A Closer Look with Magdalena Ugarte
Winner of the Barclay Gibbs Jones Award for Best Dissertation in Planning
Since 1998, the Barclay Gibbs Jones Award has recognized superior scholarship in a doctoral dissertation completed by a student enrolled in an ACSP-member school.
The 2019 winner of the Barclay Gibbs Jones Award for Best Dissertation in Planning is Magdalena Ugarte, University of British Columbia.
Magdalena Ugarte is an Assistant Professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University, where she teaches courses in social and community planning, planning theory, and public policy. She holds a MA in Political Science from Memorial University of Newfoundland and recently completed her PhD in Planning at the University of British Columbia. Her research examines the role of planning, policy, and law in the dispossession of certain communities, especially Indigenous peoples and immigrants. She also explores possibilities for intercultural collaboration and solidarity work in contexts where structural power imbalances – such as settler colonial dispossession and forced migration – are at play. Magdalena’s current participatory action research with Mapuche partners in Chile engages with questions of Indigenous land use planning and Indigenous law. She publishes and presents her work both in English and Spanish as a way to open up spaces for dialogue regarding planning experiences in South and North America.
The 2019 Barclay Gibbs Jones Award committee chair, Rachel Weber, had this to say about Magdalena and her winning paper:
"Magdalena’s dissertation, entitled Normative Worlds Clashing: State Planning, Indigenous Self-Determination, and the Possibilities of Legal Pluralism in Chile, artfully weaves together insights from legal, spatial, and planning theories to examine Indigenous-state relations in Chile. Dr. Ugarte analyzes the case of the Chilean government’s implementation of the planning and regulation-making process known as the Consultation on Indigenous Institutions between 2011 and 2014. The goal was to create a method of soliciting feedback whenever a government-led legislative or administrative measure had the potential to affect Indigenous peoples directly. Dr. Ugarte analyzes the consultation process in terms of conflict between clashing normative systems and concludes that this well-intended effort ultimately imposed a Western legal framework and served to proceduralize and restrict the scope of Indigenous rights and limit sovereignty.
The committee was very impressed by her choice of topic, focusing on Chilean law’s treatment of indigenous groups and its extension of colonial-era planning categories and power dynamics. We appreciated her multi--method research design, especially her extensive use of historical archival research and 60 in-depth interviews with government officials and Indigenous leaders. We were struck by the elegant manner with which she integrated her original findings with insights from critical theory. Although the work is not overly prescriptive, its framework for understanding post-colonial societies and Indigenous rights offers guidance to planners for how to engage across clashing normative systems."
Here's "A Closer Look" at Magdalena:
Q: How did you feel when you learned you won?
A: I felt very encouraged that the selection committee at ACSP was receptive to the kinds of discussions presented in my dissertation, which build on the powerful work of a handful of planning scholars and practitioners, and of many Indigenous communities who work at the intersection of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of planning. I have learned much and been inspired by this growing body work in planning. I take this award as a hopeful indication that these conversations will continue to expand within ACSP and beyond.
Q: Who do you want to thank, if anyone?
A: My deepest gratitude goes to all the people who showed an interest in the project and agreed to meet with me to share their experiences and perspectives, which provided the ground for the interpretive analysis that is my dissertation. I also want to thank my family and friends, who were there all along supporting and inspiring me through this PhD journey. And of course my generous supervisory committee – Leonie Sandercock, Nora Angeles, John Friedmann, and Max Cameron – who encouraged me and helped make this project the best it could be.
Q: What inspired you about this project?
A: This project started out of a concern with how state planning has helped in the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, and how that complicity looks like today in a context marked by the seemingly beneficial discourse of Indigenous rights. Yet, the most inspiring aspect of the project was not the dissertation research itself, but some of the unanticipated relationships that grew during my fieldwork. I’ve been privileged to meet committed folks and organizations working for Indigenous justice and resurgence in my country, who have involved me in some of the work they do. Witnessing their work helped me re-focus my own, and I owe much of the insights developed in my dissertation to the reflections emerging from those encounters.
Q: What's next?
A: Right now, I am working together with some of the folks I just mentioned in the development of a community-based research project in Chile. The project touches on questions of Indigenous land use planning and Indigenous law, and is the consolidation of the past five years of working informally together on different smaller initiatives. We hope this formal collaboration will evolve into new projects that strengthen Indigenous ways of planning while putting academic work at the service of Indigenous planning priorities.