Dr Adrian Nel


Senior Lecturer







BEcon Hons(Rhodes)

PhD (Otago)


Office Block:

Room 16

Science Block

Main Campus






+27 (0) 33 260 6377


Biographical Sketch

Dr Nel is a human geographer, and was appointed as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in June of 2015. Prior to this he held a Visiting Scholar position with the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, and a research associate position with the Institute for Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Dr Nel researches and teaches about contemporary human-environment relations and entanglements in Southern and Eastern Africa.  


Current Teaching Duties

GEOG110 – Human Environments
GEOG220 – Geographies of Urban and Rural Change
GEOG320 – Political Ecology

Research and Supervision Interests

My work is primarily through the lens of political ecology -which explores the roots of social conflicts over access and use of land, the environment (variously construed) and resources. It utilises political economy and post-structuralist insights to focus on spheres environmental governance (or mal-governance), where changing interactions between state and non-state actors shape these rules of access and use.

I am interested in research and supervision on issues or sets of problems in different rural and urban socio-ecological contexts pertaining to: political economy and green political economy; political ecology and conservation; climate change, adaptation and mitigation; natural resource extraction; the environment, development and post-development in Africa.

I have further interests in projects relating to: belonging and the commons; governance, governmentality and eco-governmentality; social action and contestation; research into processes of neoliberalisation, violence and marginalisation; and projects broadly interested the complexity of political, economic and social change in eastern and southern Africa. I welcome exploratory approaches that utilise insights from political economy, critical theory, post-structuralism (including the deployment of assemblage theory and conceptualisations of socio-natures), and the use of predominantly qualitative, but also quantitative methodological tools.


Research Projects

Currently working on three major projects (alongside a number of smaller writing and research initiatives) entitled:

  • Pro-Poor Climate change Mitigation and Adaptation in Kwazulu-Natal – This research considers emerging urban and peri-urban governance forms over climate change mitigation and adaptation in the uMsinduzi and eThekwini Municiaplities .
  • Echoes from the Rocks - Land reform and small-holder livelihoods in Matobo District, Matabalelenad South.
  • Amandla neMvelo (Power and Nature) – This research concerns both power over nature, and the nature of power. It explores the role of power in the interactions between diverse actors in three case study areas of Natural Resource Management (NRM); regarding conservation, forestry and water governance in different areas of the Kwazulu-Natal province.


Academic Service

Editor of the ‘@UKZN_Geography’s social media profiles of the department on Facebook and Twitter.


Co-ordinator of the Biosphere Defense Project for the International Institute of Climate Action and Theory (IICAT)


Co-ordinator – Political Ecology Network’s (POLLEN) South African node


Reviewer for the following Journal Publications:

  • Local Environment:  The International Journal of Green Economics (IJGE)
  • The Journal of Political Ecology (JPE)
  • Conservation and Society Geoforum
  • Forestry: and the International Journal of Urban; and Rural Change (IJURR)


Click here to view Dr Nel's Publications


Website Links


Research Gate:


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