My research focuses on several aspects of the relationship between human societies and the environment, especially on how this relationship is modeled in sustainable development and conservation policy and in the theory of environmental anthropology. The relationship between agriculture and natural resources has been a long-term research interest, especially the role of gender in this relationship. I am a social anthropologist with area expertise in Indonesia and Pakistan. Current research interests include:
- The relationship between human society and the environment in the history of environmental anthropology. I have published a history of studies of the environment within anthropology, in collaboration with Michael Dove, by Blackwell. I also teach an undergraduate course on environmental anthropology.
- People and the environment in the history of sustainable development and conservation policy. This work concerns the history of ideas about development (or modernism) and the history of ideas about the environment (e.g. wilderness), beginning with early industrialism and capitalism and ending with current concepts of sustainable development and poverty as the cause of environmental degradation.
- The role of economic invisibility in development. This study began with research in Pakistan in 1987, and yielded publications documenting rural women’s work with livestock. More recently I published an article on the implications of the fact that this work is invisible to the dominant models used in development and conservation policy. I continue to enlarge this research, looking at data from areas other than South Asia and examining economic sectors that are relatively invisible but not gender-related, like subsistence agriculture and informal trade. This work concerns the application of economic anthropology to development.