Dr Deljana Iossifova

Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies

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Deljana Iossifova is Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies at the School of Environment, Education and Development and Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Manchester. She trained as an architect at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and has a PhD in Social Engineering from Tokyo Institute of Technology. She has attracted over £1.2 million in research funding and is currently International Lead and PI on a portfolio of projects examining sustainability and urban infrastructure transitions in China, India and Brazil. She is Chair of the Urban Studies Foundation, author of 'Translocal Ageing in the Global East: Bulgaria's Abandoned Elderly' (Palgrave, 2020) and lead editor of 'Defining the Urban: Interdisciplinary and professional perspectives' (Routledge, 2017).

Although her research is well aligned with postcolonial urban political ecology perspectives, she uses transition theories, systems theory and complexity theory in combination with practice theory to unravel complex socio-eco-technical entanglements. Her work is particularly concerned with the triggers and consequences of urban transformation in their context-specific expressions.

Iossifova has spent years in architectural practice in China and has conducted research there for over a decade. This includes studies of urban borderlands under sociospatial coexistence (that of local urbanites and rural-to-urban migrants in adjacent commercial developments and dilapidated shanty towns) and, more recently, the role of urban sanitation in sustainable development. 

She has worked on urban ageing in the context of post-socialist Bulgaria, using a human ecosystem framework to uncover how ageing is embedded within existing and emerging social, economic and environmental systems. Her work on Japan's changing urban night between the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and 2020 examined the social life of a modernist shopping mall turned entertainment centre and how it works as a community anchor and identity marker for many of its users.

She led the ESRC Strategic Network Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems (2015-2017) with partners in the UK, China, Brazil and Japan, building partnerships with academics and practitioners towards the development of innovative approaches to the study of cities using a complexity framework, Big Data and emerging technology.  

Before joining the University of Manchester, Iossifova was a research fellow on the international collaborative project ‘Scarcity and Creativity in the Built Environment’ (SCIBE) at the University of Westminster. She was an Our Common Future Fellow (Volkswagen Foundation) and UNU-IAS PhD/Postdoctoral Fellow on the Sustainable Urban Futures programme at the United Nations University, Institute of Advanced Studies (now the Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability).

Iossifova has many years of experience as a practicing architect and led on a number of award-winning master planning and architectural projects, including ‘Beijing Daxing New Media City’ and ‘DressCode Flagship Store’ in Tokyo.

Further information

Conference organisation and knowledge transfer

  • Healthy Cities 2019: Urbanisation, Infrastructues and Everyday Life in East Asia. Conference. University of Manchester, UK. 05/2019

  • Digital Tools for Urban Challenges. Co-organiser. Workshop, funded through ESRC Strategic Network Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems (DACAS). Wuhan University, China. 04/2017

  • Understanding Urban Transformations through Data. Lead and organiser. Summer School, funded through ESRC Strategic Network Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems (DACAS), University of Manchester, UK. 09/2016

  • Modelling Urban Systems. Co-organiser. Workshop, funded through ESRC Strategic Network Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems (DACAS). Sao Paulo State University, Brazil. 06/2016

  • Harmonica Alley, Yokohama: a visual ethnography. Daiwa Foundation/Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation sponsored workshop in collaboration with Hosei University and Tokyo Institute of Technology. Yokohama, Japan. 07/2015

  • Defining the Urban: a transdisciplinary perspective: IDPM & GURC sponsored workshop at the University of Manchester. 02/2015

  • Excretion: cognition, perception and behaviour in rapidly transitioning cities of the Global South (and elsewhere): DARG-sponsored session at the Royal Geographical Society, RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London. 08/2013

  • Times of Scarcity: reclaiming the possibility of making: Head of 3rd European Urban Summer School (EUSS) for Young Planning Professionals, hosted by the University of Westminster in collaboration with AESOP / ECTP-CEU / IFHP and ISOCARP. London. 09/2012

  • Design in the Age of Scarcity: Co-convenor (with Jeremy Till) of RIBA Research Symposium Student Charrette. London. 09/2012

  • Scarce Times: Alternative Futures: international design/intervention competition in collaboration with The Architecture Foundation, the Young Foundation and the Bromley-by-Bow Centre. London. 06-09/2012

