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Tom Slater

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PORTRAIT: "People Who Get it" by Ted Schrecker

(SORT OF) SELF-PORTRAIT: my "Top 10 Books in Urban Studies"

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Google Scholar profile

LATEST:

September 2014: Here's a critique of the right wing reaction to the grotesque TV programme Benefits Street, written with Stephen Crossley

June 2014: Delighted to have been awarded a Fellowship at the Department of Sociology and Social Research at the University of Trento, Italy from August 25th to September 22nd.

June 2014: Just out: a theme issue of Environment and Planning A on "Territorial Stigmatization", which I co-edited with Virgilio Borges Pereira and Loïc Wacquant.

May 2014: Here is a video recording of my talk at a fantastic conference I attended in Athens, Greece.

April 2014: I've been invited to deliver two public lectures in Santiago, Chile, on gentrification. Details here and here. Contact Prof. Ernesto Lopez Morales for information.

April 2014: In response to rather too many "gentrification is better than urban decay" articles, I wrote a piece entitled "Unravelling False Choice Urbanism".

January 2014: I've got some issues (to put it mildly) with the ubiquitous notion of "resilience". Here's why.

September 2013: A piece on the devastation currently being caused by the "bedroom tax" in the UK, drawing on Marc Fried's "Grieving for a Lost Home" half a century after its publication.

September 2013: I had the honour of reviewing Imogen Tyler's astonishing "Revolting Subjects" for Antipode. A very, very special book.

July 2013: Here are my top 10 books in urban studies, with justifications! A fun assignment - try it!

May 2013: Kim Allen at MMU has written this fascinating blog piece on the disturbing educational reforms taking place in the UK. It draws on my work on "decision-based evidence making" in a scintillating critique of the ways in which Michael Gove, the Tory education secretary, is trying to push through his elitist agenda.

March 2013: It is an honour to make Neil Smith's undergraduate dissertation available for download. Completed in January 1977, this is a foundational document for gentrification research, presenting the results of a landmark piece of scholarship in urban studies. Although his hugely influential 'rent gap' thesis did not emerge until two years later, there are many tantalising glimpses of what was to come. It's beautifully written and shows remarkable scientific prowess and sophistication for an author aged only 22. You can read more about it in my tribute to Neil, here. Many thanks to Joe Doherty (who supervised and inspired Neil during his undergraduate studies) for unearthing and scanning the dissertation, and to Deb Cowen and Don Mitchell for supporting my wish to make it publicly available.

January 2013: Welfare Reform and the Production of Ignorance. The Antipode Foundation has produced this lead-in to a paper I wrote on the think tank influences behind punitive welfare reforms in the UK.

Career:

  • August 2013-: Reader in Urban Geography, University of Edinburgh
  • 2010-2013: Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Edinburgh
  • 2008-2010: Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Edinburgh
  • 2003-2008: Lecturer in Urban Studies, University of Bristol
  • Biography:

    I was born in 1975 and raised on the 'Somerset Levels' in southern England. I'm an urban geographer, employed as Reader in Urban Geography at The University of Edinburgh, which I joined in August 2008. I was lucky enough to be an undergraduate (1995-1998) at the wonderful Department of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London, where the breathtaking lectures and powerful writings of David M. Smith opened my eyes to questions of social justice, and inspired a passion for geographical inquiry that is at once politically committed and theoretically informed. When on an exchange program at the University of South Florida (1996-7), I also benefited enormously from the remarkable pedagogical and political energy of Kevin Archer, who had studied under David Harvey at Johns Hopkins. To the astonishment of all who knew me, I became a serious nerd as an undergraduate, turning down invitations to pubs and bars in favour of immersing myself in the works of, inter alia, Smith, David Harvey, Peter Marcuse, Michael Watts, Linda McDowell, Neil Smith, Eric Sheppard, Dick Peet, Miles Ogborn, John Western, David Ley, Damaris Rose, Allan Pred, Ceri Peach, Derek Gregory, Margit Mayer, Doreen Massey, Jamie Peck. "If this is geography," I thought, "then I want to be part of it."

