UCL Department of Geography


Description Photo Here

Personal tools
Log in
This is SunRain Plone Theme
UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Academic Staff  /  Ann Varley

Professor Ann Varley

Professor of Human Geography
Director, UCL Gender & Sexuality Studies


Department of Geography
UCL (University College London)
Room 105, 26 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AP

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 5519
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 7565






Academic support and feedback hours

Ann is on sabbatical until the summer term.


Ann Varley holds a double first class honours degree in Geography from the University of Oxford. She first came to UCL as a research student, supervised by Peter Ward; her doctoral thesis on illegal housing development in Mexico City won the British-Mexican Society Postgraduate Prize. She worked with Alan Gilbert on an Overseas Development Administration-funded research project on rental and shared housing in Mexico before being appointed as lecturer in the Department of Geography.

Ann has a broad range of research and publication interests – from disasters to property titles and from ageing to family law – but her work has focused consistently on urban Mexico and Latin America and revolves around the central theme of housing and the home. She has co-authored or edited four books, the latest of which, Decoding Gender (edited with Helga Baitenmann and Victoria Chenaut) was published by Rutgers University Press in 2007; a revised and translated version was published in 2010 by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México with the support of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM.

Ann was Christensen Fellow at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and was awarded an individual residency at the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center in Bellagio, Italy, in 2003. She was one of the first recipients of the new University of London Research Fellowship, enabling her to spend several months at the Institute for the Study of the Americas in 2007. She was a Senior Member of the ESRC's Peer Review College until 2022 and has reviewed studentship proposals for the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK and reviewed research proposals for the Research Council of Norway.

In 2010 Ann was awarded the Busk Medal, one of the senior awards of the Royal Geographical Society, for her field work in Mexico. She received the Medal from the Society's President, Michael Palin (photo).

In Denmark, Ann has been visiting lecturer in the Department of Geography, University of Copenhagen, and the Department of International Development Studies, University of Roskilde. She has worked with the Department of Geography at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim and has also been a visiting lecturer in the Graduate School and Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin and the Department of Architecture and Design, American University of Beirut, Lebanon.

Invitations to speak at events overseas have taken her to Mexico (CIESAS-Occidente, El Colegio de México, El Colegio de Puebla, Instituto Mora, UAM-Azcapotzalco, UAM-Xochimilco, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Universidad de Guadalajara and at the 5th National Congress of Urban Land, Tijuana), Brazil, the USA (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, MIT, Northwestern University, University of California San Diego, University of Florida, University of Texas at Austin, and Yale University), Canada (York University), Denmark, France, Spain (the International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Oñati), Lesotho, Lebanon and Egypt.

Wherever possible, Ann publishes her work in Spanish as well as English. Her book Illegal Cities (co-edited with Edésio Fernandes) was translated and published in Bolivia by the Programa de Capacitación para el Mejoramiento Socio-Habitacional as Ciudades Ilegales. She has translated contributions by researchers from Mexico, Brazil, France and Venezuela to Illegal Cities and Decoding Gender, and successfully sought approval from the Society for Latin American Studies and Wiley for the translation and publication of Informality Revisited: Latin American Perspectives on Housing, the State and the Market (2020, ed. Clara Salazar). She was also instrumental in setting up the BLAR Translation Prize for articles submitted in Spanish or Portuguese. Her own work has been translated into Spanish, Italian and German. In 2022 she took part in a workshop held in Argentina and associated mentoring scheme for Latin American early career researchers in Geography, on publication in international journals.


Education and professional history:

  • 2014 First social scientist appointed as convenor of UCL Gender Studies
  • 2010 Royal Geographical Society Busk Medal winner
  • 2009- Professor of Human Geography, UCL
  • 1999-2009 Reader in Geography, UCL
  • 1986-1999 Lecturer in Geography, UCL
  • 1985-1986 Research Officer, Department of Geography, UCL
  • 1985 PhD Ya somos dueños: ejido land development and regularisation in Mexico City, UCL
  • 1980 BA (Hons) in Geography, First Class, University of Oxford
  • 1978 First class Honour Moderations and College Exhibition, St. Hilda’s College, Oxford
  • 1977 Coal Industries’ Social Welfare Organisation University Scholarship


