Prof. Tom Slater
A video recording of my David M. Smith lecture at Queen Mary geography department, delivered on November 30th 2016.
- 2020- : Professor of Urban Geography, University of Edinburgh
- 2013-2020: Reader in Urban Geography, University of Edinburgh
- 2010-2013: Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Edinburgh
- 2008-2010: Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Edinburgh
- 2003-2008: Lecturer in Urban Studies, University of Bristol
I was born in 1975 and raised on the ‘Somerset Levels’ in southern England. I’m Professor of Urban Geography at The University of Edinburgh, which I joined in August 2008. I was lucky enough to be an undergraduate (1995-1998) at the wonderful Department of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London, where the breathtaking lectures and powerful writings of David M. Smith opened my eyes to questions of social justice, and inspired a passion for geographical inquiry that is both politically committed and theoretically informed.
After being displaced from the south London neighbourhood of Tooting in 1998 by a landlord capitalising on a gentrifying neighbourhood, I decided to conduct Ph.D. research (1999-2003) on gentrification, based at King’s College London, but conducting fieldwork in Toronto and New York City. From there I went to my first academic post at the University of Bristol (2003-2008), where I developed a passion for teaching, and intellectual concerns with troubling phrases such as “evidence-based decision making”. I take a very dim view of the subordination of scholarly to policy agendas, and feel that policy-driven research (as opposed to research-driven policy) must be vigorously resisted if social scientists are to retain autonomy and integrity. The moment that we cannot ask our own questions due to the priorities of the state, it ceases to be research and becomes propaganda. I moved to Edinburgh in 2008 and have continued to work on urban and housing questions in multiple contexts.
I’ve been lucky enough to supervise some wonderful PhD students over the years, who have educated me via their knowledge and dedication. In my own recent work (on the occasions when I feel like I am surviving the neoliberal assault on higher education), I have traced the roots and implications of successive UK governments’ welfare reforms and also housing policies, which all too often rest on the ongoing and deeply disturbing stigmatisation of the urban working classes and the places where they live. A critique of the practices and publications of free market think tanks features strongly in my analyses. I have also developed an interest in the links between rent gap theory and territorial stigmatisation, and on the myths and realities of rent control, explored in public and keynote lectures in 20 different countries since 2010. My work has been translated into 9 different languages and circulates widely to inform struggles for housing justice.
- Gentrification, displacement, housing struggles, and housing justice
- Urban inequalities in comparative perspective, with a particular focus on territorial stigmatisation and symbolic power
- Think tanks and the strategic production of ignorance (‘agnotology’)
- Critical urban theory
Slater. T. (2021, forthcoming) Shaking Up The City: Ignorance, Inequality and the Urban Question (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
Cupples, J. and Slater, T. (eds) (2019) Producing and Contesting Urban Marginality: Interdisciplinary and Comparative Dialogues (London: Rowman and Littlefield International “Transforming Capitalism” Series).
Tyler, I. and Slater, T. (eds) (2018) The Sociology of Stigma (London: Sage, Sociological Review Monograph Series).
Lees, L., Slater, T. and Wyly, E. (eds) (2010) The Gentrification Reader (London: Routledge).
Lees, L., Slater, T. and Wyly, E. (2008) Gentrification (New York: Routledge).
Tyler, I. and Slater, T. (2018) ‘Rethinking the sociology of stigma‘ The Sociological Review 66 (4): 721-743.
Slater, T. (2018) ‘The invention of the ‘sink estate’: consequential categorization and the UK housing crisis’, The Sociological Review 66 (4): 877-897.
Slater, T. (2017) ‘Clarifying Neil Smith’s rent gap theory of gentrification’ Tracce Urbane: Rivista Italiana Transdisciplinare di Studi Urbani 1 (1): 83-101.
Slater, T. (2017) ‘Planetary Rent Gaps’*, Antipode 49 (s1) p.114-137.
*This is my contribution to a special issue of Antipode engaging with the late great Neil Smith’s intellectual contributions to radical geography and beyond.
