Researching the City


Edited by: Kevin Ward

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    Allan Cochrane is Professor of Urban Studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Open University. His research interests lie at the intersection of geography and public policy, and he has researched and published on a wide range of topics relating to urban and regional policy.

    Bradley L. Garrett is a Researcher in Technological Natures at the University of Oxford with an interest in uncovering hidden places in soil, seas, cities and space. Brad's research interests revolve around issues concerning urban life, place, ruins and waste, spatial politics, subversive social practices, heritage and using multimedia methodologies to critically (and beautifully) interrogate these issues.

    Annette Hastings is Senior Lecturer and Leader of the Neighbourhoods and Well-being Research Group in Urban Studies, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow. Her research is focused on understanding the causes, consequences and responses to urban inequality. She is particularly interested in how public service provision can sustain inequalities, in whether and how regeneration interventions can address the fundamental problems of disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and in how language use operates to sustain power in the policy process.

    Alan Latham is Senior Lecturer in Geography in the Department of Geography, University College London. His research interests are in urban sociality and public life.

    Kate Swanson is Associate Professor of Geography, San Diego State University, California, United States. Her research currently focuses on poverty, migration and marginality in Latin America and the US/Mexico border region.

    Nik Theodore is a Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses on economic restructuring and urban informality.

    Kevin Ward is Professor of Human Geography in the School of Environment and Development at the University of Manchester. His research interests lie in the geographies and histories of urban policy mobilities, state re-organization, and the politics of urban and regional development.

    Stephen V. Ward is Professor of Planning History at Oxford Brookes University. He has written widely on historical topics in the field of planning, making extensive use of archival sources. His current research focuses on the historical dimension of the international circulation of ideas and practice in planning and related policy fields.

    Matthew Wilson is Assistant Professor of Geography in the Department of Geography at the University of Kentucky, and both Visiting Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Design, and Visiting Scholar, Center for Geographic Analysis, Harvard University, USA. His current research interests are in the social and political implications of geographic information technologies, and specifically in the proliferation of locative media for consumer handheld devices.


    The thinking behind this edited volume arose out of many years of supervising undergraduate and graduate level dissertations on ‘urban’ issues, broadly defined, in Geography at the University of Manchester in the UK. Conversations with colleagues around the world also suggested that my experiences were not unique. During this period a vast number of companions, edited collections, guides and readers were published on the discipline of geography's approaches, its histories, its methods and its practices. While some were better than others, all proved at least partially useful for my students. At the same time a number of books were published more squarely on the dissertation as a research project. These were often more general, social science books. Again, these proved useful to the geography students I advised, as they struggled over twelve months to produce a substantial piece of independent research. There was little guidance on how to research the city, however.

    In addition to this emergence of a body of work that focused explicitly on approaches and methods to producing geographical research, there were also a growing number of student-oriented publications on the city or the urban. From sole authored monographs whose target audience was other academics, through to jointly written, more introductory textbooks, it seemed to me – and to my students – that there was no shortage of literature (in geography and in cognate disciplines such as planning and sociology) on the history of studies of the urban. While substantively useful for the students who saw me to talk about their work, these rarely ever seemed to discuss the methods that were used to generate the research they reported. This seemed to be another omission.

    At the interface of these fields – one on approaches and methods in general and one on urban studies – lay the proposal that went off to Sage at the end of 2010, and on the basis of which they commissioned the writing of this book. In the production of this edited collection I have accrued some intellectual debts, and it is time to acknowledge these. Thank you to the referees who passed comment on the proposal. I don't know who you are but the book is better for your insights. Together with the contributors, I have done my best to attend to your concerns. At Sage, Robert Rojek, Sarah-Jayne Boyd, Alana Clogan, Keri Dickens and Katherine Haw have been very encouraging and supportive. I just hope the book sells as you hope! Thanks to Jim Petch and Will Fletcher, who taught the dissertation support classes with me at Manchester, and from whom I learnt an awful lot, particularly about the different ways in which human and physical geographers approach their research.

    Closer to home, my debts lie largely with my family members. Colette and Jack have been as supportive as ever and for that I thank them both.

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