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Professor Sophie Watson

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Head of Discipline Sociology
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Hist, Rel St, Soc, SP&C
  • Sociology
  • sophie.watson

Research interests

City water

Water lies at the very heart of the interconnectedness and entanglements of humans with their environment and reveals, arguably more than any other substance, the impossibility of thinking of ourselves as separate from nature. Water exists as a resource through a complex intersection of socio- technical networks and systems, and is a site of different cultural meanings and social practices across time and space. Water is enmeshed in a myriad of governmental and regulatory practices as well as private markets and complex forms of provision. Its abundance as well as its scarcity is constituted in public discourses and political decisions, implicated in relations of power as these are, as much as 'natural' occurring phenomena as rains, floods, and drought. Water is far from being the natural resource it is often assumed to be. This research project seeks to explore cities and water- the socio-cultural practices associated with it, the socio- technical networks involved, and the regulatory frameworks of its provision in London and several other global cities.

A book is under contract with Palgrave Macmillan to by published in late 2018.

Lecture in St Petersburg. May 2016

Link to Youtube

Water Matters in Public Space. Lecture St Petersburg

The Presence of Faith in  London

Religious Buildings, Spaces, Texts and Images, c. 1800-2010. This project explores the presence of religion in east London, tracing the ways in which different faiths have been made visible, tangible and legible through their inscription in places, texts, images and public practices. In 2015 we conducted a research study of Buddhist cultural and social practices in London

Religion as practices of attachment and materiality: the making of Buddhism in contemporary London (2016)
Watson, Sophie and Zanetti, Oliver

Street Markets as Sites of Public Space and Social Interaction

Street Markets are sites of sociality, cultural practices and innovation. This has been a long standing area of my research since my study of Street Markets as Spaces of Social Interaction for the Joseph Rowntree foundation, and my subsequent appointment as special adiviser to the House of Commons Select Committe on Retail Street Markets in London


Multiculturalism, Difference and Everyday Urban Life

This is a long standing area of research into how differences are constitutied and co- produced in city spaces and sites.

Making Multiculturalism (2016-12) 
Watson, Sophie
Ethnic and Racial Studies ((Early view))

Lecture Dec 2016 Leibniz !RS Migration and Urban Regeneration Conference

Linnk to Youtube:

Keynote Unsettled Conference Vienna March 2017

Link to Youtube:


Smart Cities and Social Difference

A study of Smart Cities in the Making has recently got underway between a group of OU colleagues and is based in Milton Keynes.

Smart Cities and Social Difference – learning from Milton Keynes ( Co-I). ESRC funded project.

Selected publications

Books and monographs

2017  Liquid Passions; City Water Cultures (forthcoming Palgrave Macmillan)

2011 - The New Blackwell Companion to the City (edited with Gary Bridge) Oxford: Blackwell

2010 - The Blackwell City Reader 2nd Edition(edited with Gary Bridge). Oxford: Blackwell

2008 - Security: Sociology and social worlds (ed with Carter, S.) Jordan, T.

2006 - City Publics: The (dis) enchantments of Urban Encounters, Routledge

2006 - Markets as sites of Social Interaction: Spaces of Diversity, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Policy Press

2002 - Blackwell Reader on the City (with Gary Bridge) Oxford:Blackwell

2001 - Companion to the City (with Gary Bridge) (300,000 words): Oxford, Basil Blackwell.

1999 - Engendering Social Policy (edited collection with L.Doyal): London, Open University Press.

Recent articles and chapters (selected)

2016 Making Multiculturalism Ethnic and Racial Studies .On Line First.

2016  Religion as Practices of Attachment and Materiality: the making of Buddhism in Contemporary London.  Culture and Religion , 17(3) pp. 257-278 (with O Zanetti).

2015 - City in Plate, S. Brent, ed. Key Words in Material Religion (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). 

2015 - Mundane objects in the city: Laundry practices and the making  and remaking of public/private sociality and space in London and New York. Urban Studies 52: 5 876- 890

2014 - Ambivalent Affect/Emotion Conflicted Discourses of Multicultural Belonging. (with Saha) Stories of Cosmopolitan Belonging and Location (ed) Jackson, E and Jones, H. Routledge.

2014 - Spaces of Difference: Challenging Urban Divisions from the North to the South (eds) Parnell, S and Oldfied, S The Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global  South. Routledge

2013 - Global Futures- reflections on culture, diversity and planning for the twenty first century. In G. Young (ed) The Ashgate Research Companion to planning Ashgate

2013 - Suburban Drifts: mundane multiculturalism in outer London Ethnic and Racial Studies (with Saha, A). vol 36. No. 12

2013 - Shifting Religious Practices in London’s East End Material Religion volume 9, issue 1, pp. 86–113 (with Dodsworth and Vacchelli).

2012 - Street markets in Vienna and Budapest economic(inter)action spheres for migrants (in German: Straßenmärkte in Wien und Budapest als Schauplätze des WirtschaftenMigrationskontexten), in Dabringer, M. and Trupp, A. (eds.), Wirtschaften mit Migrationshintergrund. Zur soziokulturellen Bedeutung ethnischer Ökonomien in urbanen Räumen, StudienVerlag with Knierbein, S, Aigner, J 

2012 - Into Unorthodox London: The Religious Ethnography of Charles Maurice Davies Victorian Literature and Culture (with Dodsworth) VLC 40.2

2011- 6 Chapters in the New Companion- to detail here

2011 - Constituting Religious Publics: The Tale of two non-conformist churches in London Culture and Religion Vol 12 , no 1 p. 1-19 (with F.Dodsworth)

2009 - The eruv: where the soft spaces of symbolic meaning meet the hard lines of planning. S&RO, Theme Issue on the Soft City (Dutch journal on architecture and urban planning)

2009 - The Magic of the Market Place: Sociality in a neglected public space Urban Studies, Vol. 46, No. 8, 1577-1591

2009 - Performing Religion: Migrants, the church and belonging in Marrickville, Sydney Culture and Religion, Volume 10, Issue 3 November 2009, pages 317-338

2009 - Brief Encounters of an unpredictable kind: Everyday Multiculturalism in three London street markets. Wise, A (ed) Everyday Multiculturalism London: Palgrave

2008 - Fear in the city, in Carter, S., Jordan, T. and Watson, S. (eds)

2008 - Productive Potentialities in Public-Private and Private-Public Space Urban Design 108 31-34

2008 - Abandoning the monumental and seeking the serendipitous. In Vesterdal, I. Pagh, C. eds. Changing Metropolis 52-552

2005 - Symbolic spaces of difference: Contesting the Eruv in London and Tenafly, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2005, volume 23(4) August, pages 597-613

2005 - 'A Politics of Resentment: shopkeepers in a London Neighbourhood' (with K.Wells) Ethnic and Racial Studies 28(2) 2 pp 261-277

2005 - 'Spaces of Nostalgia: The Hollowing out of a London Market' (with K.Wells) Journal of Social and Cultural Geography. Vol. 6, No. 1. (2005), pp. 17-30.

External collaborations

Visiting Professor at the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths University.