Abby Spinak

Abby Spinak studies energy history, with a particular interest in the politics of utility ownership and the role of infrastructure in disseminating economic ideas. Her current research ties the history of electrification in the rural United States to the evolution of twentieth-century American capitalism and alternative economic visions. She is currently completing a book, Democracy Electric: Energy and Economic Citizenship in an Urbanizing America, which explores how a cooperative business model came to be preferred for federal electrification policy in the 1930s as a third option in a fierce debate about public versus private power; how a vast network of these community-owned and democratically-managed utilities arose across the country, quickly and dramatically altering the American landscape; and how urbanizing communities variously interpreted the political opportunities of community ownership at different moments over the past eighty years. Abby received her PhD in Urban Studies and Planning at MIT (2014). She has been a Charles Warren Center Fellow in the History of American Capitalism at Harvard University (2015-2016) and recently held an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellowship in the Energy Humanities at Rice University (2016-2017).

Contact: [email protected]


Diane E. Davis

Diane E. Davis, Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism, and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, 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) 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 Politics in Urban Spaces (Indiana University Press, 2011).

Her published works examine the relations between urbanization and national development, comparative international development, the politics of urban development policy, and conflict cities. She has explored topics ranging from historic preservation, urban social movements, and identity politics to urban governance, fragmented sovereignty, and state formation to planning theory.

Her current research focuses on the transformation of cities of the global south, particularly the urban social, spatial, and political conflicts that have emerged in response to globalization, informality, and political or economic violence. 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 now coordinates a large scale project titled Urban Resilience in Conditions of Chronic Violence, funded by USAID.

Currently, Davis is involved in various research projects hosted at the GSD. She directs a project funded by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundation titled “Transforming Urban Transport –­ The Role of Political Leadership” (TUT); is the co-PI for the project “Rethinking social housing in Mexico” (ReSHIM), funded by Mexico¹s National Worker Housing Agency (INFONAVIT); and heads the “The Mexican Cities Initiative” (MCI).

TUT – Transforming Urban Transport – The Role of Political Leadership

ReSHIM – Rethinking Social Housing in Mexico

MCI – Mexican Cities Initiative

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.

Contact: [email protected]


Dilip da Cunha

(on leave 2020-2021)

Dilip da Cunha is an architect and planner based in Philadelphia and Bangalore. He is Co-Director, Risk and Resilience Master in Design Studies at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, and an Adjunct Professor at the GSAPP, Columbia University. Da Cunha is author with Anuradha Mathur of Mississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape (2001); Deccan Traverses: The Making of Bangalore’s Terrain (2006); Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary (2009); and Design in the Terrain of Water (2014). His most recent book, The Invention of Rivers: Alexander’s Eye and Ganga’s Descent, was published by University of Pennsylvania Press in October of 2018. In 2017, Mathur and da Cunha launched Ocean of Wetness, a design platform that seeks to situate the past, present, and future of habitation in a ubiquitous wetness rather than on a land-water surface. Also in 2017, Mathur and da Cunha received a Pew Fellowship Grant in recognition of their collaborative work that imagines new possibilities for design of the built environment and challenges the lines separating land and water, urban and rural, formal and informal environments, among others. They are currently working on a multimedia exhibition titled The Ocean of Rain. Da Cunha has a masters from MIT and a PhD from UC Berkeley. http://www.mathurdacunha.com


Associated Faculty

Neil Brenner, Professor of Urban Theory
Danielle Choi, Design Critic in Landscape Architecture
Jill Desimini, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture
Rosetta S. Elkin, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture
Ann Forsyth, Professor of Urban Planning
Stephen Gray, Assistant Professor of Urban Design
Michael Hooper, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning
Jerold Kayden, Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design
Jesse Keenan, Lecturer in Architecture
Niall Kirkwood, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Technology
Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning
Toshiko Mori, Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture