Michael J. Watts

Class of 1963 Chair in Undergraduate Studies and Chancellor's Professor
Ph.D. University of Michigan, 1979

Professor Watts' most recent work: Curse of the Black Gold:

Click on the image above to go to curseoftheblackgoldbook.com

Professor Watts' most recent research: Economies of Violence: Petroleum, Politics and Community Conflict in the Niger Delta, Nigeria

Website: Niger Delta: Economies of Violence
Links to Working Papers

Professor Watts has developed a website on writing and crafting a dissertation prospectus
Go directly to the site: http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/DissPropWorkshop/

Click here to jump down this page for an explanation of the site

Interests: Political economy, political ecology, Africa, South Asia, development, peasant societies, social and cultural theory, U.S. agriculture, Islam and social movements

At the centre of my research and teaching interests is a longstanding engagement with theories of political economy and especially the political economy of mass poverty in the Third World. I was deeply influenced by the dependency theory debates of the 1960's and subsequently by the debates within Marxism swirling around figures such as Louis Althusser, Edward Thompson, and Perry Anderson in the 1970s. My own training at University College, London and at the University of Michigan was firmly grounded in Anthropology, Ecology and epistemology, initially with a focus on the limits of ecological anthropology/cultural ecology as a way of understanding the vulnerability of peasant communities in semi-arid Africa. Doctoral research was based on long term field research in West Africa and generated a lifelong concern with questions of food security and the agrarian question. While at Berkeley I have tried to deepen my understanding of the intersections between political economy, culture and power, a set of interests I share with a number of my colleagues in the department from whom I have benefited greatly.

During the 1980s and 1990s I have been able to both expand my interests in Africa with fieldwork in Senegambia on gender and household dynamics and irrigation politics, and to continue my work in Nigeria on Islam, and the political economy and political ecology of oil. Concurrent with these interests I have also been able to explore a number of agrarian issues in California and the US most notably rice in California, and the poultry industry. My two current book projects focus on a history of oil in the Niger Delta, and a history of postwar US capitalism seen through the poultry sector.

For ten years I served as the Director of a research institute, the Institute of International Studies (), which promotes cross-area and cross-disciplinary research and training on transnational and global issues. I established the Berkeley Working group on Environmental Politics, the major centre for cross disciplinary political ecological research on the Berkeley campus. In addition I am the director of the Africa Studies Center, of the Rotary Peace Fellows program, and co-direct our undergraduate Development Studies Program (a degree granting inter-disciplinary program with almost 100 majors).

My research has necessarily brought me in contact with various development organizations and philanthropic institutions. I have worked for UNDP, the Ford Foundation, OXFAM, and a number of small NGOs in Africa (most recently Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria).

I have been privileged to work with some brilliant students at Berkeley over the last 20 years and encourage in their work a sensitivity to rigorous, theoretically oriented field research (what one might call "global ethnography").

Recent publications include:
2005. Afflicted Powers (RETORT: I.Boal. T.J.Clark and J. Matthews). London, Verso.

2004. Liberation Ecologies: Environment, Development, Social Movements. Edited with Richard Peet. Routledge, London [A Second edition expanded by 30% with eight new chapters and rewritten Introductions].

Journals and Invited Papers:
Forthcoming. Petroleum in Africa, Encyclopedia of the Modern World, New York, Oxford University Press.,

Forthcoming. Revolutionary Islam and Modern Terror, Allan Pred and Derek Gregory (eds)., Inhuman Geographies, London, Routledge.

2006. Antinomies of Community in G. Creed (ed)., The Romance of Community. School of American Research, Santa Fe.

2006. Imperial Oil, Socialist Review, April, 2006 (with Anna Zalik), the web version is available at: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=9712

2006. Culture, Development and Global Neoliberalism, in S.Radcliffe (ed)., Culture and Development in a Globalising World, London, Routledge, pp. 30-58.

2006. In Search of the Holy Grail: Projects, Proposals and Research Design, in Ellen Perecman (ed)., Method is the Madness. New York, Sage, pp. 175-197.

2005. Blood for Oil? London Review of Books, March 31st (with I.Boal and J.Matthews), pp. 12-17.

2005. Left Retort, Antipode, 37/4, pp. 643-654.

2005. Righteous Oil?: Human rights, the oil complex and corporate social responsibility, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 30, pp. 9.1-9.35.

2005. Revolutionary Islam, Terror and The Colonial Present, Progress in Human Geography, 25/3 , pp.7-16.

2005. Baudelaire over Berea. Public Culture. 17/1 pp.181-192 (reprinted in S.Nuttall and A. Mbembe (eds)., Johannesburg: the elusive metropolis, Duke University Press, 2005).

2005. Nature/Culture: A Natural History, in R.Johnston and P.Cloke (eds)., Spaces of Geographical Thought. London: Sage, pp. 142-174.

