Department of Geography, Cambridge » Eszter Kovàcs skip to primary navigation skip to content

Eszter Krasznai Kovàcs

Eszter Krasznai Kovàcs

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Research Associate at Sidney Sussex College

Eszter studies the political ecology of environmental management interventions for achieving a 'greener' agriculture and ensuring drinking water supply



  • PhD: Farming for Subsidies: Lived Realities of Agri-Environment in Hungary, Department of Geography, Cambridge, 2014
  • MPhil in Environment, Society and Development – 2009 - University of Cambridge
  • Masters Environmental Law – 2008 – University of Sydney
  • B Science (Advanced, Honours) – 2007 – University of Sydney


  • Royal Geographical Society Environment and Sustainability Award 2015
  • Thinkpiece Grant, The Nexus Network, ESRC & University of Sussex, October 2014
  • Philip Lake Fund, Department of Geography 2013
  • Worts Travelling Scholars Fund 2011
  • Philip Lake Fund 2011
  • Gates Trust Scholarship 2008, 2009-2013
  • Half Blue, University of Cambridge, 2009 & 2010
  • Blue, University of Sydney 2007
  • Academic Excellence Scholarship, University of Sydney 2006


My research interests are varied. I started research in field ecology and moved into environmental law and policy-making in Australia, focusing on community-based natural resource management. My underlying motivation for engaging in these disparate fields was the common theme of the research-implementation and theory-practice 'gap' in conservation and environmental management, and for unpacking the issue of responsibility for environmental conservation and governance modes for sustainability initiatives more widely.

My PhD focused on these issues in the context of agriculture in the European Union and Hungary, where I drew from political ecology approaches to studying environmental management interventions, to probe how international ideas of rurality and conservation intersected with the cultural and political economies of a post-socialist state. The tensions and divergences between policy goals and discourses that can be widely ascribed as neoliberal, and their implementation through state agencies through tools of surveillance and auditing were investigated through a series of grounded ethnographies with farmers and government agencies, to ascertain how farming practice as well as farmers themselves have had to change as a result of European expectations and laws - as well as how the European project has aided in the strengthening of more traditional notions of the nation-state, as in the case of Hungary.

I am currently a postdoctoral research associate on the ESPA-funded project on the Political Economy of Water Security in the Himalayas with Dr Bhaskar Vira, wherein we critically examine small town urbanisation processes, links between rural and urban spaces, and how these intersect with water supply and livelihoods across a number of case study towns in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand in Northern India, and in Nepal.


Book chapters

  • Kovacs, E.K., (2016) The 'differentiated countryside': Survival strategies of rural entrepreneurs. In Lancione, M. (ed), Assembling Life at the Margins, Routledge.
  • Kovacs, E.K., Bose, A., (2014) Flirting with Boundaries: Gender Performed in the Field, in Lunn, J., (ed) Fieldwork in the Global South: Ethical Challenges and Dilemmas, Routledge: Oxon, pp. 109-119


  • Kovacs, E.K., Kumar, C., Agarwal, A., Adams, W.M., Hope, R., Vira, B. (2016) The politics of negotiation and implementation: A reciprocal Water Access Agreement in the Himalayan Foothills, India, Ecology and Society 21(2): 37.
  • Kovacs, E.K., Pataki, G., (2016) The participation of experts and knowledges in the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Environmental Science and Policy 57: 131-139
  • Kovacs, E.K., (2015) Surveillance and State-making through EU Agricultural Policy in Hungary, Geoforum 64: 168-181.
  • Kovacs, E., Kelemen, E., Kaloczkai, A., Margoczi, K., Pataki, Gy., Gebert, J., Malovics, Gy., Balazs, B., Roboz, A., Kovacs, E.K., Mihok, B., (2015) Understanding the links between ecosystem services trade-offs and conflicts in protected areas, Ecosystem Services
  • Thieme, T.A., Kovacs, E.K., (2015) Services and Slums: Rethinking Infrastructures and Provisioning across the Nexus, Think Piece for The ESRC Nexus Network. Open Access
  • Lundquist, C., Báldi, A., Dieterich, M., Gracey, K., Kovacs, E.K., Schleicher, J., Skorin, T., Sterling, E., Jonsson, B-G. (2015) Engaging the conservation community in the IPBES process, Editorial for Conservation Biology 29(6):1493-1495
  • Kovacs, E. K., Crowther, M., Webb, J., Dickman, C., (2012) Population and behavioural responses of native prey to alien predation, Oecologia 168: 947-957.


  • Rights to Nature: Tracing Alternative Political Ecologies against the Neoliberal Environmental Agenda, From Rights to the City to Rights to Nature, Panel convenor and discussant, Cambridge, June 2016
  • IPBES Stakeholder Meeting on First Order Drafts, Participation of Experts in Global Knowledge-Making: Realities and Challenges, individual presentation, Leipzig, June 2016
  • ENTITLE Conference on Undisciplined Environments, Post-colonialising and socialising 'neoliberalism': International research arcs from Kenya to Hungary, individual presentation, Stockholm, March 2016
  • Royal Geographical Society-IBG Annual Conference, Negotiating Rights and Understanding Water Needs: Knowledges and politics of water management in small towns, Individual presentation and Panel Convenor; Exeter, September 2015
  • ICCB: International Congress for Conservation Biology IPBES, Participation of experts and knowledges in the Intergovermental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, August 2015
  • Kovacs, E.K., (2014) Environmental Connectivities in Small Towns of the Himalayas, ESPA Science Conference, 26-27 November 2014, Delhi India.
  • Kovacs, E.K. & Thieme, T., Services and Slums: Rethinking Infrastructures and Provisioning across the Nexus, Political Ecology Seminar presentation, November 2014, University of Cambridge.
  • Kovacs, E.K., (2013) Agri-environmental programmes as facilitating the 'green grab' in Hungary, Presentation to Grabbing the Green Economy Conference, The University of Toronto, Toronto, May 2013
  • Kovacs, E.K., (2012) "What is the Great Bustard made of, gold?": Conservation on agricultural lands in Hungary, Political Ecology Seminar presentation, University of Cambridge
  • Kovacs, E.K., (2012) Lived experiences of agricultural auditing, Conference seminar and presentation at Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, February 28, New York.
  • Kovacs, E.K., (2010) Participation in conservation practice in Eastern Europe: Challenges and opportunities for activism in research, Royal Geographical Society-IBG Annual Conference, 1-3 September 2010.

Popular pieces


  • I have served as a reviewer for Geoforum, Conservation and Society, Geography Compass, Environmental Conservation and Environment and Planning: D, Conservation Biology.


  • Lecturer, Part 1A paper on Environment, Sustainability and Development at The University of Cambridge, February & March 2014
  • Guest Lecturer, Qualitative research methods, November 2013, University of Corvinus Budapest
  • Supervision Tutor, Part IA, University of Cambridge, 2011 -
  • Guest Lecturer, Biodiversity governance and law, November 2011, University of Corvinus, Budapest
  • Demonstrator, Part I Tripos, University of Cambridge, Easter Term 2010

External activities

  • Co-convenor, Political Ecology Reading Group, Department of Geography, The University of Cambridge 2014-2015, 2015-2016-
  • President, Cambridge University Australia and New Zealand Society 2012
  • Green Officer, Sidney Sussex College MCR 2009-10, 2010-11
  • 1sts Women's Fencing team, University of Cambridge, 2008-9, 2009-10
  • Rower and cox for Sidney Sussex College