Connor Joseph Cavanagh's picture

Connor Joseph Cavanagh

Associate Professor

My research interests cohere at the interface of critical human geography, political ecology, and agri-environmental governance. My primary empirical work from 2009 to date has been carried out in East Africa (Uganda and Kenya), but I am also a member of ongoing collaborative projects involving field sites in Tanzania and India. I strongly believe in the value of interdisciplinary and mixed methods research on the drivers and consequences of land use change and environmental change processes. Where appropriate, this entails an inherent openness to collaboration both within the discipline of geography and with scholars working in related fields of study.

My research and publications to date have focused on three core areas. First, the political ecology of conservation, agricultural development, and environmental management interventions, as well as their intersection with new schemes for the economic valuation of carbon sequestration or other ecosystem services. Second, the co-evolution of property regimes for the ownership of natural resources with the (post-)colonial development of classification systems for categorizing both landscapes and human populations in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly from the late nineteenth century into the present. Thirdly, the exploration of contemporary problems in global environmental governance vis-à-vis the conceptual tools of critical human geography, with a focus on identifying alternative pathways towards socially and environmentally just solutions to pressing environment and development challenges.

In addition to pursuing the above research foci, I also prioritize my responsibilities for academic service. I am a Review Editor and editorial board member for the newly-established Political Ecology Section, Frontiers in Human Dynamics. I also regularly contribute as a peer reviewer or referee for a number of international journals (46 reports in the Publons database as of 12 May 2020). These include: Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Journal of Environmental Management, Political Geography, Geoforum, Biological Conservation, Review of African Political Economy, Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, Land Use Policy, Environmental Conservation, The Journal of Latin American Geography, Ecological Economics, Journal of Political Ecology, Area, The Journal of Peasant Studies, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, Journal of Rural Studies, Human EcologyWorld Development, Antipode, Conservation and Society, International Journal of the Commons, and many others.

As a co-founding member of the  Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) , I am passionate about our ongoing collaborations to expand the network, which has grown rapidly from just 8 member 'nodes' or institutions in 2014, to more than 215 nodes across six continents today. For more information and guidance on how to get involved, please see the “POLLEN” tab on this webpage.

If you have supervision, review, or collaboration inquiries related to the thematic foci above, please do not hesitate to get in touch at  Connor.Cavanagh@uib.no




I welcome supervision requests from Master students or prospective PhD candidates on topics that intersect with one or more of the below or closely related themes:

  • Political ecology
  • Agricultural development, rural transformation, and agrarian change
  • Property rights, tenure, and ownership regimes for land and natural resources
  • Land use change, land and food system governance, agriculture-forestry or agriculture-conservation interfaces
  • Formalisation, informalisation, bureaucratisation, and “corruption” in environmental governance
  • Conservation and development, protected area-community relations, the "conservation revolution" and politics of alternative conservation models
  • Degrowth, post-growth, and various other "alternative sustainabilities"
  • Colonialism, postcolonialism, and decolonisation, particularly with respect to land and resource management
  • Inequality, socio-environmental justice, and environmental change adaptation/mitigation
  • Uneven development, "green capitalism", and historical-geographical materialism
  • Biopolitics, "green governmentality" or environmentality, and geographical engagements with the work of Michel Foucault
  • African and East African studies; politics of citizenship and belonging; authority, identity, and territory relations
  • Historical geography and environmental history (particularly in Commonwealth or former “British empire” empirical settings, or drawing upon English-language archival collections)
  • Historical geographies of (post-)colonial science, disciplinary/academic geography, geographical exploration, and the evolution of related scholarly associations (e.g. the Royal Geographical Society or Royal Anthropological Institute).
  • Interdisciplinarity, epistemological pluralism, and mixed-methods research

If you are interested in making a supervision request, please send me an email (Connor.Cavanagh@uib.no) with a brief introduction to your research interests and background. This should include a similarly brief (max. 500 words) description of your provisional ideas for a topic and methodological orientation. The description should make clear how your topic intersects with or speaks to one or more of the themes identified above. If appropriate, we can then schedule an appointment or Zoom meeting to discuss further possibilities for working together.

List of publications  (as of July 06, 2020): Edited Books and Journal Collections (3), Journal Articles and Book Chapters (29), Consultancy Assignments and Reports (6), Book Reviews and Journal Correspondence (4). Google Scholar data  : h-index (14), i10-index (15), 732 total citations.

