Personal profile

Research interests

My research lies at the intersection of the politics of indigenous knowledge, rural development, social mobilisation, and environmental governance, and it maintains a commitment to fostering more equitable and self-determined forms of development. Previous research projects have addressed three themes in particular:

1. Neoliberalization and the politics of ecological knowledge-in-practice: My research in Nepal and Peru, in particular, explored how (post)neoliberal re-structuring intersects with existing institutions for development, particularly those which articulate situated ecological knowledges in practice.

2. Re-socializing the economy – collective organization and the commons: I am interested in processes of re-socializing and re-democratizing neoliberal development. I have explored this theme in Brazil and Peru, working with informal recyclers cooperatives, rural producers cooperatives, and associations of indigenous knowledge distributors.  

3. Decolonizing water governance – scalar conflict and sovereignty: Research in Nepal and BC, Canada, has focused uneven politics of governing water. This has been supported by working on a project about access to water in peri-urban areas of Accra and Cape Town. Ongoing research includes a focus on the indigenous water operators network in BC.

Methodologically, I have approached these themes through community-engaged scholarship, meaning that my work addresses the ethical entanglements of conducting research in communities that are variably geopolitically positioned and which are characterized by high degrees of inequality and power imbalances. This approach is based on a variety of forms of engagement, from grounded participatory methods (e.g. my work in Brazil and Nepal) to in-depth ethnographies (research in Peru). 

Supervision interests

Broadly, I welcome applications from anyone interested in issues of: international development, poverty and inequality; political ecology and environmental justice. This might include research topics in areas such as:

  • Political economy and political ecology of development in Latin America.
  • The politics of indigenous knowledge and professionalization.
  • Indigenous societies, mining, and water.
  • Livelihood adaptation, resilience, and transformation.
  • Alternative economies. 

Current supervision:

  • Kavindra (Ravi) Paranage: The Regulation of Natural Resources in Sri Lanka's Irrigation Development Projects
  • Souvik Chakraborty: Democracy, Tribal Rights and Social Movements: Selective case studies from Odisha, India
  • Perdita Sonntag: Challenging traditional models of youth economic empowerment programming

Monash teaching commitment


APG5628 Deconstructing Development (Master of International Development Practice and Master of Environment and Sustainability) - semester 1

APG5627 Research in Political ecology (Master of Envrionment and Sustainability and aster of International Development Practice) - semester 2. 

ENS5920 - Sustainability Research Project (Master of Envrionment and Sustainability) - semesters 1 and 2


I moved to Melbourne in 2017, by way of Vancouver in British Columbia (Canada), where I was most recently a post-doctoral fellow in the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. Before that I compelted my PhD and MA in geography at UBC and the University of Victoria, respectively.

In conducting my research, I have worked in places as varied as the urban 'favelas' of São Paulo, the foothills of Nepal's Himalayas, the Sierra Sur of the Peruvian Andes, and rural British Columbia in Canada.  

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Research Output 2011 2017

Feedbacks as a bridging concept for advancing transdisciplinary sustainability research

Blythe, J., Nash, K., Yates, J. & Cumming, G. 1 Jun 2017 In : Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. 26-27, p. 114-119 6 p.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewReview Article

Introduction: Rendering land investable

Goldstein, J. E. & Yates, J. S. 1 Jun 2017 In : Geoforum. 82, p. 209-211 3 p.

Research output: Other - peer-reviewEditorial

Multiple ontologies of water: Politics, conflict and implications for governance

Yates, J. S., Harris, L. M. & Wilson, N. J. 2017 In : Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 35, 5, p. 797-815 19 p.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle