We’re Reading


Here you will find listings relevant to the research interests of City-Centric. These range from talks, events, reading groups, seminars, lectures and book recommendation.

Beyond the Skyline: Addressing London’s Housing Crisis / http://www.bbk.ac.uk/events-calendar/beyond-the-skyline-addressing-london2019s-housing-crisis

A Colloquium sponsored by the Birkbeck Institute of Social Research

Organisers: Alejandro Colas (Reader in International Relations, Birkbeck) andPaul Watt (Reader in Urban Studies, Birkbeck)

In March 2014, some of Britain’s most influential figures in the arts, politics and academia launched a campaign to save London’s skyline from being dominated by more than 200 additional skyscrapers. ‘Most of the proposed towers’ the campaigners argued, ‘are not vital to London’s prosperity and financial wellbeing. The majority are residential, but they are neither essential to meeting housing needs, nor the best way to achieve greater densities. Their purpose is more to create investments than homes or cohesive communities. They have the potential to cause permanent damage to the city’s urban fabric and to its global image and reputation’.

For all their references to London’s housing needs and ‘cohesive communities’, public statements like these focus largely on aesthetic questions of architectural design, impact and quality at the expense of substantive questions surrounding public housing policy, the global property market and its effect on the livelihoods of inner-city populations in a metropolis like London. The aim of this colloquium is to cast a cross-disciplinary eye on the various interconnection between London’s housing needs, its identity as a global city and the socio-political and demographic consequences of building for global investors rather than local needs. The idea is to look beyond (and below) the skyline into the foundations of the current housing crisis – its causes, consequences and possible solutions from across central and local government, as well as among civil society organisations and campaigners.

The colloquium will bring together a diverse group of scholars, policy-makers, activists and practitioners from across the capital and beyond, to address questions like: has London reached the limits of its ‘carrying capacity’? Is building more social housing feasible and desirable? What should the policy response to the property boom of the capital and southeast? How have communities mobilised to reverse London’s creeping ‘social cleansing’?

Provisional Programme

Session I: Explaining the Causes of London’s Housing Crisis

  • Paul Watt (Reader in Urban Studies, Birkbeck)
  • Dawn Foster (Freelance journalist and independent researcher on housing)
  • Stuart Hodkinson (Lecturer in Critical Urban Geography, University of Leeds)
  • Doreen Massey (Emeritus Professor of Geography, Open University)


Session II: Design, Policy and Planning Responses to the Crisis

  • Owen Hatherley (Architecture writer and journalist. Author of Militant Modernism)
  • Darren Johnson (Green Party London Assembly Member and Chair of London Assembly’s Housing Committee)
  • Tim Waterman (Senior Lecturer, Writtle School of Design and Honorary Editor of Landscape: the Journal of the Landscape Institute)
  • Janet Sutherland (formerly of Camden Housing Unit)

Coffee Break

Session III: The Politics of London’s Housing Crisis

* * * * *

Registration and payment are essential – book your place here
£15 Standard | £10 Birkbeck Staff | £5 All Students & Unwaged

(If you cannot afford the fee, please get in touch with the BISR Manager, Reina Goodwin-van der Wiel, on r.vanderwiel@bbk.ac.uk.)


Performing Urban Resistance:

An exploration of Southwark’s culture of gentrification protests

Public Seminar

Tuesday 12 May 2015, 2pm, Senate House, Room 261

The contemporary global city is seeing vast swaths of rapid gentrification and hyper-gentrification. The enormous amounts of foreign direct investment is fueling a speculative land-grab of the city, which is seeing urban neighbourhoods being rapidly altered socially, culturally and economically. London exemplifies this process, as it is seeing massive surges in property investment and privatized real estate development, causing a citywide housing affordability crisis. This is being felt acutely in the borough of Southwark, which in the last decade has experienced rapid real estate investment from foreign investment and global corporations. This has lead to the destruction of many housing estates to be replaced with high-rise luxury apartments (such as the case with Heygate estate) and many others are being threatened with similar plans (such as the Aylesbury estate). Beyond these large-scale sites of conflict, gentrification of the borough continues to evidence itself through the changing tapestry of the urban landscape. The everyday urbanisms of Southwark are developing in response to this gentrification, with differing results for the local communities. Cultural, creative and performative acts of resistance, however small are being woven into the borough’s topology. A graffiti tag, semi-permanent squats, a sign in a shop window, a slogan on a t-shirt; there are acts of anti-gentrification protests across the borough.

