Lindsay Sawyer


Personal profile


I am an urbanist specialising on Lagos, Nigeria with research interests in emerging theoretical concepts and methodological approaches to the urban realities of African urbanism particularly in regard to the related issues of dual land regimes involving customary authority, differentiating the informal and informality, the role of rental housing, the implications of piecemeal service provision and ‘urban majorities’ – the prevalent not-poorest, not-wealthy population, urban fabric and ways of doing that are often ignored in literature and policy. I am also interested in comparative urbanism as a way to produce this knowledge. Ongoing comparative work has involved Lagos, Shenzhen, Kolkata, Istanbul and Mexico City.

Since 2011 I have been part of the comparative project Planetary Urbanisation in Comparative Perspective lead by Christian Schmid of ETH Zurich, that put eight urban regions into comparison to produce new theoretical categories based on deep empirical work put in comparative perspective. I was previously a Visiting Scholar at the African Centre for Cities in Cape Town, and a researcher at the Future Cities Laboratory, Singapore.

Research interests

  • The urbanisation of African cities, especialy Lagos, Nigeria
  • The production and role of rental housing, dual land regimes and non-state authorities in the urbanisation of African cities
  • Differentiating the informal and informality
  • Doing South-South, South-North, intra-African comparative urbanism
  • Developing grounded multidisciplinary methodologies: grounded urban theory, comparative urbanism
  • Postcolonial urban geography

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Science, PLOTTING the prevalent but undertheorised residential areas of Lagos. Conceptualising a process of urbanisation through grounded theory and comparison, ETH Zurich (Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zurich)


Award Date: 10 Nov 2016

Master in Science, The City, University of Edinburgh


Award Date: 1 Sept 2010

Bachelor of Architecture, Architectural Design, University of Edinburgh


Award Date: 1 Jun 2009

External positions

Contributor to 'Planetary Urbanization in Comparative Perspective' research project, ETH Zurich (Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zurich)

2011 → …

Areas of expertise

  • NA Architecture
  • Mapping
  • G Geography (General)
  • Urban Geography
  • urban transformation
  • Comparative urbanism
  • Postcolonialism
  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Urban Sociology

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Global Development Institute
  • Manchester Urban Institute


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