Specialist in urbanism and geography, trained in architecture and urban design, fan of a more equal society.
I am passionate about socio-spatial inequality, and my work primarily occurs at the interstice between the social sciences and built environment studies. I believe inequality is not just as the product of relations between people in a bounded space, or between specific societies and cultures, but that urbanization generates the uneven material, regulatory, and everyday spaces that continually produce and reproduce inequality. I’m American by birth, European by association, and active primarily in Central Europe and Southern Africa.
My research and teaching contribute to critical theory and urban studies from a decentered perspective, aligned with postcolonial studies and the discourse on global urbanization processes. I also use unique transdisciplinary approaches and qualitative methodologies, including volunteered geographic information (VGI), to show how the physical environment, social and cultural landscapes, and flows of people and capital generate urban space today. Currently, I teach and research at the ETH Zurich Chair of Sociology and am also active in projects utilizing my methods around the globe with the Resilient Civic Design Collective.
Prior to completing my Ph.D., I received my Bachelor of Science in Architecture and minor in Global Culture and Commerce from the University of Virginia in 2007, and my Master of Science in Architecture from the ETH Zurich. I gained professional architectural experience with offices in the U.S., Germany, and Switzerland prior to my doctoral studies, when I began transitioning from design to research in urban geography. My doctoral research into structural spatial inequality in Johannesburg, South Africa was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, a Sawiris Foundation for Social Development E4D fellowship, and USAID Development Impact Lab grant. This research was completed in August 2017. I have also received grants as the primary investigator for several international collaborations, such as the Gauteng City-Region Observatory.
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Image © 2019 Ben Felden.