University Senior Lecturer and Pybus Fellow of Newnham College, Department of Geography, Cambridge University, United Kingdom
Liz Watson’s research focuses on the relations between livelihoods, institutions, environment and development in the drylands of the Horn of Africa. In Ethiopia, work in Konso examined the production and sustainability of its intensive agricultural terraced landscape, and focused on the nature and significance of indigenous social institutions for governing land and labour. More recently, research with the pastoralist Boran and Gabra of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia has explored the dynamic and adaptive nature of mobile livelihoods. In the context of multiple stresses, social, cultural and political developments – as well as ‘Development’ projects – have often undermined indigenous institutions and have exacerbated exposure to risk and vulnerability. New research, funded by the Royal Geographical Society with IBG Thesiger-Oman International Fellowship, examines one of the local responses to the current challenges, namely the increased preference for camels. Camels are seen by pastoralists as better adapted to a changing climate, as well as potentially more profitable given the changing nature of regional trade and increased urban demands for milk and meat.
Liz Watson has also published on the importance of religion in social relations to environment and responses to climate change; on gender, environment and development; and on the impact of state restructuring programmes on collective identities in the Horn of Africa. In 2011, she was Mellon Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Research into Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge. In 2012, she was awarded a Pilkington Prize in recognition of excellence in teaching at the University of Cambridge.