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Conservation Research Institute



Liz Watson's research is based mainly in the dryland regions of Eastern Africa, where she has worked on indigenous agriculture, from extensive pastoralist practices in northern Kenya/southern Ethiopia to intensive terraced agriculture in southern Ethiopia. Her work explores the entanglements of everyday food production with cultural ideas, forms of social organisation, and economic and political processes, and the ways these change over time. She is interested in the changes that emerge from within communities, and in tandem with regional, national and international policies and politics. One example of recent work focuses on change to species preference, as pastoralists who customarily relied upon cattle have increasingly taken to keeping camels in a development that has been understood by observers as an autonomous form of climate change adaptation (Watson et al. 2016). A second example examines how communities are being impacted upon and responding to a new wave of large-scale infrastructural development projects. This research has been published in a special collection of the Journal of Eastern African Studies that she edited with Jason Mosley. At present, she is continuing to develop her research on the spatial dynamics of development planning in East Africa, first through research into the establishment of wildlife conservancies, and second, through a new collaborative project on development 'corridors' led by UNEP WCMC.

In 2011, Liz Watson was Mellon Teaching Fellow a the Centre for Research into Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). In 2012, she was awarded a Pilkington Prize in recognition of excellence in teaching at the University of Cambridge. In 2012, she was awarded the Royal Geographical Society with Institute of British Geographers Thesiger-Oman International Fellowship. In 2015, she was the recipient of a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship.


Rural livelihoods and landscapes; indigenous agriculture - from extensive pastoralism to intensive smallholder agriculture; institutions for managing natural resources; processes of change and transformation, including impact of climate change/climate change adaptation policies, conservation-related interventions and large-scale development projects in Eastern Africa


Key publications: 

Harrison EA, Watson EE. Mind the Gap: Disciplinary Dissonance, Gender, and the Environment. Society and Natural Resources 25(9):933-944 2012 (Journal article)   

Watson EE, Watson EE. Religion and Climate Change in Northern Kenya: New Moral Frameworks for New Environmental Challenges?. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Society 6(3):319-343 2012 (Journal article)

Watson EE. A ohardening of lineso: landscape, religion and identity in northern Kenya. J EAST AFR STUD 4(2):201-220 2010 (Journal article)   

Schlee G, Watson EE. Changing identifications and alliances in North-East Africa: Volume II: Sudan, Uganda, and the Ethiopia-Sudan Borderlands. 270 pages. Oct 2009 (Book)

Gildenhard I, Revermann M. Introduction. 1-35. 2010 (Chapter)

Watson EE, Schlee G. Changing identifications and alliances in North-East Africa: Volume I: Ethiopia and Kenya. 304 pages. Aug 2009 (Book)

Watson EE. Living terraces in Ethiopia. 242 pages. James Currey Ltd Aug 2009 (Book)

Watson EE. Debates over culture in Konso since Decentralization (1991). In Changing identifications and alliances in North-East Africa, Volume I: Ethiopia and Kenya. Editors: Schlee G, Watson EE. 173-190. Berghahn Books, Oxford Aug 2009 (Chapter)

Watson EE, Schlee G. Space and Time: An Introduction to the Geography and Political History. In Changing identifications and alliances in North-East Africa Volume I: Ethiopia and Kenya. Editors: Schlee G, Watson EE. 2: 15-34. Berghahn Books, Oxford Aug 2009 (Chapter)

Watson EE. The shock doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism. GEOGR J 174:286-287 Sep 2008 (Journal article)

Watson EE. Culture and Conservation in Post-conflict Africa: Changing Attitudes and Approaches. In Culture and development in a globalizing world. Editors: Radcliffe SA. 58-82. 30 Mar 2006 (Chapter)

Black R, Watson E. 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 Jan 2006 (Journal article)   

Watson EE. Making a living in the postsocialist periphery: Struggles between farmers and traders in Konso, Ethiopia. AFRICA 76(1):70-87 2006 (Journal article)   

Gelcich S, Edwards-Jones G, Kaiser MJ, Watson E. Using discourses for policy evaluation: The case of marine common property rights in Chile. Society and Natural Resources 18(4):377-391 2005 (Journal article)   

Watson EE. 'What a dolt one is': language learning and fieldwork in geography. AREA 36(1):59-68 Mar 2004 (Journal article)  

Watson EE. Agricultural intensification and social stratification: Konso contrasted with Marakwet. In Islands of intensive agriculture in Eastern Africa. Editors: Widgren M, Sutton JEG. 49-67. James Currey, Oxford 2004 (Chapter)

Watson EE. Examining the potential of indigenous institutions for development: A perspective from Borana, Ethiopia. DEV CHANGE 34(2):287-309 Apr 2003 (Journal article)   

Adams WM, Watson EE. Soil erosion, indigenous irrigation and environmental sustainability, Marakwet, Kenya. LAND DEGRAD DEV 14(1):109-122 Jan 2003 (Journal article)   

Watson EE. Capturing a local elite: The Konso honeymoon. In Remapping Ethiopia: Socialism and After. Editors: James W, Donham D, Triulzi A, Kurimoto E. 198-218. Ohio University Press Sep 2002 (Chapter)

Watson EE, Adams WM, Mutiso SK. Indigenous irrigation, agriculture and development, Marakwet, Kenya. GEOGR J164:67-84 Mar 1998 (Journal article)   

Adams WM, Watson EE, Mutiso SK. Water, rules and gender: Water rights in an indigenous irrigation system, Marakwet, Kenya. DEV CHANGE 28(4):707-730 Oct 1997 (Journal article)   

Teaching and Supervisions


Liz Watson teaches across all levels of the Geographical Tripos.

University Senior Lecturer

Contact Details

Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place
01223 333356


Departments and institutes: