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School of Geography

Dr Regan Koch

Regan

Lecturer in Human Geography, Director of the City Centre

Email: r.koch@qmul.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 5405
Room Number: Bancroft Building, Room 2.09

Profile

Twitter: @ReganEKoch

I am an urban and cultural geographer fascinated by public life in cities. My particular interests are collective culture and new forms of sociality, and the question of how we can learn to live together in cities in more mutually beneficial ways. Focused on contemporary London and cities across the U.S., as well as a burgeoning interest in China, my research to date has centred on three themes:            

  • Public space. A longstanding concern in critical urban scholarship, my work has sought re-animate this field of study. This includes advocating for careful attention to how different spaces of public life are put together and to the affects that different kinds of materiality, infrastructure and modes of inhabitation have in making spaces what they are.  I am also interested on-going, everyday forms of negotiation about what is fair and appropriate for living together in a pluralistic society.
  • Urban sociality and collective cultureI am interested in cultural trends and emerging forms of practice. By examining social interactions, novel kinds of spaces and the efforts of social entrepreneurs, I’m curious to learn more about convivial forms of public life and the possibilities for living together better in cities.
  • Representing and imagining citiesParallel to my interest in urban public life is a concern with popular and academic discourse about cities and neighbourhoods. This includes examining how we understand and portray processes of urban change, new developments and trends, and the lifestyles and culture of different kinds of urban dwellers. In particular, I am concerned with understanding the work that different kinds of representation do and the geographical imaginations they enable.  

My work has been supported by grants from the Economic and Social Research Council, University College London’s Graduate School, University College London’s Public Engagement Unit, the American Association of Geography’s Urban Geography Research Group, and the UK Arts and Humanities Council

I am the programme lead for the Cities & Culture MA degree programme. I am also the QMUL Lead for LISS Doctoral Training Programme, Pathway 8: Urbanisation, Social Change and Transformation. From 2011–2017 I was an organising committee member and communication director for the Royal Geographical Society’s Urban Geography Research Group.  I was also a founding member of the Stadkolloquium Urban PhD Research Network. 

Key publications:

  • Koch, R. and Miles, S. (2020) ‘Letting the stranger in: intimacy, technology and new geographies of encounter.  Progress in Human Geography.
  • Koch, R. (2020) Public, private and the appeal to common good: practices of justification in a peer-to-peer economy. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 45(2): 392-405.
  • Koch, R. and Latham, A. (eds) (2017). Key Thinkers on Cities. London: Sage. Available in Mandarin (2019) 城市思想家.
  • Koch, R. (2016) ‘Licensing, popular practices and public spaces: An inquiry via the geographies of street food vending’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 39(6) p. 1231-1250. 
  • Koch, R. and Latham, A. (2013) ‘On the hard work of domesticating a public space’, Urban Studies 50(1) p. 6-21.

Teaching

I am foremost an enthusiastic teacher. My first degree was in Education and the Social Sciences, followed by an MSc in Teaching and Learning. My first job was teaching middle school in Kansas City, Kansas and then secondary school in London, where I was also Head of a successful Geography department for five years. Prior to joining QMUL I was a teaching fellow at UCL and was shortlisted for the Students’ Choice Excellence in Teaching Award.

Current teaching:

Undergraduate

  • GEG6148 The Public Life of Cities (convenor)
  • GEG5126 Cultural Geographies (convenor)
  • GEG5125/6125 Boston Reworked: The Making of a North American City

Postgraduate

  • GEG71XX Urban Public Cultures

I also run immersive field classes London’s Urban Geographies and Encountering Global London for St Lawrence University of New York’s London Programme.

 

Research

Research Interests:

The Public Life of Cities

I am currently working on a monograph entitled The Public Life of Cities with Prof Alan Latham (UCL) to be published with The University of Toronto Press. The project pulls together our research on urban materialities, sociality and governance through a range of case studies in North America, Europe and New Zealand.

 

Eating in Public: Re-imagining Collective Urban Life

My ESRC-funded doctoral research at University College London was an ethnographic study of food-related trends across the U.S.  My interest was to examine some of the novel ways in which the spaces of public life are being re imagined and to invigorate the study of public space in social science research.  The project builds upon a critique of predominant approaches to urban public space, arguing that recent work on the topic has reached something of an empirical and theoretical impasse. In pressing for a more expansive imaginary, the project has worked to develop a broader conceptualisation of public-ness along with a series of analytic principles, theoretical resources and attentive registers for opening up new lines of inquiry.

As the starting point for future work in this vein, my goal is to help facilitate discussion, research and innovation in how more convivial, inclusive and democratic forms of collective life might be nurtured.

 

Animating public space: Transformations at the Prince of Wales Junction, West London

This project examined a small-scale urban redevelopment that sought to transform a traffic junction best known for crime and anti-social behaviour into a public space that would be an asset for the local community. Research involved an ethnographic study in which I worked on-site as a fruit and vegetable vendor over a period of three months. The aim was to attend to the fine-grained details of how public life was being reconfigured by the changes, and to extend the conceptual registers through which transformations to urban public spaces might be apprehended.

Outcomes of this research (co-authored with Dr. Alan Latham at UCL) have been published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Urban Studies, Public Space and the Challenges of Urban Transformation in Europe (eds. Madanipour et al. 2014) and a pair of teaching resources for the Royal Geographical Society.

