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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Academic Staff  /  Alan Latham

Professor Alan Latham


UCL Department of Geography
Room G19, North-West Wing
Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT

Internal Extension: 30525
Phone: +44 (0)20 7679 0525
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 0565


Office hours term 1:
Tuesday 9.15-11.00 AM
Friday 11.00 AM -12.00 noon
No office hours in reading week

1990 BA (Economics and Geography) Massey University
1992 MA (Human Geography), Massey University
1997 PhD, University of Bristol
1996-1997 DAAD Visiting Research Fellow, Technische Universität Berlin
1997-1999 NZFoRST Research Fellow, University of Auckland
1999-2006 Lecturer in Geography, University of Southampton
2006-2020 Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor in Human Geography, UCL
2020- Professor of Human Geography, UCL

Click here for Publications.


    I am an urban geographer. Focussing on the themes of sociality, public-ness, social infrastructure, mobility and transformations in urban life, my research examines the dynamics of living together in a complex, globalised, world. My work examines innovations in urban collective life and sociality. Unconventionally critical in my approach, my work challenges many of the taken-for-granted ways in which problems are addressed in urban and cultural scholarship and develops theoretical and methodological tools for attending to the dynamics of sharing and problem solving through which individual and collective needs are met.

    Over a number of years – working in collaboration with others, including my PhD students – I have been arguing for the need for urban studies and cultural geography to become better attuned to registering and evaluating how different forms of collective life are assembled. This is particularly relevant in these times of extensive urban reinvention and reimagining. Innovations being developed by entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and ordinary citizens do not enter cities that are blank slates. They are embedded within existing institutions, regulatory technologies, and everyday practices, and they fold into locally specific configurations of collective culture in ways that are often surprising and distinctive. For scholars to understand these changes, and effectively promote mutually beneficial ways of living together, it is important to have rigorous concepts for auditing, analysing, critiquing, and intervening in the making of urban environments. Following from this, my research has been making three general arguments:

    1) There is a need to extend the registers through which different forms of collective life are understood.

    2) Materiality must be a key focus in unravelling how problems of collective living are generated and managed. 3) The multiple logics and justifications through which urban life is organised deserve careful attention.

    In developing these arguments my research has moved from a focus on face-to-face interaction in my PhD to drawing a wider range of actants into the view of social research. Conceptually this has involved:

    • Interventions into debates around how human geography approaches social practice.
    • Contributions to more-than-representational theory and debates on the materiality of social life.
    • Developing analytical frameworks for thinking about the everyday entanglements of globalization.
    • Arguing for the need for, and developing new conceptual frameworks to, understand urban public space and public-ness. This has centred on both 'classical' forms of public space such as plazas and side-walks and more instrumental spaces like road carriageways, or spaces of popular physical exercise.
    • A range of methodological interventions that stretch the scope and range of qualitative social science endeavour; and developing a range of new qualitative methods.

    Concretely, my research has developed through the study of a series of case studies. For my PhD this was largely post-unification Berlin. Post-doctoral research, funded by the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, moved my attention to Auckland, New Zealand. Here I focused on the rapid transformation the dominant public culture of many parts of city. In the 1980s and 1990s Auckland was marked by the emergence of a self-confident, cosmopolitan, publicly oriented urban culture centring on distinctive forms of cafes, restaurants and bars. Tracing the networks of entrepreneurs, consumers, regulators, and materials implicated in this transformation led to the production of a series of seminal publications on the material and cultural economies of urban change

    The flows of migration entangled in Auckland's transformation led me to my next case study – tertiary educated migrants in London. Focussing on a group of largely non-elite migrants this work (funded by the Royal Geographical Society) developed a set of influential concepts for studying 'middling' migrants that have been highly influential within both migration and urban studies. These concepts drew out both the locally embedded nature of migrants lives, the importance of friendship networks to migrants and the everyday sociality afforded by global cities.

    A central theme of my work in Auckland and on 'middling' migrants in London was the nature and dynamics of urban sociality. Both projects were centred in differing ways on ideas of public-ness and public space. Working with Dr Regan Koch (Queen Mary University of London), I have over the past decade used London as a case study to examine how and why public space matters. Drawing on ethnographic research this work has fashioned a distinctive, and internationally influential, vocabulary for describing how public spaces are used and 'domesticated'. We are currently turning this work into a manuscript for The University of Toronto Press.

    More recently, the focus of my empirical case studies has turned to sites and practices that have been overlooked by existing work on public space and public-ness. There are two strands to this work: the first on popular fitness practices, with a particular focus on recreational running; the second on urban mobility infrastructures. My work on popular fitness practices attends to how and where people exercise; which is often in public or quasi-public spaces. In a ground breaking account  – based on archives in the USA, the UK and New Zealand  – I traced the emergence of jogging as a mass physical fitness practice in America in the 1960s. Using qualitative methods, and working with UCL colleague Dr Russell Hitchings, Together with Dr Hitchings we have also produced a series of publications demonstrating how such methods offer all sorts of vital insights into how and why people exercise; insights that in our sedentary societies might productively inform public health policy. My work on mobility infrastructures centres on understanding how infrastructural spaces such as streets and roads are shared by different users; with a particular focus on utility cycling. Using a suite of innovative qualitative methods including video analysis and video based interviews this research has produced new ways of rigorously diagramming everyday infrastructural use and debates about that use. Most recently, working with Dr jack Layton, I have been exploring the theme of social infrastructure.