    After being displaced from the south London neighbourhood of Tooting in 1998 by a landlord capitalizing on a gentrifying neighbourhood, I decided to conduct Ph.D. research (1999-2003) on gentrification, based at King's College London, but conducting fieldwork in Toronto and New York City. From there I went to my first academic post at the University of Bristol (2003-2008), where I developed a passion for teaching, and intellectual concerns with troubling phrases such as "policy relevance" and "evidence base". I take a very dim view of the subordination of scholarly to policy agendas, and feel that policy-driven research (as opposed to research-driven policy) must be vigorously resisted if social scientists are to retain autonomy and integrity. The moment that we cannot ask our own questions due to the priorities of the state, it ceases to be research and becomes propaganda.

    I am delighted to be working amongst a talented group of scholars here in Edinburgh, a city that invigorates with its relentless energy and astonishing physical setting, yet one that offends with its inequalities. I supervise a terrific set of postgraduates (working in urban contexts as diverse as Damascus, Shanghai and Nîmes) who educate me with their knowledge and dedication; together with my colleagues they create an exciting intellectual milieu of which I feel privileged to be a part.

    I'm currently completing a book that exposes the myths and realities of gentrification and displacement, and I am also tracing the roots and implications of the current UK government's welfare reforms, which rest on the ongoing and deeply disturbing stigmatisation of the urban working class and the places where they live. I have also developed an interest in the links between rent gap theory and territorial stigmatisation, explored recently in several public lectures in various parts of the world.

    Research interests:

  • Gentrification and displacement, with a focus on capital flows and land rent/land grab
  • Urban inequality and marginality in comparative perspective, with a particular focus on territorial stigmatization
  • Poverty, social class and welfare reform
  • Charting and challenging 'decision-based evidence making' in urban policy, via 'agnotology' (a word coined by Robert Proctor from the Greek 'agnosis', meaning "not knowing": I am interested in the systemic production and maintenance of ignorance, strategically deployed and institutionally amplified)
  • My research has been funded by The Leverhulme Trust, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Economic and Social Research Council

    Publications:

    Books

    Lees, L., Slater, T. and Wyly, E. (2010) The Gentrification Reader (London: Routledge)* Click here to see the book cover

    *From the back cover:

    "What a marvellous, comprehensive treatment of this evolving, now mainstream, urban process." Chester Hartman, Poverty and Race Research Action Council.

    Lees, L., Slater, T. and Wyly, E. (2008) Gentrification (New York: Routledge)*

    *From the back cover:

    "Three prominent urban researchers come together here, exercising their responsibilities as intellectuals with eloquence, acumen and force. In the moral economy of gentrification, the voices of Lees, Slater and Wyly stand not only to alter the perspectives of many people, but moreover to affect the course of events in many places." Eric Clark, Lund University.

    "Lees, Slater and Wyly lead a new generation of urban researchers, and their comprehensive and seminal text ranges over the forty-year history of gentrification, tracing its mutations under shifting social ideologies from resistant cultural enclave to the darling of neoliberal government. A critical tendency does not obscure even-handed treatment in this essential source for gentrification and other urban scholars." David Ley, University of British Columbia.

    "Intelligent, thorough, appropriately critical, and with a perfect balance of theory and case material, this is a significant addition to the gentrification literature, one that (finally!) brings it all together." Robert Beauregard, Columbia University.

    "Very readable, the most comprehensive text available on this pivotal process in the world's cities. There's much more to debate here but this text will anchor future discussions." Neil Smith, CUNY Graduate Center.

    Journal Articles

    Slater, T. (2014) 'Unravelling False Choice Urbanism', CITY: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action 18 (4-5) p.517-524.

    Slater, T. (2014) 'The myth of 'Broken Britain': welfare reform and the production of ignorance'*, Antipode 46 (4) p.948-969

    *Some background: "required reading for anyone interested in what made the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill, and myriad similar state actions in our neoliberal times, possible."

