Dr. Nishat Awan

Staff details

Position Senior Lecturer
Department Visual Cultures
Email n.awan (@gold.ac.uk)
Dr. Nishat Awan


  • 2011 PhD Architecture, University of Sheffield
  • 2005 MA Architecture, University of Sheffield
  • 2004 Diploma in Architecture, University of Sheffield

An architect by training, Nishat’s work focuses on the intersection of geopolitics and space, including questions related to diasporas, migration and border regimes. She is interested in modes of visual and spatial representation and is committed to exploring ethical forms of engagement with places at a distance.

In 2015 she received an early career fellowship from the Independent Social Research Foundation for a project entitled, Edges of Europe. Her recent book, Diasporic Agencies (Routledge, 2016) addresses the subject of how architecture and urban design can respond to the consequences of increasing migration. Currently, she leads the ERC funded project, Topological Atlas, which aims to produce visual counter-geographies that might help support the fragile movements of migrants as they encounter the security apparatus of the border.

Areas of supervision

Borders, migration, diasporas, post/de-colonial theory, feminist theory, critical spatial practice

Currently, I supervise PhDs on the buffer zone and frozen conflict in Cyprus, the spatial infrastructures of refugee camps and on migration and post-socialist territories in Romania.


Before joining Goldsmiths, Nishat led the MA in Architectural Design at University of Sheffield where most of her teaching was at post-graduate level including leading design studios and modules on critical spatial theory and design methodologies. 

Featured work

N. Awan (2016) Diasporic Agencies: Mapping the City Otherwise, London: Routledge.

N. Awan (2016) ‘Digital mapping and agency: The ethics of engaging with places at a distance’, GeoHumanities 2(2): 311-330.

A Topological Atlas of European Belonging, exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK (31 Oct – 27 Nov 2016).

N. Awan, T. Schneider & J. Till (2011) Spatial Agency: Other Ways of Doing Architecture, London: Routledge; Chinese translation (2016) China Architecture and Building Press; www.spatialagency.net

Grants and fellowships

  • Topological Atlas. European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant (2018-2023)
  • The Unknown City. Co-investigator on GCRF ESRC/AHRC Research Grant (led by Michael Collyer) (2016-2018)
  • Early Career Fellowship, Independent Social Science Research Foundation (2015-2016)
  • Research Development Fellowship, University of Sheffield (2014-2015)
  • Interdisciplinary PhD Network Fund, University of Sheffield (CI)
  • Cultural Value of Architecture. Co-investigator on AHRC Research Development Grant (led by Flora Samuel)

Research Interests

My research centres around three themes: migration and displacement with a focus on developing new methods of spatial analysis and visual representation; alternative modes of spatial practice; and a regional focus on South Asia. Currently, I am working on the following projects:

Topological Atlas: Mapping Contemporary Borderscapes

The project aims to develop a transdisciplinary research programme for mapping, analysing and intervening in border areas in the form of a digital atlas. It is global in scope and addresses a series of sites within a migrant trajectory towards Europe. These borderscapes encapsulate many of the contemporary concerns regarding the policing of geopolitical borders and show how the border itself operates as a topological entity.

Topological Atlas is developed as a methodology for producing visual counter-geographies at border sites. It is ground breaking in its use of digital technologies combined with a participative approach that attends to those who are at the margins of traditional geopolitical inquiry. The project uses topology as conceptual framework and methodology to make maps that produce ‘seamless transitions’ from the space of the migrant to the security apparatus that creates barriers to her movement. In doing this it seeks to disrupt the cartographic norms that are being reinforced through the prevalence of GIS technology and mapping platforms such as Google Earth. It investigates forms of visual and co-produced research adapted to situations of crisis and proposes a new model for researching border areas beyond the current top-down international relations or security perspective.

The Unknown City: The Invisibility of Forced Displacement

The project is concerned with highlighting the significance of the visual in urban displacement. It brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers from geography, architecture, and anthropology working across four cities, Colombo, Hargeisa, Harare, and Dhaka. We are investigating the relationship between urban forced displacement and the visual, including historical notions of perception and representation. The project combines ethnographic research, such as oral histories of migration, with crowd-sourced mapping in order to represent urban displacement.

