Dr Tara van Dijk
Born in the United States, she received her bachelors degree in Sociology, with minors in Women’s Studies and American Literature, from Southern Oregon University. She then worked abroad (South Korea, China, and Palestine) before settling in Holland and obtaining both her Master’s and Doctorate (2014) in Human Geography, from the University of Amsterdam.
Tara’s research in India looks for the contradictions between official urban interventions (programmes, projects, policies and plans) targeting housing and urban infrastructure, and de facto modes of local politics and livelihoods. This work highlights the ambiguities between dominant policy paradigms and different localities by depicting the forms of placed-based governance that both emerge from and exploit these tensions. It contributes to debates on urban inequality, governance and politics and the capacity of sustainability, or inclusive development, programmes to meaningfully alter the configuration of forces and politics (re)producing urban poverty and precarity. This research focuses on political actors (mainly municipal councilors and local political parties), municipal officials, street-level bureaucrats, NGO staff, landowners, landlords, contractors and developers in terms of how these situated actors perceive interventions and how (and why) they act with, around, or against them.
The Marie Curie Fellowship research project “Urban Informality” argues that unauthorized development, informal real estate & housing markets and informal settlements, referred to collectively here as 'informal urbanization' (IU), remain durable, and likely expanding, in much of the global South. IU hampers the implementation of any urban development plan or policy that require land and which require adequate information about land use and above and below ground infrastructure. While much is known about how capital is accumulated and regulated in sectors of the formal economy, much less is known about how this works in the informal economy and very little is known about how this works in IU sectors. This is due to the assumption, influenced by de Soto's work, that the lack of formal property rights leads to 'dead capital', i.e., capital that cannot accumulate. This wisdom must be challenged for if IU is a significant domain of accumulation, then policies and politics by planners and lawmakers for sustainable & inclusive urban development range from inadequacy to lack of fitness for purpose. This Fellowship integrates David Harvey's accumulation theory with Barbara Harriss-White's social structure of accumulation approach to the informal economy to establish a new strand of research.
When not working on urban informality, she is engaging with Slavoj Žižek, and the Lacanian Left more broadly, to promote a more reflexive Development Studies – by way of confronting and theorizing its fraught relationship with liberal capitalism that is expressed in the discipline’s fantasies of capitalism minus its negative aspects (inclusive growth), liberalism without inequalities (inclusive development), managed populism (participation), and politics without politics (good governance).
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