Dr Centner is a sociologist, a geographer, an urbanist, and a development scholar whose diverse research portfolio revolves around a core interest in urban transformation at the nexus of social, spatial, and economic change. He focuses on how the built environment as well as people’s conditions and experiences are linked together, always with a view to how shifting broader projects and circumstances mediate these. He has a range of research, teaching, and advising interests (see below for details). Before joining the LSE, he was faculty in the Department of Sociology at Tufts University; he received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and has had visiting affiliations in Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Irvine, Los Angeles, and Paris. He is the organiser of the weekly guest speaker seminar series for the Urbanisation, Planning & Development cluster at the LSE during the Michaelmas and Lent Terms. At the end of Lent Term each year, Dr Centner leads the undergraduate field course in Havana, Cuba. During the (Northern Hemisphere) summer, he co-teaches a field course in Cape Town, South Africa, on African urban planning and development as part of the LSE-UCT July School curriculum. He is currently the Chair of the Urban Geography Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society.
Dr Centner is completing a longstanding ethnographic project on how three neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, Argentina, have fared in the long aftermath of IMF-sponsored reforms that reshaped the Argentine economy from the early 1990s onward. These were never ‘urban’ reforms, but they have patently created a legacy for the city in terms of the redevelopment of places and the transformed livelihoods of Buenos Aires residents across the socioeconomic spectrum. He focuses on ‘urban afterlives’ as a way of understanding what these kinds of economic restructuring – sharing similarities with Greece and Puerto Rico, among other cases – leave in their local wake, well beyond the original intentions of policy.
Other streams of ongoing research, in a range of sites, include:
1) Comparing the implementation of “the right to the city” as an idea, and often a law, across Latin American contexts, from São Paulo to Caracas to Santiago de Chile to Mexico City to Havana.
2) Examining the contentious nature of increasingly heterogeneous urban middle classes (which is emphatically plural, as middle classes) in the rapidly changing middle-income countries of Brazil, Turkey, and South Africa.
3) Exploring the links between urban innovations, inequalities, and the everyday politics of what we might call the “self-regard” of cities. This looks specifically at the three major urban areas of North America’s Pacific Northwest region – Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland – which are collectively hailed as green, creative, progressive, and hip; this reputation is clearly known to residents and is unavoidable in the daily experience of these places, which are plainly cities in love with themselves. As Dr Centner comes from Portland himself, he trains a critical eye on how the distinct assemblage of innovations in each city exacerbates, or sometimes relies on, inequalities.
4) Tracing how the speculative expansion of commercial aviation into new geographies is related to city-building through investments in infrastructure and the forging of new inter-urban linkages. Dr Centner is particularly interested in the rapid proliferation of airline networks in Africa over the last decade, but he also compares these to transformations that have unfolded previously in parts of the Middle East and Latin America.
5) Documenting and comparing how imperial legacies — and distinct entitlements to or engagements with their genealogies — lead to differentiations in local spatial development, giving variously charged meaning to specific figurations of race/ethnicity, language, indigeneity, and citizenship. Dr Centner investigates these dynamics in a variety of cases from London (West Indians in Brixton and Antipodeans in neighbouring Clapham), to post-Ottoman cities (Istanbul and Beirut, with reference to Sarajevo, Athens, and Nicosia), to neighbouring islands in the Dutch Caribbean (more Latin Americanised Aruba and more Creole-focused yet Netherlands-influenced Curaçao).
6) Enquiring into how gentrification is specifically affecting LGBT nocturnal geographies – essentially, the spaces and nature of gay nightlife – in east London. This is part of a set of papers Dr Centner is working on editing with collaborators at other institutions on “Gay Male Urban Spaces after Grindr & Gentrification.”
- Dr Centner welcomes applications from potential PhD students interested in the following topics and areas:
- urban change (redevelopment, gentrification, spatial politics, landscapes of cultural representation, etc) in Latin America — including especially Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, and the full span of the Caribbean (English-, French-, Spanish-, and Dutch-speaking).
- urban development, class, and culture in Turkey and South Africa.
- the intersections of urban innovation and inequality in the developing landscapes of the Pacific Northwest region (also known as ‘Cascadia’) straddling the United States and Canada (including Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia).
- the changing networks of commercial aviation within Africa, and connecting the continent to the rest of the world; and how these relate to urban infrastructure in the African cities.
- the invention of location as related to airline, airport, and aviation development — particularly, but not limited to, the Gulf states, Turkey, Central America, and Africa (especially Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Togo).
- the changing nature of LGBT urban geographies, especially in cities of the Global South.
- the legacies of empire and colonialism as part of shaping contemporary urban landscapes and everyday representations of local culture, language, and the nature of indigeneity, in cities around the world.
Urban Geography & Globalisation
Fieldwork Methods in Geography & Environment
Urban Development & Planning in Africa
Contemporary Debates in Human Geography & Urban Studies
Urban Planning & Policy
International Urban Policy, Planning & Development
Globalization & Social Change
Qualitative Research Methods
Sociology & Leadership
Cities of the Global South
Islam & Europe
(University of California, Berkeley)
Sociology of Development & Modernization
Sociology of the Built Environment
Get to know Ryan a little more through our Spotlight series.