Research orientations

Natural resource management/politics | Multilevel governance | Transformations of urban and rural space

Natural resource management/politics

How and in what sociopolitical and institutional setting is it possible to use natural resources in an ecologically sound, socially equitable and economically profitable way? This difficult question lies at the core of the work of the researchers of the developement, societes, environments group and is addressed through various theoretical and thematic angles.

Nature (or the environment) is becoming increasingly politicized and a commoditized in the context of transformations linked to globalization. Here, payments for environmental services are studied in particular. Resources like water, forests or biodiversity are also the objects of research, in particular, small irrigation, water management in arid margins, and the private appropriation of living organisms. Finally, institutional and agricultural challenges linked to the resource “land” are apprehended through various themes: land reform, food security and livelihoods.


Commoditization of nature / politicization of the environment / payments for environmental services / biodiversity / ood security and sustainable livelihoods / land reform / urban land


Multilevel governance

Most countries of the global South experience fast socio-political and economic transformations that often imply a redefinition of the relations between the state and society. The development, societies, environments group seeks to understand and interpret the power struggles that mark these societies on several levels. On the one hand, we are interested in trends and discourses of global policies (democratisation, “good governance”, neoliberalism). On the other hand, we analyze local political practices in a non-normative direction and grounded in fieldwork. Contemporary approaches of “bottom-up development” (e.g., participatory development or decentralization) are examined in view of questions around legitimacy, authority and governmentality and in view of interactions between different levels of governance, as to obtain a realistic interpretation of the state and social reality in the global  South.


Decentralization – local state / participation / governmentality / neoliberalism


Transformations of urban and rural space

Settlement and economic systems are undergoing continuous and complex spatial transformations in the current context of globalization. Given the importance of urban-rural interactions (migration, flows of products, resources and wastes), our research group seeks to interpret physical and social transformations of urban and rural areas in their interconnections, including changing settlement forms, infrastructures and social relations.

Apart from studying processes of urbanization, which progress particularly fast in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, we consider the initiatives and discourses in some developing cities to become “world cities” and their social and environmental implications, for example, marginalisation, vulnerability and spatial inequality. Physical and socioeconomic transformations and their livelihood implications are also studied in rural areas considering wider national and global processes coproducing a “global countryside” and particular attention is given to small and medium cities that often act as intermediaries between urban and rural regions.


Urban-rural interactions / small and medium cities / circulation of people and capital (North-South and South-South) / rural and urban sustainable livelihoods / appropriations / land reform / land grabbing