Dr Jayaraj  Sundaresan

Dr Jayaraj Sundaresan

LSE Fellow in Human Geography

Department of Geography and Environment

Office Hours
Wednesdays: 15:00-17:30 (Book via LSE for You)
Key Expertise
Urban Politics, Urban Commons, Planning Violations and illegalities

About me

I joined the Department as a Fellow in Human Geography in 2017. My previous positions include Co-Director of the Urban Fellows Program (2016) at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) and Associate Fellow at the Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London (2015). Over the years, I have been part of various research projects in LSE including at Grantham Research Institute (2014), University College London (DPU, 2013) and LSE Cities (Urban Age - 2007). I obtained my PhD in Regional and Urban Planning Studies from the LSE (Human Geography), MSc in City Design and Social Science (LSE-Cities), Masters in Urban Design and Planning (CEPT-Ahmedabad), and Bachelors in Architecture (Kerala University).

My research seeks to understand the relationship between urban policy/planning/design practice and political cultures (Global North and South). Primary field sites of my research interest are cities in India and London. Methodologically I am an ethnographer. Conceptually I currently explore the Vernacular and the De-colonial and its possibilities to reshape the urban studies epistemology and pedagogy.

In my PhD (Urban Planning in Vernacular governance, 2014, LSE) I examined planning violations in non-poor neighbourhoods of Bangalore and explained how the intricately networked vernacular politics fundamentally transform the ideal typical planning system. Drawing from that, I have written about urban commons, geographies of water/urban wetlands and ecological transformations, corruption, violations and illegalities, participation and urban activism. Connected to this I am interested in the geographies of rule beyond ‘ the state’ – in particular, the various vernacular formations of power, consequent practices of rule (democracy or otherwise) and its spatial and social outcomes.

My current research focuses on planning movements/activism in India and London.

Along with my research and teaching, for many years, I have worked with the local governments in London as a consultant on planning, regeneration and urban design policy and shaped more than 100 projects and contributed to many policy documents, including authoring the Tall Building evidence framework for the London Borough of Lewisham. In 2001, I co-founded an urban consulting and advocacy centre in India and ran it till 2004 before leaving as its Director. Among the many projects include the tenure security component (housing for about 1000 people) of the DfiD funded Cochin Urban Poverty Reduction Project implemented through community participation and the Arackal Palace and Environs area conservation program in North Kerala that won the UNESCO award. Prior to that I have worked many years on heritage conservation (Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Udaipur in Rajastan) and on producing morphological studies of about 150 Cities in India (partly published by the CEPT University, Ahmedabad)

I am a member of the Urbanisation (Sage) journal’s editorial collective. For the past 7 years, I have also been affiliated with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) and have been part of various initiatives to develop it as a university dedicated to urban studies.

Expertise Details

Comparative Urbanism and Global South; Indian Cities; Urban Politics (policy/planning/design); Urban Commons; Planning Violations and illegalities; Corruption; Planning Power; Urban Nature; Urban Activism; Vernacular Governance; Decolonization

Selected publications

  • 2017: Sundaresan, J., Who is Corrupt and where lies corruption? Thinking with the Land use planning violations in Bangalore, in The Illicit in the Governance and Development of Cities and Regions: Corrupt Places, Edited by Tim Hall and Francesco Chiodelli, Routledge.
  • 2016: Sundaresan, J., Planners and others; Politics of Land use Planning in Bangalore, in Yasminah Beebeejuan, [ed], The Participant City, Jovis.
  • 2016: Revi, A., Satterthwaite,D., Mathur, O., Mehrotra, R., Goswami, A., Bhan, G., Sundaresan, J., Wankhade, K., Sami, N., Shetty, P., Editorial : Introducing Urbanisation, in Urbanisation 1(1) vii-xiii. Doi: 19.1177/2455747116646638
  • 2016: Sundaresan, J., Allen, A., and Johnson, C; Reading urban, past, present and futures through blue infrastructure in India, in Bell, S., Allen, A., Hofmann, P. and Teh, T-H (ed.) Urban Water Trajectories, Springer Future City Series
  • 2016: Sundaresan, J and Arkali, A., Communities and the making of Urban Commons: Learning from the wetlands activism in Bangalore, in Urban Inclusion, integrated case development published by Indian Institute for Human Settlements, www.cases.iihs.co.in
  • 2015: Mace, A; Holman, N; Paccoud, A and Sundaresan, J., Coordinating density; working through conviction, suspicion and pragmatism, Progress in Planning, Volume 101, October, 1-38
  • 2015: Nachmany,M., Fankhauser,S., Davidová,J., Kingsmill,N., Landesman,T., Roppongi,H., Schleifer,P., Setzer,J., Sharman,A., Singleton,C,S., Sundaresan,J and Townshend,T., The Global Climate Legislation Study: A Review of Climate Change Policy and Legislation in 99 Countries. Fifth Edition: Published by the Grantham Research Institute, London School of Economics
  • 2015: On planning, violations and the limits of informality., interviewed by Dr. Tucker Jordan: available from https://favelissues.com/2015/11/30/on-planning-violations-and-the-limits-of-informality-an-interview-with-jayaraj-sundaresan/
  • 2014: Sundaresan, J. et.al., Future Proofing Indian Cities: Spatial and social analysis for sustainable development of Madurai, www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu, Action research report submitted to Climate Knowledge Development Network, UK
  • 2014: Sundaresan, J. et.al., A report on the Action Planning Process : Towards a sustainable development of the blue-green infrastructure in Madurai, www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu , Action Planning Report submitted to Climate Knowledge Development Network, UK
  • 2014: Sundaresan, J., Who plans, who lives? Urban Planning lessons from Bangalore, LSE India Blog, Part 1 and 2, June 2014 , http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/southasia/2014/06/11/who-plans-and-who-lives-urban-planning-lessons-from-bangalore-part-two/
  • 2013: Sundaresan, J., Evidence based document to support LDF Core Strategy policy on tall buildings in Lewisham, London Borough of Lewisham, www.lewisham.gov.uk
  • 2012: Sundaresan, J., Urban commons and public interest coalitions: learning from the restoration of Bangalore’s lakes, LSE India Blog, http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/southasia/2012/08/20/urban-commons-and-public-interest-coalitions-learning-from-the-restoration-of-bangalores-lakes/
  • 2011: Sundaresan, J., Planning as Commoning: Transformation of a Bangalore Lake. Economic and Political Weekly. VOL 46 No. 50 December 10, 2011
  • 2011: Sundaresan, J., Planning power in Vernacular Governance. Understanding land use planning in Bangalore: Writing cities; MIT, LSE, Harvard University collaborative workshop, LSE
  • 2008: Rode, P; Wagner, J; Chandra, R, Brown, R and Sundaresan, J., Integrated City Making: Governance Planning and transport, Urban-Age working paper series; LSE Cities, 2008
  • 2006: Sundaresan, J., Riots and the city: Hindu nationalism and the city of Ahmedabad; The dark face of Nationalism; violence, extremism and the nation; the 17th Annual conference of the ASEN, LSE, 2006
  • 2001: Sundaresan, J., The vanishing Tharavads of Kerala: The Hindu ‘Folio’ on Cities, August
  • 2000: Sundaresan, J., Recognizing Urban Design for better cities: Indian Architect and Builder, November 2000, Jasubhai Media publications, Mumbai, India