    Wacquant, L., Slater, T. and Pereira, V.B. (2014) 'Territorial stigmatization in action'*, Environment and Planning A 46 (6) p.1270-1280. [Introduction to Theme Issue on Territorial Stigmatization]

    *German translation forthcoming in Zeitschrift für Politik und Gesellschaft (Göttingen), Fall 2014.

    *Spanish translation in Revista INVI (Santiago de Chile), Fall 2014.

    *Turkish translation in Cogito (Istanbul), Fall 2014.

    Kallin, H. and Slater, T. (2014) 'Activating territorial stigma: gentrifying marginality on Edinburgh's periphery', Environment and Planning A 46 (6) p.1351-1368.

    Slater, T. (2013) 'Expulsions from public housing: the hidden context of concentrated affluence', Cities 35 p.384-390.

    Slater, T. (2013) 'Your life chances affect where you live: a critique of the 'cottage industry' of neighbourhood effects research', International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37 (2) p.367-387.

    Rose, D., Germain, A., Bacqué, M-H., Bridge, G, Fijalkow, Y., & Slater, T. (2013). 'Social mix' and neighbourhood revitalization in a transatlantic perspective: comparing local policy discourses and expectations in Paris (France), Bristol (UK) and Montréal (Canada). International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37 (2) p.430-450.

    Slater, T. and Anderson, N. (2012) 'The reputational ghetto: territorial stigmatisation in St. Paul's, Bristol', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37 (4) p.530-546.

    Slater. T. (2012) 'Impacted geographers: a response to Pain, Kesby and Askins'*, Area 44 (1) p.117–119.

    *This piece was written in response to an article by three participatory geographers that cautiously welcomed the REF 'impact' agenda. As I see it, all forms of academic research, including those involving collaboration with non-academics, are best pursued for reasons worked out by academics in the course of their engagements with knowledge/ignorance and social life, not in the service of an imposed, reductive, compromised, institutionally mediated artificial assessment system that wastes a huge amount of our collective time and effort on a particularly obnoxious navel-gazing exercise rooted in input-output neoclassical economics. You can read Pain et al's reply here (requires subscription).

    Slater. T. (2011) 'From "criminality" to marginality: rioting against a broken state', Human Geography: A New Radical Journal 4 (3) p.106-115.

    Slater, T. (2010) 'Still Missing Marcuse: Hamnett's foggy analysis in London town'*, CITY: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action 14 (1) p.170-179

    *This article is a rejoinder to a published critique of my 'Missing Marcuse' paper by Chris Hamnett. Unusually, Hamnett responded to this rejoinder. Peter Marcuse read the exchange and added this note, which, in contrast to Hamnett, takes seriously my closing arguments in Still Missing Marcuse. Here's an excerpt:

    "If the pain of displacement is not a central component of what we are dealing with in studying gentrification - indeed, is not what brings us to the subject in the first place - we are not just missing one factor in a multi-factorial equation; we are missing the central point that needs to be addressed."

    Slater, T. (2010) 'Ghetto blasting: on Loïc Wacquant's Urban Outcasts' Urban Geography 31 (2) p.162-168

    Slater, T. (2009) 'Missing Marcuse: on gentrification and displacement' CITY: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action 13 (2) p.292-311

    Slater, T. (2008) 'A literal necessity to be replaced': a rejoinder to the gentrification debate, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32(1) p.212-223



    *Slater, T. (2006) The eviction of critical perspectives from gentrification research, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 30(4) p.737-757.

    *"One of the most important urban geography articles of the last decade" - Neil Smith, 2008

    *"A timely wake-up call for scholars of class, space and politics in the city" - Loïc Wacquant, 2008

    Check out the debate in IJURR 32 (1) on this little piece of mischief, featuring invited commentaries by Chris Allen, Lance Freeman, Kate Shaw, Neil Smith, Loïc Wacquant and Paul Watt.



