Dr Lindsay Sawyer

School of Geography and Planning

Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow

A profile picture of Lindsay Sawyer
Profile picture of A profile picture of Lindsay Sawyer
+44 114 222 6930

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Dr Lindsay Sawyer
School of Geography and Planning (nee Urban Studies and Planning)
Room D21
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
S3 7ND

Lindsay is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow undertaking a project on ‘Tacit Governance and Land Tenure in Lagos’ (2018-2021), and a Researcher on the UKRI-GCRF-ARUA project ‘Migration, Urbanisation and Conflict in Africa (MUCA)’ (2021-2023) lead by Addis Ababa University. The research covers nine cities across Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda with a team of 17 researchers.

Lindsay’s research interests focus on the role of land and urban governance in the urbanization of Lagos, Nigeria, where she has been going for ten years. Her research is concerned with confronting urban theory, especially related to informality, with the grounded realities of African urbanism. Lindsay’s work looks to build new theories and concepts from grounded research, and exploring comparative methods as a way to do this. Lindsay has been involved in comparative work across Lagos, Mexico City, Istanbul, Kolkata and Shenzhen through the project ‘Planetary Urbanisation in Comparative Context’, and is now exploring new comparative possibilities in the MUCA project.

Lindsay sees the support and amplification of Southern scholarship as vitally important. Lindsay and Dr Taibat Lawanson of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, University of Lagos, were awarded a British Academy Writing Workshop grant in 2020, where the urban scholarship of 14 Nigerian academics is being developed through mentorship and workshops.

Lindsay is an editor at CITY: Analysis of urban change, theory, action, and part of the editorial collective of Otherwise magazine. Lindsay is also a co-organiser of the Urban ECR Network at Sheffield.

Lindsay gained her doctorate from ETH Zurich (2016) after working as a researcher at the Future Cities Laboratory, Singapore and as a visiting scholar at the African Centre for Cities, Cape Town. She has previous degrees in Architecture (2009) and The City (2010) from the University of Edinburgh. Lindsay has also held an Honorary Research position at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester.


Dr. Sc. Architecture, ETH Zurich; MSc. The City, University of Edinburgh; MA(Hons) Architectural Design, University of Edinburgh

Research interests

Through my current Leverhulme Fellowship, I am exploring the following areas of research interest regarding African urbanism and the “global South” more widely:

  • Hybrid/ dual urban governance and urban institutional configurations
  • Dual land regimes
  • Urban customary authority structures
  • Politics of land and land markets
  • Governance and finance of large-scale urban developments
  • Urbanisation of peripheries
  • Extensive unplanned, informal housing esp. rental housing
  • Grounding, building and provincializing concepts and theories
  • Interdisciplinary and intersectional approaches to theory building
  • Comparative urbanism

My research interests are relevant to: urban studies, urban geography, postcolonial urbanism, and urban sociology


Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship; British Academy Writing Workshop

Professional activities and memberships

Editor, CITY: Analysis of urban change, theory, action