University of Wisconsin–Madison

Laura Lawler

Title: Graduate student (PhD)


M.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison: 2016
Thesis: ‘Good’ Farming in Agricultural-Entrepreneurial Programs for Refugees Resettling in the US

B.A., Sarah Lawrence College: 2008
Concentration: Environmental Studies, Development Studies, Visual Art

University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: July-December 2006
Concentration: Agriculture, Development Studies, Kiswahili Language

Current Research

My dissertation work is on the political ecology (with an emphasis on governance and governmentality) of Climate Smart Agriculture, particularly as it is enacted in East Africa/Tanzania. I aim to make sense of the apparent contradiction between productivist commodity-oriented CSA (as part of the ‘new’ or ‘long’ Green Revolution in Africa and the global shift towards multidimensional landscape-level carbon governance) and critical work on commodity agriculture as antithetical to carbon mitigation and resilience of agricultural livelihoods for smallholders in Africa.

I aim to both contribute to understandings of the challenges this model of carbon governance and agro-development present as well as to efforts to articulate a more robust, just, sustainable, and grounded/actionable framework for ‘transformative adaptation’ interventions (supporting and building on existing livelihood resiliency strategies among African farmers). I use ethnographic and visual-discursive-material semiotics methods (from Political Ecology and Science and Technology Studies) to understand how the boundaries are enacted between climate ‘smart’ practices, objects/technologies, and people vs. their ‘not smart’ counterparts.

My current work builds on my masters research on governmentality in agricultural-entrepreneurial training for refugees resettling in the US and diverse economies. I analyzed how refugee farmers negotiated participation in a market-oriented training program and their diverse economic livelihood strategies.

Courses Taught

Teaching Assistant, UW-Madison

Environmental Conservation (Geog 339): Spring 2017

Introduction to Human Geography (Geog 101): Spring 2016, Fall 2016

Resources and People (Geog/Env 139): Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015


Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE)

Holtz Center of Science and Technology Studies

Women in Geography (WIG) (UW-Madison group)

Human Environment Research Discussion Group (HERD) (UW-Madison group)

Awards and Honors

National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program: 2016-2021

Trewartha Graduate Research Award, UW-Madison: 2015, 2018

Morris Udall Scholarship for Environmental Studies, The Udall Foundation: 2006

Contact Information

Mailing Address:

University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Geography 550 N. Park Street Madison, WI 53706