Devanne Brookins

2019-2022 Princeton Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities

Princeton Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities

Brookins’ research explores comparative urban studies, urban transformation and the production of inequality, with a focus on African cities. This agenda is driven by a desire to understand how urban transformations in Sub-Saharan Africa reflect and differ from those in regions that have bridged the urban transition in earlier periods. With urbanization and transformation proliferating across Africa, many urban development interventions are taking place amid questions regarding the governance of urban land: how it is assembled, how the value is captured and distributed, and who has access. These contemporary processes of urbanization, expansion and restructuring are producing concerning patterns of inequality. She examines how urban inequality is manufactured through governance processes as socio-political compromises that become spatially embedded in land and the built environment.

Brookins taught three masters level courses: Urbanization and DevelopmentIdentity, Power and Policy; and Urban Inequality in Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs. To support course development, she conducted a Mellon funded research project – Visualizing Urban Inequality – that coordinated the research and development of six case studies that examine patterns of socio-spatial inequality across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The project, which employed remote sensing, GIS and qualitative analysis, integrates spatial analysis in her work and identifies disparities in access to housing, transport and water. In addition, Brookins originated and co-organized the Mellon series On African Urbanism, which seeks to deepen understanding of the essential characteristics of African cities including patterns of city formation and logics of place-making.

Prior to her time at Princeton, Brookins was Research Coordinator for the Transforming Urban Transport - The Role of Political Leadership (TUT-POL) Sub-Saharan Africa project at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Her doctoral research, “Reform from above, Reinterpretation from below: state-making and institutional change in Ghana,” confronted the dynamics of institutional and societal change as relates to land and its relevance for urban transition in Ghana’s two largest metropolitan regions. She also has professional experience in international development research and program management with organizations such as The Urban Institute and Oxfam America; and has consulted for the African Development Bank, UN Habitat in the Urban Land, Legislation and Governance Branch and the African Center for Economic Transformation. Brookins holds a PhD in International Development Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at MIT, dual Masters’ degrees from Columbia University in Urban Planning (GSAPP) and International Affairs (SIPA), and a BA in Political Science and French from Wellesley College.