The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU's Ignacia Ossul successfully defends PhD thesis on The Politics of Home-Making

18 February 2019

Congratulations to DPU's Ignacia Ossul who has successfully defended her PhD thesis titled 'The Politics of Home-Making: The case of informal settlements in Viña del Mar'

Ignacia PhD

The central argument of Ignacia's thesis is that home-making practices of maintenance, construction and planning are not only routines of subsistence, but can also have a political function by embodying housing and gender claims. She examines the political role of home-making practices in women’s struggles for housing in informal settlements in Viña del Mar, Chile. More specifically, she looks at the conditions in which these practices emerge, and the ways in which they can open space for the advancement of social justice. Her thesis takes a case study approach and documents the home-making practices of two specific informal settlements. Her research puts forward the analytical framework The Politics of Home-Making to understand how gender inequalities are manifested and contested through housing struggles.

Using feminist geographers’ notion of home as a way to interrogate initiatives of self-help, the thesis tackles a gap in research that tends to conceive of housing for the urban poor in material terms, and often disregards the subjective and political aspects of creating a home. Her research is interested in the possibilities that the theoretical notions of home and home-making can offer to housing studies, particularly in understanding how housing mediates gender relations. 

Her thesis focuses on a case that has hardly been documented in Chilean academia, even though the city of Viña del Mar has the largest number of informal dwellers in the country. Unlike the majority of informal dwellers in Chile, those discussed in this case wish to stay put, and in doing so, challenge Chile’s long-established housing policy. The thesis presents primary data collected through qualitative fieldwork. It uses a set of methods, including participatory photography, as an innovative way of documenting practices and meanings of home in the context of the built environment in the global South.

Ignacia’s findings show that, despite operating in a constrained structural landscape, low-income women are able to negotiate class and gender relations through everyday practices. It shows how women have opened space for the redistribution of resources, the recognition of their skills, and have claimed new spaces of representation and participation in the city. As such, this work contributes to the multidisciplinary debate around the role of housing and gender relations, as well as the understanding of everyday politics.

Thesis Title:
The Politics of Home-Making: The case of informal settlements in Viña del Mar