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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

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


Colin McFarlane is an urban geographer whose work focusses on the experience and politics of informal neighbourhoods. This has involved research into the relations between informality, infrastructure and knowledge in urban India and elsewhere. A key part of this has been a focus on the experience and politics of sanitation in informal settlements in Mumbai, which was part of an Economic and Social Research Council ethnographic project on the everyday cultures and contested politics of sanitation and water in two informal settlements. His current work examines the politicisation of informal neighbourhoods in comparative perspective, including African and South Asian cities.

He is 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: '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).

In 2013, he was awarded the Leverhulme Prize for his research in urban geogrpahy. In 2010, he was awarded the Gill Memorial Award from the Royal Geographical Society for contributions to urban geography, and in 2009 a fellowship for his work on sanitation from Berlin's Irmgard Coninx Foundation in conjunction with Humboldt University.

Research Groups

Research Projects

Selected Publications

Journal Article

Authored book

Chapter in book

  • McFarlane, C. Urban fragments: a subaltern studies imagination. In: Jazeel, T. & Legg, S. Subaltern Geographies. Georgia University Press; Accepted.
  • 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.

Book review

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.

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)