Gabriella Carolini awarded Ashby Prize for innovative paper

DUSP professor’s work focuses on international collaboration on development in urban communities in Africa 

By Maria Iacobo

Gabriella Carolini, associate professor of urban planning and international development, has been awarded the Ashby Prize for her paper “Aid’s Urban Footprint and Its Implications for Urban Inequality and Governance,” published in the journal Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. The prize is one of two such awards bestowed annually by the journal’s editors to recognize “the most innovative papers” in the past year. The paper is free to access for one year.

 The paper analyzes how urban development is being shaped by an increase in the number of actors within donor and donor-related investment communities in African countries such as Mozambique, where the capital city of Maputo now hosts a growing density of such actors with implications for local socioeconomic and spatial inequality and municipal governance. The analysis grew from fieldwork conducted while researching her recently published book, Equity, Evaluation, and International Cooperation: In Pursuit of Proximate Peers in an African City (Oxford University Press). The volume examines how different typologies of international cooperation relationships, but especially South-South cooperation, influence distributive, procedural, and epistemic equity in urban development projects. 

“Over years of research in urban communities across Africa, but especially Mozambique, it was clear to me that aid organizations were familiar with critical analyses of their funded work,” says Carolini. “What puzzled me, however, is why greater empirical attention was not paid to international development as an urban industry—with clear spatial patterns of commercial and residential settlement in capital cities especially, as well as problematic labor practices centered on short-term consultancies, currency arbitrage, and the leveraging of contracts to support ‘donor’-related foreign firms.”

Carolini leads the City Infrastructure Equity Lab in the MIT School of Architecture and Planning’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. EPA: Economy and Space is a leading journal of economic research, principally concerned with questions of urban and regional restructuring, globalization, inequality, and uneven development.