  • Perspectives on Scarcity, Creativity and the Built Environment: Session at 3rd International Urban Researchers' Symposium at ICLEI World Congress; Belo Horizonte, Brazil. 06/2012

  • Scarcity Exchanges: Public seminar series at the University of Westminster. Speakers: Dougald Hine, Andrew Simms, Alfredo Brillembourg, David Satterthwaite, Ed van Hinte, Steve Broome, Iain Boal, Lyla Mehta, and Saskia Sassen. 05-06/2012

  • Complex Urban: Definitions of Scale, Form and Culture: symposium on Sustainable Urban Futures at United Nations University, Institute of Advanced Studies. Speakers: Darko Radovic, Ulysses Sengupta, Christopher Doll, Alexandros Gasparatos. Yokohama, Japan. 04/2010

  • Searching for Common Ground – Intraurban Borderlands from a Global Perspective: Session at the ISA-RC21 Conference on Landscapes of Global Urbanism: Power, Marginality and Creativity. Speakers: Bas Spierings, Caroline Barbisch, Caroline Knowles, Devleena Ghosh. Tokyo, Japan. 12/2008

Invited talks

  • Invited speaker at ESRC Urban Transformations workshop City Futures and Contemporary Urban Research, Beijing, China. 07/2018

  • Panellist. The Good City: Urban Transformation, Comparison and Value. University of Oxford. 04/2018

  • Invited speaker. UK-China Social Governance Modernisation Symposium. China Academy of Social Management, Beijing Normal University, China. 03/2018

  • Panellist. Urban Health and Wellbeing in Unequal Cities, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 11/2017

  • Invited speaker. Department of Urban Studies, Malmö University, Sweden. 05/2017

  • Invited speaker. School of Public Economics and Administration, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, China. 04/2017

  • Invited speaker. Emergent Technologies and Design, Architectural Association, UK. 02/2016

  • Highlight Guest Lecture. School of Architecture, Plymouth University.10/2015

  • Invited talk. Decision Science, Tokyo Institute of Technology07/2015

  • Invited talk. Geography, University of Leeds. 05/2015

  • Invited talk. Architecture. University of Sheffield. 03/2015

  • Invited speaker. British Council Researcher Links Integrative Research: Challenges of Complex Systems for Technological Applications, Sao Paulo, Brazil. 02/2015

  • Invited talk. Singapore - ETH Centre Future Cities Lab. 02/2015

  • Invited talk. NUS Health Research Cluster, National University Singapore. 02/2015

  • Keynote. Eastern Regional Organization for Planning & Human Settlements (EAROPH) World Congress, Jakarta, Indonesia08/2014

  • Invited speaker. United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies, Tokyo, Japan07/2014

  • Panellist. London College of Fashion03/2014

  • Invited talk. Geography, University of Nottingham. 03/2014

  • Invited talk. Architecture. University of Sheffield. 03/2014

  • Invited talk. Chinese Studies. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany. 12/2013

  • Invited talk. Chinese Studies. University of Nottingham. 12/2013

  • Invited talk. Architecture. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Switzerland. 10/2013

  • Panellist. Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs), London. 03/2012

  • Invited talk. Geography. University of Nottingham. 02/2012

  • Panellist. European Commission; Brussels, Belgium. 10/2011

  • Invited speaker. Experience the Creative Economy. University of Toronto, Canada06/2011

  • Invited speaker. Our Common Future, Essen/Hannover, Germany. 11/2010 


  • Tollast O., Deljana Iossifova: “There is no time to spare”. Salzburg Global Seminar. 09/2013

  • Monks B., Birds Eye View Film Festival: Damascus Roof and Tales of ParadiseInstitute of Contemporary Arts Blog. 04/2013

  • Mendoza M., Urban Planning: China's Problems, Chinese Solutions. In: Curry A., Carroll C., Hanig A. S., et al. (eds) Our Common Future: Conference Summary Report. Hamburg: G+J Corporate Editors. 04/2012

External positions

Member of the Board, Urban Studies Foundation


Visiting Scholar, Urban Studies Institute, University of Antwerp


Related information

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