Dr Constance Smith

UKRI Fellow

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Overview

My primary research focus is the anthropology of architecture, time and urban change. I am interested in shifting landscapes of buildings, planning and infrastructure and how their materialities inflect ways of engaging with the past and anticipating the future. I have conducted extensive fieldwork in African cities, including Nairobi, Kampala and Addis Ababa, and more recently, on urban change and placemaking in London. 

In 2019 I began a new project as a UKRI Future Leader Fellow, exploring the temporality and materiality of high-rise buildings in London and Nairobi. I bring a comparative focus, combining global/southern urban theory with material culture studies and ethnography. So often branded as sites of failure, my work begins instead from thinking about histories of community and solidarity and how these are shaped by the lives and afterlives of buildings and materials. Working closely with local communities as well as urban practitioners, artists and organisers, this project explores the relationship between urban landscape, material remains and new urban politics and socialities as potential ways of rethinking urban futures. 

I am a participant in an ongoing collaborative project between scholars and artists, experimenting with practice-based work at the intersection of art and research. This work has featured in two exhibitions at the National Museums of Kenya, and a collaboratively-written bok is in process. 

Before coming to Manchester, I was Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute for Global Prosperity at UCL. I hold a PhD in Anthropology and Material and Visual Culture from UCL. A former Fulbright scholar, I have a background in History and Museum Studies, which inform my interests in temporalities of change and the production of history, and how these are influenced by materials, objects and design. 

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