Politics and Performance in Pakistan

The project is concerned with popular politics in Pakistan where the puppet emerges as an important historical and contemporary figure within subaltern resistance. More broadly, I am interested in the ways that neoliberal framings have transformed popular understandings of agency from resistance to problematic notions of resilience. Working through spatial and cultural examples, I explore the claim that subaltern agency has developed in subtler and more resistant forms through ways of enacting that thrive within and through the vulnerability of the subject (Butler).



Awan, Nishat. 2016. Diasporic Agencies: Mapping the City Otherwise. London: Abingdon, Oxon; New York. ISBN 9781472433770

Awan, Nishat; Schneider, Tatjana and Till, Jeremy. 2011. Spatial Agency: Other ways of doing architecture. Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415571937

Edited Book

Petrescu, Doina; Petcou, Constantin and Awan, Nishat, eds. 2011. Trans-Local-Act: Cultural practices within and across. Paris: aaa-peprav. ISBN 978-2-9530751-13

Book Section

Awan, Nishat. 2017. Mapping Otherwise: Imagining other futures and other possibilities. In: Meike Schalk; Thérèse Kristiansson and Ramia Mazé, eds. Feminist Futures of Spatial Practice: Materialisms, Activisms, Dialogues, Pedagogies, Projections. Baunach: AADR, pp. 19-27. ISBN 9783887784898

Awan, Nishat. 2014. Diasporic experience and the need for topological methods. In: Peter Blundell Jones and Mark Meagher, eds. Architecture and Movement: The Dynamic Experience of Buildings and Landscapes. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 9780415725354

Awan, Nishat. 2014. Agential Exchanges: Thinking the empirical in relation to productivity. In: André Viljoen and Katrin Bohn, eds. Second Nature Urban Agriculture: Designing Productive Cities. Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, pp. 108-113. ISBN 9780415540582

Awan, Nishat. 2012. Re-mapping Kurdistan. In: Renata Tyszczuk, ed. ATLAS: Geography, Architecture and Change. London: Black Dog Publishing. ISBN 9781907317392

Awan, Nishat and Schneider, Tatjana. 2011. Other productions of space. In: Silvia Forlati; Anne Isopp and Astrid Piber, eds. Wonderland Manual for Emerging Architects. Vienna: Springer, pp. 330-335. ISBN 9783709108222


Awan, Nishat. 2016. Digital Narratives and Witnessing: The Ethics of Engaging with Places at a Distance. Geohumanities, 2(2), pp. 311-330. ISSN 2373-566X

Awan, Nishat. 2016. Introduction to Border Topologies. GeoHumanities, 2(2), pp. 279-283. ISSN 2373-566X

Awan, Nishat and Hoskyns, Teresa. 2015. Mapping Occupy. Architecture and Culture, 2(1), pp. 130-140. ISSN 2050-7828

Awan, Nishat and Langley, Phil. 2013. Mapping Migrant Territories as Topological Deformations of Space. Space and Culture, 16(2), pp. 229-245. ISSN 1206-3312

Awan, Nishat; Schneider, Tatjana and Till, Jeremy. 2011. Instances of ecological motivations in the production and use of space. Field: A Free Journal for Architecture, 4(1), pp. 219-226. ISSN 1755-068

Awan, Nishat. 2008. Words and objects in transposing desire and making space. arq: Architectural Research Quarterly, 12, pp. 263-268. ISSN 1359-1355


Awan, Nishat. 2016. Edges of Europe: Visuality, ethics and witnessing in social research. Working Paper. Independent Social Research Foundation, London.


Awan, Nishat. 2016. Migrant Narratives of Citizenship: A Topological Atlas of European Belonging. Yorkshire Sculpture Park, United Kingdom 31 Oct – 27 Nov 2016.

Awan, Nishat; Schneider, Tatjana and Till, Jeremy. 2013. The Institute of Radical Spatial Education. In: "Lisbon Architecture Triennale", Lisbon, Portugal, 17-20 Oct 2013.