My Work on Discourse

How we talk about places matters. It affects how people in those places see themselves. Language can reinforce existing stigmas, or make certain problems or policies seem unchangeable. We understand and misunderstand through language, particularly around ideas like ‘suburb’ or ‘city’ which carry connotations but little fixed meaning. Racism can be entrenched through how we talk about places. Language also travels – from city to suburb, and from country to country, even across language barriers.


In press Alex Schafran and Yohann Le Moigne. From the suburbs to the banlieue. In Maginn, P. J. and Anacker, K. B. (Eds.) Suburbia in the 21st Century: From Dreamscape to Nightmare? London: Routledge.

2018 Alice Butler and Alex Schafran. What sort of place is a ‘shithole’? It depends on your genderThe Conversation, 22 Jan., 2018

2018 Alice Butler, Alex Schafran & Georgina Carpenter, What does it mean when people call a place a shithole? Understanding a discourse of denigration in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/tran.12247

2017 Alex Schafran, Giorgia Aiello, Theresa Enright & Yohann Le Moigne, Rendering a Redeveloped France, Metropolitics, 7 June 2017

2016 Yohann Le Moigne, Gregory Smithsimon, and Alex Schafran. Ni la race ni le 93 ne sont ce que nous croyons qu’ils sont, Herodote 162

2013 Alex Schafran. Discourse and Dystopia, American Style: The Rise of “Slumburbia” in a Time of Crisis, City, 17(2), pp. 130-148

2012 Alex Schafran. The Cities of Carquinez. The Urbanist, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR), San Francisco. June 2012.

2009 Alex Schafran. Outside Endopolis: Notes from Contra Costa County,Critical Planning, 16. SOJA PRIZE FOR CRITICAL THINKING IN URBAN AND REGIONAL RESEARCH.

2009 Alex Schafran. La Cosa Nostra: Discourse & Decline in Suburbia, debate with Michael Thompson, MUDOT: Magazine on Urban Documentation, Opinion, Theory, Issue #2

2006 Alex Schafran. As a Child of the Suburbs – A Response to Michael Thompson’s “How Suburbs Destroy Democracy, MONU: magazine on urbanism, Issue #5.


When the foreclosure crisis hit in 2007/8, I was just beginning my field work in eastern Contra Costa county. Over the next year, I began to see all manner of articles in supposedly respectable newspapers and magazines by relatively well-known writers all doing the same thing: describing suburbs with the negative terminology previous generations of…


When I arrived in the UK, it was hard to ignore how surprised people were that I would come from sunny California to the North of England. What would usually follow is a conversation about where they were from, which would inevitably end up at some discussion of what city or village or part of…

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