Urban Studies Seminar Series

The Urban Studies Seminar Series, sponsored by the McFie Bequest, is open to all students and staff of the University as well as people from outside the University. For further information and final confirmation of any Seminar, please contact Dr Andrew Hoolachan Andrew.Hoolachan@glasgow.ac.uk

Autumn 2021 Seminar Series

Seminars will take place on Wednesdays via Zoom. Please register via Eventbrite. 

Wednesday 13 October, 3:30pm
'Evolving Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow: Past Evolutions and Future Challenges' Emeritus Professor Duncan MacLennan, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow
Session host: Dr Andrew Hoolachan

Interest in spatial patterns of social and economic development at the University of Glasgow go back to Adam Smith (the Wealth of Nations is replete with examples drawn from the then industrialising Central Scotland) and continued in the mainstream social sciences, with subsequent ‘Glasgow greats’ writing about the economics, history, planning, geography and politics of places. Protoorganised groups of scholars, from different disciplines emerged in the ‘field of urban studies’ through the 1960s, nurtured in the Department of Social and Economic Research. This became a clear organisational identity through the 1980s, with the ESRC’s Centre for Housing Research and Urban Studies. After 1996, this formed the basis for the department of Urban Studies and present organisational arrangements.

This evolution reflected both changing priorities within the University, shifts in the loosely defined field of urban studies as well as changes in economic and socio-spatial transformations of Glasgow in recent decades. Emeritus Professor Duncan MacLennan who was born in Glasgow, studied economics and human geography at the University from 1967-74, was the first Professor of Urban Studies (1987) where he was employed for 34 years. In this session he will illuminate the key historical developments and connections between the department, the discipline and the City of Glasgow and reflect on future challenges and opportunities.


Wednesday 27th October, 3pm
'COP26: Governance and management of the built environment with climate change in mind' Professor Mike Raco, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
James Hepher, Historic Environment Scotland
Session host: Dr Alison McCandlish

This joint session draws on two contrasting perspectives on planning and governing for climate change. Our Q&A will attempt to draw-out links between theory, policy and practice.

Mike Raco’s talk draws on on-going research on the relationships between the regulation of urban built environments and the investment and development processes that shape them. It argues that recent transformations in the financing of urban development is embedding growth-centred arrangements and mechanisms directly into the heart of the planning system. It highlights some of the implications of these trends for coherent and effective sustainability planning and argues that any shift to less growth-oriented programmes of action will require a fundamental re-shaping of the structures of governance that currently exist.

James is a surveyor for HES’s digital documentation team, working on the Rae Project, documenting HES’ properties in care and Collections. In this presentation he will outline the background to Historic Environment Scotland’s (HES) Rae Project. He will show how HES are involved with spatially monitoring HES Properties in care through 3D digital survey, including Edinburgh’s UNESCO world heritage sites and Skara Brae, Orkney, and how this work fits into a broader programme of monitoring HES’ historic and archaeological sites, monuments, and landscapes to support the conservation of and research into those sites, particularly within the context of climate change.

Register via Eventbrite. 


Wednesday, 24th November, 3pm
'Pollution, privacy, policy making: how can sensing technology connect pupils and public authorities?'
Dr Mark Wong, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow
Dr Melanie Jimenez, Biomedical Engineering, University of Strathclyde

This interdisciplinary session seeks to explore the potential of sensing technology to address environmental pollution and capture the impact of climate change in deprived Scottish communities. Based on Dr Wong’s ongoing ESRC-funded research project, it will be discussed how sensors can be introduced in school settings to complement curricula while informing policy making processes. Yet, the application of engineered and connected tools raises critical issues for researchers surrounding the privacy of pupils, the ownership of data gathered via sensors, and the role of local authorities in processing such data. Drawing on her research experience in schools, Dr Jimenez will evaluate the practicality of different technological solutions as well as how existing sensors in schools could be incorporated into state-of-the-art research.

Register via Eventbrite.




Urban Studies Seminar Series Spring 2021

Spring 2021 Seminar Series: Urban Research and the Covid-19 Era

Thursday 22 April 3–4.30 pm

Seminar Organised by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE)

Housing Policymaking and Practice under Lockdown


Dr Chris Foye: A year of PRS policymaking, politics and polling during COVID-19: a comparative study of England and Scotland

Dr Adriana Soaita: Everyday tenant activism: tenants demand right to home

Prof Kenneth Gibb: Help with housing costs and market recovery interventions

Dr Craig Gurney: Dangerous liaisons? Applying the social harm perspective to the social inequality, housing and health trifecta during the Covid-19 pandemic


CaCHE embarked on a series of research projects within a wider programme of Covid-19 research in May 2020, inspired by the invitation to work collaboratively on policymaking under lockdown by Professor Hal Pawson at UNSW. We have published several reports, blogs and papers in the period since and there are many more to come in the months ahead of us, including international comparative work between Glasgow and Sydney. The suite of projects stretches much further now than the original intent and this reflects the fact that Covid-19 and lockdown shed so much light on wider structural housing related questions, and not just policy making responses.   You can find out more about these projects at our website (link above)

In this seminar we present short presentations, summarising four such projects and identifying future challenges for the topic at hand. Each speaker will speak for no more than 12-15 minutes. This will be followed by a panel discussion with Q&A from the floor.

