Laura Lawler

Position title: Ph.D.


Advisor: Morgan Robertson, Matt Turner


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


Political Ecology, environmental governance and governmentality, market-based conservation, carbon governance, livelihoods, Critical Development Studies, Science and Technology Studies, Climate Smart Agriculture, climate adaptation, vulnerability, land politics, resistance and social movements, visual methods and semiology, East Africa/Tanzania


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.


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)


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