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Faculty-Staff Dissertation Fellowship Award

David Yee, History

David Yee Dissertation Title: In the Shadow of the Metropolis: Housing and Segregation in Mexico City, 1940-1976

Can you tell us, in general terms, about your research?

My dissertation project traces the rise of modern spatial segregation in Mexico City through a close comparative study of two contrasting communities: San Juan de Aragón and Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl. 

Beginning in the 1940s, Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl’s transformation from a prototypical informal settlement into the world’s largest “mega-slum” became a national symbol for the failures of Mexico’s postwar economic boom. The explosive growth of shantytowns on Mexico City’s periphery overshadowed the government’s attempts to solve the city’s housing crisis through modern housing complexes, such as San Juan de Aragón. I analyze the emergence of these two forms of housing to understand the political and social forces that shaped Mexico City’s patterns of residential segregation. The project utilizes archival research and new innovations in digital mapping to offer a deeper understanding of how housing was not solely a place to live, but a social object that shaped identities, socioeconomic mobility, and political consciousness.

What excites you about your work?

My work draws its inspiration from a passion to document and highlight stories of survival and resiliency among marginalized urban communities. It aims to enhance public awareness of the day-to-day life experiences of people living on Mexico’s urban periphery, featuring an alternative perspective to popular media representations that tend to sensationalize rather than inform.

How has your time at Stony Brook helped equip your for success?

The conceptual framework of my dissertation has benefited from the strong emphasis placed on thematic and transnational approaches to history at Stony Brook University. Eric Zolov, my dissertation advisor, has consistently encouraged me to think about Mexico’s history in a global context, while remaining firmly rooted in its own national history. At Stony Brook, the seminars I attended with Paul Gootenberg, along with his own work on Latin America’s indelible inequalities, encouraged me to integrate political and relational perspectives into my research on urban housing in Mexico.

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