With a majority of the world’s population now living in urban areas, nearly all of the problems and possibilities of society and human-nature relations are becoming urban questions. Departmental teaching and research interests cover a wide range of urban themes, from local to transnational, historical to contemporary, empirical to theoretical. In some urban research, the city is understood as the setting in which broad social, cultural, political, and economic processes unfold, mediated and shaped by local context. In other work, analysis focuses on urbanization itself as constitutive of social, political, and environmental transformation. Cities highlighted in recent faculty and graduate student research projects include large and small cities across Canada (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Richmond, Powell River), Bangkok, Seoul, Sydney, Hong Kong, Kobe, London, Baghdad, Cairo, Johannesburg, Tallinn, Jakarta, Chicago, New Orleans, and New York City.
One stream of urban inquiry highlights the rescaling of cities and urban life, with the simultaneous strengthening of global, transnational ties along side the intensification of fine-grained local variations and influences. Recent projects in this area focus on immigration and the transnationalization of local housing markets in Vancouver and other Canadian cities, the circulation of policy templates and ideologies among urban elites working to strengthen the rights of property owners and investors, the urban origins and consequences of the U.S. credit boom and the subsequent world financial crisis, and the increasingly competitive race to host spectacular hallmark events to consolidate growth-machine positions in the world urban system of tourist flows and media images. A second stream of inquiry explores the city as a distinctive, localized crucible of innovation, diversity, and connection. Current research projects in this area include studies of land use and labor market developments in the new social-digital economy, the role of household adjustment and municipal policy in coping with the shortage of affordable housing in Vancouver, the growth of shadow, temporary-labour agencies in the inner city as an outgrowth of privatisation and reductions in the rights of workers, and the mobilization of community resistance to the inequalities of gentrification and racial discrimination in housing. A third stream of inquiry approaches the city as medium, object, and arena of representation. Projects in this area explore the city as portrayed in contemporary cinema, the urban origins of theories that transformed the history of geographical inquiry during the Cold War, and the visual and cultural representation of cities and urban populations constructed as threats or targets in the ‘war on terror.’
Urban research is marked by methodological pluralism. Methods include extended field case studies, ethnographies, interviews, archival-based legal and policy analysis, and the quantitative and spatial analysis of social survey data. There are also strong interdisciplinary linkages. Faculty and graduate students play key roles in the federally-funded Metropolis Project on immigration and integration in large cities. Faculty and students also work in the UBC Urban Studies Program, which maintains ties to the Departments of Sociology; History; Art History, Visual Art, and Theory; and Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies, as well as the Institute of Asian Research, the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and the School of Community and Regional Planning.
Faculty working on Urban Geography
Trevor Barnes, Professor
Post-war Vancouver, urban economies
B.Sc.-Econ., University College London; M.A., Ph.D. (1983), University of Minnesota
"I have three main research projects. The first is investigating Vancouver's new economy and its effects on the city. I am undertaking this project in collaboration with Tom Hutton, School of Planning UBC. We have examined the video game industry, as well as architecture, and plan also to investigate the film and TV, and fashion industries. The second is a history of American geography from the Second World War through the Cold War. The project stems from an earlier one concerned with geography's quantitative revolution. It became clear that the roots of that revolution lay in Cold War, and earlier, Second World War, social scientific methods, aims, and above all money. The research is primarily archival. The last is a continuing interest in forest economies, primarily BC's, but also those in the Antipodes."
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Office Phone: 604-822-5804
Room Number: GEOG 140C
Jim Glassman, Professor
Urbanization in the Global South
B.A., St. Olaf College; Ph.D. (1990, 1999), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
"I am currently carrying out research, funded by a grant from the Hampton Fund, on the formation of regional business networks in East and Southeast Asia during the Cold War period, focusing especially on firms from the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand."
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Office Phone: 604-822-1892
Room Number: GEOG 140B
Daniel Hiebert, Professor
Migration and cities
B.A. Honours, University of Winnipeg; M.A., Ph.D. (1987), University of Toronto
"I conduct research on migration as a form of contemporary globalization. At the broadest scale, this includes an interest on how migration is controlled by nation states through policy and regulatory systems, and also how people become mobile, with or without the consent of states. I try to understand Canadian immigration policy within this wider context, and consider it in relation to the policies of other countries, especially in Europe and Australasia. At the local scale I study the consequences of immigration in Canadian cities, highlighting Vancouvers situation (over 830,000 foreign-born in a population of 2.1 million people). More specifically, I look at the integration of newcomers in the labour and housing markets of cities, and how this changes their residential structure and social relations."
