Alumna Ikuno Naka wins inaugural DSA PhD thesis prize

01 June, 2022

Congratulations to Ikuno Naka, who has won the newly established Development Studies Association (DSA) thesis prize for PhD students working in the field of international development, development studies and development economics.

Ikuno won for her thesis entitled 'The "Realty" of Cochin: from the material to the spectacular, a story of India’s emerging city'.

The thesis is about "the many dreams, spectres, the imaginations and fantasies that surround an emerging South Indian city, Cochin," Ikuno says. "It explores the ways by which these stories about what could be, what might be, what is presently not, come to become fodder for speculative capital accumulation. Such stories about the future have material manifestations in the present, as capital is increasingly invested into the city's built forms, its real estate. In examining the socialities, networkings and hustlings grounded within the everyday, this thesis seeks to recapture geographies of speculative accumulation for what they actually are: all the painstaking mobilizations, reorganizations, and restructuring of people, goods, cultural understandings and meanings”. 

The judging panel commented:

"What makes this thesis so powerful is the way that it has been written; the ethnographic, active participant research approach which provides the data; and the analysis which looks beyond the physical capital speculation and accumulation to what it tells us about how people conceptualise their future aspirations, hopes and understandings of (urban) development. It is written in a highly distinctive, almost literary style, which combined with excellent research skills and analysis, takes it to the next level.”

Reacting to the news, Ikuno says: "I am incredibly honoured to be receiving the inaugural DSA PhD thesis prize. The thesis is nothing more than a story about Cochin and its residential flat. And it would not have been possible had it not been for so many important people, namely Dr Najeeb Zackeria, Praseedha, Mujib, Joseph, Sethu and Chitra, and the Varghese family, who allowed me to sit with them, a while. And of course my supervisor Professor Nikita Sud, and our many continued conversations". 

For the 2022 prize, all Development Studies and Economics departments in the UK that are institutional members of the DSA were invited to nominate the highest scoring or most promising PhD thesis in their department from a student who graduated in 2021. The nominations were evaluated by an academic panel from the DSA.

Ikuno has been invited to present her research at the DSA annual conference in early July.

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