Catherine Corson


  • Miller Worley Professor of Environmental Studies
Catherine Corson

As a political ecologist, Catherine Corson uses ethnography to explore questions of power, knowledge, and justice in case studies from rural villages to international policy arenas. Her research focuses on the rise of market-based environmentalism, popular resistance to it, the turn to technology in conservation, and associated shifts in governance.

Her book, Corridors of Power: The Politics of Environmental Aid to Madagascar, published by Yale University Press, uses the history and politics of U.S. Agency for International Development’s environmental program in Madagascar as a case study of the forty-year transformation of environmental governance under neoliberalism and its relationship to shifting resource rights and access in the Global South.

As part of an international group of researchers, she also uses a method called Collaborative Event Ethnography to adapt “traditional” ethnographic methods to study how environmental conferences precipitate paradigm shifts in global conservation. 

Her new Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-supported research examines access, trust, and governance in the green cryptocurrency revolution.

At Mount Holyoke, Corson teaches courses such as Political Ecology; Environment and Development; Global Environmental Governance; and Qualitative Research Methods. With an interdisciplinary academic training, which has spanned biology, public policy, economics and political ecology, she has a strong commitment to multidisciplinary collaboration in research and teaching, and a decade of prior professional experience in environment and development policy, politics and consulting inspires her focus on teaching students how to translate their academic learning into professional policy skills. Finally, fieldwork on indigenous and local resource rights in the Global North and South, and professional experience in international development, underpins a strong interest in environmental justice and development studies.

A former director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment, she has also been actively involved in advancing the sustainability and campus living lab initiatives, as well as building student opportunities for global/local learning and social entrepreneurship. 

Areas of Expertise

Political ecology, global environmental governance, the politics of foreign aid; conservation, technology, and human rights; multi-sited institutional ethnography and collaborative event ethnography


  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
  • M.S.c., University College London
  • M.P.A., B.A., Cornell University

Happening at Mount Holyoke

Recent Campus News

National Endowment funds pilot program to explore global and local inequalities through humanities lens

Political ecologist Catherine Corson took her three student interns to the World Conservation Conference in Hawaii to study global environmental politics.

Recent Publications

Gray, N., C. Corson, L.M. Campbell, P. Wilshusen, R. Gruby, and S. Hagerman. 2023. “Chapter 11: Collaboration.” in Conducting Research on Global Environmental Agreement-Making. eds. H. Hughes and A. Vadrot. Cambridge University Press.

Corson, C. and L. Campbell. 2023. “Conservation at a Crossroads: Governing by Global Targets, Innovative Financing, and Techno-optimism, or Radical Reform?” Ecology and Society. Special Issue on Collaborative Management, Environmental Caretaking and Sustainable Livelihoods. eds. Vaughan, M.B., S. Diver, and M. Baker-Medard. 28(2),

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