Liz Watson BSc PhD
University Senior Lecturer and Pybus Fellow of Newnham College
Livelihoods in dryland environments; coping with risk and uncertainty; institutions for natural resources management (NRM), and their social, cultural and political dynamics; Horn of Africa
Liz Watson's research focuses on the relations between livelihoods, institutions, environment and development in the drylands of the Horn of Africa. In Ethiopia, work in Konso examined the production and sustainability of its intensive agricultural terraced landscape, and focused on the nature and significance of indigenous social institutions for governing land and labour. More recently, research with the pastoralist Boran and Gabra of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia has explored the dynamic and adaptive nature of mobile livelihoods. In the context of multiple stresses, social, cultural and political developments - as well as 'Development' projects - have often undermined indigenous institutions and have exacerbated exposure to risk and vulnerability. New research, funded by the Royal Geographical Society with IBG Thesiger-Oman International Fellowship, examines one of the local responses to the current challenges, namely the increased preference for camels, which are seen as better adapted to a changing climate, as well as potentially more profitable given the changing nature of regional trade and increased demands for meat. Liz Watson has also published on the importance of religion in social relations to environment and responses to climate change; on gender, environment and development; and on the impact on collective identities in the Horn of Africa of state restructuring programmes, particularly decentralization. In 2011, she was Mellon Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Research into Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge. In 2012, she was awarded a Pilkington Prize in recognition of excellence in teaching at the University of Cambridge.
Liz Watson is interested in receiving expressions of interest from potential PhD students who would like to carry out empirical studies broadly in the area of the impact of climate change and climate change discourses on livelihoods and policies in East Africa. Please send a brief CV and a 1-2 page outline.
- 1992-1993: Research Assistant, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
- 1998-1999: Research Fellow, School of African and Asian Studies, University of Sussex
- 1999-2000: Joint Assistant Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge and Newnham College.
- 2000-2002: University Assistant Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Newnham College
- 2002-2010: University Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Newnham College
- 2010-present: University Senior Lecturer and Pybus Fellow of Newnham College
- BSc Anthropology, University College London
- PhD, University of Cambridge
Liz Watson is a member of the Political Ecology group. Current and recent research projects include:
- Identities, landscapes and livelihoods - 'Belief and Belonging: Identity and Religion in Northern Kenya'. Funded by the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme, research was carried out with Professor John Mack (PI), Professor Justin Willis, Dr Hassan Arero, Dr Purity Kiura, and Dr Fugicha Waqo. Much of this research examined the history and influence of religion in northern Kenya, but was also developed to examine the importance of this history for livelihoods and the production of landscape (see Watson, 2010, below).
- Religion, climate change and policy response - 'Meaning and Performance in the Era of Climate Change, Northern Kenya'. Funded by the British Institute in Eastern Africa, this research examined the role of different religions, including the indigenous religions, different forms of Christianity and Islam, in shaping attitudes and responses to the perceived challenges of climate change in northern Kenya. Religions have powerful and far-reaching influences on attitudes, institutions, and everyday environmental practices. Findings from this research are presented in a paper with Hassan Hussein Kochore, forthcoming in a Special Issue of the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture.
- Climate change, security and Livelihoods - Research drawing on the fieldwork funded by the AHRC/ESRC and the BIEA has been examining the ways in which approaches to meeting the challenges of climate change that build on the idea of 'resilience' reframe development options in helpful and challenging ways.
Climate change, livelihoods and responses - 'The Difference a Species Makes: Converting to Camels in Northern Kenya'. Funded by the Royal Geographical Society with IBG Thesiger-Oman International Fellowship, this research examines the implications of 'switching' from keeping cattle to camels as a response to climate change and new economic opportunities. The research examines the profound implications of this switch for social, economic, political and cultural lives.
- Samuel Spiegel - 'The Political Ecology of Poverty, Crisis and Gold: Rethinking Resource Governance and Participation in Mining Communities'
- Harrison, E.A. and Watson, E.E. (2012) 'Mind the Gap: Disciplinary Dissonance, Gender, and the Environment' Society and Natural Resources, 25(9): 933-944.
- Watson, E. E. (2010) 'A "Hardening of Lines": Landscape, Religion and Identity in Northern Kenya'. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 4 (2): 201-220.
- Watson, E. E. (2009) Living Terraces in Ethiopia: Konso Landscape, Culture and Development. Woodbridge and New York: James Currey (an imprint of Boydell and Brewer) East Africa Series.
- Schlee, G. and Watson, E.E. eds (2009) Changing Identifications and Alliances in North-East Africa, Volume I: Ethiopia and Kenya. Oxford : Berghahn Books.
- Schlee, G. and Watson, E.E. eds. (2009) Changing Identifications and Alliances in North-East Africa, Volume II: Sudan, Uganda and the Ethiopia-Sudan Borderlands. Oxford: Berghahn Books.
- Black, R. and Watson, E.E. (2006) 'Local community, legitimacy, and cultural authenticity in postconflict natural resource management: Ethiopia and Mozambique' Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 24 (2): 263 - 282.
- Watson, E.E. (2006) 'Culture and Conservation in Post-Conflict Africa' in S. A. Radcliffe ed. Culture and Development in a Globalizing World: Geographies, Actors and Paradigms. London: Routledge.
- Watson, E. E. (2006) 'Making A Living In The Post-Socialist Periphery: Struggles Between Farmers And Traders In Konso, Ethiopia' Africa, 76 (1).
- Watson, E.E. (2005) Gender-Sensitive NRM Research-for-development. DFID NRSP Programme Development Report PD123: Gender Sensitive Research For Development. Cambridge UK: Department of Geography: University of Cambridge.
- Black, R., Harrison, E.A., Schafer, J. and Watson, E. E. (2005) 'Natural Resource Management and Local Institutions in "Post-Conflict" Mozambique and Ethiopia' European Tropical Forest Research Network News: Special Edition: Forests and conflicts, Vols 43/44: 54-57.
- Watson, E. E. (2004) 'What a dolt one is! Language learning and fieldwork in Geography' Area, 36 (1): 59-68.
- Watson, E. E. (2004) 'Agricultural Intensification and Social Stratification: Konso contrasted with Marakwet', in Mats Widgren and John Sutton eds. Islands of Intensive Agriculture in Eastern Africa. Oxford: James Currey; Nairobi: British Institute in East Africa. Pp. 49-67.
- Watson, E. E. (2003) 'Examining the potential of indigenous institutions for development: the case from Borana, Ethiopia'. Development and Change. 35: 287-309.
- Adams, W.M. and Watson, E.E. (2003) 'Indigenous Irrigation and Soil Erosion, Marakwet, Kenya. Land Degradation and Society, 14: 109-122.
- Watson, E. E. (2002) 'Capturing a Local Elite: The Konso Honeymoon' in Wendy James, Don Donham, Alessandro Triulzi and Eisei Kurimoto eds. Remapping Ethiopia: Socialism and After, (James Currey and Ohio University Press), pp198-218.
Liz Watson teaches across all levels of the Geographical Tripos and on the M.Phil in Environment, Society & Development.