Congratulations to Nora Cyrus (2017, Development Studies), who has won the 2019 Papiya Ghosh Prize for her thesis for the MPhil in Development Studies.
Nora is working as a consultant and plans to explore the possibility of pursuing a DPhil and expanding on her MPhil research in the near future.
Her prize-winning thesis investigates citizen participation in Medellín (Colombia) against the backdrop of the city’s conflict-ridden past and its recent, internationally acclaimed ‘transformation’. Drawing on data from semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and archival study, her research seeks to understand how women conceptualise participation and practice it in urban planning processes in the city’s Villa Hermosa district.
Her analysis employs the concept of place (which comprises both humans’ physical surroundings and the emotions, symbols and communities they attach to them) as a lens for exploring the dynamics of women’s urban planning participation, and especially their cultural, social, and historical specificity in Villa Hermosa. In so doing, Nora discusses the role of different forms of displacement, struggles for housing and basic services in ‘auto-constructed’ settlements, and the need to navigate one’s daily life in the face of ‘invisible borders’ between armed actors.
Nora’s thesis brings to light the centrality of place-based identity for citizen participation, and its special importance for women, in Villa Hermosa. It also lays out the challenges this poses to the municipality’s current discourses surrounding participatory planning, which either hinge on city-wide narratives of belonging or demand that women act based on female solidarity. Her findings cast doubt on Medellín’s emerging model status in terms of innovative and inclusive urban governance.