Sarah Moser

Sarah Moser in Saudi Arabia


Urban and cultural geography

Associate Professor in the Department of Geography

Office: Burnside Hall 413
Tel.: (514) 266-9908
Fax.: (514) 398-7437

sarah.moser [at] (E-mail)

NewCitiesLab Website

Academic background

  • PhD Geography, National University of Singapore
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Urban and Global Studies, Trinity College
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Research interests

My research examines how national, religious, and ethnic identities shape cities in Southeast Asia and the Muslim world more broadly. I am fascinated by the transnational circulation of identity, architecture and urban policy and how cities across Asia are looking elsewhere in the global south rather than to ‘the west’ for inspiration.  My current work investigates the global emergence of supra-national religious and ethnic identities and how they are manifested in urban form and used to serve secular nation-building purposes. In particular, I examine emerging pan-Islamic identity, the ‘Arabization’ of Muslim identity and the effect these broad trends are having on urban areas. Another strand of this work examines emerging ‘pan-Chinese’ identities currently circulating in Asia and how they are being manifested in cities.


Current projects

  • Cultural politics, ideology, and nation-building in new cities

  • The interplay between interpretations of Islam and the built environment (Southeast Asia, Middle East)

  • model cities, utopian planning



Moser, Sarah and Côté-Roy, Laurence. (in press) Reflections on researching new master-planned cities underway in the Global South. Journal of Urban Affairs.

Avery, Emma and Moser, Sarah. (2022) Urban speculation for survival: Adaptations and negotiations in Forest City, Malaysia. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. 1-19.

Avni, Nufar; Moser, Sarah; and Gorgy, Gabrielle. (2022) Gendering gray space: Everyday challenges, strategies, and initiatives of women community leaders in East Jerusalem. Social and Cultural Geography.

Côté-Roy, Laurence and Moser, Sarah. (2022) 'A kingdom of new cities: Morocco’s national Villes Nouvelles strategy'. Geoforum 131: 27-38.

Sato, Mayumi and Moser, Sarah. (2022) '#FromFerguson2Gaza: A transnational movement of Black-Palestinian solidarity'. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 21 (1): 1-19.

Moser, Sarah; Côté-Roy, Laurence; and Korah, Prosper Issahaku. (2021) The uncharted foreign actors, investments, and urban models in African new city building. Urban Geography 56 (12): 2391–2397.

Moser, Sarah and Avery, Emma. (2021) 'The multi-scalar politics of urban greening in Forest City, Malaysia'. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 60 (May): 1-5.

Moser, Sarah and Côté-Roy, Laurence. (2021) 'New cities: Power, prestige, and profit'. Geography Compass 15 (1): 1-15.

Rebentisch, Hannah; Thompson, Caroline; Côté-Roy, Laurence; Moser, Sarah. (2020) 'Unicorn planning: Lessons from the rise and fall of an American ‘smart’ mega-development'. Cities: The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning. 101: 1-6.

Forest, Benjamin and Moser, Sarah. (2020) 'Building nations/building states/building cities: Concrete symbols of identity'. In Sami Moisio, Natalie Koch, Andy Jonas, Juho Luukkonen, Chris Lizotte (Eds.). Changing Geographies of the State: New Spaces of Geopolitics. Edward Elgar.

Jordan, Joanna and Moser, Sarah. (2020) 'Researching migrants in informal transit camps along the Balkan Route: Reflections on volunteer activism, access, and reciprocity'. Area 52 (3): 566-574.

Moser, Sarah. (2020) 'New cities: Engineering social exclusions'. One Earth. 2 (2): 125-127.

Shebell, Elizabeth and Moser, Sarah. (2019) 'Planning for the Buen Vivir: Socialism, decentralization, and urbanization in rural Ecuador'. International Development Planning Review 41 (4): 473-494.

Moser, Sarah. (2019) 'Rejecting and reproducing colonial urbanism in contemporary Malaysian city design'. In H. Hazel Hahn. (Ed.). Cross-Cultural Exchange and the Colonial Imaginary: Global Encounters Via Southeast Asia. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press. (187-214)

Chitti, Marco and Moser, Sarah. (2019) 'Emerging trends in urbanizing Palestine: Neglected city-builders beyond the occupation'. Urban Geography 40 (7): 1010-1017.

