Focus group discussion, Korail slum, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Focus group discussion, Korail slum, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Field research group in a rural village, Jessore, Bangladesh

Field research group in a rural village, Jessore, Bangladesh

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Overview:

I am a broadly trained scholar with interests and expertise in nature-society relationships, political ecology, water governance, climate change, development geography, and feminist geography. My interdisciplinary research integrates my background and training in the natural sciences, social sciences, and policy experience. Generally, I have long been interested in issues of political ecology of development as conceptualized and enacted by variously-situated actors, and the ways by which such conceptualizations and discourses shape local understandings of ‘environmental management’ or ‘development’. In this respect, I am interested in environmental governance and the politics of knowledge production, whereby ideational and material realities co-produce and challenge projects and practices. My research interests are informed by multi-scalar analyses of processes of development and globalization that come to impact poverty, well-being, and socio-ecological change. I explore and explain complex and multi-scalar processes, often using water as the ‘lens’ through which to understand the complexities socio-ecological transformations and realities. Thus, my research sits at the confluence of a range of theoretical and epistemological framings, with the goal to inform and encourage social justice across a range of scales. I have had long-standing research interests in gender, environment, and development issues in the global South, and ways by which development and privatization of natural resources different groups of people intersectionally across sites and scales, and what this means to broader issues of development, democracy, citizenship and social justice. My research has been funded by a variety of international sources, such as: MacArthur Foundation, Department for International Development (DFID) UK, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), International Water Management Institute, International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canada, Government of Sweden, Syracuse University, Princeton University, University of Minnesota, King’s College London, Minnesota Human Rights Center, and Association of American Geographers.

 

My past research had primarily focused on the gender, class, and policy implications of water management in Bangladesh, with an emphasis on drinking water problems from arsenic contamination of groundwater. I expounded upon the ways that discourses of participation, community, decentralization, and gender equity operate in water management, and in development more broadly, and the implications such discourses have on the ground. I analyzed the ways that water management espouses such narratives, and the ways that complications arise from agencies of both humans and nature in such discourses and practices. A main thrust of the research was to understand the processes by which marginalization, inequalities, and power relations operate in the context of socio-ecological change and development endeavors.

 

I am currently investigating the ways that contested water governance mechanisms are affecting the poor in informal settlements of mega-cities, and what this means for goals of development, social justice, and understandings and realizations of the right to water. This research in embedded within broader interests in neoliberal water governance, urban environmental practices, practices of citizenship, and understanding the challenges inherent in materializing the calls for a universal human right to water. The initial research cite for this is Dhaka, Bangladesh. The research was also the basis of the large international conference on ‘The Right to Water’ that I organized in 2010; details available at the conference website: http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/waterconference. The research is also elaborating upon the debates captured in my recent edited book “The Right to Water: Politics, Governance and Social Struggles” (2012, Routledge: London and New York), details of which can be found on the home page and publications page of this website. The book has been translated into Spanish and Polish. My second book Eating, Drinking: Surviving (2017, Springer: Netherlands) is a product of the International Year of Global Understanding of the International Geographical Union, and is an open access book for global circulation.

 

Concurrently, I am also researching the interplay between climate change, socio-ecological impacts, and adaptation/responses. This research focuses on the vulnerable and frontline communities, and examines climate change adaptation politics in the context of development politics, gender inequalities, and social practices.  Water continues to be an important factor in this research, as does the attention to gendered dynamics of vulnerabilities, resilience, and livelihood strategies. The research won the faculty Moynihan Challenge grant from the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, for the project “Building Community Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change across Sites, Groups and Scales”. The research is also linked to my spearheading the successful research project on ‘Climate Change and Citizenship’ for the Maxwell 10th Decade Project at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. This research project attempts to understand the relationship between climate change and citizenship across developing and developed/industrialized countries.

 

Furthermore, my interests include transboundary river sharing, particularly the dispute over the Ganges River in South Asia. I have been interested in the ways that socio-ecological transformation from changing river dynamics and hydrology affect not only lives and livelihoods but also international political relations and discourses of development within and between nation-states. Water politics and policies thus continue to be important to my overall interests in this endeavor.

 

Methodologically, I am interested in both quantitative and qualitative methods, with particular interest in issues of fieldwork, positionality and power relations, and research ethics.

 

I am involved in several professional and academic bodies, such as the Association of American Geographers (AAG), the Institute of British Geographer with the Royal Geographical Society (RGS/IBG), the Gender and Water Alliance (GWA), Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN), Gender and Disasters Network (GDN), etc. I am also a founding member of the Participatory Geographies Research Group (PyGyRG) of the RGS/IBG, and past Chair of the Development Geographies Specialty Group (DGSG) of the AAG. Given my interdisciplinary interests and expertise, I regularly carry out reviews of grant proposals, research proposals, peer-reviewing of academic and policy papers, and participate in a wide array of activities with academics, activists, policy-makers and practitioners across the globe. I frequently deliver invited lectures and keynote addresses across disciplines at universities and institutions. My vision is to integrate teaching, research and service/outreach in meaningful and impactful ways.