Setha Low received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. She started her career as an Assistant and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, City and Regional Planning, and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Low is currently Distinguished Professor of Environmental Psychology, Geography, Anthropology,
and Women’s Studies, and Director of the Public Space Research Group
at The Graduate Center, City University of New York
,. She teaches courses and trains Ph.D. students in the anthropology of space and place, urban anthropology, emotion and affect, the body, spaces of security and the corporate city. She has been awarded a Getty Fellowship, a NEH fellowship, a Fulbright Senior Fellowship and a Guggenheim for her ethnographic research on public space in Latin America and the United States. She was president of the American Anthropological Association from 2007 to 2009, and vice-chair of the World Council of Anthropological Associations from 2011-2013.
In 2009 she began a collaborative project with Dolores Hayden on spatial methods and public practices funded by the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and in 2010 she was a fellow in the Center for Place, Culture and Politics. In 2011 she became co-chair of the Public Space and Diversity Network, funded by the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity. From 2011-2015 she received funding from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to study condominiums and private governance in Toronto and New York with Randy Lippert. From 2017-2020 she has been supported by a Future of Places Senior Fellowship from KTH in Stockholm, Sweden to research and write a popular book and series of lectures on “Why Public Space Matters.” As part of this project she developed a Toolkit for the Ethnographic Study of Space (TESS) with Suzanne Scheld and Troy Simpson. TESS was highlighted at the 2020 World Urban Forum 10 in Abu Dhabi where public space and planning practitioners were trained in this rapid ethnographic method developed for local community use.
She is widely published, with more than a hundred articles and chapters, and lectures internationally. Her books include Politics of Public Space
(2006), with Neil Smith; Rethinking Urban Parks: Public Space and Cultural Diversity
(2005), with S. Scheld and D. Taplin; Behind the Gates: Life, Security and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America
(2004); The Anthropology of Space and Place: Locating Culture
(2003), with D. Lawrence-Zuniga; and On the Plaza: The Politics of Public Space and Culture
Her most recent books are Spatializing Culture: The Ethnography of Space and Place
published by Routledge in 2017, Anthropology and the City: Engaging the City
also from Routledge and Spaces of Security
co-edited with M. Maguire from NYU Press published in 2019. Her current research is on the impact of private governance and corporate business practices on New York condo and co-op residents and the development of an ethnographic methodology for the evaluation of social justice and inclusion in public space.
Her activism in public space and social justice can be followed on her twitter feed at @sethalow
or on thepsrg.org