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Office Phone: 604-822-4500
Room Number: GEOG 140E
David Ley, Professor
Inner cities, gentrification and housing markets
B.A. Honours, Oxford (1968); M.S., Ph.D. (1972), Pennsylvania State University
"I have undertaken a number of (sometimes comparative) projects on immigration to Canadian cities. Topics have included: immigration and housing and labour markets; offsetting immigration and domestic migration in world cities; immigration and poverty; immigrant churches as service hubs; multiculturalism and the governance of diversity. An abiding focus has been the experience of wealthy business migrants. This work is drawn together in a forthcoming book: Millionaire Migrants: Trans-Pacific Life Lines. I have always been concerned with processes of social and spatial change in older inner city neighbourhoods. A principle focus has been gentrification, processes of urban reinvestment leading to housing renovation or redevelopment and the replacement and displacement of poorer households by the middle-class. Currently, I am begining a project that extends the field site from Canadian Cities to the different economic and political contexts of Hong Kong."
Dr. Ley was Department Head (2009-2012). He was the UBC Director of the Metropolis Project, examining issues of immigration and integration in Greater Vancouver and beyond, from 1996-2003, and was appointed a Trudeau Fellow from 2003-2006. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Geography.
Honours: Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada
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Office Phone: 604-822-3268
Room Number: GEOG 208
Terry McGee, Professor Emeritus
B.A., University of New Zealand; M.A., Ph.D. (1969), University of Wellington
"I am currently carrying ongoing research for a book on 'The Southeast Asian City Revisited' (tentative title) funded by research grants from the Institute of Asian Research UBC, research on the sustainability of Asian mega-regions with funded by the University of Tokyo and research on Malaysian urbanization with colleagues at the University Kebangsaan, Malaysia."
Former Director of the Institute of Asian Research, UBC (1978-1992; July 1995 - December 1998).
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Office Phone: 604-822-3937
Room Number: IAR 377
Jamie Peck, Professor
Urban political economy, urban restructuring
B.A. Honours, University of Manchester; Ph.D. (1988), University of Manchester
"I work, in the style of institutional political economy, on a range of issues relating to economic geography, urban restructuring, and state transformation. Much of my research is concerned with the ways in which ostensibly global processesfor example, forms of market-oriented governance (a.k.a. neoliberalization)are (re)remade through local sites and grounded practices. Ongoing projects include: (a) outsourcing expertise, a study of offshoring practices as a managerial technology; (b) policies without borders, tracing vectors of fast policy in globalizing urban governance and social welfare; and (c) remaking the Vancouver model, a critical analysis of the city's evolving development agenda."
Dr. Peck holds the Canada Research Chair in Urban and Regional Political Economy.
Honours: Academician in the Social Sciences; Guggenheim Fellow; Harkness Fellow
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Office Phone: 604-822-0894
Room Number: GEOG 134
Elvin Wyly, Associate Professor
Urban inequality and policy
B.Sc., The Pennsylvania State University; M.A., Ph.D. (1995), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
"I study the relations between market processes and state policy in producing and reinforcing urban social inequalities. My approach blends elements of critical social theory, conventional legal and policy analysis, and multivariate quantitative methods designed to engage state and corporate institutions on their own terrain, with their own data. Current projects focus on class, racial, and gender discrimination in mortgage lending and foreclosures in the U.S. urban system; housing affordability in Canadian and U.S. cities; the transformation of public housing; new spatialities of class inequality in London; and the reconfiguration of segregation, displacement, and gentrification."
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Office Phone: 604-822-4653
Room Number: GEOG 252
Graeme Wynn, Professor
Urban historical geography
B.A. Honours, University of Sheffield; M.A., Ph.D. (1974), University of Toronto
Former Head of the Department (1996-2002; 2005-2009). Former Associate Dean, Faculty of Arts, UBC (1990-1996).
Honours: Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada
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Office Phone: 604-822-6226
Room Number: GEOG 236
Department of Geography - Faculty of Arts - The University of British Columbia