Edited Books and Journal Collections

  1. Sandbrook, C. and C.J.  Cavanagh  and D. Tumusiime (eds), (2018),  Conservation and Development in UgandaLondon and New York: Routledge / Earthscan. [Review: Colin A. Chapman in  Oryx  53 (3): 590-591 ]. 
  2. Cavanagh, CJ   and H. Lein (eds). (2017),  Special Section: Political Ecologies of REDD + in TanzaniaJournal of Eastern African Studies  11 (3): 482-570.
  3. Cavanagh, CJ  and TA Benjaminsen (eds). (2017). Special Section: Political Ecologies of the Green EconomyJournal of Political Ecology  34: 200-341.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

  1. Cavanagh, C.J. and T. Weldemichel and TA Benjaminsen. (2020). Gentrifying the African landscape: the performance and powers of for-profit conservation on southern Kenya's conservancy frontierAnnals of the American Association of Geographers. Ahead of print,  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24694452.2020.1723398 .
  2. Cavanagh, C.J. and P. Vedeld, JG Petursson, and A. Chemarum. (2020). Agency, inequality, and additionality: contested assemblages of agricultural carbon finance in western KenyaJournal of Peasant Studies. Ahead-of-print,  https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2019.1707812 .
  3. Neimark, B. and J. Childs, A. Nightingale, C. J. Cavanagh S. Sullivan, T.A. Benjaminsen, S. Batterbury, S. Koot, and W. Harcourt. (2020). 'Speaking power to "post-truth": critical political ecology and the new authoritarianism. In J. McCarthy (ed), Environmental governance in a populist/authoritarian eraNew York and London: Routledge. [Reprint of Neimark et al. (2019) in Annals of the American Association of Geographers 109: 613-623].
  4. Cavanagh, C.J.  (2019). Dying races, deforestation and drought: the political ecology of social Darwinism in Kenya Colony's western highlandsJournal of Historical Geography 66: 93-103.
  5. Weldemichel, T. and TA Benjaminsen, C.J. Cavanagh, and H. Lein. (2019). Conservation: beyond population growthScience 365 (6449): 133[Response letter to Veldhuis et al. 2019 in Science 363 (6434), 'Cross-boundary human impacts compromise the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem'.]
  6. Neimark, B., and J. Childs, AJ Nightingale, C.J. Cavanagh , S. Sullivan, T.A. Benjaminsen, S. Batterbury, S. Koot, and W. Harcourt. (2019). Speaking power to 'post-truth': critical political ecology and the new authoritarianismAnnals of the American Association of Geographers 109: 613-623.
  7. Cavanagh, C.J. (2018). Political ecologies of biopower: diversity, debates, and new frontiers of inquiryJournal of Political Ecology 25: 402-425[Special section: 'Perspectives on Power in Political Ecology'.]