Professional and other bodies:

  • 2021-2023 Coordinating editor, Bulletin of Latin American Research
  • 2021-2022 Chair of assessment team, Master's in Latin American Studies, University of Amsterdam, Quality Assurance Netherlands Universities
  • 2017-2018 Geography panel, SAMEVAL (Research Evaluation of Social Sciences in Norway), Norwegian Research Council
  • 2015-  Advisory panel, Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK
  • 2015   Member of assessment team, Master's in Latin American Studies, University of Amsterdam, Quality Assurance Netherlands Universities
  • 2014-2016 Research proposal assessor (Sociology, Human Geography, Gender Studies), Norwegian Research Council
  • 2013-2021  Co-editor, Bulletin of Latin American Research
  • 2013   Research proposal assessor, Russian Federation Ministry of Education and Science
  • 2010-2022 Senior Member, ESRC Peer Review College
  • 1999-2001 Secretary, Developing Areas Research Group, RGS-IBG
  • 1988-1999 Council, British-Mexican Society
  • 1987-1994 Membership Secretary, Society for Latin American Studies
  • 1983-1985 Women and Housing Advisory Group, London Borough of Camden
  • 2017 'Property titles and the urban poor: from informality to displacement?' Planning Theory and Practice, 18(3) 385-404.
  • 2015 'Home and belonging: reflections from urban Mexico' in C. Klaufus and A. Ouweneel (eds) Housing and Belonging in Latin America, Berghahn.
  • 2015 'At home in the city? Gender and urban poverty', in A. Coles, L. Gray and J. Momsen (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Development, Routledge.
  • 2014 'Gender, families and households', in V. Desai and R. Potter (eds) The Companion to Development Studies, Revised ed., Routledge.
  • 2013 'Feminist perspectives on urban poverty: de-essentialising difference', in L. Peake and M. Rieker (eds) Rethinking Feminist Interventions into the Urban, Routledge.
  • 2013 'Feminism's pale shadows: older women, gender and development', in S.M. Bamford and J. Watson (eds) A compendium of essays: has the sisterhood forgotten older women? International Longevity Centre-UK.
  • 2010 'La domesticación del derecho', in H. Baitenmann, V. Chenaut and A. Varley (eds) Los códigos del género: Prácticas del derecho en el México contemporáneo, Programa Universitario de Estudios de Género, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and United Nations Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM.
  • 2010 Los códigos del género: Prácticas del derecho en el México contemporáneo, Programa Universitario de Estudios de Género, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and United Nations Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM. (Revised edition translated by Lucrecia Orensanz. Edited with Helga Baitenmann and Victoria Chenaut).
  • 2010 'Modest expectations: gender and property in urban Mexico' Law and Society Review 44, 1, 67-99.
  • 2008 'A place like this? Stories of dementia, home and the self' Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 26, 1, 47-67.
  • 2007 Decoding Gender: Law and Practice in Contemporary Mexico, Rutgers University Press (Edited book. With Helga Baitenmann and Victoria Chenaut).
  • 2007 'Domesticating the law', in H. Baitenmann, V. Chenaut and A. Varley (eds) Decoding Gender: Law and Practice in Contemporary Mexico, Rutgers University Press.
  • 2007 'Gender and property formalization: conventional and alternative approaches', World Development, 35, 10, 1739-53.
  • 2007 'Law and gender in Mexico: defining the field', in H. Baitenmann, V. Chenaut and A. Varley (eds) Decoding Gender: Law and Practice in Contemporary Mexico, Rutgers University Press (with Helga Baitenmann and Victoria Chenaut)