Publications

Book

  • Koch, R. and Latham, A. (eds) (2017). Key Thinkers on Cities. London: Sage. Available in Mandarin (2019) 城市思想家.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

  • Koch, R. and Miles, S. (2020) ‘Letting the stranger in: intimacy, technology and new geographies of encounter.  Progress in Human Geography.
  • Koch, R. (2020) Public, private and the appeal to common good: practices of justification in a peer-to-peer economy. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 45(2): 392-405.
  • Koch, R. and Latham, A. (2018) ‘How to think about cities: a reply to our critics’, Urban Studies, 55(13) p. 3034-3047.
  • Koch, R. (2016) ‘Licensing, popular practices and public spaces: An inquiry via the geographies of street food vending’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 39(6) p. 1231-1250.
  • Koch, R. and Latham, A. (2013) ‘On the hard work of domesticating a public space’, Urban Studies 50(1) p. 6-21.
  • Koch, R. and Latham, A. (2012) ‘Re-thinking urban public space: accounts from a junction in West London’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37(4) p. 515-529.

Book chapters and edited collections

  • Koch, R. (2017) ‘Mariana Valverde’ in Koch, R. and Latham, A. (eds) Key Thinkers on Cities. London: SAGE
  • Arabindoo, P and Koch, R. (2015) 'The pedagogy of (urban) practice’, Scroope: The Cambridge Architectural Journal, Volume 32: 109-115.
  • Koch, R and Latham, A. (2014) ‘Representing and Imagining the City’ in Paddison, R. and McCann, E. (eds) Cities and Social Change. London: Sage
  • Koch, R. and Latham, A. (2014) ‘Inhabiting cities, domesticating public spaces: Observing changes in the public life of contemporary London’ in A. Madanipour and S. Knierbein (eds) Public Space and the Challenges of Urban Transformation in Europe. London: Routledge
  • Koch, R. (2011) Food: the ‘new art’ in cities? The Food Junctions Cookbook. London: UCL Office of Public Engagement

Teaching resources

  • Koch, R. and Latham, A. (2012) ‘Animating Public Space: A Case Study in ‘Soft Regeneration’ Royal Geographical Society, Geography in the News, A-Level teaching resources for the RGS. Pdf available through the RGS (or author).
  • Koch, R. (2012) ‘Interview the Expert: Regan Koch on Public Space’ Royal Geographical Society, Geography in the News, available at: http://www.geographyinthenews.org/interviews/article/default.aspx?id=1855

Book reviews

  • Koch, R. (2010) Loose Space: Possibility and Diversity in Urban Life by Karen A. Franck and Quentin Stevens. New Zealand Geographer, 66, p. 174-176.
  • Koch, R. (2010) Designs on the Public: The Private Lives of New York’s Public Spaces by Kristine Miller. Environment Planning B: Planning and Design, 37(3), p. 572-573.

Please email me if you’d like to have a copy of any of these.

Supervision

My research interests include matters of urban public space; urban sociality and collective culture; and the representation and imagination of cities and urban life.  I was honoured to be runner-up for Postgraduate Supervisor of the Year in the QMUL Student Union Awards, 2019.

I welcome inquiries from anyone considering a PhD or Research Fellowship and would be happy to discuss whether our interests make for a good match.

Current PhD students:

  • Jack Hanlon ‘Meat, masculinity and the marketplace: Smithfield in the late 20th century’. Funding: LAHP-AHRC CASE Award with the Museum of London (with Alastair Owens and Will Monteith)
  • Deivi Norberg ‘Uncertainty under the arches: National Rail’s property selloff and the possibilities for public good’. Funding: ESRC 1+3 CASE Award with the East London Trades Guild (with Will Monteith)
  • Conor Moloney ‘Playing or being played: the rise of ‘ludic urbanism’ in London (working title). Funding: ESRC +3 (with Professor Jen Harvie, QMUL School of English and Drama).
  • Rosalie Warnock ‘Navigating advice and support: everyday coping strategies in austerity Britain’ (working title) Funding: ESRC 1+3 (with Professor Jon May)

Former PhD students:

  • Teresa Franco Aguilar ‘Understanding Everyday Urban Mobilities in Mexico City through Cultural Representations’ Funding: Mexican Governmental +4 Scholarship (with Professor Cathy Mcllwaine, KCL)
  • Sam Miles ‘Sex(uality) & the city: location-based apps and queer urban life.' Funding: Sam is an Associate Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Postdoctoral mentorship

  • Katherine Stansfeld ‘Living together in the super-diverse city: mapping vernacular geographies and urban relational space’. Funding: LISS ESRC Postdoctoral Award
  • Mirjam Sagi ‘Marginalised groups and the rhetoric of safety in public space – a feminist perspective’. Funding: Erasmus Doctoral Exchange (with ELTE, Hungary)

Public Engagement

I have engaged in an academic, volunteer and consultancy capacities with a number of groups related to my case study research, including The East End Traders Guild, the Serpentine Gallery, the London Parks and Green Spaces Forum, Seattle’s Street Vendor Task Force, New York’s Street Vendor Project, A Better World Foundation, the Harrow Road Neighbourhood Partnership and The Museum of London and the Museum of the Home.                                                    

In 2010, I was the program manager of Food Junctions, a five-day series of talks, workshops, performances and events bringing together over 300 members from 30 academic departments at UCL and 20 outside organisations.

Recent presentations to non-academic audiences include:  

  • ‘Up all Night.’ The Dark: Preview. Museum of the Home. February 2020
  • ‘How urban geography shapes our lives and culture’, Introducing Dark City at the Being Human Festival, London, November 16, 2015
  • ‘If he were in this place’, UCL Festival of the Arts, London, April 18, 2015
  • ‘The unintended consequences of licensing public spaces’, London Parks and Green Spaces Forum, May 24, 2014
  • Spaces of community, publicness and social relations’, 2012 Community Kitchen Summit Santa Fe, New Mexico January 15, 2012