Slater, T. (2016) ‘Tuomas Markkinoilla: Tom Slaterin Hasstattelu’, Tiede & Edistys (Science & Progress): 178-183 (an interview published in a leading Finnish social science journal).
Slater, T. (2016) ‘Revanchism, Stigma and the Production of Ignorance: Housing Struggles in Austerity Britain’, Research in Political Economy 31, p.23-48.
Larsen, H., Hansen, A., MacLeod, G. and Slater, T. (2016) ‘The Housing Question Revisited’, ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 15(3) p.580-589.
Slater, T. (2014) ‘Unravelling False Choice Urbanism’, CITY: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action 18 (4-5) p.517-524.
Slater, T. (2014) ‘The myth of ‘Broken Britain’: welfare reform and the production of ignorance’*, Antipode 46 (4) p.948-969
*Some background: “required reading for anyone interested in what made the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill, and myriad similar state actions in our neoliberal times, possible.”
Wacquant, L., Slater, T. and Pereira, V.B. (2014) ‘Territorial stigmatization in action’*, Environment and Planning A 46 (6) p.1270-1280. [Introduction to Theme Issue on Territorial Stigmatization]
*Spanish, German and Turkish translations available
Kallin, H. and Slater, T. (2014) ‘Activating territorial stigma: gentrifying marginality on Edinburgh’s periphery’, Environment and Planning A 46 (6) p.1351-1368.
Slater, T. (2013) ‘Expulsions from public housing: the hidden context of concentrated affluence’, Cities 35 p.384-390.
Slater, T. (2013) ‘Your life chances affect where you live: a critique of the ‘cottage industry’ of neighbourhood effects research’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37 (2) p.367-387.
Rose, D., Germain, A., Bacqué, M-H., Bridge, G, Fijalkow, Y., & Slater, T. (2013). ‘Social mix’ and neighbourhood revitalization in a transatlantic perspective: comparing local policy discourses and expectations in Paris (France), Bristol (UK) and Montréal (Canada). International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37 (2) p.430-450.
Slater, T. and Anderson, N. (2012) ‘The reputational ghetto: territorial stigmatisation in St. Paul’s, Bristol’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37 (4) p.530-546.
Slater. T. (2012) ‘Impacted geographers: a response to Pain, Kesby and Askins’, Area 44 (1) p.117–119.
Slater. T. (2011) ‘From “criminality” to marginality: rioting against a broken state’, Human Geography: A New Radical Journal 4 (3) p.106-115.
Slater, T. (2010) ‘Still Missing Marcuse: Hamnett’s foggy analysis in London town’*, CITY: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action 14 (1) p.170-179
Slater, T. (2010) ‘Ghetto blasting: on Loïc Wacquant’s Urban Outcasts‘ Urban Geography 31 (2) p.162-168
Slater, T. (2009) *’Missing Marcuse: on gentrification and displacement’ CITY: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action 13 (2) p.292-311
*Translated into Turkish and Swedish
Slater, T. (2008) ‘A literal necessity to be replaced’: a rejoinder to the gentrification debate, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32(1) p.212-223
*Slater, T. (2006) The eviction of critical perspectives from gentrification research, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 30(4) p.737-757. MULTIPLE TRANSLATIONS AVAILABLE (e.g. Spanish, French, Hungarian, Swedish), please contact me for copies
*“One of the most important urban geography articles of the last decade” – Neil Smith, 2008
*“A timely wake-up call for scholars of class, space and politics in the city” – Loïc Wacquant, 2008
Check out the debate in IJURR 32 (1) on this little piece of mischief, featuring invited commentaries by Chris Allen, Lance Freeman, Kate Shaw, Neil Smith, Loïc Wacquant and Paul Watt.
