Dr Romola Sanyal is Associate Professor in Urban Geography at LSE. She joined the Department of Geography and Environment in 2013 having held lectureships in Planning at Newcastle University (2010-2012) and University College London at the Development Planning Unit (2012-2013). She has also held the position of inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow at the Chao Centre for Asian Studies at Rice University (2008-2009) and been a Visiting Fellow at the Open University (2009-2010). She has a PhD in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, an MSc in Geography from LSE and a B.A in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley.
Romola’s research focuses on the relationship between forced migration and urbanisation. In one strand of her research, she looks at how refugees and other forced migrants become ‘city makers’ through building and inhabiting urban spaces. This work had been conducted in India and Lebanon, through the study of Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut and Partition refugee colonies in Calcutta. Here, she explored how the act of building itself was a form of politics and how it challenged efforts by humanitarian organisations and host governments to marginalize and depoliticize refugees. She continues this work by studying how refugees come to inhabit and make homes whilst being displaced and living in legally precarious circumstances.
A second strand of this work looks at the geopolitics of humanitarian knowledge production, particularly on urban refugees. Titled Urban Humanitarianism, this work looks at how humanitarian organizations come to learn from and intervene in urban areas through various experiments and what politics are involved in building and sharing that knowledge.
Romola is also involved in a third project on the sharing economy. Working together with Dr Nancy Holman, Dr Mara Ferreri and Ms Alessandra Mossa, this work looks at the effects of AirBnB on urban governance, informality and planning in cities in the Global North.
Romola’s work has appeared in a number of journals including Urban Studies, Political Geography, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Geoforum, Urban Geography, and Planning Theory and Practice. She is also co-editor of Urbanizing Citizenship: Contested Spaces in Indian Cities (with Dr Renu Desai, Sage Publishers, India) and Displacement: Global Conversations on Refuge (with Dr Silvia Pasquetti, Manchester University Press).She has held fellowships and received awards from a number of different organisations including the Spiro Kostof Fellowship, Eva Li Fellowship (UC Berkeley), Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (for Arabic), the Al Falah Program, the Social Science Research Council, and The Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD), the Academic Collaboration with Arab Universities Programme grant through the Emirates Foundation and the LSE Middle East Centre, and the Atlantic Equity Challenge award from the Institute of Inequalities at the LSE. She has also twice been the recipient of Excellence in Education Awards from the LSE. She sits on the Faculty Advisory Committee for the LSE South Asia Centre, and the editorial collective for the journal City analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action.
Romola grew up in Calcutta, India and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Romola is Director of the BA Geography programme.