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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Professor Colin McFarlane

Professor in the Department of Geography
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41959
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 41801
Room number: 325

Contact Professor Colin McFarlane (email at


My work focusses on the experience and politics of the city. I explore how cities are known, lived and politicised. This includes research on urban densities, infrastructures, and learning across different cities, focussing in particular on the economic margins of the city. My current work seeks to understand:

1: The experience and perception of high densities in Asian cities (project website: This research examines how high urban densities – or ‘intensities’ - are lived and perceived in Asian cities, focusing on Mumbai, Dhaka, Hong Kong, Manila and Tokyo. It explores several themes that cut-across different sites in urban Asia: urban markets, waste and informality, urban mobility, vertical densities, and ways of seeing and knowing intensity. This research is supported through a European Research Council Consolidator grant;

2: The potential for urban equality in contemporary cities. This work examines the forms of knowledge, distribution and recognition required for equality in various cities across Asia, Africa and South America. This is a large project supported by an ESRC-GCRF grant, on which I am one of several co-investigators (

I am author of 'Learning the City: Knowledge and Translocal Assemblage' (Blackwell), a book focussed on the intersections between urban inequality, materiality, resistance and learning, as well as related edited collections, including: 'Smart Urbanism: Utopian Vision or False Dawn?' (Routledge, with Simon Marvin and Andres Luque-Ayala), 'Infrastructural Lives: Urban Infrastructure in Context' (Earthscan-Routledge, with Steve Graham), 'Urban Navigations: Politics, Space and the City in South Asia' (Routledge, with Jonathan Anjaria), and 'Urban Informalities: Reflections on the Formal and Informal' (Ashgate, with Michael Waibel).

My work has been previously supported by a Leverhulme Prize, an ESRC project on urban sanitation (, with Stephen Graham and Renu Desai), and an ESRC project on urban social innovation (, with Joe Painter, Paul Langley, Sue Lewis, and Antonis Vradis).



Research Groups

Research Projects

  • Everyday Sanitation: A comparative study of Mumbai's informal settlements

Selected Publications

Authored book

  • McFarlane, C. City fragments: following urban worlds. University of California Press; 2021.
  • McFarlane, C., Desai, R. & Graham, S. Everyday Sanitation: Informal Settlements in Mumbai. Durham University/AlphaGraphics; 2011.
  • McFarlane, C. Learning the city: knowledge and translocal assemblage. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell; 2011.

Book review

Chapter in book

  • McFarlane, C. Urban fragments: a subaltern studies imagination. In: Jazeel, T. & Legg, S. Subaltern Geographies. Athens, GA: Georgia University Press; 2019:210-230.
  • McFarlane, C. & Vasudevan, A. Informal Infrastructures. In: Adey, P., Bissell, D., Hannam, K., Merriman, P. & Sheller, M. Handbook of Mobilities. Routledge; 2014:256-264.
  • McFarlane, C., Desai, R. & Graham, S. Politics of sanitation: Informality and the constitution of urban metabolic life in Mumbai. In: Shrestha, K., Ojha, H.R., McManus, P. Rubbo, A. & Dhote, K.K. Inclusive Urbanization: Rethinking Policy and Practice in the Age of Climate Change. Guilford Press; 2014.
  • Luque, A., McFarlane, C. & Marvin, S. Smart urbanism: cities, grids and alternatives?. In: Hodson, M. & Marvin, S. After Sustainable Cities?. Routeldge; 2014:74-90.
  • McFarlane, C. Studies in Comparative Urbanism. In: Desai, V. & Potter, R. Companion to Development Studies. Hodder Education; 2014:296-298.
  • Anjaria, J.S. & McFarlane, C. Conceptualising the City in South Asia. In: Anjaria, J.S. & McFarlane, C. Urban Navigations: Politics, Space and the City in South Asia. New Delhi and London: Routledge; 2011:1-22.
  • McFarlane, C. Sanitation in Mumbai's Informal Settlements: Governance, Infrastructure, and Cost Recovery. In: Bade, K.J, Lorentz, B. & Pries, L. Migration and Integration: Reflections on Our Common Future. Europaische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig; 2011:123-136.
  • McFarlane, C. Entries for 'Mumbai' and 'Squatter Movements'. In: Hutchison, R., Aalbers, M., Beauregard, R. & Crang, M. Encyclopedia of Urban Studies. London: Sage; 2010.
  • McFarlane, C. Everyday interruptions: urban life in the global South. In: Graham, S.D.N. Disrupted Cities: When Infrastructure Fails. New York: Routledge; 2010.

Edited book

  • Marvin, S., Luque-Ayala, A. & McFarlane, C. Smart Urbanism: Utopian Vision or False Dawn?. Routledge; 2016.
  • Graham, S. & McFarlane, C. Infrastructural Lives: Politics, Experience and the Urban Fabric. Earthscan-Routledge; 2015.
  • McFarlane, C. & Waibel, M. Urban Informalities: Reflections on the Formal and Informal. Ashgate; 2012.
  • Anjaria, J.S. & McFarlane, C. Urban Navigations: Politics, Space and the City in South Asia. London and New Delhi: Routledge; 2010.

Edited Journal

  • McFarlane, C. & Robinson, J. Experiments in Comparative Urbanism. Urban Geography, 33 (6, 765-773): 2012.
  • Anderson, B. & McFarlane, C. Introduction and Conclusion to Special Issue on 'Assemblage and Geography'. Area, 43 (2): 2011.
  • Jeffrey, A., McFarlane, C. & Vasudevan, A. Introduction: A Symposium on Global Shadows. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 29, 251-253 2008.
  • Legg, S. & McFarlane, C. Ordinary urban spaces: between postcolonialism and development. Environment and Planning A, 40 (1, 6-14): 2008.
  • Jeffrey, C. & McFarlane, C. Performing Cosmopolitanism: Introduction to the Special Issue. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 26 (3, 420-427): 2008.
  • McFarlane, C. & Rutherford, J. Political Infrastructures: Governing and Experiencing the Fabric of the City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 32 (2, 363-74): 2008.

Journal Article

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Citizenship, state and governance: Cities; urban development; urban politics; urban India.

Selected Grants

  • 2014: Philip Leverhulme Prize (£70000.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
  • 2011: Assembling Smart Cities (£4700.00 from One NorthEast)
  • 2009: EVERYDAY SANITATION (£175375.21 from ESRC)
  • 2008: EVERYDAY INFRASTRUCTURE (£3816.00 from British Council Manchester)