Browse/search for people

Dr Ann Laudati

Dr Ann Laudati

Dr Ann Laudati
BA(Ohio), MA(Ohio), PhD(Oreg)

Honorary Senior Research Fellow

Area of research

natural resource conflicts; war economies; political ecology; conservation and development; Sub-Saharan Africa

Office G14.1N
University Road,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1SS
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 928 9829


My research centers on the intersection between natural resource politics and social welfare, with a particular interest on the implications of global processes on local livelihoods. Fundamental to my work are questions concerning equity and natural resource access. I began my trajectory as a scholar during my undergraduate years, exploring intersections between international and community development and environmental issues. Over time, I began to recognize that environmental conflicts are often reflections of wider socio-economic-political struggles. As a geographer, I am interested in understanding the relationship between humans and their environment on a theoretical level. As a citizen of our world, I am interested in figuring out how we can improve human wellbeing, by reducing conflicts over natural resources, particularly that of poor rural livelihoods in developing regions of the world, in an environmentally sustainable manner. Consequently, I have developed several different research projects since my undergraduate years, which are linked by the larger theme of natural resources, livelihoods, and violent conflict, and a quest to understand the connections among these.  

Current among these projects is a long-term study in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which focuses on exploring the extent to which and the process through which different natural resources shape violent conflict in the region. The inspiration for my investigation builds on previous scholarship which demonstrates how access to and control over valuable natural resources, such as coltan, diamonds, and oil, have played a significant role in generating, sustaining, and strongly affecting the course and impact of armed conflicts across the globe. Yet such 'resource curse' explanations for violence are but one important ingredient in a complex blend of political, social, and economic factors that eventually lead to violent conflict. By focusing on narrow explanations of natural resource struggles as the result of ‘resource curses’, or Malthusian-inspired notions of scarcity, we risk missing other critical dimensions of natural resource struggles. My work attempts to redress such gaps by forwarding a comprehensive ‘ecologies of violence’ which explores the role of a diveristy of natural resources economies, beyond minerals, in the wider social struggles over resources and livelihoods in violent spaces. In particular, I am interesting in understanding how peripherial natural resources (such as the marijuana and livestock trades) promote the continuation of and shape Congo’s violent landscape, how they are reflective of and mediated by wider socio-political struggles, and the transformative effects they may offer to peace-building and development in the region. Additionally this project examines the engagement of a diverse set of micro-level actors beyond ‘the real combatants’, including civilians, women, and residual militia members within these parallel economies to construct a broader political ecology of Congo’s divergent natural resource wealth. My fieldwork, which begain in 2009, takes place in the areas most affected by conflict, DRC’s “theatres of war”, the Kivu region and Ituri district, using a suite of qualitative methods including participant observation, open-ended and semi-structured interviews, together with household surveys. By contributing a theoretically and methodologically rich study which highlights the interrelatedness of natural resources, grassroots actor networks, and struggles over livelihood, I aim to expand the emerging body of critical scholarship on ‘violent environments’ and reveal how the engagement of a diverse set of actors in peripheral economies beyond minerals better explains the persistent violence that continues to plague much of Congo’s Eastern region and similar violent spaces around the world.


I am a broadly trained human-environmental geographer with specializations in natural resource violence, political ecology, conservation and development, and sub-Saharan Africa. I received my undergraduate degree in Anthropology and African Studies at Ohio University (which included a semester long study abroad in Kenya through the School for International Training) and continued on at Athens to complete a Masters degree in Geography looking at transboundary wildlife management in Botswana and Zimbabwe. After my Master’s I moved with my husband to the East Transkei region of South Africa where I worked as a visiting scientist in the Zoology Department at the University of Transkei (UNITRA). In 2007 I finished my PhD in Geography at the University of Oregon based on a year of ethnographic fieldwork examining the effects of integrated conservation and development projects on communities living adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in southwest Uganda. Following the granting of my doctoral degree, I worked as a fellow at Harvard University’s Sustainability Science Program. Here I shifted my research focus to South Sudan and was awarded the opportunity to spend three months in the area exploring the extent to which and the process through which rural people struggle to reclaim access to and control over natural resources existing prior to conflict. In 2008 I took a position at Utah State University where I taught Development Studies, Political Ecology, and African Geography courses while continuing to build a program of research on the linkages between natural resources and violent conflict, investigating how the environment has been implicated in the continuing conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa more broadly. A recent arrival to the School of Geographical Sciences in January of 2013, I variously teach classes on Qualitative Research Methods, People and Protected Areas, Violent Geographies, and Political Ecology and concentrate my research efforts towards understanding war economies and the ecologies of war in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where I have undertaken fieldwork periodically since 2009. 

When I am not engaged in my academic pursuits, I can be found either with my hands in the soil cultivating a partially successful organic garden, in the kitchen tending a pot of curried beans or an exploded mishap, planning my next big hiking advantage with my husband, or taking advantage of Bristol's moderate climate and running along Avon Gorge. 





GEOGM0016: People and Protected Areas: Theory and Application of Conservation

GEOGM0002: Researching Society and Space: Social Science Unit

GEOG30005: Political Ecology

GEOGM0017: Violent Environments: Geography of Violent Conflict




School of Geographical Sciences

Research groups

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

Edit this profile If you are Dr Ann Laudati, you can edit this page. Login required.

PDF versionDownload PDF