  • 2004 Ciudades ilegales: la ley y el urbanismo en países en vías de desarrollo, Programa de Capacitación para el Mejoramiento Socio Habitacional (PROMESHA) (Edited book. With Edésio Fernandes).
  • 2004 'Geographies of home', Cultural Geographies, 11, 1, 3-6 (with Alison Blunt).
  • 2003 ‘Older women's living arrangements and family relationships in urban Mexico ', Women's Studies International Forum , 26, 6, 525-39 (with Maribel Blasco).
  • 2002 'Gender, families and households', in V. Desai and R. Potter (eds) The Arnold Companion to Development Studies, Edward Arnold.
  • 2002 'Private to public: debating the meaning of tenure legalization', International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 26, 3, 449-61.
  • 2001 'Exiled to the home: masculinity and ageing in urban Mexico', European Journal of Development Research, 12, 2, 115-38 (with Maribel Blasco. Reprinted in C. Jackson (ed.) Men at Work: Labour, Masculinities, Development , Frank Cass)
  • 2000 'Intact or in tatters? Family care of older women and men in urban Mexico' Gender and Development, 8, 2, 47-55 (with Maribel Blasco).
  • 2000 'Women and the home in Mexican family law', in E. Dore and M. Molyneux (eds) The Hidden Histories of Gender and the State in Latin America, Duke University Press
  • 1999 'A new model of urban land regularisation in Mexico? The role of opposition government', European Journal of Development Research, 11, 2, 235-61.
  • 1999 Good Essays, Pomegranate Press, Hassocks (with David Arscott)
  • 1999 ‘The reconquest of the historic centre: urban conservation and gentrification in Puebla, Mexico', Environment and Planning A, 31, 9, 1547-66 (with Gareth Jones).
  • 1998 Illegal Cities: Law and Urban Change in Developing Countries, Zed Press (Edited book. With Edésio Fernandes)
  • 1998 'Law, the city and citizenship in developing countries: an introduction', in E. Fernandes and A. Varley (eds) Illegal Cities: Law and Urban Change in Developing Countries, Zed Press (with Edésio Fernandes)
  • 1998 'The political uses of illegality', in E. Fernandes and A. Varley (eds) Illegal Cities: Law and Urban Change in Developing Countries, Zed Press.
  • 1996 'Delivering the goods: Solidarity, land regularisation and urban services', in R. Aitken, N. Craske, G.A. Jones and D. Stansfield (eds) Dismantling the Mexican State?, MacMillan.
  • 1996 'Women heading households: some more equal than others?', World Development, 24, 3, 505-520.
  • 1995 'Neither victims nor heroines: women, land and housing in urban Mexico', Third World Planning Review, 17, 2, 169-82.
  • 1994 Disasters, Development and Environment, John Wiley (Edited book).
  • 1994 'Housing the household, holding the house', in G.A. Jones and P.M. Ward (eds) Methodology for Land and Housing Market Analysis, UCL Press.
  • 1994 'The exceptional and the everyday: vulnerability analysis in the International Decade for Natural Disaster Risk Reduction', in A. Varley (ed.) Disasters, Development and Environment, John Wiley.
  • 1993 'Clientilism or technocracy? The politics of urban land regularization', in N. Harvey (ed.) Mexico: Dilemmas of Transition, Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London and British Academic Press.
  • 1993 'Gender and housing: the provision of accommodation for young adults in three Mexican cities', Habitat International, 17, 4, 13-30.
  • 1991 Landlord and Tenant: Housing the Poor in Urban Mexico, Routledge (with Alan Gilbert).
  • 1990 'Renting a home in a third world city: choice or constraint?' International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 14, 1, 89-108 (with Alan Gilbert).
  • 1990 'The Mexican landlord: rental housing in Guadalajara and Puebla' Urban Studies, 27, 1, 23-44 (with Alan Gilbert)
  • 1987 'The relationship between tenure legalisation and housing improvements: evidence from Mexico City', Development and Change, 18, 3, 463-81.

