Contested Urban Futures: an ethnography of future-making in Christchurch

University of Auckland

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Contested Urban Futures: an ethnography of future-making in Christchurch

  • Host University

    University of Auckland

  • Location

    Auckland, New Zealand

  • Area of Study

    Research, Sociology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • Credit Points

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
    3 - 4
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    4 - 6
  • Overview

    Project Description
    This project investigates how Christchurch citizens imagine and narrate their hopes, fears and expectations for the future of their city. Using interviews and ethnographic methods (including video ethnography), it gives voice to a diverse range of people with multiple and often conflicting perspectives. This includes citizens from diverse backgrounds as well as stakeholders and activists involved in rebuilding and transforming Christchurch.

    Drawing on a ‘critical futures’ framework, the research foregrounds the interplay of micro-, meso-, and macro-futures by exploring how citizens connect their ideas about possible, probable and preferable futures for their city to concerns surrounding their own individual life trajectories on the one hand, and global issues (for example climate change and migration) on the other. 

    Matthewman’s recent research on the Christchurch rebuild reveals a diverse array of perspectives on the future of the city among citizens and stakeholders but also indicates that much of that diversity is rendered invisible within policy-focused debates surrounding the city rebuild. This research will help give voice to these rich and imaginative forms of citizen ‘future-making’. We also believe the project will allow us to develop an innovative ethnographic futures methodology that could be productively applied in different cities in future research. 

    Researcher’s Work

    The researcher will:

    • Produce an annotated bibliography (approx. 2500 words) on the theme of ‘urban futures.’ Depending upon the skills and attributes of the scholar (and because this is an interdisciplinary project), there will be two options for this piece of work. A scholar with a suitable sociological background may focus on relevant literature in urban sociology and futures studies; whereas a scholar with a communication and media background may prefer to focus on mediated representations of urban futures. 
    • Produce a critical essay based on their research findings (c. 2500 words). This essay will be written in the style of long-form journalism, suitable for publication on the Social Futures Research Hub website. 

    Required Skills/Pre-requisites

    The scholar needs to have experience of and interest in one or more of the following areas of study: urban sociology; futures studies; communication and media studies; disaster studies. The ideal candidate would be a scholar who has a strong interest in urban futures and, more specifically, in case study of Christchurch as the city seeks to rebuild and redefine its future in the wake of the devastating 2010/2011 earthquakes. Candidates should have strong research and writing skills. 

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.


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