Project Team

The project assembles a multidisciplinary team that spans urban studies, minority geographies and digital geographies with extensive experience of research in India. This collaboration is complementary covering a range of skills and expertise in qualitative, digital and participatory methods.

Prof. Ayona Datta

Principal Investigator, University College London

Prof. Datta works on the intersections of urban futures, gender citizenship and smart cities, focusing on new configurations of gender-power relations in the digital-territorial margins. Her research is set in the ethos of co-production with grassroots communities using digital/mapping, visual and participatory research methods to develop and build gendered capacity in the digital and urban margins. Her work has had high translatability into policy and public knowledge and has gained international recognition through invited presentations in UNCTAD, UN ECOSOC and UN-Habitat. She has been frontline Editor of Urban Geography since 2017 and is on editorial boards of: AntipodeDialogues in Human GeographyDigital Geography and Society, EPD: Society and Space and Territory, Politics and Governance. For her contributions to understanding of smart cities through fieldwork she received the Busk Medal from Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in 2019. Currently she is a member of the UK REF 2021 subpanel on Geography.

Prof. Abdul Shaban

Co-Investigator, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Professor Shaban is trained as an urban and economic geographer with research interests in cities, entrepreneurship, creative industries, and religious minorities (Muslims in India). He has been on several high level government committees, commissions to evaluate the condition of Muslims and minorities in India. He has held fellowships and visiting professorships at several leading universities outside India, which include LSE, Muenster University, Erasmus University and Paris Diderot University. He has also served as Deputy Director (Pro-Vice Chancellor) of Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ Tuljapur Campus from 2014-19. Email: shaban@tiss.edu

Dr. Sheema Fatima

Post-doctoral Research Assistant, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

An urban planner by training Dr Fatima’s interests lie in urban politics and governance in non-metropolitan urban centres. She has worked on numerous research projects in both Mumbai and small and medium towns of Bihar. For her work and research she has been recipient of several international student scholarships and fellowships over the years. With a teaching experience of over a decade she has been doing courses on usage of vernacular language and literature for urban research and writing.


Advisory partner


Aqsa Educational Society is a Minority Trust, which was established in 1980 to educate and empower girls from poor families. It runs a number of schools and colleges in Bhiwandi from primary to graduation level. 


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