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Urban Change, Culture and Connection

Intellectual focus

The Department has a distinctive cluster of urban sociologists working alongside urban designers, planners, ethnographers and anthropologists who address the scale and dynamism of processes of urban transformation. Research at LSE Cities, examines the physical and social shaping of environments, infrastructures, institutions and localities as they emerge in relation to cultural hierarchies, modes of power and ordering, and forms of inclusion and exclusion. As Director of LSE Cities and Professor of Urban Studies, Burdett has led a series of major projects charting comparative socio-spatial aspects of urban life with an emphasis on the rising significance of Asian, African and South American cities. The research employs innovative social, spatial and visual approaches to explore and analyse contemporary urban conditions, and to conceptualise urban futures. Tonkiss has contributed to the analysis of urban change by examining the links between social and spatial divisions in cities, connecting with the work of Sennett, Jones, Savage and Zeiderman.

Hall, Jones and Madden specialise in ethnographic approaches to urban life in specific neighbourhood contexts, with pioneering ethnographies in London and New York, including Hall’s study of the vitality of ethnically diverse urban neighbourhoods in London and Jones’s study of the South Bank complex (also in London). Their work cross-fertilises with Savage who has applied has interests in cultural inequalities into the spatial mapping of cultural capital, Slater’s ethnographic studies of the use of new media in global contexts and Zeiderman’s ethnographic studies of risk in Bogota. These intersect with Hemmings’ and Wilson’s interests in the relationship between sexuality and ‘culture’, development practices and ‘Western meanings’, and political economy and sexuality. Janet Foster showcases our expertise in crime, community and policing, and in social exclusion.

A major funded research centre, LSE Cities brings together interdisciplinary research, outreach and teaching activities through the Urban Age programme and research strands on space and society (Burdett, Sennett, Tonkiss, Hall, Colantonio), cities and the environment (Rode), and urban governance in conditions of uncertainty (Zeiderman). This has led to innovative research on form, structure and governance of cities which are widely disseminated through publications and a highly utilised website. Since 2008, outreach activities at LSE and abroad have attracted over 5,000 participants at conferences and seminars, and collaborations with over 30 international research institutions and research centres. New methods of research into the culture and economic resilience of urban life have been pioneered by Centre staff, including ethnographic studies of urban streets, the connections between urban design and performance, as well as collaborative work on cities, health and well-being. The role of urban governance and democratic engagement is being pursued through new research projects investigating environments at risk in the emerging world (including fieldwork in Karachi, Bogota and Johannesburg). Since 2008, LSE Cities has organised over 100 seminars, conferences and events, attended by over 7,000 people in London and abroad.

Key members of faculty

  • Ricky Burdett, Professor of Urban Studies, Director of LSE Cities: Architecture and urban design, urban regeneration and planning policies; sustainable design and communities; the relationship between urban environment and urban society.
  • Janet Foster, Associate Professor in Sociology: crime, community and policing; urban change and conflict; social exclusion.
  • Gunter Gassner, Course Tutor in Sociology and City Design: urban design, neoliberal urbanisation processes, politics and aesthetics in the city, critical theory, socio-spatial mapping.
  • Suzanne Hall, Assistant Professor in Sociology, Research Fellow at LSE Cities: social and spatial inclusions/exclusions, urban multiculture, the design of the city, ethnography, visual methods.
  • David Madden, Assistant Professor in Sociology: urban sociology; political sociology; public space; housing; urban politics and planning; globalization; social theory; urban theory.
  • Michael McQuarrie, Associate Professor in Sociology: urban politics and governance, social movements, civil society, organizations, race, social change, field analysis
  • Philipp Rode, Executive Director of LSE Cities and Senior Research Fellow, Ove Arup Fellow, Cities Programme: urban change.
  • Saskia Sassen,  LSE Cities advisory board (formerly Visiting Professor in Sociology): Global inter-city networks; (politicised) public urban space.
  • Mike Savage, Professor of Sociology: social stratification, especially its cultural aspects; urban sociology; historical sociology; method and methodology, especially field analysis and mixed method strategies.
  • Richard Sennett, Professor of Sociology: Culture; urban sociology; work.
  • Leslie Sklair, Emeritus Professor in Sociology: iconic architecture and capitalist globalisation.
  • Robert Tavernor, Emeritus Professor of Architecture and Urban Design: Architecture and urban design; body and measure; three-dimensional urban planning; visualisations of London.
  • Fran Tonkiss, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Cities Programme: Urban development and design; urban economies and governance; space and social theory; social and spatial divisions in the city.

Linked Master's programmes

The MSc City Design and Social Science is an interdisciplinary Master's programme that sets the design and development of cities in its social, political, economic and environmental contexts. Students are drawn from across the design disciplines, social and economic sciences, natural sciences and humanities.  See MSc City Design and Social Science (Cities Programme).

This research cluster is also aligned with the MSc Culture and Society and the MSc International Migration and Public Policy (joint programme with Department of Government).

Research Students

The MPhil/PhD Cities offers an excellent environment for innovative and interdisciplinary graduate research on cities, space and urbanism. Students come to the doctoral programme from a range of academic and professional backgrounds, sharing an interest in linking the social and physical study of urban issues. The programme hosts several research council-funded studentships and is part of an international postgraduate network with MIT and Harvard universities.  See PhD programme (Cities Programme).