Gordon Douglas

Assistant Professor
Director, Institute of Metropolitan Studies
PhD, Sociology, University of Chicago
MA, Global Communication, USC Annenberg School for Communication
MSc, Global Media, London School of Economics and Political Science
BA, International Relations, University of Southern California
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Gordon Douglas is a multidisciplinary urbanist whose work sits at the intersection of urban political-economy, community studies, and cultures of planning and design. Through his research, teaching, and community work, Gordon aims to bring social and cultural analysis to the study of urban planning and development. Much of his research concerns questions of local identity, peoples' relationships to their physical surroundings, and social and spatial inequality in the city. He is currently finishing a book about people who create unauthorized but functional, civic-minded "do-it-yourself urban design" interventions in their communities and what these informal improvement efforts tell us about planning, participation, and privilege in the contemporary city. Also in the works are book chapters on the cultural value of authenticity in local identity and placemaking, and on the unintended downsides to bottom-up urbanism. Other recent studies have examined the cultural geography of gentrification; the impacts of community expectations on development projects; how the naming and design of mass transit stations can help promote neighborhood identity; and the role of organizational cultures and everyday infrastructure in the uneven resilience of different communities to extreme weather. Gordon's teaching interests include community economic development, policy analysis, research methods, and urban history and theory. He is also working with scholars and practitioners across several universities to develop an interdisciplinary graduate curriculum for climate resiliency planning and design education.


Gordon received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago and also holds degrees from the University of Southern California and the London School of Economics. Prior to joining the Dept. of Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State, he was the Rebuild by Design Postdoctoral Fellow at New York University, where he also served as Associate Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge, a research center focused on publicly engaged scholarship. 

Gordon Douglas on SJSU's ScholarWorks 

Selected Publications

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Douglas, G. C. C. 2018. The Help Yourself City: Legitimacy an dInequality in DIY Urbanism. Oxford UP.

Douglas, G. C. C.  2016. "The Formalities of Informal Improvement: Technical and Scholarly Knowledge at Work in DIY Urban Design," The Journal of Urbanism: Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, vol. 9, no. 2. 117-134.


Douglas, G.  2015. Review of Tactical Urbanism, by Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia, Journal of the American Planning Association, vol. 81, no. 2. 154-55. 


Douglas, G. C. C.  2014. "Do-it-Yourself Urban Design: The Social Practice of Informal 'Improvement' Through Unauthorized Alteration," City and Community, vol. 13, no. 1. 5-25.


Douglas, G. C. C.  2012. "The Edge of the Island: Cultural Ideology and Neighborhood Identity at the Gentrification Frontier," Urban Studies, vol. 49, no. 16. 3579-3594.


Douglas, G. C. C.  2012. "Cultural Expectations and Urban Development: The Role of 'Cultural Sensitivity' and 'Cultural Sincerity' in Local Growth Politics," Sociological Perspectives, vol. 55,

 no. 1. 213-236. 


C. L. Ho & G. Douglas (eds.) 2012. Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good, catalogue for the exhibition, United States Pavilion, 13th Venice International Biennale of Architecture. Washington, DC: Architect/Hanley Wood.

Douglas, G. C. C.  2010. "Rail Transit Identification and Neighbourhood Identity: Exploring the Potential for 'Community-Supportive Transit,'" The Journal of Urban Design, vol. 15, no. 2. 175-193.