Dr Paula MethPaula Meth


Room number: D24
Telephone (internal): 26912
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 6912
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 6912
Email: p.j.meth@sheffield.ac.uk 


My work examines ‘urban lives in the global South’ and spans Urban Studies (including planning), Human Geography, and Development Studies.

I completed my undergraduate (Geography and Sociology, 1991) and Masters (Town Planning, 1994) degrees in South Africa at the University of Natal, Durban; and my PhD in Geography at the University of Cambridge in 1998. I taught Human Geography at Sheffield Hallam before moving to the University of Sheffield in 2004.

I am an active member of Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID), and am the current ‘Cities’ Theme Lead for SIID.


My work examines everyday lives and experiences of urban change, informal housing, housing formalisation, gender and violence (men as well as women's experiences), crime management, inequality and injustice, governance, local politics and everyday power relations, all focusing on the global South, particularly South Africa, India and other African countries. I also enjoy researching and writing about qualitative methodology.

My key research areas relate to the interconnections between social and spatial everyday lives, focusing on the global South. This is evidenced in my two live externally-funded research projects detailed below as well as a smaller internally-funded project. My current work builds on my previous research which focused on the experiences of marginalised individuals and the ways in which their experiences help to challenge and explore commonly held assumptions, often derived from academic contexts. I have a commitment to work in the global South, South Africa in particular, and more recently in India.

Experiences of Domestic violence within ‘decent’ settlements’: comparative insights

In 2014 I was awarded a British Academy (BA) Small Research Grant to conduct research on domestic violence in relation to housing formalisation in India and South Africa. It examines the intersection of two key trends in cities across the global South: the substantial rise in state-led upgrading of informal housing to produce ‘decent’ settlements, endorsed by the UN through the MDG goal 7d; and the persistence of gendered violence within cities, both domestic and public. Recognising that social changes are tied to spatial, this particular project focuses down on domestic violence in the context of urban upgrading and extends my previous argument that informal housing shapes domestic violence experiences.

The project explores two case studies of recently upgraded settlements in India and South Africa in the cities of Durban and Trivandrum. Fieldwork commenced in August 2014, and the current focus is on transcription, analysis and writing up. The project is due for completion in late 2016 when dissemination events will be held in South Africa and India.

Living the urban periphery: investment, infrastructure and economic change in African city-regions

This large scale project is funded by a joint ESRC-NRF initiative under the ESRC’s broader Urban Transformations programme, and involves collaboration with partners at Wits University in South Africa (namely Prof Alison Todes, Dr Sarah Charlton, Dr Margo Rubin and Prof Phil Harrison), as well as with colleagues in two Ethiopian research institutes. Working alongside Dr Tom Goodfellow, the collaborative team will explore the peripheries of three mega-cities in Africa, namely Gauteng, Ethekwini and also Addis Ababa. We will focus on infrastructural investments into particular areas within these cities peripheries and use an ‘everyday lives’ lens to understand how they are experienced and how in turn they shape residents’ encounters with poverty and urban inclusion.

Masculinities and Housing

This project benefitted from Sheffield Methods Institute funding in 2015 and explores men’s experiences of state-sponsored housing in South Africa. The project trialled a shortened solicited diary (a method I’ve employed productively in the past) and has produced excellent data illustrating men’s emotional attachments to their new homes, the significance of housing for their identity and their ongoing concerns about affordability.


I am committed to teaching and I use my own, and others, research to inform my content and delivery.

I currently teach on the following modules:

  • TRP108, Information and Communication Skills
  • TRP111, Cities
  • TRP130, Housing, Home and Neighbourhood
  • TRP4008/601, Cities of Diversity
  • TRP632, Ideas and Practice in International Development
  • TRP633, International Consultancy Project
  • FCS670, Qualitative Research Methods

PhD Supervision

I am Primary Supervisor for the following PhD students:

  • Divine Asafo, Peri-urban development: Land acquisition, land conflicts and its effect on housing production in peri-urban Accra


Journal articles

View full list of publications