The seminar will bring together key scholars from urban geography and performance studies to understand the concepts of the disciplines in relation to the gentrification of Southwark. Also drawing on activists, artists, students and citizens, the aim of the seminar is to highlight the process that will be important in exploring the everyday creative performances of protest and anti-gentrification activities in Southwark.

This will include keynote talks from Prof. Loretta Lees (University of Leicester) and Prof. Jen Harvie (Queen Mary University of London), responses from artists and artist collectives, members of Southwark council and a subsequent open discussion. There is potential to fund a future intervention in Southwark if collaborative potential arises out of the seminar.

The event is free and open to the public, but participants are required to register: https://eventbrite.co.uk/event/16558591192/

For any queries please contact the organizers:

Dr. Oli Mould (Oli.Mould@rhul.ac.uk) – Geography

Dr. Bryce Lease (Bryce.Lease@rhul.ac.uk) – Drama & Theatre

This event is funded by HARC, Royal Holloway’s Humanities and Arts Research Centre.


Cities Seminar Series at King’s College London, organized by the Geography Department

Autumn 2014/2015


  • 16/10, 4-5pm – Prof. Deborah Phillips (University of Oxford): Encountering difference: Negotiating urban citizenship and belonging in an era of new diversity – Pyramid Room (K4U.04), 4th floor, King’s Building.
  • 23/10, 4-5pm – Jason Luger (King’s College London): The living versus the dead in Singapore: Contesting the authoritarian tourist city – Pyramid Room (K4U.04), 4th floor, King’s Building.
  • 30/10, 4-5pm – Dr. Deborah Potts (King’s College London): Deconstructing the Ethiopian urban donkey: It is not at all what you think! – Room TBC


  • 4/11, 6.30-7.30pm – *KCL Masterclass* – Lord Richard Best, House of Lords (formerly of Joseph Rowntree Foundation and House Trust): Housing and regeneration: Translating evidence into action – Council Room (K.2.29, 4th floor, King’s Building.
  • 13/11, 4-5pm – TBC
  • 20/11, 4-5pm – Dr. Vinicius Carvalho (King’s College London): Cultural representations of violence in urban Brazil: Ethical consequences of cultural expressions – Room TBC
  • 27/11, 4-5pm – Prof. Nikolas Rose (King’s College London): Mental Life in the metropolis: Urban brains, urban lives and the embodiment of urbanicity – Room TBC

For more information, please contact KCL Cities (Cities@kcl.ac.uk) or Matthew Richmond (Matthew.Richmond@kcl.ac.uk)


Around London: On Surveillance

 Mouths at the Invisible – David Birkin // 16.01.15 – 28.02.15

On Memorial Day weekend, 2014, David Birkin, wrote the words EXISTENCE OR NONEXISTENCE across the sky above New York City. Severe Clear (2014), responds to US Government classified drones programme. The textual content of the piece – barely legible here – was taken from a CIA rejection letter, sent to the American Civil Liberties Union in response to a Freedom of Information Act request for records. This, and other works relating to the theme Surveillance, will show in the Mosaic Rooms, in London from 16th January to 28th February 2015. Find out more information, here: http://www.mosaicrooms.org/david-birkin/



We’re Reading… On Surveillance//On the Urban

Publications from our City-Centric Hosts (2014/15)

