Ayona Datta

Ayona Datta

Professor, Professor

  • 1944

Personal profile

Research interests (short)

My research and teaching broadly focuses on postcolonial urbanism and the gendered politics of urban citizenship in the global south. In particular, I am interested in how cities seek to transform themselves through utopian urban visions of the future and their impacts on everyday social, material and gendered geographies. I use interdisciplinary approaches from architecture, planning, feminist and urban geography, combining qualitative, digital and visual research methods to answer research questions. For my contributions to understanding of smart cities through fieldwork I received the Busk Medal from Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in 2019.

Biographical details

My broad research interests are in the critical geographies of postcolonial urbanism, smart cities, gender citizenship and urban futures. My current research seeks to advance theoretical and empirical work on postcolonial urbanism through the examination of smart cities as experiments in urban futuring.

I am author of 'The Illegal City: Space, law and gender in a Delhi squatter settlement' (2012); co-editor of 'Translocal geographies: Spaces, places, connections' (Ashgate 2011) and ‘Mega-urbanization in the global South: Fast cities and new urban utopias of the postcolonial state’ (Routledge 2017).

I am journal co-editor of Dialogues in Human Geography and Urban Geography and on the editorial boards of AntipodeGender, Place and Culture and Society and Space. I am on the editorial advisory board of the Routledge Series on Equity, Justice and the Sustainable City. I am also a publicly engaged scholar with a strong media presence, regular op-eds in the ConversationUKGuardian and openDemocracy, and I maintain a personal blog titled ‘The city inside out’I am regularly invited to international lectures and keynotes including invitations to speak at several themed UN meetings in Geneva and New York.

Research interests

Three distinct but related areas of my research are as follows.

Postcolonial urban futures:

The first strand of research aims to advance theoretical and empirical work on the ways in which a 'digital turn' in postcolonial urbanism (seen in the rise of smart cities) hare producing new ways of imagining, governing and performing the future. This research has been funded by AHRC, ESRC, British Academcy and UKIERI, as well as several university seed funds. I have published on this theme in Environment and Planning C, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Dialogues in Human Geography, Urban Geography and a co-edited book titled ‘Mega-urbanization in the global south’ (Routledge, 2017). I have also written extensively for popular media such as TheConversationUKopenDemocracy and the Guardian and been quoted in several news articles. 

Gender, identity and urban citizenship: 

The second strand of my research examines urban citzenship through the gendered body and identity in the global south. This research has been funded by AHRC, British Academy and other seed funding. I deliver regular invited lectures and plenaries on this topic, including the Urban Geography plenary in AAG 2014. I have been interviewed several times on BBC Radio on this theme, have published a monograph 'The Illegal City: Space, law and Gender in a Delhi Squatter settlement' (Ashgate 2012) and several journal articles in Antipode, CITY, Cultural GeographiesDerivé, Dialogues in Human Geography, Gender, Place, and Culture, Urban Geography; as well as produced two films ‘City bypassed’ and ‘City forgotten’.

Translocal geographies of belonging: 

This strand of my research is concerned with connections between migrant transnationalisms, translocal identities, and material geographies of home and belonging. This research has been funded by STICERD and European Science Foundation. My co-edited book titled Translocal Geographies: Spaces, Places, Connections published in 2011 builds upon this work to propose an embodied notion of belonging to spaces and places during increased global mobility. Findings from this research have been disseminated as book chapters and in leading geography journals including Antipode, Environment and Planning A, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Urban Studies and through invited lectures in several international universities.

Research interests

My key research interests are.

  • Postcolonial urbanism and urban transformations
  • Critical geographies of smart urbanism and urban futures
  • Slums and informal settlements
  • Gender identity, initimate cities and the body
  • Transnational urbanism, citizenship, and translocal geographies of belonging

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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  • 1 Similar Profiles
  • Busk Medal

    Datta, Ayona (Recipient), 6 May 2019

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)