I have led internationally recognized work in three distinct fields in the last 5 years.
I am a pioneering figure in the political ecology of conservation, leading work on the social impacts of protected areas and helping to found conservation social science. In the last five years I have worked on the anthropology of conservation NGOs, the politics of celebrity environmentalism, natural resource governance and forest restoration. I have emerged as the most cited scholar in work on neoliberal conservation and conservation in East and Southern Africa. Current research explores data justice in conservation and the presence of people in conservation and restoration planning.
My second field concerns conservation and development data. This work challenges the certainty of powerful development and degradation narratives which can dominate how we think about specific problems. My most recent book (Prosperity in Rural Africa?) questions poverty data in Tanzania, suggesting Tanzanian peasants are richer than we have realised. I have recently worked on with remote-sensing data to improve our understanding and measurement of irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa. I am also working on problems and inconsistencies in indices used to track progress towards decoupling and sustainability.
Finally my work on celebrity challenges the perceived popularity of celebrity, arguing that we should see celebrity interventions not as a populist democratic move, but as an elitist aspect of post-democratic politics. I have written two pioneering books in this field. I have recently produced two papers for leading journals on tropes of celebrity humanitarianism and environmentalism. These show that celebrity interventions support particular varieties of environmental and development narratives that tend to maintain existing inequalities.
In all areas I work in international interdisciplinary teams across science, natural science and humanities with particularly strong links in East Africa and India.