Whitzman, C. and Slater, T. (2006) Village ghetto land: myth, social conditions and housing policy in Parkdale, Toronto, 1879-2000, Urban Affairs Review 41(5) p.673-696
Slater, T., Curran, W. and Lees, L. (2004) Gentrification research: new directions and critical scholarship, Guest Editorial. Environment and Planning A 36(7) p.1141-1150
Slater, T. (2004) Municipally-managed gentrification in South Parkdale, Toronto, The Canadian Geographer 48(3) p.303-325
Slater, T. (2004) North American gentrification? Revanchist and emancipatory perspectives explored, Environment and Planning A 36(7) p.1191-1213
Slater, T. (2002) Fear of the City 1882-1967: Edward Hopper and the discourse of anti-urbanism, Social and Cultural Geography 3(2) p.135-154
Slater, T. (2002) Looking at the ‘North American City’ through the lens of gentrification discourse, Urban Geography 23(2) p.131-153
Slater, T. (2020) ‘Ghettos’ in A. Kobayashi (Ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (2nd edition) (London: Elsevier).
Slater, T. (2019) ‘Introduction: Producing and Contesting Urban Marginality’, in J. Cupples and T. Slater (Eds) Producing and Contesting Urban Marginality: International and Comparative Dialogues (London: Rowman and Littlefield) pp1-16.
Slater, T. (2019) ‘Agnotology’ in T. Jazeel et al (Eds) Keywords in Radical Geographical Thought (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell) pp20-24.
Kallin, H. and Slater, T. (2018) ‘The Myths and Realities of Rent Control’, in N. Gray (Ed.) Rent and Its Discontents: A Century of Housing Struggles (London: Rowman & Littlefield) pp139-152.
Slater. T. (2018) ‘Housing Activism against the Production of Ignorance: Some Lessons from the UK’ in Yip, N., Martínez López, M. and Sun, X. (Eds.) Contested Cities and Urban Activism – East and West, North and South (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan) pp49-71.
Slater, T. (2018) ‘Rent gaps’ in L. Lees and M. Phillips (Eds) The Handbook of Gentrification Studies (London: Edward Elgar).
Slater, T. (2017) ‘Revanchism, Ignorance and Class Struggle in Austerity Britain’ in A. Albet and N. Benach (Eds.) Gentrification as a Global Strategy: Neil Smith and Beyond (London: Routledge) pp112-131.
Slater, T. (2017) Territorial Stigmatisation, Gentrification and Class Struggle: An interview with Tom Slater in P. Kirkness and A.Tijé-Dra (Eds) Negative Neighbourhood Reputation and Place Attachment: The Production and Contestation of Territorial Stigma (London: Routledge).
Slater. T. (2017) ‘Territorial Stigmatization: Symbolic Defamation and the Contemporary Metropolis’ in J. Hannigan and G. Richards (Eds) The Sage Handbook of New Urban Studies (London: Sage) pp111-125
Slater. T. (2016) ‘The Housing Crisis in Neoliberal Britain: Free Market Think Tanks and the Production of Ignorance’ in S. Springer, K. Birch and J. MacLeavy (Eds) The Routledge Handbook of Neoliberalism(London: Routledge) pp370-382.
Slater, T. (2016) ‘The neoliberal state and the 2011 English riots: a class analysis’ in M. Mayer, C. Thörn & H.Thörn (Eds) Urban Uprisings: Challenging Neoliberal Urbanism in Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan) pp121-148.
Slater. T. (2013) ‘Capitalist urbanisation affects your life chances: exorcising the ghosts of ‘neighbourhood effects” in D. Manley, M. Van Ham, N. Bailey, L. Simpson, & D. Maclennan (eds)
Neighbourhood Effects or Neighbourhood Based Problems? A Policy Context (Springer Press) pp113-132.
Slater, T. (2011) ‘Missing Marcuse: On Gentrification and Displacement’ (revised and updated) in N. Brenner, P. Marcuse and M. Mayer (eds) Cities for People, Not for Profit (Routledge) pp171-196.
Slater, T. (2011) ‘Gentrification of the City’ in G. Bridge and S. Watson (eds) The New Companion to the City (Oxford: Blackwell) pp571-585.
