School of Geography

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Tom Cowan

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences



I am an urban geographer with teaching and research expertise in post-colonial urbanisation, real estate development and labour migration. I hold a PhD in Urban Geography from the Department of Geography at King's College London. Prior to joining the School at Nottingham I was a Leverhulme Early Career Postdoctoral Fellow at University College London, and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen. I have previously taught Human Geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at King's College London.

My research examines processes of greenfield urbanisation in North India with a particular interest in the creation and governance of urban real estate and migrant labour markets. In particular, my work has explored processes of agrarian urbanisation, examining the role that agrarian institutions, surpluses, actors and territories play in facilitating large-scale urban development projects in the city of Gurugram, Haryana. More recently my research has turned to examine Smart City development and in particular the deployment of 'PropTech' land titling technologies in rural and peri-urban areas.

My work has been published in Antipode, City, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Geoforum, and Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. My book, Subaltern Frontiers: agrarian city-making in Gurgaon, India will be published by Cambridge University Press 2022. The book explores the social, political and economic geographies of India's spectacular urban transformation since the early 1990s, examining the development of the 'Gurgaon model' of privatised urban planning and development. The book argues that the production of real estate and labour markets in Gurgaon has relied upon the speculative remediation of agrarian property regimes, governance institutions, and class structures. The book builds upon scholarship within subaltern studies, postcolonial marxist geographies, feminist geographies and anthropologies of global real estate to develop a reading of contemporary urbanisation in north India.

Teaching Summary

My teaching focuses on introductory and advanced modules in Urban Geography, Political Economy, International Development, and the Geographies of Gender, Labour and Property.

I contribute to a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules across the School of Geography. These include:

GEOG1005 Tutorial

GEOG2030 Research Tutorial

GEOG2034 Urban Geography

GEOG3007 European Urban Geographies

GEOG3061 Just Futures and their Geographies

PhD Supervision:

I welcome PhD candidates in geography interested in any area of research. I am particularly interested in supervising PhD projects focusing on the following subjects: Subaltern urbanisation | Post-colonial urbanisation | Critical urban studies | Labour geographies | Digital geographies

Selected Publications

Externally Funded Research Projects

2023-2026: 'Digital enclosures: automating property in South Asia', British Academy/Wolfson Fellowship.

School of Geography

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