PhD Committee

Just energy transitions

I am broadly interested in climate change, renewable energy, social movements, and rural change. More specifically, I am interested in how to shift to an energy system that is predominantly based on renewable energy without creating new social and environmental injustices in the process.

My doctoral research at Clark University‘s Graduate School of Geography examines this question in Senegal, where over the past few years several utility-scale renewable energy projects have been rolled out. While this political drive to developing renewable energy capacity quickly is notable, these developments are taking place in a context where i) most land is state-owned, posing questions for maintaining people’s rights to land and other resources, and ii) offshore discoveries of oil and gas are now drastically reshaping the energy sector in the country. My research examines what kinds of narratives are mobilized in political decision-making around renewable energy, who deploys and negotiates these, and what material implications this has for the lives of people living on or near these project sites. My research thus operates at multiple administrative levels, with a case study focus on the recently inaugurated 158 megawatt Taiba N’Diaye wind power project.

My doctoral work builds upon past research as part of my BA and MSc degrees, which focused on the interplay between natural resource conflicts, primarily related to land and oil, discourses of indigeneity, and social movements in Guatemala and Nigeria, respectively.


My dissertation research is supported by the National Science Foundation (Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award (DDRI)), the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University (Albert, Norma and Howard Geller ‘77 Endowed Research Award); the Edna Bailey Sussman Foundation (Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Sussman Fund Graduate Scholarship), the American Geographical Society (Council Fellowship), the American Philosophical Society (Lewis and Clark Field Scholarship), and the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University (Pruser Dissertation Enhancement Award, Atwood Fund Graduate Research Enhancement Award).

Photo: Parc Eolien Taiba N’Diaye, Senegal / Mara van den Bold, 2020

(Critical) food and nutrition

I worked as a (Senior) Research Analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) between 2012 and 2021. My research at IFPRI primarily focused on examining the impact of agricultural programs on nutrition as well as the politics of food security and nutrition policy, and the gendered dynamics of access to these resources.

More specifically, my work there focused on: i) analysis of agricultural data in sub-Saharan Africa on gendered land ownership, ii) evaluating agriculture-nutrition programs in West Africa and their impacts on intra-household dynamics, food security and nutrition outcomes, and iii) agriculture and nutrition policy processes in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. I co-lead and have (co)coordinated several rounds of mixed methods studies in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (see my CV for more information on these “Stories of Change” or “Stories of Challenge” studies).

Being in a critical geography program has allowed and inspired me to examine food and nutrition from more critical perspectives, particularly in collaboration with colleagues working from critical nutrition and health studies.

My Google Scholar profile that reflects much of the work described above is here.

Photo: Gisenyi, Rwanda / Mara van den Bold, 2017
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