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Dr Paul Watt

Professor of Urban Studies

BA Hons. Sociology (Leeds)
MSc Social Research (Surrey)
MPhil. Sociology (London School of Economics)
PhD Geography (King’s College, London)
Certificate in Education (CNAA)
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


  • Paul joined Birkbeck in 2007. Prior to joining Birkbeck, he was a Reader at the Policy Research Institute, University of Wolverhampton. Previously Paul has taught at the University of East London and Buckinghamshire New University. He is on the editorial boards of ‘City’ and ‘Community, Work and Family’.

Research and Teaching

    Research Interests

    I am an urbanist whose research interests span geography, sociology and social policy. My over-arching research focus is the inter-relationship between social inequalities, space and place, especially in global cities and their hinterlands. This includes the following themes:

    • Social housing and urban regeneration.
    • Neighbourhoods and communities.
    • The 2012 London Olympics and the regeneration of East London.
    • Suburbanisation and the suburbs (British Academy, Small Research Grant, 2012, SG112360: Residential Mobility, Housing and Belonging in the London Suburbs).

    Research Roles

    • Department of GEDS seminar series, Birkbeck – Convenor.
    • Birkbeck Institute for Social Research – Steering Committee.
    • Birkbeck Research in Representations of Kinship and Community – Steering Committee.
    • Living Maps – Steering Committee.
    • Highbury Group on Housing Delivery, University of Westminster – Member.


    I convene the following undergraduate modules:

    • Cities and Urban Inequalities (level 6)
    • Research Project (level 6)
    • Literature Review (level 6)
    • Environment, Economy and Society in Europe (level 5)
    • Human Geography: Space and Place in the Contemporary World (level 4)

    PhD/MPhil. Supervision

    I currently supervise the following students:

    • Eric Carlin: ‘Resilience in Teenagers at Risk of Social Exclusion in a Deprived Edinburgh Neighbourhood’.
    • Piero Corcillo: ‘Olympic Games Housing and the Athletes Village Redevelopment: A Comparison between London and Turin’.
    • David Tross: ‘Happiness and Well-being in England’.

    Previous PhD students include:

    • Peter Fussey: ‘Installing CCTV: A Study of the Networks of Surveillance Policy’.
    • Anthony Gunter: ‘Can’t Blame the Youth: An Ethnographic Account of Black Youth in an East London Neighbourhood’.
    • Keelin Howard: ‘Welfare as Control: Contradiction, Dilemma and Compromise in the Everyday Support of Asylum Seekers in the UK after the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act’.
    • Ruth Rogers: ‘The Ethical Techniques of the Self and the Social Security Discourse of the Jobseeker’.

    I am interested in supervising projects in the following areas:

    • social housing and urban regeneration
    • cities and socio-spatial inequality
    • neighbourhoods, place and community
    • suburbanisation and suburbia
    • social class
    • housing activism
    • 2012 London Olympics and the regeneration of East London



    Journals – Editorship of Special Issues

    Journal Articles (since 2000)

