Charis is a Presidential Fellow in Socio-Environmental Systems at the Global Development Institute. Her research interests sit at the intersection of critical development studies, human and environmental geography, and political ecology. Her research focuses on the impacts of large-scale investments in land and natural resources on rural landscapes and rural livelihoods. Her most recent work has looked at the impacts of investments in transport infrastructure, extractive resources, industrial agriculture, and biodiversity conservation in rural areas of East and Central Africa.
Charis is interested in how contemporary investments in land and natural resources are shaped and made possible by the past, including processes of colonial land alienation, enclosure, displacement, and settlement. Her work also looks at changing human-environment relations around sites of land and natural resource investment, as well as how corporate-community engagement practices are used to manage or offset the impacts of investments on rural people and rural landscapes. Key themes running through her work include: coloniality, knowledge, expertise, governance, citizenship, mobility and livelihoods. Her approach to research is politically engaged and influenced by the scholar-activism tradition – prioritising collaboration with civil society researchers and placing emphasis on collective learning, reflection and action.
At the moment, Charis is focusing on two projects. The first project examines the role of grassroots community organizations in building peace and preventing conflict in response to environmental and land use change in northern Kenya – changes that are a result of climate change, as well as new massive investments in infrastructure, energy, urban development and conservation. This is a participatory action research project that is being implemented in collaboration with the Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation, and funded by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).
The second project is titled ‘Identifying and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on legal and sustainable wildlife trade in LMICs’ and is being implemented in partnership with colleagues in the UK and CIFOR. Charis’ role in this project will involve consider if and how trade and investment practices in wildlife trade in Kenya and Cameroon have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This project is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.
Before coming to the University of Manchester, Charis was a Lecturer in International Development in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield and a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph in Canada. Charis holds a research affiliation with the East African Institute at Aga Khan University Kenya.