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Dr. Leela Viswanathan
Assistant Professor
Office: Robert Sutherland Hall, Room 532
Phone: +1 (613) 533-6000 ext. 75038
Fax: +1 (613) 533-6905
Email: leela.viswanathan@queensu.ca
SURP: http://www.queensu.ca/surp/faculty/leela-viswanathan.html




Teaching Interests

Research Interests




I completed my PhD in Environmental Studies at York University in 2007 and soon after joined the Geography Department at Queen’s University in the position of Adjunct Assistant Professor and Postdoctoral Fellow. In July 2009 I was appointed to a tenure-track position of Assistant Professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) at Queen’s. I am now cross-appointed with Geography. I have over ten years of experience as a public policy consultant and planner and have worked with different levels of government and diverse groups and communities in Toronto, including, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, literacy learners and instructors, ethno-specific organizations, racialized youth, and new immigrants.

Teaching Interests

Undergraduate courses in Geography:
Urban Political Geography
Gender and the City
Geographies of Social and Cultural Change (Honours seminar)

Graduate courses in Urban and Regional Planning at SURP:
Qualitative Research Methods in Planning
An Intellectual History of Urban and Regional Planning (co-taught with D. Gordon)
Healthy Communities (co-taught with A. Agarwal)
Housing and Human Services Project Course

I take an interdisciplinary approach to teaching geography, drawing from various branches of human geography as well as urban planning, sociology, environmental and cultural studies. I link the study of theory to practical examples, mostly case studies that I draw from research in the fields of planning, urban studies and human geography, and from my own professional experiences. I also believe strongly in teaching environmentally by drawing from the connections among built, ecological, social, cultural, and political environments when engaging in discussions about space and place, structure and agency, and sustainability in geography. I enjoy incorporating issues of social and spatial justice into my courses, and to making diversity, in its broadest sense, the starting point to my teaching practice and to building an inclusive classroom. In 2008-2009, the Queen’s Geography undergraduate students awarded me with the Julian Sziecz Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Research Interests

I love cities, both big and small. My research reflects my exploration of processes of inclusion and exclusion and civic engagement from different vantage points. My regional focus is North America; however, I draw from and am inspired by contexts outside of this region as well. Central to my research is the analysis of policy and transformative planning practices, as is a critical examination of discourses of neoliberalism, diversity, multiculturalism, and difference. I also believe that knowledge is situated in different places. As a result, my research focuses on both dominant and alternative narratives to place and planning.

My current research interests emerge at the intersection of the broad categories of immigration, social planning, and healthy and sustainable communities. In 2009-2010 I am investigating the parallel processes of local immigrant settlement and integration policy development and local community sustainability planning in southern Ontario. My research continues to delve into the role of organizations in addressing equity and social exclusion and the role of “local knowledge” in policy development and community planning.


Peer-Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters

Viswanathan, Leela. (2009) “Contesting Racialization in a Neoliberal City: Cross-cultural collective identity as a strategy among alternative planning organizations in Toronto.” GeoJournal. In press.

Viswanathan, Leela. (2009) “‘Postcolonial Planning’ and Ethno-Racial Diversity in Toronto: Locating equity in a contemporary planning context.” Canadian Journal of Urban Research. Vol. 18 No. 1, Supplement, pages 82-102.

Gilbert, Liette, and Leela Viswanathan. (2007) “Covering Multiculturalism: Popular images and the politics of a nation as reflected on the covers of Maclean’s and L’Actualité.” Canadian Ethnic Studies/Études Ethniques au Canada, 39, 3: 189-205

Viswanathan, Leela. (2007) “On Tim Hortons and Transnationalism: Negotiating Canadian-ness and the role of activist/researcher.” In Luin Goldring and Sailaja Krishnamurthi (Eds). ‘Organizing’ the Transnational: Labour, Politics, and Social Change, 83-93. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Viswanathan, Leela. (2005) “Beyond Transnationality: Building community and possibilities for urban hybridities.” Women and Environments International, 68/69, Fall/Winter: 13-15.


Viswanathan, Leela. (2008). Review of Photo Exhibit: “Emotional Spaces and Paradoxical Places.” Emotion, Space and Society, 1, 1: 72-73.

Viswanathan, Leela. (2008) Review of Dory Reeves. “Planning for Diversity” (London: Taylor and Francis, 2006). Planning Theory and Practice, 9, 4: 570-571.

Viswanathan, Leela. (2006) Review of Wisdom J. Tettey and Korbla P. Puplampu. “The African Diaspora in Canada: Negotiating identity and belonging” (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2005). Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, 38, 1: 174.

Papers Presented by Invitation

“Planning in Whose Interest? The Alternative Planning Group and the transformation of social planning in Toronto, Canada.” Paper presented by invitation of Queen Mary, University of London and International Seminar of the London Women and Planning Forum (LWPF), London, UK: June 21, 2006.

Conference Presentations and Speaking Engagements

"Fostering sustainable immigrant settlement and integration in smaller Canadian cities." Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference. Las Vegas, NV, March 22-27, 2009.

“Theorizing cross-cultural collective formation and action in neoliberal Toronto from 1998 to 2005.” Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference. Boston, MA., April 14-19, 2008.

“Planning with racialized communities in Toronto, Canada: The case of the Alternative Planning Group.” Planners’ Network Conference. New Orleans: May 30- June 2, 2007.

“Contesting Racialization: The Alternative Planning Group, cross-cultural collective identity, and the transformation of Toronto.” Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference. San Francisco: April 17-21, 2007.

“Popular Images of Diversity and Multiplicity in Canadian Cities” (with Liette Gilbert) World Planning Schools Congress. Mexico City: July 2006.

“On Contestations and Coalitions: The Alternative Planning Group and the amalgamation of Toronto.” Presented at the Canadian Association of Geographers – Ontario Division Conference. Ottawa: October 29, 2005.

Policy Research Reports (selected)

Viswanathan, Leela. (2000). Training for Toronto’s ‘New’ Economy. Toronto: Toronto Training Board.

Viswanathan, Leela. (1999). The Blueprint for Change—Final Report. A Literacy Service Plan for Toronto. Toronto: Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy.

Viswanathan, Leela. (1999). Special Report: The Status of Native Child Care in Toronto. In Julie Mathien and Leela Viswanathan. Taking Stock: The status of child care and children’s services in Toronto. Toronto: City of Toronto and Community Social Planning Council of Toronto.


Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG)
Association of American Geographers (AAG)
Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) / Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI)
Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP)
Planners’ Network