Dr Lindsay Sawyer

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow

+44 114 222 6930

Full contact details

Dr Lindsay Sawyer
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Room D21
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
S3 7ND

I joined USP in September 2018 with a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. The 3-year research project looks at the role of both state and customary authority in the complex urban governance configurations of Lagos, Nigeria and the impact on urbanisation.

The project compares two key processes that underpin the rapid urbanisation of Lagos, developing a method of intra-city comparison to do so. The first process concerns extensive areas of unplanned housing constructed by small-scale plot owners; and the second process is the transformation of the periphery through large-scale developments.

The project takes an interdisciplinary approach, reading across postcolonial and developmental approaches to seek a nuanced, multidimensional and grounded understanding of urban governance in Lagos, and the accommodation of urban customary authority in urban theory.

I received my PhD from ETH Zurich in 2016; my thesis identified, analysed and mapped the spatially dominant model of urbanisation in Lagos, conceptualising it as a multidimensional process of urbanisation that I termed ‘plotting’.

I adopted a grounded theory approach, undertaking several periods of intensive fieldwork and regular theory-building workshops as part of a wider comparative methodology. I have an undergraduate degree in Architectural Design (2009) and a Master’s in The City (2010) from The University of Edinburgh.

I am currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the Global Development Institute at The University of Manchester. I have previously been a visiting scholar at The African Centre for Cities in Cape Town, and a researcher at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore.

Since 2011 I have been part of the comparative project ‘Planetary Urbanization in Comparative Perspective’ lead by Professor Christian Schmid that put eight urban regions into a comparative framework: Tokyo, Kolkata, Eastern Pearl River Delta, Istanbul, Lagos, Paris, Mexico City and Los Angeles.

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