  8. Cavanagh, C.J. and C. Sandbrook and D. Tumusiime. (2018). Dynamics of conservation and development in Uganda. In Sandbrook, C. and C.J. Cavanagh and D. Tumusiime (eds), Conservation and Development in Uganda . London and New York: Routledge/Earthscan, pp. 3-15.
  9. D. Himmelfarb and C.J. Cavanagh . (2018). Managing the contradictions: conservation, communitarian rhetoric, and conflict at Mount Elgon National Park. In C. Sandbrook and C.J. Cavanagh and D. Tumusiime (eds), Conservation and Development in UgandaLondon and New York: Routledge / Earthscan, pp. 85-103.
  10. Cavanagh, C.J. and C. Sandbrook and D. Tumusiime. (2018). Conservation, development, and the politics of ecological knowledge. In Sandbrook, C. and C.J. Cavanagh and D. Tumusiime (eds), Conservation and Development in Uganda . London and New York: Routledge/Earthscan, pp. 249-264.
  11. Cavanagh, CJ. (2018). Enclosure, dispossession, and the 'green economy': new contours of internal displacement in Liberia and Sierra Leone? African Geographical Review 37 (2): 120-133.
  12. Cavanagh, CJ  (2018). Critical ecosystem infrastructure? Governing the forest-water nexus in the Kenyan highlands. In R. Boelens, T. Perreault, and J. Vos (eds). Water Justice . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 302-315.
  13. Fisher, J. and C. JCavanagh , T. Sikor, and D. Mwayafu. (2018). Linking notions of justice and project outcomes in carbon offset forestry projects: Insights from a comparative study in UgandaLand Use Policy 73: 259-268.
  14. Cavanagh, C.J.  (2018). Land, natural resources, and the state in Kenya's Second Republic. In A. Adeniran and L. Ikuteyijo (eds), Africa Now! Emerging Issues and Alternative Perspectives. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 119-147.
  15. Cavanagh, C. J. and TA Benjaminsen (2018). Guerrilla agriculture? A biopolitical guide to illicit cultivation within an IUCN Category II protected area. In M. Edelman et al. (eds), Global land grabbing and political reactions 'from below'. Critical Agrarian Studies Series . New York and London: Routledge, pp. 259-280. [Reprint of Cavanagh and Benjaminsen (2015) in Journal of Peasant Studies 42 (3-4)].
  16. Cavanagh, C.J. and A. Chemarum, P. Vedeld, and JG Petursson. (2017). Old wine, new bottles? Investigating the differential adoption of 'climate-smart' agricultural practices in western Kenya . Journal of Rural Studies 56: 114-123.
  17. Cavanagh, C.J. (2017). Anthropos into humanitas: civilizing violence, scientific forestry, and the 'Dorobo question' in eastern AfricaEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space. 35 (4): 694-713.
  18. Cavanagh, C.J. and TA Benjaminsen. (2017). Political ecology, variegated green economies, and the foreclosure of alternative sustainabilitiesJournal of Political Ecology 24: 200-216.
  19. Cavanagh, C.J. and O. Freeman. (2017). Paying for carbon at Mount Elgon: two contrasting approaches at a transboundary park in East Africa. In S. Namirembe, B. Leimona, M. van Noordwijk, and P. Minang (eds), Co-investment in ecosystem services: global lessons from payment and incentive schemes. Nairobi: World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF).
  20. Cavanagh, C.J. (2017). Mapping the state's Janus face: green economy and the 'green resource curse' in Kenya's highland forests. In A. Williams and P. Le Billon (eds), Corruption, Natural Resources, and Development: From Resource Curse to Political Ecology. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 106-116.
  21. Cavanagh, C.J. (2017). Resilience, class, and the antifragility of capitalResilience: International Policies, Practices, and Discourses 5 (2): 110-128. [Special issue - 'Resilience and the Anthropocene'].
  22. Holmes, G. and CJ Cavanagh. (2016). A review of the social impacts of neoliberal conservation: formations, inequalities, contestationsGeoforum 75: 109-199.
  23. Vedeld, P. and C. J. Cavanagh, J. G. Petursson, C. Nakakaawa, R. Moll, and E. Sjaastad. (2016). The political economy of conservation at Mount Elgon, Uganda: between local deprivation, regional sustainability, and global public goodsConservation and Society 14 (3): 183-194.
  24. Cavanagh, C.J. and TA Benjaminsen. (2015). Guerrilla agriculture? A biopolitical guide to illicit cultivation within an IUCN Category II protected areaJournal of Peasant Studies 42 (3-4): 725-745.
  25. Cavanagh, C.J. and P. Vedeld and LT Traedal. (2015) Securitizing REDD+? Problematizing the Emerging Illegal Timber Trade and Forest Carbon Interface in East AfricaGeoforum 60: 72-82.
  26. Cavanagh, C.J. and D. Himmelfarb. (2015). 'Much in Blood and Money': Necropolitical Ecology on the Margins of the Uganda ProtectorateAntipode 47 (1): 55-73.
  27. Nakakaawa, C., Moll, R., Vedeld, P., Sjaastad, E., & Cavanagh, C. J. (2015). Collaborative resource management and rural livelihoods around protected areas: A case study of Mount Elgon National Park, UgandaForest Policy and Economics 57: 1-11.
  28. Cavanagh, C.J. (2014). Biopolitics, Environmental Change, and Development StudiesDevelopment Studies Forum 41 (2): 273-294.
  29. Cavanagh, C.J. and T.A. Benjaminsen. (2014). Virtual Nature, Violent Accumulation: The 'Spectacular Failure' of Carbon Offsetting at a Ugandan National ParkGeoforum 56: 55-65.

