Global Urban Research Unit

Staff Profile

Dr Cat Button

Senior Lecturer and Degree Programme Director of MSc Urban Planning

Background

Introduction

My research focuses on how people and communities cope with having too little (or too much) water, and the domestication of water infrastructure. I research water from a social-science perspective within interdisciplinary and international teams, and this has led to funding success on 4 UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) projects so far. My research and teaching fold together a diverse range of topics and approaches springing from an interdisciplinary background in architecture, environmental studies and human geography. My work so far has included: infrastructural urban theory; climate change governance; development geography; science and technology studies; and environmental everyday practices.

The teaching I am involved in is tailored to my research interests in the environment, development, housing, and the urban. I contribute to teaching on a range of courses - primarily Urban Planning modules focused on global urbanisms. I have previously taught on human geography subjects and am an Associate Fellow of the UK Higher Education Authority. 

Roles and Responsibilities

My primary role is to teach and research global urbanisms. I am the Director MSc in Urban Planning and co-Director of PGT.  I am also involved in several school committees. I am a committee member of NUWomen: Newcastle University's network for all women who work at the university. I am interested in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.  

Qualifications

  • PhD in Human Geography at Durham University (2014) Domesticating Infrastructure: Mumbai's middle class housing and rainwater harvesting
  • MSc (dist.) in Environmental Technology at Hull University (2008)
  • MA (hons) in Architectural Design at Edinburgh University (2006)


Informal Interests 

Slow travel: I have been half way round the world on trains (and buses and ferries). The Arts: I am particularly interested in contemporary art and photography. I also sometimes play the bassoon.

Languages

English; Hindi (Lower-Intermediate); French (ELP: B1).

Research

Research Interests

Water. My research focuses on how people and communities cope with having too little (or too much) water, particularly in Asian cities. This sits within my wider interdisciplinary interests including; urban responses to climate change and environmental issues, housing, infrastructure, the water-energy nexus, and the urban middle classes. I am interested in residents’ access to services and the implications this has for wider infrastructure governance and environmental discourse. I continue to research middle class and elite housing in India and China. I am also exploring the impact of paradigmatic cities on data collection and the ethical implications that high concentrations of researchers may have on urban theory, especially in the global South. I am a member of the Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) and the Global Challenges Academy networks on Sustainable Water and Resilient Cities. I have been part of 4 research teams to have successfully bid for UKRI Global Challenges Research Funding (GCRF). 

Current Funded Research Projects

UKRI GCRF Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub (Led by Richard Dawson, Newcastle University). This trans-disciplinary hub tackles intractable challenges of water security and addresses the Sustainable Development Goals. The Water Hub has worldwide reach through collaboratories in India, Malaysia, Ethiopia and Colombia to increase dialogue. I am leading Work Stream 4 on Valuing Water with colleagues mainly from social-sciences, humanities and arts disciplines. How do the ways that water is valued affect approaches to water security? I am working with colleagues and partners across all the collaboratories of the hub to consider the multiple ways that water is viewed and interacted with. More information: https://www.watersecurityhub.org/ 

UKRI GCRF Living Deltas Hub (Led by Andy Large, Newcastle University). This trans-disciplinary hub aims to safeguard the futures of deltas. Research will focus on deltas in Vietnam, India and Bangladesh. I am part of Work Package 1 which focuses on heritage and livelihoods to build shared narratives of pasts, presents and alternative futures in living deltas. More information at http://www.livingdeltas.org/ 

Recent Funded Projects

REMATCH: Building REsilience to Multi-source Flooding in South/Southeast Asia Tech-informed Community-based approacH  Funded by NERC Global Challenges Research Fund (PI Prof. Qiuhua Liang). This is an international and interdisciplinary project investigating resilience of communities to multi-source flooding in Vietnam's Mekong Delta and how this type of flooding can be predicted to help increase resilience.

DRIER-China: Drought Resilience In Ecosystem services and Rural communities in China. Funded by NERC Global Challenges Research Fund (PI Dr Rachel Gaulton). This is an international and interdisciplinary project focused on drought resilience in northern China.

Previous Work

My main research focus over the last decade has been housing as a site of environmental response by middle class residents in Mumbai and was the subject of my PhD thesis Domesticating Infrastructure: Mumbai's middle class housing and rainwater harvestingThis research has focused predominantly on rainwater harvesting as a key infrastructural response to environmental pressures. There are three aspects and scales to this research that can be categorised as how rainwater harvesting (and other environmental infrastructures) are: governed; assembled; and practiced.  

I have worked as a research associate on a mutli-disciplinary project looking into micro-hydro energy in the North East of England (based at The Durham Energy Institute). The project was entitled Micro-hydro generation on the River Wear: a socio-technical appraisal and was an interdisciplinary project that investigated the impacts and feasibility of microhydro energy generation on the River Wear.

Postgraduate Research Supervision

I welcome applications from potential doctoral candidates who are interested in water; Asian cities; urban infrastructure; housing; or socio-technical responses to environmental issues.

Current PhD candidates: 

  • Jeongeun Chae (with Dr Andrew Donaldson)
  • Thanh Vo (with Prof. Tim Townsend)
  • Ang Li (with Dr Suzanne Speak)

Completed PhDs supervised:

  • Dr Faisal Bin Sulaiman 2017 (with Prof. Ali Madanipour) The Role of Urban Form in Sustainability - The case study of a Riyadh city neighbourhood


Teaching

I am the Degree Programme Director (DPD) for MSc in Urban Planning. I am also co-Director of Taught Postgraduates (PGT) in the School of Architecture Planning and Landscape.  My primary teaching role is lecturing and tutoring on global urbanisms for both undergraduate and postgraduate modules in SAPL.

Postgraduate Teaching

Module Leader

  • TCP8954 Housing and Settlements
  • TCP8920 Globalisation and Social Justice Project
  • Skills week for new masters students (as part of TCP8911)

Contributor

  • TCP8921 Globalisation and Social Justice


Undergraduate Teaching

Contributor

  • TCP2030 Urban Poverty: A Global Perspective
  • TCP2034 How Public is Public Space?

I teach into several other modules in APL, both undergraduate and postgraduate. I also mentor dissertation students at all levels.


Tutoring

Personal tutor for students across the Urban Planning Department, especially students on MSc Urban Planning

My office hours are Mondays 1pm-2pm and Tuesdays 11am-12noon during term time. Contact me for further details. 

Publications