    Whitzman, C. and Slater, T. (2006) Village ghetto land: myth, social conditions and housing policy in Parkdale, Toronto, 1879-2000, Urban Affairs Review 41(5) p.673-696

    Slater, T., Curran, W. and Lees, L. (2004) Gentrification research: new directions and critical scholarship, Guest Editorial. Environment and Planning A 36(7) p.1141-1150

    Slater, T. (2004) Municipally-managed gentrification in South Parkdale, Toronto, The Canadian Geographer 48(3) p.303-325

    Slater, T. (2004) North American gentrification? Revanchist and emancipatory perspectives explored, Environment and Planning A 36(7) p.1191-1213

    Slater, T. (2002) Fear of the City 1882-1967: Edward Hopper and the discourse of anti-urbanism, Social and Cultural Geography 3(2) p.135-154

    Slater, T. (2002) Looking at the 'North American City' through the lens of gentrification discourse, Urban Geography 23(2) p.131-153

    Book Chapters

    Slater. T. (2013) 'Capitalist urbanisation affects your life chances: exorcising the ghosts of 'neighbourhood effects'' in D. Manley, M. Van Ham, N. Bailey and L. Simpson, & D. Maclennan (eds) Neighbourhood Effects or Neighbourhood Based Problems? A Policy Context (Springer Press) pp113-132.

    Slater, T. (2011) 'Missing Marcuse: On Gentrification and Displacement' (revised and updated) in N. Brenner, P. Marcuse and M. Mayer (eds) Cities for People, Not for Profit (Routledge) pp171-196.

    Slater, T. (2011) 'Gentrification of the City' in G. Bridge and S. Watson (eds) The New Companion to the City (Oxford: Blackwell) pp571-585.

    Slater, T. (2009) 'Revanchist City'. Entry in R. Hutchison (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Urban Studies (Thousand Oaks: Sage)

    Slater, T. (2009) 'Ghettos' and 'Anti-urbanism' Entries in R. Kitchin and N. Thrift (eds) The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (London: Elsevier)

    Slater, T. (2005) "Gentrification in Canada's cities: from social mix to social tectonics?" in R. Atkinson and G. Bridge (eds) Gentrification in a Global Context (London: Routledge) pp.39-56

    Other Stuff

    PORTRAIT: "On Bias, Critique, and Civic Duty" by Christine McLaren

    One of my articles, "The Eviction of Critical Perspectives from Gentrification Research" (see below), has been translated into Hungarian and published by the Hungarian Social Science Quarterly entitled 'Fordulat'. Köszönöm szépen Fordulat!

    The UK welfare state is under very serious attack, with those living in poverty bearing the brunt of an economic crisis that they had absolutely no part in creating. With this in mind, the rhetorical excesses of Iain Duncan-Smith's "Centre for Social Justice" (Orwellian doublespeak: it's a right-wing think tank that provides the 'intellectual' justification for the vicious assualt on the benefits system), seemed to justify this equally declamatory response commissioned by New Left Project.

    Here's a piece on the political response to the English riots of 2011, just out in Human Geography: A New Radical Journal. As always, I was particularly inspired by the words of Paul Gilroy, delivered at a community meeting in Tottenham in the aftermath of the riots. I would welcome any comments/reactions!

    I am often asked by colleagues, students, and journalists about the late, great Ruth Glass, who coined the term 'gentrification' in 1964. If you want to see a photo and read more about her, click here

    Listen to my presentation at "The Right to the City" conference in Berlin, 6th-8th November 2008. A fantastic event in honour of Peter Marcuse's 80th birthday.

    Debating gentrification with Tim Butler, Sophie Watson and Lance Freeman on BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed, with Laurie Taylor

    Gentrification Web This desperately needs updating, but you may find it useful. Be warned - annoying pop-up windows appear on this site, because it is hosted on a rubbish free webspace platform. One day I will move it across to a better platform, but I need research assistance to do that!