Research interests:

  • Urban land and housing
  • Equal marriage and same-sex unions
  • Gender, families and households
  • Home
  • Ageing
  • Family law and the home
  • Law and urban governance
  • Property formalisation
  • Industrial heritage
  • Latin America - Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay

    Major research grants:

    Gendered Housing: Identity and Independence in Urban Mexico ESRC (£124,646) Research officer: Dr Maribel Blasco (Associate Professor at Copenhagen Business School). ESRC evaluation: ‘outstanding’.

    Ann has forty years’ experience of social research in urban Mexico, with particular emphasis on housing and land tenure, using household surveys, interviews, discussion groups and life histories. She produced a report on the impact of agrarian law reform on urban housing for the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development to mark Mexico's accession in 1994. She wrote an assessment of women’s role in self-help housing for UNIFEM and the Mexican government’s Social Development Secretariat, and contributed to a joint report by the Mexican agency Desarrollo Integral de la Familia and the University of Texas on socio-economic vulnerability among families in the Mexico-US border region. Her work on older people’s living arrangements in Mexico led to the award of an ESRC-funded CASE studentship with HelpAge International and that on land tenure formalisation supported the case for a UCL Impact Award to support postgraduate research co-sponsored by the Cambodian Development Resource Institute (CDRI). The translation of Illegal Cities was carried out by Promesha, a programme on housing issues in Latin America funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and that of Decoding Gender was supported financially by UNIFEM.

    The meeting of three experts with interests in Latin America at a conference on disasters Ann organised for the Royal Geographical Society led to the formation of La Red de Estudios Sociales en Prevención de Desastres en América Latina.

    Ann contributed an essay on 'Feminism's pale shadows' to a report published by the International Longenvity Centre-UK to mark International Women's Day 2013, asking Has the Sisterhood Forgotten Older Women? (see

    Ann also uses her language skills in outreach activities. She translated a report on ‘Strategies for sustainable socio-economic development of the Doñana Region’ by the Comisión Internacional de Expertos sobre el Desarrollo del Entorno de Doñana (Spain), and has acted as a volunteer translator for an international housing rights NGO. She is a senior member of the ESRC Peer Review College, research proposal assessor for the Norwegian Research Council, and regular advisor to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission on the funding of Masters and PhD studies in the UK. She was one of three UK geographers on the six-member panel evaluating Geographical research in Norway and co-authoring Evaluation of the Social Sciences in Norway: Report from Panel 1 - Geography (Research Council of Norway, 2018). She chaired the team undertaking the latest evaluation of the University of Amsterdam's MA in Latin American Studies for Quality Assurance Netherlands Universities.

    Ann is the coordinating editor of the Bulletin of Latin American Research, the journal of the UK's Society for Latin American Studies. She is on the editorial board of Home Cultures and, in Mexico, Investigaciones Geográficas and Revista Sociológica.


    A Roof Over Their Heads?


    A roof over their heads
    The United Nations Global Campaign for Secure Tenure recognises that “securing tenure for the household does not necessarily secure tenure for women and children”. How should this insight be translated into practice?

    In 2014, Ann was nominated for a Student Choice Teaching Award for Outstanding Teaching.

    1st year Writing and Analysis in Geography (convenor), Thinking Geographically (convenor)

    2nd year The Practice of Geography (contributor); Human Geography Dissertations (co-convenor)

    3rd year Gendered Geographies (convenor); Human Geography Dissertations (co-convenor)

    Postgraduate Public and Private Modernities - module shared with UCL’s interdisciplinary M.A. in Gender, Society and Representation (convenor)

    Postgraduate - Convenor, M.A. in Gender, Society and Representation

    Postgraduate - Research and Writing Skills, M.A. in Gender, Society and Representation (convenor/contributor), Dissertations, M.A. in Gender, Society and Representation (convenor)

    As the first social scientist to convene UCL Gender Studies, Ann proposed that it should be renamed to Gender & Sexuality Studies, the current title of the umbrella programme for the MA in Gender, Society and Representation and the MPhil/PhD in Gender & Sexuality Studies.

    Current research students

    Lourdes Toledo Tapia
    Empowering enterprises? Microenterprise programmes for women in Guadalajara, Mexico
    Funded by CONACYT, Lourdes did her first degree at the Tec de Monterrey, Mexico, followed by an MA in Anthropology at the University of Sussex. She has recently worked as an intern for the Enterprises Department at the International Labour Office.

    David Zarra
    Leaving empty home(s) behind: the aftermath of the Spanish building boom
    David works for London-based homelessness charity Thames Reach. His research focuses on
    the meaning of 'home' in a country that has experienced a flood of evictions following an unprecedented building boom.

