Urban Geography


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 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


I’m mainly interested in the history of twentieth-century geography. I am especially concerned with the work of geographers during periods of war (both hot and cold). Recently, I’ve also examined war protestors, in particular, the American geographer, Bill Bunge, and part of a larger project to write a history of radical geography. A jointly edited volume with Eric Sheppard on Spatial histories of North American radical geography is in preparation and will be published in 2019. An 'alternative' economic geography textbook, Economic Geography: A Critical Introduction, that I co-wrote with Brett Christophers (Uppsala University) was published in 2018.

Associate Head of Graduate Program

My research focuses on geopolitical economies of industrial transformation, particularly in East Asia, and with a comparative/connective focus on the United States. My recent work has addressed the ways in which Cold War military spending differentially affected forms of industrial transformation and economic growth in South Korea and Thailand.


I have two main research interests: international migration; and the relationship between national security, cultural diversity, and human rights. I have been working on the first of these issues a long time and try to understand Canadian immigration policy within the wider global context, and the impact of immigration on Canadian cities—particularly Vancouver. I have taken up the second these more recently and hope to gain a better understanding of the impact of national security policies on minority populations.

Professor Emeritus

I have two current projects in urban social geography. The first is a comparative study of housing market bubbles, their causes, social consequences, and policy responses in five global cities. A second project involves participation in the national Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership that is examining growing income inequality and polarization in large Canadian cities.

Professor Emeritus

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.

Associate Professor of Teaching

My research interest in economic, specifically labor, geography lies in the context of global cities or more specifically newly emerging global cities. I am expanding my empirical work to include the urban context of Dubai and also Vancouver.

Canada Research Chair in Urban and Regional Political Economy

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.


I study the interplay between market processes and public policy in the production of urban social inequality. Current research projects focus on the racialized dynamics of capital investment and disinvestment in U.S. cities, evolving trajectories of gentrification, histories of epistemology in urban geography, and the urban implications of mass social networking practices.

Professor Emeritus
Principal UBC Emeritus College

I am a student of environmental history and historical geography, with research interests in Canada and (to a lesser extent) New Zealand. Forestry, agriculture and sustainability have been my main interests but I have also written on cities, migration, parks and geographical practice.