Reports and Consultancy Assignments

  1. Cavanagh, C.J. (2015). Upscaling climate-smart agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa: On whose terms? Report to NORAD from the FARA-NORAD Climate-Smart Agriculture conference, 10-12 March 2015, Nairobi, Kenya. Noragric Consultancy Reports Series. Ås: Noragric, NMBU.
  2. Vedeld, P. and C.J. Cavanagh and J. Aune. (2015). Appraisal of the Alliance for Religion and Conservation (ARC) and the Alliance for Faithful Food and Farming - Climate Smart Agriculture programs. Prepared for NORAD. Ås, Norway: Noragric, NMBU.
  3. Cavanagh, C.J. (2014). Protected area governance, carbon offset forestry, and environmental (in)justice at Mount Elgon, Uganda . Report prepared for the EU Research Council Project 'I-REDD' at the University of East Anglia. Primary Investigator: Prof. Thomas Sikor. Norwich, UK: DEV Reports and Policy Paper Series, University of East Anglia.
  4. Vedeld, P. and C.J. Cavanagh and LT Traedal. (2014) Program Appraisal, ' Illegal Timber Trade and REDD + Interface in East Africa: A Pilot '. Appraisal on behalf of NORAD for INTERPOL, UNODC, and UN-REDD. Noragric Report No. 72. Ås: Noragric, NMBU
  5. Cavanagh, C.J. (2012) Unready for REDD +? Lessons from Corruption in Ugandan Conservation Areas. U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center Policy Brief. Bergen, Norway: Chr. Michelsen Institute.
  6. Cavanagh, C.J. (2011) Protected Areas and Poverty in Africa: Four Cases. Report for the Human-Environment Unit, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). Oslo: NINA.

Book Reviews and Journal Correspondence

  • 1.  Weldemichel, T. and TA Benjaminsen, C. J. Cavanagh, and H. Lein. (2019). Conservation: beyond population growth - response to Ogutu et al. [eLetter response to Ogutu et al. 2019 and Veldhuis et al. 2019 in  Science 365 (6449): 133-134.]
  • 2. Cavanagh, C.J. (2014). Review: Constructions of Neoliberal Reason by Jaime Peck. Canadian Geographer 58 (3): 53-54.
  • 3. Cavanagh, C.J. (2013). Review: The Political Economy of Environment and Development in a Globalized World: Exploring the Frontiers, Essays in Honor of Nadarajah Shanmugaratnam by DJ Kjosavik and P. Vedeld (eds). Forum for Development Studies 40 (1): 177-180.
  • 4. Cavanagh, CJ  (2010). Review:  Knowledge to Policy: Making the Most of Development Research  by Fred Carden . Canadian Journal of Development Studies  31 (3-4): 517-218.

As a co-founding member of the  Political Ecology Network (POLLEN), I am passionate about our ongoing collaborations to expand the network. POLLEN has grown rapidly from just 8 member nodes or institutions in 2014, to more than 215 nodes across six continents today. For more information about the network and guidance on how to get involved, please visit  https://politicalecologynetwork.org/contact/

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20), originally scheduled for June 24-26, 2020 in Brighton, UK, has been postponed. Please visit the conference website for details about online alternatives as they emerge:  https://pollen2020.wordpress.com/

Useful POLLEN Resources

Literature Lists: https://politicalecologynetwork.org/literature-lists/

Course Descriptions/Syllabi: https://politicalecologynetwork.org/course-descriptions/

Documentaries and Podcasts: https://politicalecologynetwork.org/documentaries-and-podcasts/

"POLLEN TV" Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNoG_ZLJWntebA7a6afkoVw

Past, Present, and Future Conferences

Fourth Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN22). Theme TBC. Durban, South Africa, 28-30 June 2022.

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20), Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration. Organizers: ESRC STEPS Centre (Institute of Development Studies/SPRU, University of Sussex) and the POLLEN Secretariat. Hosts: Radical FuturesUniversity of Brighton; European Research Council BIOSEC project; Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID), University of Sheffield. Brighton, UK, 24-26 June 2020. https://pollen2020.wordpress.com/

Second Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN18), Political Ecology, the Green Economy, and Alternative Sustainabilities. Co-organized by the Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU); Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo; Department of International Studies and Interpreting Education, Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet). Oslo, Norway, 19-22 June 2018. Video recordings of keynotes: https://politicalecologynetwork.org/category/pollen-tv/ 

First Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN16),  Political Ecologies of Conflict, Capitalism and Contestation (PE-3C). Wageningen University and School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Wageningen, the Netherlands, 07-09 July 2016.  https://www.wur.nl/en/activity/PE-3C-International-Conference.htm

Research Council of Norway, FRIPRO-Toppforsk, Greenmentality: A Political Ecology of the Green Economy in the Global SouthPI: Tor Arve Benjaminsen (Norwegian University of Life Sciences). Duration: 2016-2020. Partners: Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) (Nitin Rai, Suhas Bhasme), Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Paul Robbins), French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) (Sara Benabou), Sheffield Institute of International Development, University of Sheffield (Dan Brockington, Frances Cleaver), Oslo Metropolitan University (Hanne Svarstad), Department of Geography, University of Dar es Salaam (Christine Noe). Website: https://greenmentalityblog.wordpress.com/

Research groups