This seminar will be chaired by Gareth James, Knowledge Exchange Associate for CaCHE.


Thursday 27 May 3–4.30 pm

3–4.30pm, Register via Eventbrite here >

Understanding urban mobility during the pandemic

The pandemic has brought an unparalleled focus on mobility in urban areas. Initially the interest was in compliance with social distancing measures, then later in understanding transmission risks for the virus and guiding policies on easing restrictions. Looking ahead, the interest is shifting again to using mobility to provide rapid feedback on how cities are recovering – which areas and which activities bounce back, and which do not. Longer term, a better understanding of mobility will be key to achieving more sustainable urban forms.

Capturing mobility using conventional research methods is challenging. Big data from sensors and apps offers great potential but also many challenges. There are technical challenges in managing and analysing the volumes of data involved. At least as important, however, are the socio-legal challenges of securing access to data and the privacy issues raised by high precision locational information. And there are important ethical issues about the representativeness of different sources – whose activities, demands or perspectives are captured or amplified, and whose are omitted or marginalized. A number of private firms have provided public access to data and analyses, with Google and Apple offering near-global coverage for example, but we are unable to scrutinise or validate their methods and there is no guarantee of continuity. Valuable as these sources may be in the short term, they are not a substitute for a more public data infrastructure.

This seminar therefore looks at a number of alternative approaches which have been employed over the last year to capture different aspects of mobility using big data. It reports on several strands of work conducted by the Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) as well as work in the US using large-scale access to mobile phone data.

  • Introduction (5 mins)
  • New forms of data for urban mobility (30 mins)
    • Presentations from UBDC colleagues on a range of areas of work to capture urban mobility using new forms of data
  • Professor Meipo Kwan: Spatiotemporal Big Data Analysis for Human Mobility Research during the COVID-19 Pandemic (30 mins)
    • Professor Kwan is the Choh-Ming Li Professor of Geography and Resource Management and Director of the Institute of Space and Earth Information Science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
  • Discussion (25 mins)


Thursday 3 June 3–4.30 pm

Seminar organised by the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)

Uneven Impact of Covid-19: Neighbourhood Experiences in South Africa, India, and the Philippines


Professor Ivan Turok, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa

Professor Debolina Kundu, National Institute for Urban Affairs, India

Professor Mario-Delos Reyes, Centre for Neighbourhood Studies, Philippines


Almost no corner of the globe has escaped the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, but these impacts have not been felt equally. Research has shown that our ability to respond to Covid-19 is influenced by social and economic status, suggesting that where and how we live matters. Nowhere is this more acute than cities and towns in the developing countries.

Researchers at the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) are studying cities from the inside out examining the sustainability of different neighbourhoods right across the city.

In this webinar, three SHLC researchers (in-country Co-PIs) from Africa, South Asia and East Asia will present their work investigating how Covid-19 impacted different neighbourhoods and communities across the city. They will address the following questions: What are the defining characteristics of neighbourhood distribution in the city? How has Covid-19 impacted different neighbourhoods and have these impacts aggravated pre-existing spatial disparities? What actions can we take  to address the different needs of urban residents in different neighbourhoods?

The presentation will be followed by question and answers.

The seminar will be chaired and introduced by Professor Keith Kintrea, Deputy Director of SHLC, University of Glasgow.

Urban Studies Seminar Series Autumn 2020

Autumn 2020 Seminar Series: Heritage and the Urban Environment

The Urban Studies research seminar is moving online, and this year we are taking an interdisciplinary approach. The new CoSS cross-college research theme, Challenges in Changing Cities, has organised this autumn’s series in collaboration with the College of Arts, and our focus is Heritage and the Urban Environment. Our speakers will be discussing why old places matter, who heritage belongs to and, addressing recent controversies, the impact of empire and colonialism on Glasgow’s own cityscape and on the cities of empire. Finally, our online format allows us to welcome speakers from Kolkata, India, who will join us to talk about how lived heritage relates to the built environment for minority communities in an Indian cityscape.

Challenges in Changing Cities. An interdisciplinary research initiative between the College of Social Sciences, the College of Arts, and the College of Science & Engineering. Seminar convenors: Dr Alison McCandlish (Urban Studies); Dr John Reuben Davies (College of Arts); Professor Simon Joss (Urban Studies). URL: www.glasgow.ac.uk/cicc

Please register for each event via Eventbrite and details of how to join will be sent to you. 

