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Reading: Development from Within: Diversity, Freedom, and Agency Driven Path for Sri Lanka


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Development from Within: Diversity, Freedom, and Agency Driven Path for Sri Lanka


Nihal Perera

Professor of Urban Planning at Ball State University
About Nihal
Nihal Perera is Professor of Urban Planning at Ball State University, as well as the founder and Director of the CapAsia immersive field-semester in Asia. In addition to the USA, he has taught in Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. The two-time Fulbright Scholar awardee: to China (2006–07) and Myanmar (2015-16) was also Senior Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore (2010) and has received three Fulbright-Hays awards. Perera‘s research, as a leading scholar of social space, focuses on how ordinary people create and negotiate their own spaces. His publications include articles on feminizing the city, competing modernities in Chandigarh, competing visions for Dharavi and books entitled Decolonizing Ceylon (OUP 1999), Transforming Asian Cities (Routledge 2013; Co-eds with Tang), and People’s Spaces (Routledge 2016).
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As spelled out in the introduction and the opening article of this volume, both supporters and direct opponents of development share a similar notion. They conceive it at national scale, within an international context, with little or no room for play. Yet as evident in the above articles, development at people‘s level is diverse. Constructed in relation to particular contexts and constraints, people have individual life goals and objectives, and each life journey is different. It is important to ask: How can politicians, policy makers, development specialists, and planners acknowledge, accommodate, and/or support diverse life journeys without homogenizing and/or suppressing this field of difference?

Homogenization of communities, although never fully achievable, is imposed from outside (i.e., the state, the market, the professionals, and large-scale processes such as colonialism and globalization). Located within the European capitalist thought, the hegemonic development paradigm privileges the economy, one that is largely understood through mathematics. (Buarque 1993) According to this worldview, wealth and national economic growth is a prerequisite to a - "good life" for citizens.

Keywords: Development
How to Cite: Perera, N., 2016. Development from Within: Diversity, Freedom, and Agency Driven Path for Sri Lanka. Bhumi, The Planning Research Journal, 5(1), pp.84–99. DOI:
Published on 25 Dec 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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