Catalina Neculai

Catalina Neculai


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    Vision Statement

    I am mainly interested in the intersections between culture, community mobilisation and organising, and 'right to the city' politics in the post-1970s neoliberal city. I work on issues and contexts of urban change and urban restructuring, gentrification and rezoning, from a culturalist lens that emphasises and valorises the role of culture (representation, production, actors, networks, practices and fieldwork/methodologies) in shaping: individual and collective responses to an encroaching privatised, financialised, exclusionary and displacing urbanism; coalition building and struggles over space and over rights to the city (access, participation, appropriation, contribution); urban histories, knowledges and knowledge-making processes. I am currently developing the notion of the politics of capture through my work on literary (urban fiction and non-fiction) and documentary culture (the urban documentary film of gentrification) which i hope to extend to photography, public art and local, situated, trans-media documentation. As part of the same larger project on the politics of capture, I am also seeking to understand how academic, non-academic and media discourses instantiate politically this complex knowledge nexus of culture, urbanism and activism and how they are/can be mobilised to serve political urban and community action. 


    I joined the Centre for Academic Writing in 2009 where I am an Assistant Professor. From January 2018 to December 2020, I was an Associate in the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations after a two-year informal research affiliation with CTPSR. In January 2021, I joined the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities as an Associate research fellow. 

    I have a background in English and French languages and literatures. Prior to Coventry, I studied and taught at the Lower Danube University of Galati and the University of Bucharest, and then from 2001 to 2009, at the University of Warwick. In 2002, I completed an interdisciplinary MA in Gender, Literature and Modernity on an Open Society Foundation scholarship for Eastern Europe. At Warwick, I was awarded a Postgraduate Research Fellowship to research my doctorate on New York writing and the advent of neoliberal urbanism. At the time, I also became the recipient of the research travel award from the British Association of American Studies to conduct archival research at the New York Public Library, New York University and network with researchers at the Centre for Place, Culture and Politics at the City University of New York. As a PGR Fellow and then graduate teaching assistant, I taught world literature and 19th-century American writing as well as academic writing until I joined Coventry in 2009.

    I am a convert to human (cultural and urban) geography. My doctorate and later monograph, Urban Space and Late Twentieth-Century New York Literature: Reformed Geographies (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) certified this conversion as the project opens up a theoretical and methodological space for writing as urban fieldwork and the contribution of literary data to understanding urban politics, grassroots community activism, neoliberal urbanisation, gentrification, real estate and fictitious capitalism. Since then, my work has developed within this transdisciplinary space. 

    PhD - Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick 

    MA - Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, Department of Sociology & Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick 

    MA - Faculty of Foreign Languages, University of Bucharest 

    BA - Faculty of Letters, Lower Danube University of Galati 


    Latest grants

    2019 Early Career Researcher Networking and Skills Development Grant (Coventry University - £7500): Gentrification, community activism and documentary culture in New York City: A Research Development and Networking Project (visiting researcher at Hunter College, CUNY under the mentorship of Professor Kelly Anderson)

    2019 - Connecting Cultures Global Research Fund - City of Culture Projects (£2000) Literacies for Life in the City of Culture: A Community-Based Writing Centre in Coventry (in collaboration with Dr Christopher Strelluf at the University of Warwick)

    My ongoing projects include:

    culture, documentation and community activism in New York City (book project)

    urbanised literary consciousness and writerly communities in neoliberal New York

    community engagement and 'literacies for life' in the city of culture (the city of Coventry) (collaborative)

    the politics of academic discourses in gentrification studies (collaborative)  


    Research Interests

    urban culture and documentation (fiction/non-fiction; documentary film; photography, public art); multi/trans-media representation; 'right to the city' politics; neoliberal urbanisation; gentrification; historic preservation; counter-hegemonic urban narratives and community organising; shrinking cities; knowledge production and political epistemologies; ideologies of writing and (academic) discourse; cities and the politics of affect; New York City; North-American, transatlantic and (Eastern) European cities

    Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


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