My research is centrally concerned with the study of culture and nature in Western thought. In framing my inquiries, I draw from a wide range of critical social theory, including the Marxist, feminist, critical race, and postcolonialist literatures and from the ecological sciences. My methods are predominantly ethnographic and historical. I have conducted fieldwork primarily at rural sites in and around protected areas, particularly national parks and forests. I have completed studies in Tanzania, Western Europe, and California. My research has been funded by NSF, NEH, SSRC and Fulbright and published in a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals including The Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Antipode, Cultural Geographies, Political Geography, and Development and Change. Much of my work falls under political ecology's big, interdisciplinary tent. In my 2005 book, Making Political Ecology, I illustrated how the interdisciplinary field links ecology and critical social theory to explain the relationships of environmental degradation and social conflict.
Most of my work develops three variably intersecting themes; the tensions between social justice and biodiversity conservation, political economy of natural resources, and the co-constitution of identity, nature, and landscape. My earliest research in Tanzania, documented in my book, Imposing Wilderness, examines the cultural politics of biodiversity conservation, focusing on conflict and violence surrounding the creation of conservation territories in colonial and postcolonial Africa. Some of this and related research in Africa, examines how international conservation discourse and practice are inflected by unexamined racial hierarchies and stereotypes. In another study, published in my 2000 book, Research in NTFP Commercialisation, I conducted a critical analysis of the so-called "Rainforest Crunch hypothesis"—that non-timber forest product commodification can simultaneously promote tropical forest conservation and economic development for rural communities. I have conducted and continue to conduct extensive historical work on the co-construction of nature and racial and national identities within British and American imperialism and colonialism. My latest research agenda incorporates insights from science and technology studies and the so-called nonhuman turn in the humanities and social sciences. My central goal is to engage nonhuman perspectives for a fresh conceptualization of human-wildlife interactions in protected areas.
Political Ecology, Cultural Geography, Social Theory, Conservation and Development, Landscape Studies, Environmental History, Africa, U.S. West, Europe