Diane Davis

Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism

Diane E. Davis is the Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism and former Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). She also is the director of the Mexican Cities Initiative at the GSD, and faculty chair of the committee on Mexico at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard. Before moving to Harvard in 2012, Davis served as the head of the International Development Group in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, where she also was Associate Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.  Trained as a sociologist with an interest in cities in Latin America (BA in Geography, Northwestern University; Ph.D. in sociology, UCLA) Davis’s research interests include the relations between urbanization and national development, urban governance, urban social movements, and informality, with a special emphasis on Mexico.

Books include Cities and Sovereignty: Identity Conflicts in the Urban Realm (Indiana University Press, 2011); Discipline and Development: Middle Classes and Prosperity in East Asia and Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2004); Irregular Armed Forces and their Role in Politics and State Formation (Cambridge University Press, 2003); and Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century (Temple University Press 1994; Spanish translation 1999). Her recent research has focused on urban violence as well as spatial strategies to minimize risk and foster resilience in the face of these and other vulnerabilities.

She teaches classes on Urbanization and Development; Urban Governance and the Politics of Planning, SDGs in Theory and Practice; and Planning Theory and Praxis: Comparative and Historical Approaches. This April Davis was named a CIFAR Fellow and co-director (along with Simon Goldhill, Secretary of the British Academy and professor of History at Cambridge) of a five-year project titled “Humanity’s Urban Future.”  With a focus on six cities around the world (Kolkata, Mexico City, Shanghai, Kinshasa, Naples, Toronto), and with the participation of historians, planners, anthropologists, geographers, and architects, this initiative interrogates how a `good urban life’ is conceptualized and produced.

Faculty Coordinator, Mexican Cities Initiative  http://research.gsd.harvard.edu/mci/

Co-Chair, Faculty Committee on Mexico, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies

Executive Committee Member, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

Advisory Board Member, Harvard Mellon-Initiative

CIFAR Fellow and Project Co-Director, 2023-2028, “Humanity’s Urban Future” https://cifar.ca/research-programs/humanitys-urban-future/

Faculty Affiliate Bloomberg Center for Cities, Harvard University


  • Publics

    By Anita Berrizbeitia, Diane Davis, Toni L. Griffin, Daniel D'Oca, Sara Zewde, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Malkit Shoshan, George Thomas, Susan Snyder, Alex Krieger and Silvia Benedito

    January 2022