Citizens of Different Blocks: Forced Migration, Neighborhood Formation, and Claims on the City in Post-conflict

Hybrid Event - Zoom & Room ARCH 1125, Architecture Building

Architecture Building
COLLEGE PARK, MD 20742-0001
United States

Women carrying a basket on head, walking in front of green gate in a Columbian neighborhood.
Tall Columbian buildings surrounded by greenery.

Hosted by the LACS Graduate Collective and the URPD Seminar Committee


Dr. Maria AtuestaDr. Maria Atuesta
PhD in Urban Planning, Harvard University
Postdoc at UPenn's Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies




How do communities find residential stability in an unstable world? This question is urgent in relation to groups who have experienced turmoil and displacement in their immediate past. In the recent history of Colombia, a decades-long civil conflict has produced more than 6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). They have followed a migration pattern from rural areas—disproportionally affected by conflict—to urban centers, echoing cases in many nation-states where civil conflicts or climate change increasingly displace families to a multiplicity of urban centers. This ethnography follows different communities of displaced persons through the struggles they go through, and social practices they adopt, in the making of new forms of residential stability understood here through the creation of new neighborhoods. It shows that there are different types of neighborhoods with different neighborhood sponsors, each one having a unique impact on displaced residents' claims on the city.



Dr. Maria Atuesta is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies. She has several years of experience doing research in urban studies and she loves reading and writing ethnographies. Her dissertation work which is an ethnography of neighborhood formation in Colombia received the Gill Chin Lim Award in International Planning and has been commended for its careful methodological design and explorations. Her areas of expertise include social housing, migration and displacement, urban informality, and regional development.

She has a PhD in Urban Planning from Harvard University, a master’s in city and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley, and a double major in economics and history from Universidad de los Andes. She has experience working as an external consultant for the World Bank, and as an analyst for Colombia’s National Department of Planning. Her expertise since her PhD has focused on applying an urban sociological perspective to the creation of new public housing projects and informal settlements in cities, and how they transform spatially and socially into new neighborhoods. In her work she has used mixed methods, combining both qualitative and quantitative thinking, through several multi-disciplinary collaborations. Specifically, she has conducted empirical analysis combining in-depth interviewing and participant observation, with regression and clustering. She has applied these different methodologies working in policy-oriented and social impact projects sponsored by multilateral organizations, public offices, and academic research centers.

Program / Center Affiliation