Dr Tom Gillespie

Lecturer in International Development

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I am a geographer interested in the contested politics of urban development in both the global North and South. My research addresses a range of interrelated issues including urban governance, social movements, informality, housing, land, real estate and finance. Through adopting a comparative perspective, this research seeks to contribute to the development of a more global urban theory that recognises both diversity and convergence between cities around the world. In addition, I am committed to challenging urban inequalities through undertaking politically engaged research and collaborating with and participating in movements for urban justice.

My research to date has drawn on case studies in Ghana and the UK to understand how capitalist urban development creates unequal cities through the dispossession and displacement of low-income city dwellers. This research also explores how these same city dwellers take collective action to contest displacement and dispossession and defend their access to urban space. In the process, it contributes empirically grounded insights into global struggles for the urban commons.

My current research is focused on two areas:

The first explores the impact of growing investment in real estate development on the built environment and politics in urban Africa. Building on recent developments in comparative urban theory, this research seeks to understand the limitations of concepts traditionally associated with cities in the Global North, such as “gentrification” and “financialisation”, for understanding contemporary processes of change in African cities.

The second involves collaborating with housing campaigners in London and Manchester to understand how austerity policies are producing new forms of displacement for city dwellers experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. This research seeks to question established theorisations of displacement and to generate knowledge that will be useful to housing campaigners in their efforts to contest processes of “social cleansing”. The findings of the first phase of this research were covered by The Guardian newspaper.

My research has been funded by the British Academy with Leverhulme and the Feminist Review Trust, and has been published in journals such as Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Housing Policy Debate, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers and Urban Geography. My non-academic writing includes articles for The Guardian, Metropolitics and Novara Media.

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