Dr Austin  Zeiderman

Dr Austin Zeiderman

Associate Professor of Geography

Department of Geography and Environment

Room No
CKK 3.10
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English, Spanish
Key Expertise
Cities, Environment, Security, Race, Capitalism, Latin America

About me

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 state agencies to protect poor and vulnerable citizens in areas declared at “high risk” of landslide, flood, and earthquake. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, Endangered City reveals what happens when security and risk become dominant logics of engagement between 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 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 infrastructure projects. This has led him to undertake long-term research focusing on plans to create a multimodal logistics corridor along Colombia’s Magdalena River between the Andean interior and the Caribbean sea. His forthcoming book 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. Listen to Austin speaking about his experience aboard a commercial riverboat on the Magdalena River in this University of Toronto podcast.

Austin’s research has appeared in a range of venues, such as Antipode, Public Culture, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 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.

Countries and regions

Colombia; Latin America; Caribbean; United States; the Americas


Traffic in the Americas: a Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for a three-year international research collaboration on security, mobility, and infrastructure.

Social Life of Climate Change: an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental initiative hosting research seminars focusing on the humanistic social sciences of climate change and the environment.

Research areas

  • Cities and urbanism
  • Politics, governance, and the state
  • Security, risk, and violence
  • Race, racial thinking, and racism
  • Rights, citizenship, and democracy
  • Infrastructure
  • Capitalism, trade, and logistics
  • Ecology, environment, and nature
  • Climate change
  • Colonial and postcolonial history
  • Housing, resettlement, and displacement
  • Ethnographic and historical methods
  • Science and technology
  • Urban and social theory

Selected publications

Teaching and supervising

Austin’s undergraduate and postgraduate teaching aims to engage students in the central challenges of the contemporary moment—from the politics of climate change adaptation to racialized violence and dispossession to the securitization of cities and nature. He is also keen to supervise postgraduate research on a wide range of topics and from a variety of analytical standpoints, though priority is given to projects with geographical, conceptual and methodological affinities (see above). Prospective students are welcome to get in touch to discuss the possibility of working together.

Courses currently taught at LSE include:

GY140 Introduction to Geographical Research
GY246 Field Methods in Geography (field trip)
GY315 Geographies of Race
GY403 Contemporary Debates in Human Geography 
GY449 Urban Futures
GY452 Urban Research Methods 
IR203 An Urbanising World (summer school)