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Dr Emma Cardwell

Lecturer in Economic Geography

Emma Cardwell

LEC Building



Research overview

I am a lecturer in economic geography in Lancaster Environment Centre, with a specialism in politics and participation in food production. I engage with the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and feminist and decolonial science studies to understand how agricultural and fisheries science, the economic practice of property rights and environmental governance shape the conditions of collective survival.


PhD supervision

I am available to supervise PhD students interested in working on the interrelationships of economic ideology, agricultural science and food production from feminist or post-colonial standpoints.

Research Interests

I am interested in studying economic organization, and struggles over socio-ecological relationships, particularly around the production of food. This includes: the scientific and economic ideologies that shape food systems; labour and work in food production; the environmental impact of food; community rights and food justice; economic subject formation; the ontological and metaphysical aspects of economy and environment; rural and peasant economies; and the legal, economic and political infrastructures of food systems and environmental decision-making, and the impacts these have 'on the ground'.

My research focuses on the economic and political relationships of agriculture, fisheries, conservation, community, and land. I'm currently conducting research in the UK and Mexico. I am part of the LEC Political Ecology research group.

Research Grants

August 2020 – October 2021: Re-costing the earth: indigenous governance of silviculture in Southern Mexico and the redesign of ‘sustainable development’ (Co-I) Global Challenges Research Fund

August 2019 – October 2021: Community Led Science for Climate Adaptation: Supporting Indigenous Water Management in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico (PI) Global Challenges Research Fund

February 2019 - September 2019: The Language of Nitrogen: why is understanding of the environmental challenges caused by nitrogen from agriculture so low? (Co-I). N8 Agrifood

October 2018 - June 2019: Resilience in Diversity: supporting sustainable indigenous-led agri-cultures in Chiapas, Mexico. (PI) Global Challenges Research Fund

April 2018 - January 2019: Hypermetabolic N: the social life of nitrogen in UK agroecologies. (Co-I) N8 Agrifood

Current Teaching

I am course convenor of the level 2 Economic Geography module in LEC, and level 1 Society and Space.

I also teach the Responding to Environmental Challenges module of the JWL BA in Sustainable Development. This is an online program designed for, and delivered to, students in refugee camps across the world. I work with students from Sri Lanka, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi and Afghanistan.

Along with Sally Cawood, I run the Many Worlds Film Club, a LEC funded initiative screening international films and discussions on the topic of environment and social justice at the Gregson Centre in Lancaster.

Career Details

I joined Lancaster Environment Centre in 2022 as a Lecturer in Economic Geography. Before this, I was a Lecturer in Human Geography in Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University from 2020 to 2022, where I led the human geography content of the geography degrees, and a Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Glasgow from 2018 to 2020, where I designed and co-convened the Earth Futures MSc.

Prior to this, I worked as a research associate on a SARIC-funded project on nutrient cycling and pollution in UK agriculture in the Sociology Department of Lancaster University, and an an ESRC funded project on the socio-legal infrastructures of UK marine conservation at the University of Bristol Law School.

I studied a DPhil in Economic Geography at the University of Oxford, an MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy also at Oxford, and a BSc in Environmental Policy at the London School of Economics. I won best MSc research dissertation at Oxford, best dissertation in Geography and Environment at LSE, and highest final-year marks university-wide at LSE.

I grew up in a rural mining community in South Yorkshire, and worked for a number of years in minimum wage and informal sector roles in Doncaster, Leeds, York, Nottingham, London and Paris before resitting my A-Levels at evening class in order to join academia in my late twenties. I was the first person in my extended family to attend university: apart from medical professionals and my teachers at school, I did not meet anyone with a university degree until I was in my late teens. I consider these years an important part of my educational trajectory, and passionately believe, and have experience of, rich knowledge systems beyond formally-recognised learning.

I am a qualified Playworker, and have worked with children in a range of play settings, including out of school clubs for 5-16 year-olds in South and East Yorkshire, free youth schemes in Edmonton, North London, the family-run Love Kids children's home in Nkoranza, Ghana, and the Toybox charity for children of inmates at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow. I am currently a volunteer playworker with Global Link in Lancaster, working with the children of refugees and asylum seekers. This experience means I am very interested in haptic, experiential and non-traditional learning, among both children and adults. I am a director of Bentley Urban Farm in Doncaster. I have one daughter.

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