Emma Fraser

Thesis working title - ‘Self and Ruin: Imagining the end of the city’.


This PhD will investigate the ways in which we imagine the end of the city, with specific emphasis on mass ruins and urban imaginaries. This project is designed to address gaps in the growing field of urban ruins research, and expand on related fields (video game studies, communication geography, media sociology) via a consideration of ruins of a recent past (real and imagined).

The objective of this project is to develop a framework for understanding the diverse and complex ruin imaginaries that are attached to specific cities, communities, experiences, or narratives, as well as the ways in which these imaginaries are dispersed and, by association, commodified, reused, read, and deployed.

Academic supervisors

Research interests

Modern and urban ruins, urban imaginaries, abandonment, decay and decline, experience and urban space in video games, Walter Benjamin, philosophy of history, human and urban geography, space and place, communication geographies, representation, media studies, phenomenology, nostalgia, collective memory.


Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Writing and Cultural Studies), University of Technology, Sydney (2006)

Honours (First) in Communication (1 year course), University of Technology, Sydney. Thesis Title: “City in Ruins: Rethinking Abandoned Space in Sydney” (2007)

Master of Arts in Humanities and Social Sciences (by research thesis) in Communication, University of Technology, Sydney. Thesis title: “Interrupting Progress: Ruins, rubble and catastrophe in Walter Benjamin’s history” (2012)


2013 “At the Stage of Their Fate: Salvaging the Urban Obsolete in Sydney”, Societies Special Issue: Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory (2013, 3(4), p.464-481)

2012 “Urban Exploration as Adventure Tourism: Journeying Beyond the Everyday”, in Andrews, H. and Roberts, L. (eds); Liminal Landscapes: Travel, experience, and spaces in-between; Routledge

Conferences and invited presentations

Playing in ruins: encounters with ruined cities in video games, Crossroads in Cultural Studies conference, School of Communication, Media and Theatre (CMT) at the University of Tampere Jul 1, 2014

Reading the Ruins of Detroit: poetic, dialectical and phenomenological approaches, University of Manchester, CIDRAL conference Big Ruins: The Aesthetics and Politics of Supersized Decay, May 14, 2014

Imagining the end of the city: Contemporary representations of mass urban ruins, Stadtkolloquium Interdisciplinary Urban PhD Research Seminar - Urban Imaginaries Workshop, University College, London, Mar 31, 2014

An Impossible Promise: The failings of a nuclear future in Pripyat Co-presented with Clancy Wilmott,
University of Manchester, CRESC Annual Conference: Promises: Crises and Sociocultural Change, Sep 5, 2012

Poetics of Ruin: Mass Abandonment, Dead Space and the Decay of Place, University of Zadar, Rethinking Humanities and Social Sciences Conference, Sep 1, 2011

City in Ruins: Walter Benjamin and the experience of decay and decline, University of Manchester, CRESC Annual Conference Framing the City, Sep 6, 2011

Research assistance experience

  • 2012 ARC funded project ‘Jack Lindsay: Critic, Writer, Socialist’ for Prof Anne Cranny-Francis, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), UTS
  • 2012 Cultural Studies undergraduate major research, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), Cultural Studies, UTS
  • 2011-12 POINTED project, Centre for Cultural Research, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Sydney
  • 2008 project on creative non-fiction practices in Australia, for Sue Joseph, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), Creative Writing, UTS

Contact details