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Diane Davis


PhD, Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism, Harvard Graduate School of Design. Professor Davis’s research interests include the politics of urban development policy, socio-spatial practice in conflict cities, the relations between urbanization and national development, comparative international development. With a special interest in Latin America and Mexico in particular, she has explored topics ranging from urban violence, historic preservation, urban social movements, and identity politics to urban governance, fragmented sovereignty, and state formation. At present, she is principal investigator of two long-term research initiatives, one focused on the politics of sustainable transportation infrastructure, the other on the role of social housing in urban densification. Before to moving to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Davis served as the head of the International Development Group in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, where she also was Associate Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. Prior to that she taught in Sociology & History at the New School for Social Research.

Davis is the author of Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century (Temple University Press 1994; Spanish translation 1999) and Discipline and Development: Middle Classes and Prosperity in East Asia and Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2004; named 2005 Best Book in Political Sociology, American Sociological Association) as well as co-editor of Irregular Armed Forces and their Role in Politics and State Formation (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and Cities and Sovereignty: Identity Conflicts in the Urban Realm (Indiana University Press, 2011). A prior recipient of research fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Heinz Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the United States Institute for Peace, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Davis has coordinated a large scale project titled Urban Resilience in Conditions of Chronic Violence, funded by USAID. She currently is the Principal Investigator of two ongoing research projects: Rethinking Social Housing in Mexico, funded by Infonavit; and The Role of Political Leadership in Transformative Urban Transport, funded by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations. An elected member of the Urban and Regional Development Section (RC21) of the International Sociological Association (ISA) and a member of Panel SH3 (Environment and society: environmental studies, demography, social geography, urban and regional studies) of European Research Council, she also serves on the Editorial Boards of City and Community, Political Power and Social Theory, and the Journal of Latin American Studies.

Davis received her BA in Sociology and Geography from Northwestern University, and her MA and PhD in Sociology from UCLA.

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