Gareth is Professor of Urban Geography and Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Centre.
He has an interdisciplinary academic background having studied economics, geography and urban sociology, and holds an undergraduate degree from University College London and a doctorate from University of Cambridge.
Gareth’s early research focussed on the political economy of urban Mexico and showed how low-income households acquired land, often in ways that navigated legal procedures, in order to gain a place in the city. The completion of this research segued with a major change to the Mexican Constitution, as Article 27 that had underpinned the post Revolution land institutions was reformed to allow greater private holding and different state relations. Following his witness of violent evictions of street traders in Puebla as part of an urban renovation programme, Gareth became interested in the contestation over ‘historic’ centres, gentrification, and the impact on identity in a context of incipient neoliberalisation. He subsequently worked these themes through in relation to Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador.
Gareth’s current research involves three principal projects. First, research that follows the intersection of cities, youth and violence in Mexico. Through the 2000s, Gareth conducted ethnography with a group of ‘street youth’ in Puebla, noting how they related to civil society groups, security agencies and the wider state. This work included understanding the role of gangs, the drug economy and violence, and motivated the volume Youth Violence in Latin America: Gangs and juvenile justice in perspective (edited with D. Rodgers, Macmillan-Palgrave). He is presently involved with a five-year European Research Council project, directed by Professors Dennis Rodgers (Graduate Institute, Geneva) and Steffen Jensen (Aalborg), entitled Gangs, Gangsters, and Ganglands: Towards a Global Comparative Ethnography, for which he serves on the International Advisory Panel and will return to Mexico for new fieldwork.
Second, he has been Co Principal Investigator on an ESRC-NWO-DFG grant, with Professors Rivke Jaffe (Amsterdam) and Eveline Durr (LMU), investigating the commodification of urban poverty and violence in four cities in the Americas: Kingston, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. See http://www.slum-tourism.com/ The research has looked at how inequality, represented through violence and poverty, has become a chic USP for certain communities and operators, sometimes incorporated in to city branding, but often highly contested by residents and activists.
Third, research on gated communities in South Africa has considered how research has considered how estates ‘do work’ to affirm class positions, associating exclusionary practices with ‘good governance’, the management of nature, and the symbolism of architecture and lifestyle. Research in Johannesburg follows how residents of a large township adjacent to a cluster of high-end estates gain skills and conduct labour, and how the estates organise and understand their social responsibilities to workers and neighbours. These projects are in collaboration with Richard Ballard at University of Witswatersrand.
Gareth is currently a joint editor of the European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies and member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Latin American Studies, for which he was co-editor for ten years.
He has undertaken consultancy for the Department for International Development (DfID), UN-Habitat , UN Youth Unit and Government of South Africa, and has been a trustee and advisor to a number of Non-Governmental Organisations, especially on child rights.
Gareth's main teaching contribution is to the MSc Urbanisation & Development, for which he contributes to courses on urban policy, methodology and ethnography.