Dr Luke Whaley


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I am a Global Challenges Research Fellow based in the Department of Geography and the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID). My research is concerned with how power and meaning mediate relationships between humans and with the environment. I focus in particular on land and water governance in Africa by working across the social and physical sciences, arts and humanities. My publications reflect a breadth of theoretical, methodological, and empirical work that together characterise my approach to understanding human-environment relations in the context of development. My approach to research is collaborative and interdisciplinary, geared towards the generation of critical knowledge and practical change in the world. I focus on ways of enhancing social justice in the face of inequality and adaptive capacity in the face of social-ecological change and uncertainty. My regional expertise lies in Sub-Saharan Africa (including Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe). I have also carried out research in Europe (the UK and Italy) and India.

I am currently leading a two-year research project in Eastern Uganda, investigating how people’s worldviews shape access to land and water. Anthropologists and sociologists have shown how worldviews (beliefs, interpretations, and common sense knowledge) fundamentally shape patterns of access and inequality by legitimising particular practices and relationships whilst restricting others. This understanding of worldviews has important implications for rural development but has not been taken up in the literature on natural resource governance and sustainability studies. Moreover, there is little or no understanding of it in development policy and practice. This project addresses this gap, with important implications for developing more inclusive rural governance processes that better account for the interests of women and other vulnerable groups.

I teach or have taught on the following Masters and undergraduate modules:

  • Key Issues in Development and Environment
  • Research Design and Methods for Development
  • Geographies of Development
  • Tanzania field class

For more details about me and a list of my publications, please visit my Geography staff profile at: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/geography/staff/luke_whaley/home#tab00