B. & Pries, L. Europaische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig. 123-136.
  • Anjaria, J.S. & McFarlane, C. (2011). Conceptualising the City in South Asia. In Urban Navigations: Politics, Space and the City in South Asia. Anjaria, J.S. & McFarlane, C. New Delhi and London: Routledge. 1-22.
  • McFarlane, C. (2010). Everyday interruptions: urban life in the global South. In Disrupted Cities: When Infrastructure Fails. Graham, S.D.N. New York: Routledge.
  • McFarlane, C. (2010). Entries for 'Mumbai' and 'Squatter Movements'. In Encyclopedia of Urban Studies. Hutchison, R., Aalbers, M., Beauregard, R. & Crang, M. London: Sage.

Edited book

  • Lancione, M. & McFarlane, C. (2021). Global Urbanism: Knowledge, Power and the City. Routledge.
  • Marvin, S., Luque-Ayala, A. & McFarlane, C. (2016). Smart Urbanism: Utopian Vision or False Dawn?. Routledge.
  • Graham, S. & McFarlane, C. (2015). Infrastructural Lives: Politics, Experience and the Urban Fabric. Earthscan-Routledge.
  • McFarlane, C. & Waibel, M. (2012). Urban Informalities: Reflections on the Formal and Informal. Ashgate.
  • Anjaria, J.S. & McFarlane, C. (2010). Urban Navigations: Politics, Space and the City in South Asia. Cities and the Urban Imperative Series. London and New Delhi: Routledge.

Edited Journal

Journal Article

Supervision students