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Doctoral students  (Chair)

Shahab Albahar

Dissertation Title:   Neither/Nor -- A Trans-Centered Urban Study to Deconstruct the Heteronormative Cartographies of Washington, DC:  Towards a Critical Planning Theory of Urban Justice.”

Shahab Albahar's research critiques the heteronormative frameworks of urban planning and policy. Using the case of Washington, DC, he asks how spatial interventions in the U.S. capital respond to, challenge, or contributes to the production of ever-shifting conceptions of citizenship at the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality. In his critical approach to ethnography, Shahab's study aims to unpack the embodied spatialities of specifically black trans and trans-of-color individuals within the current political economy of transnational neoliberalism. Shahab's commitment to notions of urban justice and his alignment with radical queer politics are premised on a strong belief that trans-centered perspectives are insightful for contributing new knowledge towards developing a critical planning theory.

graduated Doctoral Students

Michael Bacon, PhD

Dissertation Title:  Land, Community, Assemblage, Care:  An Integrative Assessment of Community Land Ownership and Community Change in Rural Scotland

Graduated August 2021!

In rural Scotland, particularly the areas loosely known as the “highlands and islands” in the north and west of the country, complex histories of land modernization, ownership, economic development, and production in an international context have long created complex dynamics. Most recently, the contemporary movement by residents there to from community land trusts and purchase the large private estates which encompass their communities provides not only a notable study in re-commoning of land ownership, but the variety of ways in which these communities have taken to managing and developing their estates also reveals the breadth and complexity of potential futures available in newer economic arrangements.


My research will provide an integrated analysis and assessment of community ownership as an innovative tool for planners in the Scottish context, addressing the ecological, social, economic, and demographic aspects of the changes community trust ownership produces.  Its goals are to describe, analyze, and assess the current state of community land ownership in Scotland as an innovative participatory planning and governance tool for promoting economic development and improved landscape management practices on environmentally sensitive rural estates. This research will build upon prior work which has demonstrated that transitions in rural estates from private, absentee ownership to ownership by community land trusts can facilitate economic development, green energy production, habitat restoration, and better environmental management practices. Specifically, the research described in this proposal will produce an integrated model of how community ownership reconfigures the relationships between people, land, wildlife, natural resources, energy production, and the state in ways which open new possibilities for community development. The work will use an actor-network methodology and will incorporate both qualitative and quantitative data collected using a range of methods.

Fatmah Behbehani, PhD

Dissertation Title:  New Towns, New Visions:  The Planning and Social Implications of Morocco’s New Town Experiment

Graduated May 2021!

Utilizing a case study research design this dissertation examines the social construction of space in a state-led development initiative in Morocco, namely the 2004 New Town Initiative (Ville Nouvelles Programme). Extending Henri Lefebvre’s (1991) production of space theory, Foucault’s concept of heterotopias and Edward Soja’s (1996) concept of a ‘thirdspace’, I seek to understand the process of planning and implementing a state’s utopian vision and its physical production of space and the lived experience of those who occupy the state envisioned ‘utopian’ space (i.e. the new town).


I seek to understand how planning process and social experiences contribute to producing a heterotopic, real ‘thirdspace’ (in Soja’s terms). This research seeks to provide future policy makers with a detailed account of the planning and social implications of a large-scale state-led development initiative. This research will make a contribution to existing literature on development, state/space theories and socio-spatial theory from a practical perspective.  Utilizing Morocco’s current national urban policy, the New Town Initiative, as an instrumental and contemporary case study, this project aims to look into solutions that simultaneously consider the various authoritative state actors involved in solving pressing urban issues while also carefully involving affected populations.

Patricia Basile, PhD

Dissertation Title:   Governance from within in São Paulo’s Favelas


Graduated August 2018!

Favela is a term used to categorize self-built urban communities in Brazilian cities that are widely considered precarious, disordered, chaotic, and illegal. These characterizations have contributed to the stigmatization and criminalization of favelas and their residents, totaling over 11 million people in Brazil today. Drawing from six months of ethnographic fieldwork in two favelas in the city of São Paulo, this project provides a detailed understanding of favela residents’ efforts towards a process of self-governance through the production and maintenance of space, through everyday practices and collective mobilization. The analyzed cases offer insights into residents’ modes and levels of grouping and action, including the family as the most fundamental unit of self-governance in these two communities. While grasping with favelas’ logic of spatial formation and organization, this dissertation contributes to the conceptualization of favelas as sites of resistance and political claims for the materialization of favela residents’ fundamental rights as Brazilian citizens.

Now:  Assistant Professor of Geography, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

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