    • Watt, P. (2013) ‘It’s not for us’: regeneration, the 2012 Olympics and the gentrification of East London’, City 17(1): 99-118.
    • Kennelly, J. and Watt, P. (2013) Restricting the public in public space: the London 2012 Olympic Games, hyper-securitization and marginalized youth, Sociological Research Online 18(2).
    • Hodkinson, S., Watt, P. and Mooney, G. (2013) Neoliberal housing policy - time for a critical re-appraisal, Critical Social Policy 33(1): 3-16.
    • Smets, P. and Watt, P. (2013) Editorial: Exclusion and Belonging in Urban Public and Quasi-Public Space, The Open Urban Studies Journal (TOUSJ) 6(1): 27-29.
    • Butcher, S., Frediani, A. and Watt, P. (2013) Well-being and regeneration: reflections from Carpenters Estate, Urban Pamphleteer 2: 13-16.
    • Kennelly, J. and Watt, P. (2012) Seeing Olympic effects through the eyes of marginally housed youth: changing places and the gentrification of East London, Visual Studies 27(2): 151-160.
    • Watt, P. (2011) Work-life mobility and stability: the employment histories of immigrant workers at a unionized Toronto hotel, Hospitality & Society 1(2): 117-136.
    • Kennelly, J. and Watt, P. (2011) Sanitizing public space in Olympic host cities: the spatial experiences of marginalized youth in 2010 Vancouver and 2012 London, Sociology 45(5): 765-781.
    • Watt, P. (2011) Selective belonging: fear and avoidance in urban and suburban neighbourhoods, Lo Squaderno: Explorations in Space and Society, 21: 55-57.
    • Watt, P. (2010) Unravelling the narratives and politics of belonging to place, Housing, Theory and Society 27(2): 153-159.
    • Watt, P. (2009) Living in an oasis: middle-class disaffiliation and selective belonging in an English suburb, Environment & Planning A 41(12): 2874-2892.
    • Watt, P. (2009) ‘Are you local?’ A reply to Malcolm Harrison on the dilemmas of localist particularism, People, Place and Policy Online 3(3): 147-150.
    • Watt, P., Gifford, C., Koster, S. and Clark, W. (2009) ‘I felt really inspired by it, it was really interesting to interact with the pupils’: active citizenship in the British undergraduate social science curriculum, Social Science Tribune 14(55): 153-173.
    • Watt, P. (2009) Housing stock transfers, regeneration and state-led gentrification in London, Urban Policy and Research 27(3): 229-242.
    • Gunter, A. and Watt, P. (2009) Grafting, going to college and working on road: youth transitions and cultures in an East London neighbourhood, Journal of Youth Studies 12(5): 515-529.
    • Watt, P. (2008) ‘Underclass’ and ‘ordinary people’ discourses: representing/re-presenting council tenants in a housing campaign, Critical Discourse Studies 5(3): 345-357.
    • Watt, P. (2008) The only class in town? Gentrification and the middle-class colonization of the city and the urban imagination, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32(1): 206-211.
    • Watt, P. (2007) ‘I need people that are happy, always smiling’: guest interaction and emotional labour in a Canadian downtown hotel, Just Labour: A Canadian Journal of Work and Society 10: 45-59.
    • Watt, P. (2006) Respectability, roughness and ‘race’: neighbourhood place images and the making of working-class social distinctions in London, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 30(4): 776-797.
    • Watt, P. (2005) Housing histories and fragmented middle-class careers: the case of marginal professionals in London council housing, Housing Studies 20(3): 359-381.
    • Gifford, C., Watt, P., Clark, W. and Koster, S. (2005) Negotiating participation and power in a school setting: the implementation of active citizenship within the undergraduate sociology curriculum, LATISS - Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences 2(3): 175-190.
    • Watt, P. (2003) Urban marginality and economic restructuring: local authority tenants and employment in an inner London Borough, Urban Studies 40(9): 1769-1789.
    • Cox, R. and Watt, P. (2002) Globalization, polarization and the informal sector: the case of paid domestic workers in London, Area 34(1): 39-47.
    • Watt, P. and Jacobs, K. (2000) Discourses of social exclusion: an analysis of ‘Bringing Britain together: a national strategy for neighbourhood renewal’, Housing, Theory and Society 17(1): 14-26.

    Book Chapters (recent)

    • Watt, P., Millington, G. and Huq, R. (2014) ‘East London mobilities: the Cockney Diaspora and the remaking of the Essex ethnoscape’, in: P. Watt and P. Smets (eds.) Mobilities and Neighbourhood Belonging in Cities and Suburbs. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Watt, P. and Smets, P. (2014) ‘Introduction’ and ‘Conclusion’ in: P. Watt and P. Smets (eds.), Mobilities and Neighbourhood Belonging in Cities and Suburbs. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Watt, P. and Wallace, A. (2014) ‘Why can’t we have them posh houses? Housing redevelopment and community tensions in London and Salford’, in A. Deboulet and C. Lelévrier (eds.) Rénovation Urbaine en Europe. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.
    • Watt, P. (2013) 'Community and belonging in a London suburb: a study of incomers’ in: M. Kusenbach and K.E. Paulsen (eds.) Home: International Perspectives on Culture, Identity and Belonging. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
    • Watt, P. (2013) ‘Underclass and ordinary people discourses: representing/re-presenting council tenants in a housing campaign’, in J.E. Richardson et al. (eds.), Advances in Critical Discourse Studies. London: Routledge.
    • Watt, P. (2013) ‘Gentrification and displacement’, in: I. Ness (ed.) The Encyclopaedia of Global Human Migration. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
    • Watt, P. and Kennelly, J. (2012) ‘Seeing Stratford and the 2012 Olympics through the eyes of homeless young people’, in: H. Powell and I. Marrero (eds.) The Art of Dissent: London’s Olympic State. London: Marshgate Press.
    • Gunter, A. and Watt, P. (2010) ‘Grafting, going to college and working on road: youth transitions and cultures in an East London neighbourhood’, in: R. MacDonald, T. Shildrick and S. Blackman (eds.) Young People, Class and Place. London: Routledge.
    • Watt, P. (2009) Social housing and regeneration in London, in: R. Imrie, L. Lees and M. Raco (Eds.), Regenerating London. London: Routledge.
    • Watt, P., Gifford, C. and Koster, S. (2008) Working with schools: active citizenship for undergraduate social science students, in University Life Uncovered: Making Sense of the Student Experience. Southampton: Higher Education Academy SWAP, University of Southampton.
    • Watt, P. (2008) Moving to a better place? Geographies of aspiration and anxiety in the Thames Gateway, in: P. Cohen and M.J. Rustin (Eds.), London’s Turning: The Making of Thames Gateway. Aldershot: Ashgate.
    • Watt, P. (2007) From the dirty city to the spoiled suburb, in: B. Campkin and R. Cox (Eds.), Dirt: New Geographies of Cleanliness and Contamination. London: I.B. Tauris.

