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Dr Regan Koch

Regan

Lecturer in Human Geography, International Study Director

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 interest is collective culture and the capacity of urban space to generate new forms of sociality and solidarity. Focused on contemporary London and cities across the U.S., 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 culture.  Focusing on food-related trends, I have examined emergent forms of popular practice and the efforts of people actively seeking to foster more convivial forms of urban life. By closely studying social interactions in novel kinds of spaces and the more extra-ordinary activities of social entrepreneurs, my interest is to explore possibilities for living together in more mutually beneficial ways.
  • Representing and imagining cities. Parallel to my interest in urban public life is a concern with popular and academic discourse about cities and neighbourhoods themselves. 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, and the American Association of Geography’s Urban Geography Research Group.  

Since 2011 I have been 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.  

Currently, I am putting together a 40-entry volume entitled Key Thinkers on Cities (co-edited with Dr. Alan Latham of UCL Geography) to be published with SAGE in 2016.

Key publications:

  • Koch, R. (2015) ‘Licensing, popular practices and public spaces. An inquiry via the geographies of street food vending’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, forthcoming.  
  • 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.

Teaching

I am foremost an enthusiastic teacher and student. 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 also managed a successful secondary Geography department for five years. After completing my PhD at UCL, I became a teaching fellow in the department of Geography where I helped to convene the MSc Urban Studies programme and was shortlisted for the Student Choice Excellence in Teaching Award in 2015.  

Current teaching:

Undergraduate

Postgraduate

External teaching:

Over the past four years, I have taught field-intensive courses on London’s Urban Geographies and Encountering Global London for St. Lawrence University of New York. A longer-term goal is to publish a volume on teaching methods for helping students actively engage in learning by exploring the cities in which they live and visit.  

Research

Research Interests:

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. Organised around the theme of ‘eating in public’, empirical case studies include:

  • the tremendous growth and popular enthusiasm for street food vending, and a comparative look at how municipal licensing laws have variously nurtured or restricted the practice
  • underground restaurants and secret supper clubs in which public audiences are invited into private homes for meals, and the changing forms of public/private relations transformed by the so-called sharing economy
  • pay-what-you-can-restaurants and community cafes in which customers determine the price  of their meal, and the material-practical configurations that help to sustain relations of conviviality and accountability within these spaces

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

Peer-reviewed journal articles

  • 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.
  • 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.

PhD Supervision

My research interests include (1) matters of urban public space; (2) urban sociality and collective culture; and (3) the representation and imagination of cities and urban life. I welcome inquires from anyone considering doing a PhD and would be happy to discuss whether our interests make for a good match.

Current PhD students:

  • Sam Miles ‘Sex(uality) & the City: understanding the impact of locative media on urban queer geographies’ Funding: ESRC +4 Interdisciplinary Award (with Dr Yasmine Ibrahim, School of Business and Management)
  • Teresa Franco Aguilar ‘Understanding Everyday Urban Mobilities in Mexico City through Cultural Representations’ Funding: Mexican Governmental +4 Scholarship (with Professor Cathy Mcllwaine, KCL)
  • Rosalie Warnock ‘Navigating advice and support: everyday coping strategies in austerity Britain’ (working title) Funding: ESRC 1+3 (with Professor Jon May)

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 London Parks and Green Spaces Forum, Seattle’s Street Vendor Task Force, New York’s Street Vendor Project, A Better World Foundation, and the Harrow Road Neighbourhood Partnership.                                                    

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:  

  • ‘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
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