    Slater, T. (2005) Toronto's South Parkdale neighbourhood: a brief history of development, disinvestment and gentrification. Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto, Research Bulletin #28

    Slater, T. (2003) Comparing gentrification in South Parkdale, Toronto and Lower Park Slope, New York City: a 'North American' model of neighbourhood reinvestment?. ESRC Centre for Neighbourhood Research Paper 11

    It is a pleasure to post here a .pdf copy of a landmark study by my friend Eric Clark, a Professor of Human Geography at Lund University in Sweden. The Rent Gap and Urban Change: Case Studies in Malmö 1860-1985 is without question the definitive work on the history, theoretical roots, and empirical expression of 'rent gaps', a crucial concept not just in gentrification theory, but land rent theory in general. It's a valuable work on many levels - for its concise elaborations of the different theoretical traditions of interpreting land rent from Von Thunen to Ricardo to Marx; for its serious operational deployment of Neil Smith's rent gap thesis; and particularly because it contains many valuable lessons for newcomers to gentrification debates. For example, on page 81, there is an astute, powerful reaction to one of the main criticisms of rent gap theory:

    "The fact that rent gap theory cannot fulfil the dubious wish for a catch-all explanation of various forms of urban redevelopment can, however, hardly be held against it."

    Eric Clark's book will stand the test of time - it shows how speculative landed developer interests (which today are visible in mega-events like Olympic Games) result in dislocation and dispossession for people living at the bottom of the urban class structure. If you want to understand how disinvestment and reinvestment in the built environment (via the deployment of powerful legal instruments procured from the state) result in enormous social costs (the symptoms of urban 'regeneration' policies that favour the creation of urban environments to serve the needs of capital accumulation at the expense of the needs of home, community, family), then this is the book to read.

    October 2012: Rose Street and Revolution: A Tribute to Neil Smith (1954-2012). His inspiration lives on.

    July 2012: On June 20-21 this year I organised a conference at the College de France in Paris entitled "Urban Marginality and the State". The videos of the presentations are now available here.

    July 2012: With welfare reform never far from social and political debate in the UK, I'm receiving a lot of correspondence about a piece I wrote last year entitled "The Myth of Broken Britain". A condensed version was published by New Left Project last December. Distilled into a brilliant cartoon, Steve Bell captures the argument I am making!

    March 2012: In February 2012, at the AAG conference in New York, I had the pleasure of being on a panel revisiting Engels' classic pamphlet "The Housing Question". The panel consisted of Ute Lehrer, Kate Shaw, myself, Neil Smith and Peter Marcuse. It followed three invigorating paper sessions on the same theme - there is so much from that pamphlet, published in 1872, that rings true today. Many thanks to comrade Anders Lund Hansen for filming it and uploading it!

    Teaching:

    My pedagogical approach is guided by a very strong belief that teaching and research cannot be usefully separated - I love it when students engage with the theories, concepts and debates that I have the privilege of introducing; when they respond with questions, comments and reactions; and when some produce work bursting with research ideas, thoughtful insights, and a geographical imagination. Academic life doesn't get any better than that.

    I'm proud of the two teaching prizes I won when I was at the University of Bristol, but they pale in comparison to this nomination I received in 2010 for a EUSA Teaching Award:

    "His enthusiasm shines through so much and there is an amazing sense of urgency when he talks about subjects such as divided cities and the inequality of neoliberalism. Tom brings through the sense that, 'yes, this is your problem too. YOU need to sit up and listen and do something – don’t leave it to other people.' He does this whilst also communicating extremely valuable knowledge and ideas. ......Tom makes learning incredibly interesting – and as well as the content on which he lectures, this is predominantly to do with the way in which he communicates."

    From 2008-2012 I organised and led the Amsterdam field course for 3rd year students. I enjoy field-based teaching, but five week-long stays in the dismal Vondelpark youth hostel was enough for me to seek out other teaching challenges! I continue to run an honours option course entitled Divided Cities, which is everything I know about urban inequality packaged into eleven exhausting weeks for 3rd & 4th year undergraduates. I serve as Chair of the Board of Examiners for Geography Degree Programmes (GDP), and as of 2013-4 I am in charge of the final year Dissertation component of the GDP. I also make some contributions to our 2nd year core course entitled "Economic and Political Geography."

