I am a Lecturer in Urban Geography at the School of Geography in the University of Leeds.

Doctoral Research: Peripheral Modernities

My PhD was an ESRC-funded project exploring the experience of rapid urbanisation in the city of Chongqing, in southwest China. It explores issues of informal practices and housing arising from the urbanisation of rural land on the peripehry of the city and the construction of state-built housing for those displaced by urbanisation. I examine state narratives of equitable development, the experience of those groups displaced to the edge of the city and how they access housing, and the persistence of informal practices in various forms in the fragmented landscape of the urban periphery. I focus in particular on the informal use of housing, and informal practices of agriculture and construction which take place in nominally urban undeveloped land. Many of these changes in space emerged in the aftermath of the populist and allegedly equitable policies introduced under the slogan of the ‘Chongqing Model’ (2007-2012), when the local state promoted rapid development and under an egaliatrian developmental agenda. I use the framing of ‘urban modernity’ to relate the everyday practices of making and remaking urban life on the periphery to the state’s narrative of development. I conducted fieldwork in Chongqing for 20 months, using ethnographic methods, archival research and collaboration with local film makers. My thesis seeks to integrate the experience of Chongqing’s urbanisation into an expanded understanding of how daily life is composed on the urban periphery, and what the example of Chongqing’s peripheral urbanism can tell us about global urban life more broadly. I take urban modernity as a problem space for exploring the junctures between the imaginaries of the urban and the reproduction of urban life.

Other research

Since completing my PhD my research has explored questions of verticality and the imaging of urban futures through visual representations of the city of Chongqing and Chinese urbanism more broadly.

I have led a project on the representation and research of displacement in social sciences and the arts during the 2021-22 academic year, entitled Reframing Displacements.

I have a developing research interest in tabletop games (board games, roleplaying games) as a tool of research and pedgagogy. Me and some colleagues discuss this in our podcast, Serious Play.

My research interests are not exlcusive to China and I have experience of leading fieldtrips and teaching on other geographic contexts. My research interests include of urban planning, housing, political economy, political ecology, ethnography, sound and theory.


Peer-Reviewed Journals

Zhang, A. Y., Roast, A. and Morris, C. 2022. Wanghong Urbanism: Towards a New Urban-Digital Spectacle. Mediapolis: A Journal of Cities and Culture 7(4)

Roast, A. 2022. Theory from empty land: informal commoning outside/within economies and ecologies of the urban. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

Roast, A. 2022. Towards weird verticality: the spectacle of vertical spaces in Chongqing. Urban Studies

Roast, A., Conlon, D., Garelli G., Waite, L. 2022. The need for inter/sub disciplinary thinking in critical conceptualizations of displacement. Annals of the Association of American Geographers

Roast A. 2021. Three Theses on the Sinofuturist City. Verge: Studies in Global Asias, 7(2), pp.80-86.


Roast, A. 2020. Planning Chongqing: Between Rural and Urban In: The Routledge Handbook of Planning Megacities in the Global South. London: Routledge, pp.38–51.

Other writing

关于中华未来主义城市的三个论点 (2021) in 学术册子02:中华未来主义读本. Ed: Didigou. PULSASIR. pp.57-66. (translation of Three Theses on the Sinofuturist City)

Peri-urban China (Tian and Guo, 2019) [Review] Eurasian Geography and Economics

A letter from Chongqing (2019) Tribune

Speaking and Conference Papers

Speaking & Conference Papers

Modernity on the periphery: housing and informality after the Chongqing Model – Oxford China Centre Seminar, November 2022

In search of the unknown: Urbanising the Megadungeon – Megadungeon: New Digital Volumetries in Art and Media, Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice, October 2022. (available on youtube)

Urban Agriculture as Wasteland Commons – Global Food and Environment Institute, University of Leeds, May 2022 (available on youtube)

Empty land: informal commons outside/within the urban – Dislocating Urban Studies (Workshop 2), Helsinki University and University of Malmo, March 2021

A Grounded Perspective on Chongqing’s Urbanization – Guest Lecture, Shandong University, Qingdao, December 2020

Outside/within the megacity: informal production of space on the edges of Chongqing – RGS-IBG Annual Conference, RGS, London, August 2019

Verticality as Temporality: imaging futures of vertical density in Chongqing – RGS-IBG Annual Conference, RGS, London, August 2019

Informality and health on the edge of Chongqing – Healthy Cities 2019: Urbanisation, infrastructures and everyday life in East Asia, University of Manchester, May 2019

Invited keynote provocation – Healthy Cities 2019: Urbanisation, infrastructures and everyday life in East Asia, University of Manchester, May 2019

Between techno-orientalism and neo-Maoism: anticipating high-rise urban futures – ASA Annual Conference, University of Oxford, Oxford, September 2018

Ghosts of a Megacity – The City Re/Shaped, University of Leeds, September 2018

Peri-urban Chongqing through a comparative lens – RGS-IBG Annual Conference, University of Cardiff, Cardiff, August 2018

Informality and Space in peri-urban Chongqing – China Urban Geography Conference, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, July 2018

Peripheral Modernities: Space, subjecivity and post-displacement – AAG Annual Conference, New Orleans, April 2018

Neo-Maoist Suburbia? Producing Space and Subjectivity in the public housing of Chongqing, Southwest China – ISA RC21 – Rethinking Global Urban Justice, University of Leeds, Leeds, September 2017

Building Ecological Civilisation – a bottom-up view of periurban space – RGS-IBG Annual Conference, Royal Geographical Society, London, August 2017

Recomposing Class and Modernity between country and city – Chongqing’s public rental housing – ISA RC43 – Unreal Estate? Rethinking housing, class and identity, CUHK, Hong Kong, June 2017

Affective Geographies of Industrial Space – 9th International Artists Workshop, Organhaus Gallery, Chongqing, April 2017

Remaking Urban Modernity in the Post-Socialist Megacity: New and Old Urbanisms in Chongqing – East Asian Research Centre for Alternative Geography Conference, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, December 2016

Holes in the hyperdense – structural gaps and improvisation in the built environment of an emerging megacity – RGS-IBG Annual Conference, Royal Geographical Society, London, August 2016

Modernity, representation and everyday life in “the largest city you’ve never heard of” – Stadtkolloqium Urban Studies Workshop. UCL, London, April 2015

Representing the Post-Representational City: Space, Spectacle and Everyday Life in Chinese Urbanism – RGS-IBG Postgraduate Conference, Sheffield University, Sheffield, April 2015

The European City on Holiday – Psychogeographical Society, University of Leeds, Leeds, Jaunary 2013

Psychogeographies of Post-Socialist Shanghai – Psychogeographical Society, University of Leeds, Leeds, October 2012


At the University of Leeds I teach on the MSc Sustainable Cities, and the following undergraduate modules in the School of Geography.

  • GEOG1450 The Urban Age (convenor)
  • GEOG2046 Making of the Modern City (convenor)
  • GEOG3135 Urban Transformations Field Class (convenor)
  • GEOG2035 Geographies of Economies
  • GEOG3085 Contested Cities

Other Works

60 Minute Cities: Chongqing
Field recording album, Bivouac Recordings, April 2019

Displacing Authenticity
Video, Displacements 2018, Johns Hopkins University, April 2018

One or several spaces
Installation, text and sound, U-Turn, Gongchang, Chongqing, May 2017