Dr. Nishat Awan

Staff details

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

Qualifications

  • 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.

Teaching

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).