Urban and rural geography

Investigating the transformations of rural and urban spaces
We study the processes that are driving geographical change, and use our knowledge to influence policy and public discussion, often in collaboration with researchers from other disciplines and practitioners.

Our aims

Patterns of urban and rural settlement are undergoing rapid transformation in Australia and globally.

Indeed, as society becomes networked ever more tightly into various forms of digital communication and as work and leisure patterns for many become more transiently attached to particular places, the relationships between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ geographies become more complex.

Is a fly-in fly-out worker living in Perth but working in the Pilbara part of the urban or the rural economy?

Or if a farm is run by an agribusiness companies with a head office in Sydney, is this a city or country business? 

Our people

Our research

University Academics: Prof Phil McManus

Cities and their inhabitants face a range of challenges relating to the quality and transformation of their environments. They also make significant contributions to global environmental stress and climate change through their dependence on resources sourced beyond city limits. Nonetheless, urban governments and city-based social movements have also been at the forefront of innovation in responding to climate change. Our research in this area currently focuses on how sustainability is conceptualized and measured, eco-cities and various notions of what is a sustainable city, Cultural and Language Diverse (CALD) environmentalism, counterurbanisation, the importance of infrastructure, and how efforts to make cities more sustainable can also work to make them more inclusive and just.

University Academics: Prof Kurt IvesonDr Amanda Tattersall, Dr Naama Blatman

What role do urban inhabitants play in the shaping of their cities? This is partly a question of what roles citizens are allocated in formal governance mechanisms. It is also a question of how urban inhabitants take matters into their own hands, enacting new and insurgent forms of authority and citizenship in order to shape their cities (and thereby shape themselves). Our work on urban citizenship and politics includes both archival research on historical urban social movements, and contemporary participatory action research with contemporary urban alliances and movements. Drawing on this research, we also contribute to on-going theoretical debates about the relationship between cities, social justice and democracy.

University Academics: Prof Kurt IvesonDr Amanda Tattersall

Cities are crucibles for the unfolding politics of difference in the ‘age of migration’. In Australia and beyond, we see both the persistence (and even deepening) of racialised urban inequalities, and the emergence of new kinds of everyday multicultures and political claims that point towards more equitable and hospitable ways of being together in the city. Our research is particularly interested in both the planning frameworks for dealing with difference in cities, and in the diverse sites and practices of encounters with difference in everyday urban life.

University Academics: Prof Kurt IvesonDr Amanda Tattersall

In discussions on the nature of the public sphere, there has tended to be a divide between research that focuses on ‘the media’, which is frequently presented as ‘placeless’, and research that focuses on the physical ‘public spaces’ of the city. Now, more than ever, there is a need to think more carefully about the deep relationship between the media and the urban. Our work focuses especially on different forms of outdoor media in cities (especially graffiti and advertising), and more recently on the urban-digital media interface (especially mobile and locative media).

University Academics: Prof Bill Pritchard

External collaborators/industry partners: NSW Department of Primary Industry

In Australia, patterns of rural settlement are undergoing significant transformation. While some rural towns grow, others decline. Such changes bear strong relationships to changing patterns of resource-based industries. Properties are changing hands at a rapid rate across Australia’s rural landscapes due the cumulative effects of farm restructuring, population shifts and changing landscape values, especially related to amenity, conservation and Indigenous ownership. As these processes filter through rural Australia, governments, private sector actors and civil society organizations seek to find new strategies to retain and attract new populations through diversification of economic and cultural opportunities. Our researchers are addressing all these questions and more through a range of research efforts, many of which involve collaboration with rural partners.

Rural Land Ownership Project

University Academics: Prof Bill PritchardProf Phil McManus, Dr Rebecca Cross, A/Prof Jo Gillespie

The Australian rural landscape is under stress. Traditional ways of managing the land by farmers are being challenged by the degradation of environments, increased competition for water, and the opportunities provided by new technologies. Farmers are facing these new conditions using a diverse range of strategies, with varying short-term and long-term implications. Geographers at the University of Sydney are deeply interested in these processes.

Much of our research on Global Development, Justice and Livelihoods, and on Environmental Management and Governance, also explores issues of urban and rural geography in different regions.