Ramya Ramanath

A Place to Call Home

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A collage of two photos from the resettlement site. To the left: A resident looking up to her new high-rise apartment building; Right: Sight from within an apartment home

The contents of the built environment that silhouette an urban terrain may be nowhere more in flux than in Mumbai, India. In her book, A Place to Call Home: Women as Agents of Change in Mumbai, Ramya Ramanath, Associate Professor of International Public Service at DePaul University in Chicago, foregrounds experiences of a diverse group of 120 women recently displaced from the slums of Mumbai and resettled in high-rise public housing to show how a history of tumultuous urban planning decisions can help and hinder an under-heeded population of those who call the city home. Extracts of conversations with the women, documented at various stages in their pre- and post-resettlement experiences, richly illustrate the nuances and aspirations of their everyday lives to shade our understanding of personal, familial and extrafamilial change. Through four core chapters, the women recollect their first homes in the city’s slums followed by their responses to the forced disruption from massive government-led demolitions, their negotiations with state and non-state actors, and their eventual move into secure high-rise housing. The book concludes with descriptions of how they are proactively reconstructing their post-settlement lives and livelihoods and advocating for reconsideration of their new surroundings and ways of life. Their call for the full, continual and differentiated engagement of their ideas and actions has implications for future planning, design, monitoring, and evaluation of place-making processes, particularly now when the exigency to build a more inclusive, viable and homey life is felt in neighborhoods and cities across the globe.


Ramya Ramanath is Associate Professor at DePaul University in Chicago and chairs its International Public Service degree program. Her research, spread over three continents, draws on disciplinary perspectives in organizational behavior, urban sociology, planning, anthropology, and political science. Her publications focus on the behavior of international and domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the context of their interactions with government agencies, other NGOs, and intended beneficiaries. Ramanath teaches courses on the management of international NGOs, sustainable international development, cross-sector interactions and policy implementation. In the years prior to her academic career in the U.S., she helped start a micro-finance institution in Southern India and worked in housing finance and development agencies in both urban and rural India. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, a Master’s in Social Work, both from India, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Design & Planning from Virginia Tech.