Slater, T. (2009) ‘Revanchist City’. Entry in R. Hutchison (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Urban Studies (Thousand Oaks: Sage)
Slater, T. (2005) “Gentrification in Canada’s cities: from social mix to social tectonics?” in R. Atkinson and G. Bridge (eds) Gentrification in a Global Context (London: Routledge) pp.39-56
My pedagogical approach is guided by a very strong belief that teaching and research cannot be usefully separated – I love it when students engage with the theories, concepts and debates that I have the privilege of introducing; when they respond with questions, comments and reactions; and when some produce work bursting with research ideas, thoughtful insights, and a geographical imagination. Academic life doesn’t get any better than that.
I enjoy field-based teaching, and I am particularly proud of the annual field course to Cape Town for 3rd year students that I set up with Jan Penrose and Julie Cupples in 2016, where we explore what hundreds of years of colonial domination (culminating in apartheid) did to that city, and the ongoing struggles for decolonisation there. In just a few years it has led to some wonderful collaborations. For 12 years now I have taught a course entitled Divided Cities, which is everything I know about urban inequality packaged into eleven exhausting weeks for 3rd & 4th year undergraduates. I also lead our 2nd year core course entitled Economic and Political Geography. For three years (2012-5) I served as Chair of the Board of Examiners for Geography Degree Programmes (GDP), and for another three years (2015-8) I served as GDP Convenor, leading our Geography programmes to successful RGS-IBG Accreditation.
On Performance Assessment:
I’ve long been bothered by how senior academics in the UK have embraced institutional audit, and acceded to a thorough instrumentalisation of themselves and their colleagues, a process which calls into question their mutual trust in each other’s professional competence. It’s profoundly sad that institutional audit has become such a dominant force in the day to day workings of vital research universities. To anyone frustrated by the REF and by other threats to scholarship and collegiality, or to anyone viewing it as a comprehensive peer review, it’s worth reading the devastating critique by my undergraduate inspiration, David M. Smith:
“[M]ethods of assessment currently adopted in Britain…depend on a deeply flawed model conception of academic activity. Sometimes referred to as the goal attainment model, it bears a strong resemblance to the planning framework of managerial rationality underpinning the social indicators movement…. Individuals, and groups or institutions (academic departments and universities), are supposed to pursue goals (or targets), the attainment of which is somehow measurable. The way they do this is based (usually implicitly) on how the free market is supposed to operate in neoclassical economics, maximizing output for given expenditure. While this model may have validity in some walks of life, scholarship does not actually work this way. Universities are significantly different from factories: the creative process of scholarship is demeaned by the notion that it can be captured by a simple model or metric relating to quality of research or teaching.
“The consequences are both practical and ethical. In practice, we do not know how to maximise research output, even if we knew how to measure it, with the reliability of industrial production theory. Ethically, it is wrong to claim such knowledge, and to run universities as though we had it. What universities should be, and how they should work, is a matter of proper public concern, and it is crucial that we critically engage the forces of darkness seeking to turn academic life into some gross parody of the competitive world of profit-seeking business; and that we do this not only by challenging alien understanding, but also by promoting alternative practice involving reaching out to others who would benefit from our involvement (as we would from theirs), in a spatially expansive and mutual ethics of care.”
See “From Location Theory to Moral Philosophy: Views from the Fringe”, in R. Lee and D.M. Smith (eds) (2004) Geographies and Moralities (Oxford: Blackwell) p.294
For me, these words pretty much end the debate over institutional audit. I just wish more people in positions of power would read what Smith has to say here, and in many other publications.
“[T]o deprive people of their territory, their community or their home, would seem at first sight to be a heinous act of injustice. It would be like taking away any other source of basic need-satisfaction, on which people depend absolutely. …But this experience is not simply deprivation: there is a literal necessity to be re-placed. People who have lost their place, for one reason and another, must be provided with or find another. There is no question about it. People need it. They just do.”
David M. Smith (1994) Geography and Social Justice (Oxford: Blackwell) p.152