Austin Zeiderman is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at the London School of Economics. He is an interdisciplinary scholar who specializes in the cultural and political dimensions of urbanization, development, and the environment in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a specific focus on Colombia. Austin holds a PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University as well as a Master of Environmental Science degree from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Colgate University.
Austin’s first book, Endangered City: The Politics of Security and Risk in Bogotá (2016, Duke University Press), examines the everyday workings of the state to protect poor and vulnerable citizens in areas recently declared at “high risk” of landslide, flood, and earthquake. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, Endangered City shows what happens when security and risk become dominant logics of engagement between urban citizens and the state. While the politics of security and risk in Bogotá are inextricably bound up with Colombia’s colonial and postcolonial history, the book intervenes in global debates surrounding the imperative to govern the present in anticipation of future threats, and the implications of that imperative for cities and urban life.
Austin’s current research moves beyond the city to examine large-scale social and environmental transformations in Colombia. He has written on racialized displacement linked to port expansion and climate change adaptation and on efforts to counter displacement pressures by Afro-Colombian activists and settlers. This research also led to a methodological intervention into conceptual debates in urban theory. More recently, Austin has written about the process of building a “concrete peace” in Colombia through large-scale infrastructure projects. This has led him to undertake a long-term research project focusing on plans to create a multimodal logistics corridor along Colombia’s Magdalena River between the Andean interior and the Caribbean sea. This project seeks to intervene in debates on capitalism, security, race, and nature while experimenting with new ways of thinking and writing about environmental politics in our rapidly changing world.
Aspects of Austin’s research have appeared in a range of venues, such as Antipode, Public Culture, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Environment and Planning A, American Ethnologist, openDemocracy, and the Guardian. He has received fellowships and awards from the Fulbright Program, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation. From 2012 to 2014, Austin coordinated the Urban Uncertainty project at LSE Cities, where he remains a Research Associate. Raised in Philadelphia, he has previously worked on urban and environmental issues in Baltimore and San Francisco.
Get to know Austin a little more through our Spotlight series.