Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Staff Profile

Dr Peter Kellett

Visiting Fellow



I studied architecture and social anthropology and my PhD combined both disciplines in a longitudinal ethnographic study of self-made environments and social practices in Latin America. My research continues to focus on the interrelationship between social, material and spatial practices in contexts of disadvantage and vulnerability.  I have worked on several international research projects with a focus on informal settlements, participatory planning and poverty alleviation, and published extensively, particularly on housing, informality and urban issues in the global south. 

I have successfully supervised over 30 PhDs and examined at numerous universities in the UK and internationally.


BA (Hons) Architectural Studies. Newcastle University
BArch (Hons) Bachelor of Architecture. Newcastle University
MA Socio-Cultural Anthropology (Distinction). University of Durham
PhD Newcastle University
ARB/RIBA Part III (Registration as an architect)


ASA: Association of Social Anthropologists
RIBA: Royal Institute of British Architects (lapsed)

IAPS: International Association of People-Environment Studies: Since 2000 I have been joint co-ordinator of the Culture and Space Network and between 2006 and 2010 I was on the Board of IAPS. 




Informal Interests

Playing music, digging my allotment, contemporary art, planting trees, cycling, green politics ...



In recent years I have been involved in the following modules:

Module Leader:

ARC2023: Theory 2: The Place of Houses (K100 Architecture)

APL 2023: Theory 2: The Place of Houses (K190: Architecture and Urban Planning AUP)

ARC 1007: Architectural Design 1.1 (K190: Architecture and Urban Planning)

ARC8058/8068: Linked Research Project (MArch)


ARC 1001: Architectural Design 1 (K100) 

ARC 2024: About Architecture: Cities, Cultures, Spaces (K100)

ARC 3060: Dissertation Studies (K100)

TCP 8920: Planning for Developing Countries

ARC 8051: Tools for Thinking about Architecture (MArch)

ARC 8053: Dissertation in Architecture (MArch)

SOC 8101: The Shaping of Latin America (MA in Latin American Studies)


For many years I also contributed to the methodology workshops in the Faculty Research Training Programme for PhD students: qualitative research methods and fieldwork in developing countries.

External Examiner on Masters Programmes

I have recently completed a four year period as External Examiner on the MA in International Architectural Regeneration and Development at Oxford Brookes University.  Previously I was External Examiner for the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development at the Development Planning Unit at UCL.



Research Interests

I am a qualified architect with a Masters degree in Social Anthropology and a PhD which combines both disciplines.  The theoretical basis of much of my research work falls within the fields of material culture and environment-behaviour studies, which aim to deepen our understanding of the interrelationship between people and their environments.  The main focus is on relatively disadvantaged groups in contrasting parts of the world who inhabit or create environments in conditions of acute resource constraint or relative powerlessness, with the aim of contributing to address these inequalities.

My doctoral work was an ethnographic study that explored the creation, use and value of self-made, informal settlements in Latin America, focusing particularly on Colombia.  I have continued with this longitudinal study – which now covers over 30 years based on data collected during periods of fieldwork living with a family in one settlement.

I have developed analytical, theoretical and methodological insights from this work which I have applied in funded projects in several parts of the world, mostly in collaboration with colleagues in the Global Urban Research Unit (GURU).  For example two DFID-funded Home-based Enterprise projects (with Graham Tipple) examined how low-income households in developing cities use the space of the dwelling and the labour of the household to generate income.  Our findings challenged accepted policy and demonstrated how such activities can lead to poverty alleviation and improved housing, both key components of the Millennium Development Goals.  I have worked with Michael Majale on issues of disability and informal settlement upgrading, and more recently on issues of housing regeneration and sustainability with Elias Yitbarek at Addis Ababa University. 

In the UK I have applied ethnographic research techniques to environment-behaviour relations of groups with limited control over their circumstances, such as hospital patients and the elderly.  Because of my expertise in micro-level analysis of environments I was invited to join an inter-disciplinary team in the Centre for Arts and Humanities in Health and Medicine (CAHHM) at Durham University, to evaluate hospital environments for NHS Estates, particularly from the perspective of the patient.  I have also worked with Rose Gilroy on issues of identity and independence in the housing of older people

Housing and Material Culture in Ethiopia

During 2013 I worked as a VSO volunteer in Ethiopia – where I was Visiting Professor of Housing at EiABC within Addis Ababa University.  Ongoing research collaboration with Ethiopian colleagues has included research visits to Addis Ababa in 2015 and 2017.

I am also active in the visual arts, based on approaches from contemporary art and visual anthropology.  Drawing directly on my continuing research in Ethiopia, I have presented a series of three solo public exhibitions (in Newcastle, Bath and Bristol).  Funded by awards from NICAP (Newcastle Institute of Creative Practice) and NISR (Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal) the exhibitions focus on changing material culture at a time of rapid social and economic change. The exhibitions are piloting the potential of contemporary arts in challenging negative perceptions of international development.   

This work forms part of the Creative Practice activities of the Architectural Research Collaborative (ARC) within the School. 

The above research activities have led to numerous publications.  The list of publications on this website is currently being updated.

Postgraduate Supervision

Research supervision is a key part of my work. To date I have successfully supervised a total of 30 PhDs and 16 MPhil students, many of whom are now significant academic and government positions around the world. Currently I am supervising 5 PhD students:

Sadanu Sukkasame: Participation, Dwelling and Environment: Re-housing an Indigenous Karen Community in Thailand (awaiting examination).

Djuang Sodikin: A Spatial-Based Programme Approach to Water Supply Development in Indonesia (awaiting examination).

Ohoud Kamal: Temporary Spaces in Amman: co-creation of everyday activism and state flexibility.

Laura Pinzon: Citizen Participation and Digital Media in Urban Development: Manizales, Colombia.

Indah Mutia: Urban Riverfront Revitalisation in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

With students in my group I have pioneered a collective approach to PhD supervision.  One tangible outcome is an edited book in which all chapters were written by my PhD students:

Kellett, Peter and Hernandez, Jaime (eds.) (2013) Researching the Contemporary City: Identity, Environment and Social Inclusion in Developing Areas, Bogota: Centro Editorial Javeriano.

PhD Examination Experience: 

To date I have examined over 40 doctorates at Newcastle and at numerous universities including: 

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) Stockholm; Université de Montréal; Universidad Castilla La Mancha (Toledo); Universidad de Granada; University of Melbourne; ITS Surabaya (Indonesia); Makerere University (Uganda); University of Cambridge; University of Glasgow; University College London (DPU, Bartlett, Geography); London School of Economics (LSE) (Geography, Social Policy); University of Sheffield; Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen; Northumbria University; Kings College London; University of Leeds; Heriot Watt University.