    Research Grants


    DAAD Junior Academic Research Grant for Practical Knowledge and Experiencing Urban Space: an empirical study of a district in Berlin, £2,955.00


    New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology grant for Auckland’s Changing Urbanities: the making and enacting of a new urban culture, £58,494.00


    Royal Geographical Society and HSBC grant for Antipodean Transnationals: New Zealand migrants in London, £1,800.00

    2012-2013 The Spaces of Recreational running, UCL ‘Bridging the Gaps’ Fund 2011, with Dr Russell Hitchings (Department of Geography UCL), Dr Courtney Kipps (Department of Sports Medicine, UCL), £4,500
    2014-2016 Formas, Swedish Research Council, Reinterpreting Fitness Running. Co-investigator. Principle investigator Prof Mattias Qvistrom, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. 4,400,000 Swedish krona.

    I have been involved in a diverse array of knowledge transfer activity and I have developed a number of collaborations with artists and organisations that connect my research to non-academic audiences.

    Drawing together my research on urban environments and popular fitness practices, and collaborating with the artist Kai Syng Tan, I established  Run! Run! Run!, an international festival for running research. In June 2014, we curated a one-day festival at the Slade Research Centre. This festival brought together a range of artists (photographers, painters, performers), anthropologists, biologists, geographers, film makers, philosophers, historians, medical doctors, activists, and social entrepreneurs to explore the practice of running. More than 50 people contributed to the festival, from 10 different countries. The festival was reported in the Guardian (and written up in Cultural Geographies 3). A follow-up festival was held across three sites in 2016. I also collaborated with Kai Syng Tan at the ANTI Festival in Kupio, Finland, Sept 2015. This involved a public lecture, and co-running the workshops for the performance piece 'AntiAdultRun!' – this involved co-producing a 15-minute participatory performance with Kupio school children.

    Connecting with my research on urban sociality and public space, in 2017 I was invited to run workshops on producing convivial public spaces at the London Libraries’ Annual Conference. This led to being invited to be a keynote speaker at the 2017 Annual Conference of the Society of Chief Librarians UK in Coventry, UK. I have also presented my research on urban cycling to a range of cycling groups including the London Cycling Campaign. With my co-author, Dr Peter Wood, I produced blogs summarising the key findings of our Environment and Planning A paper for Cycling UK ( and LCC (

    My earlier research work on migration was the foundation for a range of publicly oriented consultancy projects with colleagues at the Migration Research Unit for the Equality [MC2] and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Home Office. The EHRC involved a literature review of work on the impact of economic recession on migration to the UK, and a statistical analysis of the relationship between migration flows and economic growth and unemployment. This material formed a substantial part of a major report published by the EHRC, Immigration and the Labour Market: Theory [MC3] Evidence and Policy. Drawing on the work for the EHRC, I was asked, with Prof. Salt and Dr Dobson, to provide a discussion paper for the independent policy think tank The Policy Network on how past recessions have impacted on migrant flows. Our paper On the Move? Labour Migration in Times of Recession was the centrepiece of a symposium organised by the Policy Network in London in June 2009. For the Home Office, we produced the statistical summaries and commentaries for the 2009 Eurostat report on migration and refugee flows to the United Kingdom. We were also commissioned to produce the report European Migration Network: Satisfying Labour Demand Through Migration (London: Home Office, 2011).


    Undergraduate teaching

    • Course 2023 Urban Geography (convenor)
    • Course 3058 Berlin Fieldclass (convenor)

    Graduate teaching

    • GEOGG004 Thinking Space
    • GEOGG201 Approaches to Global Migration: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
    • GEOGG202 Issues in Global Migration
    • URBNG001 Urban Imaginations
    • URBNG002 Cities Space and Power
    • URBNG005: Public Space and the City (convenor)


    Current PhD Students

    • Donald Poland, The urbanization of older suburban centres, self funded.
    • Anna Plyushteva,Urban Transport Megaprojects and Everyday Life: Domesticating Metropolitan Rail in Sofia, ESRC studentship.
    • Tauri Tuvikene, Automobility and Post-Socialist Urbanism, Archimedes Foundation.


    Completed UCL

    Primary Supervisor

    • Andrew Banfield, Spectatorship, virtual stadiums, and mass sporting events, self funded.
    • Regan Koch, Reanimating urban public spaces, ESRC studentship
    • Darya Malyutina, Russian Migrants in London, ORS funded.


    Secondary Supervisor

    • Patricia Simoes Aelbrecht , How can urban design contribute to the Sociology of the city and its public spaces?August (Bartlett)
    • Gemma Moore, Urban open space and its contribution to sustainable communities (Bartlett)

    Completed PhDUniversity of Southampton

    • Eleanor Pryce – Evaluating the potential impact of road user charging in Southampton. Funded by the Southampton City Council. Co-supervisor with Prof Steven Pinch. ., Sept 2003- Sept 2006. Completed 2008.
    • Al Darmaki, Ibrahim Abdul Rahman – Globalisation and urban development: a case study of Dubai’s Jumeirah Palm Island mega project.. Co-supervised with Prof Steven Pinch., Sept 2003- Sept 2006. Completed November 2008.
    • Graham Turner – Home working and corporate change. Funded by the ESRC part time student fund. Co-supervisor with Prof Steven Pinch.  Completed 2005.