Gareth is Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Centre, as well as Professor of Urban Geography in the Department of Geography and Environment at LSE and an Associate Member of the International Inequalities Institute. 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. He has held numerous visiting positions including at University of California San Diego, University of Texas at Austin and the Universidad Iberoamericana.
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 urban space, youth identities 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, social movements, security agencies and the wider state. A dimension of this work included understanding the role of gangs, the drug economy and violence, and motivated the co-edited volume Youth Violence in Latin America: Gangs and Juvenile Justice in Perspective, (Palgrave Macmillan, with Dennis Rodgers). Gareth is currently completing a joint book manuscript tentatively entitled Street Corners in a Global World: Everyday Life and Identities of Mexican Street Youth.
Second, Gareth is a Co Principal Investigator on an ESRC-NWO-DFG grant, with Professor Rivke Jaffe (Amsterdam) and Professor Eveline Durr (LMU), investigating the commodification of urban poverty and violence in four cities: Kingston, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans (www.inequalitytourism.org). 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 estates in Durban, South Africa, has considered how mostly white and elite households have ‘positioned’ their identities within a shifting urban landscape. The 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. An extension of this 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 not-so-distant ‘others’. Both projects are in collaboration with Richard Ballard at GCRO.
Gareth is a currently a co-editor of the Journal of Latin American Studies and European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and member of The British Academy Area Studies Panel for Latin America and the Caribbean. 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 advocating for child and youth rights. He has written short commissioned pieces outside of academia, including for The Royal Opera House and Architecture Foundation.