2005. Scarcity, Modernity, Terror, in C. Zerner and B.Subramanian (eds)., Making Threats. Rowanheld, pp. 99-106.

2004. Antinomies of Community, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, special issue, 29, 195-216

2004. Resource Curse?: Governmentality, Oil and Power in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, Geopolitics [Special issue] 9/1.

2003. Development and Governmentality. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 24/1, pp. 6-34.

2003. Alternative Modern: Development as Cultural Geography, in S. Pile, N. Thrift and K. Anderson M. Domosh, (eds)., Handbook of Cultural Geography, Sage: London, pp. 433-453,

2002. Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Some Thoughts on Peasants and the Agrarian Question, Oesterreichische Zeitschrift fuer Geschichtswissenschaften, 4, pp. 22-51 (and commentary pp. 51-61).

2002. Hour of darkness. Geographica Helvetica, 57/1, pp. 5-18.

2001. Black Acts, New Left Review, 9, pp. 125-139.

2001. Introduction--Violent Environments, in N. Peluso and M. Watts (eds)., Violent Environments. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 3-38.

2001. Petro-Violence: Community, Extraction, and Political Ecology of a Mythic Commodity, in N. Peluso and M. Watts (eds.), Violent Environments. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 189-212.

2001. 1968 and all that. Progress in Human Geography, 25/2, pp.157-188.

2001. Violent Geographies: Speaking and Unspeakable and the Politics of Space, City and Society, XIII/1, pp. 85-117.

2001. Development Ethnographies, Ethnography 2/2, pp. 283-300.

2000. Development at the Millennium: Malthus, Marx and the Politics of Alternatives. Geographische Zeitschrift, 88/2, pp. 67-93.

2000. Political Ecology, in T. Barnes and E. Sheppard (eds.), A Companion To Economic Geography, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 257-275.

2000. The Great Tablecloth: Bread and Butter Politics, and the Political Economy of Food and Poverty, in G. Clark, M. Gertler and Feldmann (eds.), A Handbook of Economic Geography. London: Oxford University Press, pp. 195-215.

2000. Contested Communities, Malignant Markets, and Gilded Governance, in Charles Zerner (ed)., People, Plants and Justice. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 21-51.

2000. Poverty and the Politics of Alternatives at the End of the Millennium, in Jan Nederveen Pieterse (ed.), Global Futures. London: Zed Press, pp. 133-147.

2000. Dictionary of Human Geography edited by R. Johnston et al. (eds.), Oxford: Blackwell, thirty-seven entries,

2000. The Hettner Lectures: Geographies of Violence. Heidelberg: University of Heidelberg.

Writing and Crafting A Dissertation Prospectus: A Website for Students

Writing research and grant proposals is one of the most difficult -- and unavoidable -- requirements of graduate study in the social sciences. When it comes time to write them, however, many graduate students feel left to their own devices. This website is designed to help you navigate the hazards this process entails.

This site comprises a collection of tips, samples, and links. It is not meant as a class, nor a substitute for feedback from colleagues and advisors. It is merely an amiable guide meant to help you through an important phase in your academic career. Although biased in favor of "area studies" specialists and those planning to spend extended periods overseas, the content of this workshop is intended to be useful for all students hoping to conduct empirical social-scientific fieldwork.

Effective research or funding proposals are products of what is often a long, lonely, and frustrating process. What is more, many social science graduate students face this challenge with little guidance from teachers or supervisors. While significant differences exist among projects, disciplines, and funders, this site is intended to provide guidance on some common objectives and obstacles. It raises questions to consider, reflections from those who have survived the process, and sage advice from those who are likely to read and evaluate your proposal. It is intended for those just thinking about a research proposal and for those who are already further along.

The site is organized into five inter-related sections, all accessible from the home page. Each of these sub-sections is oriented to a some specific aspect of the grant writing process and includes a series of concise priority lists, links, and samples. There is no best way to use this site. We suggest you spend a couple of minutes looking around to see what might be useful for you now, and what you might need later on. If there is something specific you want to find, or a page you want to re-visit, please use the search engine included on the home page. What follows below is a brief description of the site's five major sub-sections.

The site's process and parameters section provides the most explicit advice. Here you will find both general guidelines for what to do (and what to avoid) as well critical characteristics of the proposal's various sections (e.g., the introduction, methodology, etc.). The nuts and bolts section works as a supplement, providing key practical advice as to how to piece together your work; finding an appropriate and realistic research design, developing a budget, and other concrete tasks which are often ignored in departments' methodology classes. Our style section offers tips on crafting the proposal as a written document; editing, integrating, and revising. Examples of successful proposals and commentaries from their authors (on both the writing process and their post-field work impressions of their original ideas) are found in the examples area. We have organized these by both discipline and funding body, so you can find those are most relevant to your own work. If you are still searching for the right funder, or feel you need further information on grant writing, the resources section may be just what you need.

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