Dr Asa Roast

Dr Asa Roast


I am an urban geographer and ethnographer with a focus on urbanisation in contemporary China. I came to geography through a circuitous path. After completing an undergraduate degree in History, I studied MA China Studies at SOAS (University of London), followed by MA Social and Cultural Geography at University of Leeds. I completed my PhD at Leeds, during which time I spent 20 months doing fieldwork in Chongqing, Southwest China. During this time I was a visiting researcher at Southwest University (西南大学) School of Geographical Sciences.


  • Study Abroad Coordinator

Research interests

My research is concerned with the political economy and daily life of urban transformations. I am interested in how changing urban spaces are planned, lived and imagined, and the urban as a horizon for social and political possibility. For this reason, I am particularly interested in how urban space is negotiated in relation to perceptions of the future, and modernity, and the possibility of futures and spaces beyond capitalism. My doctoral research focussed on the city of Chongqing in Southwest China, where I analysed how the rapid expansion of the city was organised and implemented, and contextualising this change within the broader transformation of Chongqing municipality in the post-socialist era. My research entailed ethnographic work with residents on the urban periphery, observation of different uses of housing and informal spaces. This work formed the basis of my PhD thesis, completed in 2019, which explored the urban imaginaries, informal use of wasteland spaces (kongdi 空地) and housing associated with the urban periphery in Chongqing. This work considered how far an alternative vision of an urban future was coming into being on the periphery of Chongqing, and how far the activities of people on the edge of the city constituted challenged theoretical definitions of the limits of the city and of urban capitalism as an economic and ecological system.

In more recent work I have been interested in how the future of Chinese urbanism is imagined, both domestically within China and by global audiences. This has fed into a research interest in “wanghong urbanism” and the interaction between digital platforms and urban space.

A further research project is concerned with the different scales and epistemologies of displacement which occur within human geography, and ways of bridging the gap bewteen urban, regional and international scales of imagining and recording displacement. This forms the basis of the 2021/22 Sadler Seminar Series project Reframing Displacement, which I lead.

I have a side research interest in table-top roleplaying games and other forms of manual games as an object and subject of academic research, which is explored in the Sadler Series project Serious Play.

I am also interested in audio-visual representations of urban spaces, and released an album of field recordings of Chongqing in 2019.

PhD student supervision:

  • Yue Che (current)
  • Youhua Chen (current)
  • Wanyun Ying (completed 2022). Thesis title: Agendas, imaginaries and institutions: assembling the political-economic matrix of the city-region building process in China
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Social Geography
  • MA Social and Cultural Geography
  • MA Chinese Studies
  • BA History

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy

Student education

I teach on the following modules:

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

In addition I teach on the MSc Sustainable Cities (FOEV5007M, Sustainable Houing).

Research groups and institutes

  • Social Justice, Cities, Citizenship

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>