Moser, Sarah. (2019) ‘Islamic cities’. In Orum, Anthony. (Ed.) The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies. John Wiley & Sons. (983-992) [ISBN: 978-1-118-56845-3]

Côté-Roy, Laurence and Moser, Sarah. (2019) ‘“Does Africa not deserve shiny new cities?": The power of seductive rhetoric around new cities in Africa’. Urban Studies. 56(12): 2391–2407.

Moser, Sarah; Fauveaud, Gabriel; and Cutts, Adam. (2019) 'Montréal: Towards a post-industrial reinvention'. Cities: The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning. 86: 125-135.

Moser, Sarah. (2019) ‘“Two days to shape the future”: A Saudi Arabian node in the transnational circulation of new cities ideas’, In Molotch, Harvey and Ponzini, Davide (Eds.) The New Arab Urban: Gulf Cities of Wealth, Ambition, and Distress. New York: NYU Press. 213-232.

Blander, Akiva; Moser, Sarah; and Avni, Nufar. (2018) 'Religio-nationalism and "soft boundaries": Urban gating in West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv'. Geoforum. 96: 227-235.

Moser, Sarah. (2018) 'Ethno- and Religio-Nationalism in Putrajaya, Taman Tamadun Islam, and Kota Iskandar: Malay(sian) national identity in contemporary urban mega-projects’, In Hagen, Joshua and Diener, Alexander (Eds.) The City as Power: Urban Space, Place, and National Identity. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 235-252.

Moser, Sarah. (2018) ‘Forest City, Malaysia, and Chinese expansionism’. Urban Geography. 39 (6): 935-943.

Moser, Sarah; Hendricks, Michael; and Vives, Luna. (2017) ‘Academia’s moral entanglements in the face of a racist regime’. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies. 16 (2): 1-10.

Moser, Sarah and Wilbur, Alyssa Shamsa. (2017) ‘Constructing heritage through state architecture in Indonesia’s Riau Islands’. ABE Journal - Architecture Beyond Europe. 11 (July): 1-25.

Araos, Malcolm; James Ford; Lea Berrang-Ford; Robbert Biesbroek; and Sarah Moser. (2017) ‘Climate change adaptation planning for Global South megacities: The case of Dhaka’. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning. 19 (6): 682-696.

Moser, Sarah; Esther Clinton; and Jeremy Wallach. (2017) ‘Leisure activities in Southeast Asia, from pre-colonial times to the present’, In Spracklen, Karl et al (Eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of Leisure Theory. Palgrave. 107-125.

Moser, Sarah. (2016) ‘Educating the nation: Shaping student-citizens in Indonesian schools’ Children’s Geographies. 14 (3): 247-262.

Cutts, Adam, and Moser, Sarah. (2015) 'State-community collaborative strategies to enable the right to the city in Argentina'. Habitat International. 49: 243-250.

Moser, Sarah; Swain, Marian; Alkhabbaz, Mohammed H. (2015) 'King Abdullah Economic City: Engineering Saudi Arabia's post-oil future', Cities: The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning. 45: 71-80.

Moser, Sarah. (2014) ‘New cities: Old wine in new bottles?’ Dialogues in Human Geography. 5 (1): 31-35.

Moser, Sarah. (2013) ‘New cities in the Muslim world: The cultural politics of planning an ‘Islamic’ city’. In Religion and Place: Landscape, Politics and Piety. (Edited by Peter Hopkins, Lily Kong and Elizabeth Olson). New York: Springer. 39-55. [ISBN 978-94-007-4684-8]

Moser, Sarah. (2012) ‘Circulating visions of ‘High Islam’: The adoption of fantasy Middle Eastern architecture in constructing Malaysian national identity’ Urban Studies. 49 (13) 2783-2805.

Moser, Sarah. (2012) ‘Globalization and the construction of identity in two new Southeast Asian capitals: Putrajaya and Dompak’ in Rethinking Global Urbanism: Comparative Insights from Secondary Cities. Chen, Xiangming and Kanna, Ahmed. (Eds.) New York / London: Routledge. 169-189.

Moser, Sarah. (2010) ‘Creating citizens through play: The role of leisure in Indonesian nation-building’ Social and Cultural Geography. 11 (1): 53-73.

Moser, Sarah. (2010) ‘Putrajaya: Malaysia’s new federal administrative capital’ Cities: The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning. 27 (3): 285-297.

Moser, Sarah. (2008) ‘Personality: a new positionality?’ Area. 40 (3) 383-392.

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