    Recent Invited Presentations

    • Housing Crisis Question Time Panel, Lambeth, 11th December 2014.
    • ‘On the Street Where You Won't be Living for Much Longer: What Bourdieu Can and Cannot Offer Urban Studies’ – On the Street Where you Live: Bourdieusian analysis of socio-spatial hierarchy, BSA Bourdieu Study Group. London, 2 December 2014.
    • Housing and Social Justice Teach-In, University of East London, 30 October 2014.
    • Respondent to Phil Cohen – ‘Our Kind of Town? Citizen Social Science, Participatory Mapping and the Struggle for a Just City’, Birkbeck, 23 October 2014.
    • ‘Public Housing – Privatisation – Gentrification’, Cities for People, Not for Profit Conference, London 16-17 October 2014.
    • Expert Workshop: Role and Relevance of Middle Classes for Urban Restructuring, Dusseldorf, 9-10 October 2014.
    • ‘Mapping Mobilities: East London Diasporas’, Living Maps Seminar Series, Birkbeck, 10 June 2014.
    • ‘Public housing and urban regeneration: social tensions in the UK context’, Des habitants confrontés à la rénovation urbaine: manifestations du subir et de l'agir. LAVUE (Laboratoire Architecture, Ville, Urbanisme, Environnement), Paris, 4 March 2014.
    • ‘Regeneration, Gentrification and Housing in London’. Hackney Council, Safety Social Inclusion Scrutiny Commission, 13 January 2014.
    • ‘London’s Housing Crisis’, South London People’s Assembly Against Austerity. Goldsmiths College, 7 December 2013.
    • ‘The Transformation of Public Housing in London: From Gentrification Buffer to State-Led Gentrification’, UCL Urban Salon, 5 December 2013.
    • ‘Housing and Regeneration in Neoliberal Times: England’. Berliner MieterGemeinschaft, Berlin, 21 November 2013.
    • 'It's not for us: regeneration, the 2012 Olympics and the gentrification of East London’, Cities Seminar Series, Department of Geography, Kings College London, 21 February 2013.
    • Debating the Urban Crisis in Britain Seminar, University of Edinburgh, 18 February 2013.
    • ‘Official and Critical Discourses on Urban Renewal’, International Conference: Living Urban Renewal, Vulnerabilities, Tensions, and Mobilization - Local Experiences, Global Comparisons, Paris, 25-27 January 2013.
    • ‘The Landscape of Dissent: London 2012 and the transformation of the East End’, Chisenhale Gallery, London, 16 June 2012.
    • ‘Place belonging in urban and suburban neighbourhoods’, Georg Simmel Think & Drink Colloquium, Department of Sociology, Humboldt University, Berlin, 22 November 2010.

    Selected Recent Conference Papers

    • ‘Housing Market Restructuring and Inequalities in London and the UK’, RC21 Unequal Cities and the Political Economy of Housing session, XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, July 13-19, 2014.
    • ‘Public Housing and State-Led Gentrification in London’, RC43 Roundtable, XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, July 13-19, 2014.
    • ‘Displacing the locals? The 2012 Olympics, lower-income residents and the gentrification of East London’, International Conference: Olympic Legacies and Impacts of Mega-Events on Cities, University of East London, 4-6 September 2013.
    • ‘Official and critical urbanist discourses on regeneration and social housing estates’, RC21 Conference, Berlin, 29-31 August 2013.
    • With Andrew Wallace, ‘Neighbourhood Planning in London: participating in, imagining and contesting urban governance’, RC21 Conference, Berlin, 29-31 August 2013.
    • ‘Camden council tenants’ housing experiences and attitudes in the 1990s’, Mobilising London's Housing Histories: The Provision of Homes since 1850 Conference, Centre for Metropolitan History, University of London, 27-28 June 2013.
    • ‘Housing and the city: whatever happened to class analysis?’, RGS Conference, Edinburgh, 4-6 July 2012

Professional Membership

    • International Sociological Association
    • Research Committee 21, Sociology of Urban and Regional Development, ISA
    • Fellow of Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers
    • British Sociological Association