Universiteit Leiden

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Maria Gabriela Palacio Ludeña

University Lecturer Development Studies

Dr. M.G. Palacio Ludeña
+31 71 527 2189

I am an Assistant Professor (University Lecturer) in Development Studies at the Latin American Studies Programme and staff member at the Institute for History. My work challenges economicist approaches to development by engaging with questions of identity, difference, and power. Situated within development studies and informed by political economy, anthropology of the state, and sociology of gender and race, it seeks to understand how social policy shapes social and political identities. Most of my empirical research has focused on Ecuador, though I have written more broadly about Latin America.

More information about Maria Gabriela Palacio Ludeña


My research expertise lies in the areas of social policy, poverty, and inequality in Latin American societies. Specifically, I focus on the impact of neoliberalism and conservatism on social protection amid a discourse of technocratic poverty alleviation strategies.

From a critical development studies perspective, I examine the (dis)continuities of neoliberalism as implemented through poverty alleviation policies in the Latin American region. One of the key aspects of my work is questioning the familiarization of care and exploring alternatives to advance a 'degenderisation' of welfare regimes. I challenge the essentialist view of women as carers within patriarchal family structures and have written about gender employment segregation, social reproduction, and income disparities in paid employment, and informal care regimes. I have also written about alternative social assistance reforms in the face of growing systemic challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and extra- and intra-regional migration. Overall, my research investigates the potential role of social protection programs in perpetuating rather than ameliorating existing social structures and power dynamics in society, reproducing various forms of discrimination, exclusion, oppression, and social stratification.

I completed an edited volume titled "Política Social, Pobreza y Desigualdad en el Ecuador 1980-2021" which provides an in-depth analysis of Ecuador's social policy trends over the past four decades. The book offers a comprehensive study of the role of the state in shaping social policy and how it has evolved over three different constitutions and changing welfare regimes. It also examines the reforms the state has undertaken and how stable or volatile the changes have been in social policy. A detailed examination of programs, projects, and services that have characterized social policy throughout the period evaluates the systemic interactions between the different components of social policy in terms of financing, costing, and provision.

My current project, "Upsetting Binaries and Hierarchies: Queer Labour Economics," aims to challenge normative views and discursive practices in the labour market. By adopting a queer perspective and problematizing gendered and binary constructions, our collaborative work investigates forms of discrimination, othering, and exclusion that relate to sexual orientation and contribute to perpetuating social hierarchies and economic outcomes. This interdisciplinary research agenda draws on Queer Linguistics and Queer Economics to answer questions about queer exclusion and its impact on labour markets, minority rights, and the socioeconomic inclusion of vulnerable populations.

Fields of interest

My interests are social policy, neoliberalism, welfare, inequality, development studies, and ethnography.

Grants and awards

In 2021, I was awarded several grants, including the Humanities JEDI Fund and the Research Traineeship Programme grant, for my work on Queer Labour Economics. Additionally, I received the Innovation of Education grant for my project on Critical Theories and Pedagogies.

Curriculum Vitae

I have a PhD in Development Studies from the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS). My research was focused on social protection and labour regimes in Latin America from a gendered and generational perspective. I also have a Master's degree in Development Studies from ISS, where I specialized in poverty studies and policy analysis. Additionally, I hold an M.Sc. in Non-Governmental Organizations Management and Social Economy from the Universitat of València and a BA in Economics from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador.

I teach courses on various topics, including the political economy of Latin America, social policy and social reproduction, social justice, nation-building processes in Latin America, neoliberalism in Latin America, informality, and labour segregation. My objective is to engage students in a dialogue with various literature streams, including political economy, area studies and development studies. My approach to teaching is centred on the belief that knowledge is not just conveyed from the teacher to the student but is created and articulated through dialogue and mutual recognition. In my courses, I aim to foster an environment that encourages students to engage in academic conversation by integrating contrasting perspectives, identifying fundamental premises, contextualizing their arguments, and becoming aware of the hierarchies and power dynamics that exist in the classroom.

I am responsible for supervising several BA, MA, and PhD theses. I contribute to the BA in International Studies, the MA in International Relations, and the MA in European Politics and Societies, in addition to my teaching responsibilities within the Latin American Studies program. While my research and teaching primarily focus on the Latin American region, I am always open to collaborating with students whose research involves issues of social exclusion, social justice, inequality, poverty, labour economics, gender and queer epistemologies, and social policy.

Key publications

Jara H. X Palacio Ludeña M G (2024), Rethinking social assistance amid the COVID‐19 pandemic: Guaranteeing the right to income security in Ecuador, Journal of International Development: 1-27. Read

Palacio Ludeña M.G. (2021), Falling through the cracks: digital infrastructures of social protection in Ecuador, Development and Change 52(4): 805-828. Read

University Lecturer Development Studies

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Institute for History
  • Latijns-Amerika studies

Work address

Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden
Room number 1.04




  • Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador Member Editorial Committee of the Faculty of Economics
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