UCL Urban Laboratory

Prof Jennifer Robinson

Prof Jennifer Robinson

Chair of Human Geography

Dept of Geography

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Oct 2009

Research summary

My current research interests focus on developing a postcolonial critique of urban studies. My book, Ordinary Cities (2006) looks at how the interplay between urban modernity and development frames a conceptual and practical divide between "Western" and "Third World" cities. The book develops the claim that urban theory needs to be more cosmopolitan in the resources it draws on; and argues that urban development policies need to move beyond developmentalism and draw on the wider cultural and economic resources of urbanism in poorer cities. More recent writing extends this argument to develop appropriate methods and tactics for international theorisation of 21st century cities, organised around the conceptualisation of comparative urbanism, and a book on this topic is under preparation. A current ESRC funded research project compares the governance of large scale urban development projects in London, Johannesburg and Shanghai. Other projects explore questions of the geopolitics of policy mobility; international theorisation of global city-regions; and activist research on London’s city strategies. These all take forward methodological experiments for an international urban theory.
My earlier research focussed on urban politics (historical and contemporary) with empirical research in South Africa, considering various aspects of power and space in apartheid cities, and the politics of development in post-apartheid cities. I have also published on aspects of geography and political theory in relation to feminism, democracy, states, and postcolonialism. A research interchange grant from the Leverhulme Trust (2003-4) consolidated earlier interests in the spatiality of democracy through research on Democracy in Durban with colleagues at the OU (Clive Barnett), LSE (Murray Low) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.  

Teaching summary

I teach undergraduate courses in Global Geographies, Urban Geography and Comparative Urbanism, as well as currently organise the 2nd year field trip to Paris as part of co-convening Practice in Geography. I contribute to postgraduate courses in Thinking Space, Cities Space and Power, and co-convene a collaborative course with Michael Edwards (BSP) and Just Space on Community Participation in City Strategies. 


My early education was in Durban, where I did a Bachelor of Arts, B.A.(Hons), Geography and M.A. Degree in Geography all at the University of Natal (now Kwazulu-Natal), Durban. 
I did my PhD at St. John's College, Cambridge University. Before coming to University College, London as Professor of Human Geography, I worked at The Open University (1998-2009), the London School of Economics and Political Science (1996-1998) and at the University of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal), Durban, South Africa (1990-1996).