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  Professor Sanyal’s research work spans wide range of developmental problems ranging from urban agriculture, to affordable housing as income earning opportunities for new urban residents, to planning theories of good public sector performance, and international planning education.


Urban Agriculture
Some of Professor’s Sanyal’s earliest work, which was based in his planning experience in Zambia, demonstrated an incongruity in the way agricultural and industrial sectors were conceptualized in development planning. Using Lusaka, Zambia as a case study, Sanyal challenged the dichotomy that agriculture was a rural activity while industrialization flourished in the city. His research demonstrated that urban agriculture was predominant in African cities, and such activities helped to sustain the creation of a healthy urban labor force necessary for industrialization.

Affordable Urban Housing
Professor Sanyal’s research on urban housing focused on understanding how to best assist new urban residents in giving access to adequate housing. He began by analyzing the ways the urban poor survive in cities, for example by using their dwellings to generate income through small-scale production or by renting space. Later, he evaluated major low income housing approaches, ranging from self-help housing to site and services projects, as well as built public housing, to better understand how to make housing affordable for the urban poor. This research combines knowledge of housing with that of income generation by the urban poor, and particularly analyzes the role of non-governmental organizations in development planning.

International Planning Education
Professor Sanyal has long been concerned with developing an appropriate curriculum for international planning students in US universities. His seminal paper entitled “Poor country students in rich universities, ” Created a new emphasis in planning education which called for a better understanding of interdependence between developed and developing nations, and how contemporary planning required the creation of new breed of planners who can help create a global consensus regarding how such interconnected problems can be addressed with joint action.

Public Sector Performance
Understanding good performance by the public sector in developing nations—and what, beyond individual personalities might explain it—has been another key focus of Professor Sanyal’s research . Contrasting the dominant view that planners are rent-seeking individuals working in their own interest, he demonstrated that many planners believe in the notion of public interest and do their best to serve such interests with incremental efforts to circumvent political opposition. The focus of Prof Sanyal’s research – explicitly on institutional settings, not individual personalities, and why certain settings allow some planners to performs well despite all the problems associated with the bureaucracy.


©2010 Bishwapriya Sanyal | Email: sanyal@mit.edu | Tel: (617) 253-3270
Room 9-435A, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology | 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA