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School of Geography

Cities and Social Justice

The key question to which the CSJ research cluster seeks answers is how to articulate and promote ways of living in cities that are more socially and ecologically just. As a cluster, we have a reputation for distinctive and cutting-edge work which draws on diverse theoretical perspectives but that also has a clear normative approach to what constitutes a more socially just city. Our work is both historical and contemporary; it is empirically grounded, drawing on action-oriented, engaged and participatory forms of research which aim to create knowledge in collaboration with those inside and outside the University. Our aim is to be politically engaged and policy relevant, and have a real impact on policy, and contemporary social issues and debates at a variety of scales. We believe that the city is an ongoing creation and an unfinished story in which interventions can be made to create more socially and ecologically just urban futures.
The cluster runs the pioneering Master’s Programme in Activism and Social Change, and is involved in editing international journals such as City, Antipode and Acme.

During 2011 Professor John Holloway willl be visiting the Cluster.

Our work spans five main areas:

1. Understanding and challenging the neoliberal city

We are interested in critically evaluating how neoliberal policies have actively reshaped cities over the last few decades, and what progressive responses have emerged
to challenge neoliberal urbanism and create more just cities.
We have particular expertise in issues of territorial governance and regeneration policies at an urban and regional level, devolution, rescaling and contemporary power relations
in cities.

2. Everyday practices, public space and
consumption in the city

We are interested in the significance of consumer cultures in cities and the changing daily experiences of urban life and lifestyles. We have particular expertise in the nightlife and hospitality sectors, food, the internet, the role of public
space in cities, cultural policy, city living, and urban memory and landscape.

3. Cities, climate change and sustainable urban futures

Our focus in this area concerns the significant challenges that cities face in the future in terms of adapting to rapid climate change and energy scarcity. We have particular interests in issues of local food production, sustainable housing and alternative urban futures.

4. Activism and social movements in the city

We have established research interests and expertise in urban social movements and sub-cultures, both in the UK
and internationally. We have expertise in many theoretical traditions ranging from Marxism, and (eco)socialism to anarchism, queer theory and post-structuralism, and have an active interest in ideas of enclosure and commons.
Active areas include co-operativism, Latin American social movements and the Zapatistas, autonomous European movements, international trade unionism, climate change activism, and anti-gentrification struggles.

5. Scholar-activism and participatory action research

Methodologically, the cluster has expertise in engaged research and teaching which connects those inside and outside the university. We are particularly interested in publicly-engaged and participatory forms of action research which is aimed at critically influencing and shaping policy
but also working with social movements and campaigners
to work towards social change.

Latest News

Benjamin Vis has been invited by the University of Edinburgh to participate in the workshop ‘Space and Social Relations in Historical Perspective’, 07 June
2012, in Edinburgh.

Sara Gonzalez was a co-applicant in a successful bid with the Autonomous University of Madrid for a Staff mobility programme funded by the EU (IRSES funding). It is a four year project of about €800,000 where staff and PhD students from Leeds will be able to spend be-tween one and nine months per year as visitors in uni-versities in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico. In turn colleagues from Latin-American universities will visit the School participating in seminars and teaching. Leeds will host an international seminar in the four year pro-gramme. The project is called Contested Cities and will research contested spatialities of urban neoliberalism.
Martin Purvis gave a paper entitled ‘Hard times in interwar Britain: a co-operative perspective on uneven retail fortunes’ at a meeting on Retailing and Distribu-tion in Hard Times: Historical Perspectives, organised by the Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribu-tion at the University of Wolverhampton on 02 May.

Robert Winstanley Chesters has published ‘Salmon Farming in the DPRK? – Multifunctional Reclamation Strategy in North Korea’ in his capacity as environmental analyst on North Korean affairs for the online journal ‘SINO:NK: China and North Korean Borderlands, Relations, History’. It will be accessible at

Paul Waley has written the Preface to small Tokyo, edited by Darko Radovi? and Davisi Boontharm (Tokyo: flick studio, 2012).

Rachael Unsworth was invited to take part in RIBA's Future Homes Commission. She contributed to an evidence gathering session on designing local communities in York on 25 April.

Martin Purvis presented a paper ‘Revisiting hard times: consumers’ co-operation in interwar Britain’ at the 9th European Social Science History Conference in Glasgow (11-14 April).