Catherine Corson

Miller Worley Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

Political ecology, global environmental governance, the politics of foreign aid; conservation and human rights in sub-Saharan Africa; multi-sited institutional ethnography

Catherine Corson’s research explores the politics of environmental foreign aid and international environmental governance under neoliberalism. Currently, she is completing a manuscript, which, in using the U.S. Agency for International Development’s biodiversity program in Madagascar as a lens, documents how state and non-state actors negotiate environmental foreign aid across local, national and international scales. As it traverses the historical and contemporary political landscapes that connect a Malagasy village with the corridors of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the book reveals how transnational politics influence local resource control and access.

Her new research entails collaboration with an international group of scholars on a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded ethnographic study of the 10th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity as a node in the network of global environmental governance.  The collaborative project explores how ideas about biodiversity conservation emerge, gain traction, and are contested by various parties.
Her research has been supported through grants and fellowships from a number of organizations in addition to the NSF, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and the U.S. Fulbright program. Her academic work also draws on a decade of experience in high-level U.S. environmental policy and politics and in international development consulting. The results of her research have been published in journals such as Society and Natural Resources and Antipode.

At Mount Holyoke, Corson teaches courses ranging from the introduction to political ecology to the political economy of conservation. Her teaching is guided by three key principles. First, having progressed academically through the fields of biology, development studies, environmental economics and political ecology, she maintains a strong commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration. Second, having lived and worked in various developed and developing countries, she is a strong advocate for building awareness of and understanding of other cultures, such as through study abroad. Finally, drawing on her previous political engagement, she encourages students to understand the intricacies of the political systems with which they must engage to address both environmental concerns and social justice.