Dr Luke Whaley

Department of Geography

Global Challenges Research Fellow

+44 114 222 7914

Full contact details

Dr Luke Whaley
Department of Geography
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
S3 7ND

I am a Global Challenges Research Fellow based in the Department of Geography and the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID).

My primary research focus is on environmental and natural resource governance. 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.

Research interests

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.

Current Research

I am 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.

The project integrates different disciplinary lenses, combining a mixture of social science methods, yearlong participant diary keeping, and a participatory arts-based approach to meaningfully engage rural Ugandans in the research process.

The knowledge this process generates will be developed into a set of creative elicitation tools (e.g. using theatre and storytelling) that explore land and water governance scenarios with communities and district stakeholders in Eastern Uganda.

Using audio and video recording, the same tools will be digitalised and disseminated to development practitioners and edited for broadcast on local radio.

The intention is to raise awareness of land and water injustices and generate critical debate for practical action.

The voices and experiences of project participants will be shared with international development actors through a one-off performance and discussion event at the annual Bond Conference in London in March 2021.


Journal articles

Research group

I am a co-supervisor of one PhD student:

  • David-Paul Pertaub; PhD title: Rule by water? Brokers, Bricoleurs and Borehole
Teaching interests

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