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Faculty of Social Sciences

Staff Profile

Prof Sophie Watson

Prof Sophie Watson

Professor of Sociology



B.A. (Soc.Sci.), Sussex University; D. Phil., Open University

Professional affiliations

Member of the OpenSpace Research Centre.
Co-Director of the ESRC Centre for Research in Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), 2010-present.
Special Adviser to House of Commons Department of Communities and Local Government Inquiry into Traditional Retail Markets, 2009.

Research interests

Re-thinking Cities

Countribution to The Flexible City - Challenge for Urban Research Round Table - Oxford 2013.

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 across a number of cities in the Global North and South.

The Presence of Faith in East London (E1)

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.

Street Markets

Street Markets are sites of sociality, cultural practices and innovation.

Recent publications

A selection of my research publications can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Books and monographs

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

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 and Watson

2012 - Suburban Drifts: mundane multiculturalism in outer London Ethnic and Racial Studies (with Saha, A) forthcoming. Available online

2012 - Global Futures - reflections on culture, diversity and planning for the twenty first century. In G. Young (ed) The Ashgate Research Companion to planning Ashgate

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

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.

Last updated: 25 November 2014