Thursday 15 October, 3 - 4:30pm


Professor Rebecca Madgin (Urban Studies, University of Glasgow)
Tom Mayes (National Trust for Historic Preservation in America)

Abstract: Over the last few years, evidence that captures the economic, social and increasingly the environmental value of the past has demonstrated the outcomes and outputs of investment in urban heritage. What is less understood are the inputs into this process. Why do people want to live, work and play in historic urban places? Why are historic places seen as special by a range of people? Why can we not countenance the loss of certain historic places? To address these questions this session focuses on the emotional dimensions of historic urban places.  

Rebecca and Tom will first present their own short introductions to the material based on their recent work, in Rebecca’s case the findings from her AHRC Leaders Fellowship project which examined emotional attachments to historic urban places and Tom will build on the ideas found with his 2018 publication ‘Why Old Places Matter: How Historic Places Affect Our Identity and Well-Being’. Both will argue that understanding why historic places matter emotionally to a range of different people is crucial to understanding the importance of heritage.  

Rebecca and Tom will then join the audience in conversation to discuss why and how heritage matters emotionally and the opportunities and challenges this presents for heritage theories and practices. 



Thursday 29 October, 3 - 4:30pm


Barbara Cummings (Historic Environment Scotland)

Abstract: Historic Environment Scotland is the lead public body for the historic environment in Scotland – what does that actually mean in practice? What does HES do and how does that reflect how a 21st century population views heritage. HES has been undertaking ground breaking research both in Scotland and internationally and opening up the conversation about heritage to different audiences. There has been controversy in the press around contested heritage through the Black Lives Matter campaigns; how does this fit with HES role and what does it mean for how we tell Scotland’s story in future? Who gets a say in what gets recognised in Scotland? HES has also been at the forefront of climate research and its impact on the historic environment, what will this mean for sites and monuments around Scotland in the future and how might that affect all of us?



Thursday 19 November, 3 - 4:30pm


Dr Stephen Mullen (University of Glasgow)
Glasgow’s Merchant City and the Public Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Abstract: Dr Mullen assesses how Glasgow’s memory of slavery has developed. Why was there so little criticism when in 1990 the local administration named a historic quarter the ‘Merchant City’? And what has underpinned the route to acknowledging Glasgow’s connections to slavery in the thirty years since?

There have been seminal events over that period: the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade act in 2007, the Commonwealth Games in 2014, and the change in political administration in Glasgow City Council in 2017.

During this time, the city of Glasgow’s colonial myopia in urban space has been replaced with a ‘public memory’ of slavery which has initiated a political commitment to acknowledge and commemorate slavery past.

There are multiple factors underpinning these developments. The activist organisation, Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance (now Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights), has highlighted a municipal hypocrisy in their creative outputs. The archival research of historians has percolated into the popular consciousness. We have heard the voice of Scottish-Jamaican campaigner Graham Campbell and the Flag-Up Scotland Jamaica group. And Glasgow’s museums, university administrators and political leaders have been willing to listen to such conversations.

Pioneering strategies in Glasgow have influenced approaches across Scotland, contributing to the development of a public conscience around the nation’s historic connections with transatlantic slavery.

Dr Sarah Longair (University of Lincoln) 
Scottish Architects and the Colonial Built Environment

Abstract: Two Scottish architects, John Begg and George Wittet, created several notable landmarks in Mumbai and elsewhere in British India in the early twentieth century. Begg was responsible for numerous buildings in his twenty-year career in India, such as the Post Office in Mumbai. Wittet’s major works included the Prince of Wales Museum (now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum) and the Gateway to India. They were also instrumental in architectural education in India through their involvement in the development of the architecture curriculum at the Sir Jamshetji Jeejeebhoy School of Art. Both men therefore made major contributions to the colonial built environment as well as the future of the architectural profession in India.

Throughout the rich history of Scotland and empire is an emphasis upon the contributions of Scots in professional fields, with particular attention being given to medicine and education. Scottish architects and their role in shaping imperial cities around the world have remained notably absent from these studies. This paper will investigate the careers of these two men, their architectural designs, and professional networks in Scotland and India to analyse the significance of Scottish, British and colonial identities in their development as architects in the empire.



Thursday 10 December, 3 - 4:30pm


(Organised with ArtsLab Cross-College Theme, Heritage, Urban Studies, and Development)

Dr Michael Rapport (University of Glasgow)
Close-quarters Living, Tuberculosis and Urban Renewal in Belle Époque Paris

Dr Bishnupriya Basak (University of Calcutta)
Kumartuli – the Making of Heritage, Art and Public in an Indian Cityscape

Professor Samir Kumar Das (University of Calcutta)
Pandemic and Pratimashilpa: Negotiating Heritage in Times of Crisis