    On Performance Assessment:

    I've long been bothered by how senior academics in the UK have embraced institutional audit, and acceded to a thorough instrumentalisation of themselves and their colleagues, a process which calls into question their mutual trust in each other's professional competence. It's profoundly sad that institutional audit has become such a dominant force in the day to day workings of vital research universities. To anyone frustrated by the REF and by other threats to scholarship and collegiality, or to anyone viewing it as a comprehensive peer review, it's worth reading the devastating critique by my undergraduate inspiration, David M. Smith:

    "[M]ethods of assessment currently adopted in Britain...depend on a deeply flawed model conception of academic activity. Sometimes referred to as the goal attainment model, it bears a strong resemblance to the planning framework of managerial rationality underpinning the social indicators movement.... Individuals, and groups or institutions (academic departments and universities), are supposed to pursue goals (or targets), the attainment of which is somehow measurable. The way they do this is based (usually implicitly) on how the free market is supposed to operate in neoclassical economics, maximizing output for given expenditure. While this model may have validity in some walks of life, scholarship does not actually work this way. Universities are significantly different from factories: the creative process of scholarship is demeaned by the notion that it can be captured by a simple model or metric relating to quality of research or teaching.

    "The consequences are both practical and ethical. In practice, we do not know how to maximise research output, even if we knew how to measure it, with the reliability of industrial production theory. Ethically, it is wrong to claim such knowledge, and to run universities as though we had it. What universities should be, and how they should work, is a matter of proper public concern, and it is crucial that we critically engage the forces of darkness seeking to turn academic life into some gross parody of the competitive world of profit-seeking business; and that we do this not only by challenging alien understanding, but also by promoting alternative practice involving reaching out to others who would benefit from our involvement (as we would from theirs), in a spatially expansive and mutual ethics of care."

    See "From Location Theory to Moral Philosophy: Views from the Fringe", in R. Lee and D.M. Smith (eds) (2004) Geographies and Moralities (Oxford: Blackwell) p.294

    For me, these words pretty much end the debate over institutional audit. I just wish more people in positions of power would read what Smith has to say here, and in many other publications.

    Beyond Geography:

    I don't sit still very often. My wife Sara and I have a wonderful son, Zach (7). We also have two border collies, Belle (10) and Woody (5), who take me on fantastic long walks every day. We feel very fortunate to live in the stunningly beautiful county of East Lothian. In July 2012, with Belle and Woody, I walked the entire length of the John Muir Way in East Lothian for women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, and raised over £1650 for a charity helping them. If I have any spare time, I enjoy listening to jazz music. I was lucky to be raised in a very musical household - my sister is a professional jazz musician, and from listening to her construct amazing solos I learned some really valuable lessons about the musicality of all forms of communication (in my work, writing).

    Some Urban Photographic Sketches:

    I'm not much of a photographer, but I have a huge collection of urban images which I hope one day to upload into categories, using Geoff DeVerteuil's collection and Elvin Wyly's "Imaginer Urbanus" as inspiration. In the meantime, enjoy the following:

    Amsterdam

    Bath

    Boston

    Bristol

    Cape Town

    Chicago

    Derry

    Edinburgh

    Glasgow

    London

    Los Angeles

    Montreal

    New York City

    Paris

    San Francisco

    Toronto

    Valencia

    Vancouver

    [Trinity-Bellwoods Park, Toronto, March 2001]

    "[T]o deprive people of their territory, their community or their home, would seem at first sight to be a heinous act of injustice. It would be like taking away any other source of basic need-satisfaction, on which people depend absolutely. ...But this experience is not simply deprivation: there is a literal necessity to be re-placed. People who have lost their place, for one reason and another, must be provided with or find another. There is no question about it. People need it. They just do."

    David M. Smith (1994) Geography and Social Justice (Oxford: Blackwell) p.152

    [Stop Neoliberalism] Marc Fried article NS on the rent gap Vacant Dwellings Divided Cities SmithEvolution
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