    Rasa Kamarauskaitė
    Daily negotiation of homosexual visibility in Lithuania
    Rasa studied Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths after a first degree in Psychology and Education in Lithuania. She is supervised by Richard Mole at SSEES, with Ann as her second supervisor

    Fernando Gutiérrez Hernández
    Attachment and memory: urban regeneration and the Alameda Central in Mexico City’s historic centre
    Fernando’s research is based in the UCL Institute of the Americas. An architect by training, he specialised in Sustainable Urbanism at UCL. He teaches architecture and urbanism in the Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México. He is jointly supervised by Paulo Drinot and Ann.

    Nandita Dutta
    Mapping intimacy: the South Asian beauty salon in London and the production of diasporic space
    Nandita was awarded an Overseas Research Studentship to study with Ann and Katherine Twamley (UCL IOE). She is the author of F-Rated: Being a Woman Filmmaker in India (Harper Collins, 2019).

    Former research students

    Nina Laurie
    Negotiating gender: women and emergency employment in Peru
    Nina is Professor of Geography Development and the Environment, University of St Andrews.

    José Francisco Bernardino Freitas
    Townscape and local culture: the use of streets in low-income residential areas in Vitória, Brazil
    Chico is an architect and lecturer in the Architecture and Urban Planning Department, Universidade Federal de Espírito Santo, Vitória.

    Elizabeth Gooster
    Gender, migration and the household: a case study of Guadalajara, Mexico
    After working in publishing for ten years Liz became a business coach.

    Tatjana Haque
    Lived experiences of empowerment: a case study of a vocational training programme for women in Bangladesh
    Tanja is a development consultant specialising in women's rights. After completing her PhD, she worked as Christian Aid’s representative in Bangladesh and subsequently CAFOD's Global Gender Advisor.

    Kuheli Mookerjee
    Re-placing home: displacement and resettlement in India’s Narmada Valley Dam Project
    Kuheli is now Regneration Manager at the Homes and Communities Agency.

    Emmeline Skinner
    Livelihood strategies in old age: older people and poverty in urban Bolivia
    The holder of an ESRC CASE award with HelpAge International, Emmy is now a Social Development Advisor with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, based in Mozambique.

    Emily Wilkinson
    Decentralised disaster management: local governance, institutional learning and reducing risk from hurricanes in the Yucatán peninsula, Mexico
    Emily is a Senior Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute's Global Risks and Resilience Programme.

    Benjamin Flower
    Donor-funded titling and urban transition: a case study of the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
    Ben had been working for NGOs in Phnom Penh for two years when he was awarded a UCL Impact Award studentship to work with the Cambodia Development Resource Institute. He is now working for UN-Habitat in Sri Lanka.

    Fatema Rouson Jahan
    Gender and agency: clothing consumption practices of women factory workers in Bangladesh

    Fatema is a lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland (London campus). She worked previously in the Department of Women and Gender Studies, University of Dhaka. She studied at UCL with the support of a Commonwealth Scholarship.

    Lo Marshall
    Navigating gender-diverse worlds assembled upon binary expectations: investigating the experiences of trans people living in Britain
    Lo's research was funded by an ESRC 1+3 studentship and supervised by Ben Campkin and Ann. Lo is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies.

    Tania Guerrero Rios
    Using financialised housing as a planning instrument: the impact of urban containment policies on affordable housing in Mexico City
    Tania's background is in architecture. Before undertaking PhD research funded by CONACYT, Tania was a researcher at the Centro Mario Molina Sustainable Research Centre in Mexico City.

    Lourdes Marcela López Mares
    Where policy, planning and everyday practices meet: governmentality and facility provision in Ciudad Satélite
    Center for Urban Policy and Planning, University of Illinois at Chicago (committee member)

    Marco Venturi
    Out of Soho, back into the closet: re-thinking London's gay community
    Marco completed his PhD as a UCL Gender & Sexuality Studies postgraduate researcher, supervised by James Agar, with Ann as his second supervisor.

    Aydan Greatrick
    Identities in Conflict: Responses to and Experiences of Queer Refugees from Syria in Lebanon and Germany
    Funded by ESRC, Aydan’s research focuses on the intersections between humanitarianism, sexuality and the roles of marginalised communities in contexts of protracted displacement. He completed a UCL Gender & Sexuality Studies PhD, supervised by Richard Mole at SSEES, with Ann as his subsidiary supervisor.