Ong, A. (2004) ‘Against a Brick Wall’, The Open Page: Theatre, Women, Struggle, Wales, Odin Teatret and The Magdalena Project

They’re reading…


 Thrift, N.J. (2008) Nonrepresentational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon . New York, NY, Routledge, 209-213 Valverde, M. (2011); 198 but malice aforethought – pp. 209-213

 Valverde, M. (2011) ‘Seeing Like A City: The Dialectic Of Modern And Premodern Ways Of Seeing In Urban Governance: Seeing Like A City’, Law & Society Review, Vol. 45, No. 2: 277–281; seeing like a city – pp. 277-281

Further Reading

Amin, A. (2002) ‘Ethnicity and the multicultural city: Living with Diversity’ Report for the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the ESRC Cities Initiative., pp14.15, 17

Critchley, Simon, and Tom McCarthy, The International Necronautical Society (INS), ‘Declaration on Digital Capitalism,’ Artforum (October 2014). Available online: https://artforum.com/inprint/issue=201408&id=48220

They’re reading…

Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Aeschylus, Oresteia (Agamemnon)

Miller, D. (2008) ‘London: nowhere in particular’. Online. Available HTTP: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/staff/d_miller/mil-17

Simmel, G. (1903) ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, in G. Bridge and S. Watson (eds) (2002) The Blackwell City Reader. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell., pp.11-12

Valentine, G. (2008) ‘Living with difference: reflections on geographies of encounter’. Progress in Human Geography 32(3): 323-337

pp. 326-330, 334

Bill Manhire, ‘Surveillance Notes’, in Poetry. Read it online, via the Poetry Foundation, here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/249098

Reading suggestions from Flora Pitrolo, City-Centric host (November 2014)

Calvino Lecture 1983


Giuseppe Bartolucci – Initiatives of IIs

Horacio Zabala – Hyper-metropolis or pseudo-metropolis

Superstudio 12 Cautionary Tales for Christmas

 Reading suggestions from Aliki Kylika, City-Centric Host (December 2014)

Murakami, D.W. (2007) Beyond the Panopticon? Foucault and Surveillance Studies. In:Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography. Ed. Crampton, J.W. (2007)  Cornwall: Ashgate. p.246-9+255-7
Taylor, P.J. (1994)The State as Container: Territoriality in the Modern World-System. In:State / Space: A Reader ed. Brenner,N., Jessop,B., Jones,M., and MacLeod,G. (2003) Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. pp.101-102
Fairlie, S. (2009) A short history of enclosure in Britain. The Land Magazine. Issue 7[Internet] <http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/articles/short-history-enclosure-britain> [Accessed at: 23-Nov-14] chapter: Parliamentary Enclosures
Linebaugh, P. (2014) Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance. Oakland: Spectre PM Press. p.24-27
Madanipour, A. (2003) Public and Private Spaces of the City. In:Public and Private Spaces of the City. London and NY: Routledge. pp.204-210
De Certeau, M. (1988) Walking in the city. In: The practice of Everyday Life. London: University of California Press.pp.97-102 


Related Projects

Performing Places

Principal Investigator: Professor Sally Mackey (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London)
Co-Investigators: Margaret Ames (Aberystwyth University) and Professor Mike Pearson (Aberystwyth University)

Performing Places is a pioneering open-access web resource, useful for any artist (or theorist) working with communities on matters of ‘Place’. This resource emerges as one aspect of an AHRC-funded research project, called ‘Challenging concepts of “liquid” place through performance practices in community contexts’ (read about this here: www.challengingplace.org.) Any artist who makes use of the practices outlined on the site are encouraged to contact Prof. Sally Mackey at sally.mackey[at]cssd.ac.uk, as Performing Places are eager to hear of how practices work in different contexts. Find out more here: http://www.performingplaces.org/




We are eager to utilise this page to open an expansive dialogue regarding interdisciplinary urban studies. Anyone wishing to contribute to this growing conversation about the urban environment, please contact us using the form below.



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