My research concentrates upon several topics, particularly the impacts of conservation and development in Southern Africa, social and environmental justice, and the intersections between livelihoods, health and environment. The majority of this research has been completed in South Africa, although I have recently begun new projects in Botswana and the United States.
Conservation and development in Southern Africa
The expansion of national parks and protected areas throughout the developing world raises political, economic and ethical challenges for balancing the often competing needs of biodiversity protection and economic development. In order to assess the livelihood impacts of conservation planning, I have been examining the Mahushe Shongwe Game Reserve, which is an ecotourist community conservation project established in northeast South Africa in 1986. This was the first conservation project within the former KaNgwane bantustan, which was one of ten territories designed to facilitate apartheid's system of racial segregation. My work demonstrates that there is measurable community variation in the perceptions and benefits arising from community conservation initiatives. As a result, there are important relationships between livelihood patterns and perceptions about the benefits of Mahushe Shongwe. This research helps show that communities need to be socially and spatially disaggregated in order to understand the diverse impacts of community conservation. More recently, I have been studying the political and economic impacts of transfrontier conservation projects which are being advanced by various stakeholders through various ecological and economic discourses.
- King, B., and M. Peralvo. 2010. Coupling community heterogeneity and perceptions of conservation in rural South Africa. Human Ecology
- King, B. 2009. Conservation geographies in Sub-Saharan Africa: The politics of national parks, community conservation and Peace Parks. Geography Compass 4(1): 14-27
- King, B., and S. Wilcox. 2008. Peace parks and jaguar trails: Transboundary conservation in a globalizing world. GeoJournal.
- King, B.H. 2007. Conservation and community in the new South Africa: A case study of the Mahushe Shongwe Game Reserve. Geoforum
- King, B.H. 2007. "Conservation" in Encyclopedia of Environment and Society, Ed. Paul Robbins, Sage Publications.
- King, B.H. 2004. The state of NGOs in post-apartheid South Africa: Changing roles in conservation and development. African Geographical Review 23: 65-84. (December)
Livelihoods, health and environment
A second research direction is an examination of the production of livelihoods and environmental change in the developing world. This work evaluates the relationships between health and environment, focusing in particular on the effects of HIV/AIDS upon social and environmental systems. This research is demonstrating that livelihood patterns and environmental systems are experiencing transformations in response to the onset of disease within rural households. Understanding the particular trajectories of these patterns is critical to ensure effective disease management and support sustainable practices.
To further support this research direction, I am the PI on a NSF CAREER grant Political Ecologies of Health: Coupling Livelihood and Environment Responses to HIV/AIDS ($485,292, September 1, 2011 – August 31, 2016). This CAREER program will conduct intensive research in South Africa over five years working in close collaboration with research institutes and governmental agencies. This research is specifically examining how livelihood systems adjust in response to HIV/AIDS, how livelihood responses to HIV/AIDS rework access patterns and the rules governing resource use, and whether intra-household and intra-community variations shape livelihood responses to HIV/AIDS. This work asserts that attending to health-environment interactions is needed to understand how disease results in transformations to social and environmental systems, and how these systems in turn shape the trajectories of disease and the possibilities for sustainable management.
Although my research has concentrated upon South Africa, my interest in these themes extends to other areas. Working with my colleagues Dr. Kelley Crews and Dr. Ken Young (both at the University of Texas), we have initiated a research project in the Okavango Delta, Botswana to assess the social and ecological effects of environmental variability. The uncertainty in terms of the location and intensity of the flooding has significant implications for human populations dependent upon various resources for livelihood production. We are presently collaborating with local researchers on data collection and analysis and have received a three year grant from the National Science Foundation to extend this work into 2014.
- King, B. In Progress. States of Disease: Political Ecologies of Health. Under contract with the University of California Press.
- King, B. and Crews, K. (editors) In Progress. Ecologies and Politics of Health. Under contract with Routledge Press.
- King, B. Forthcoming. “We pray at the church in the day and visit the sangomas at night”: Health discourses and traditional medicine in rural South Africa. Annals of the Association of American Geographers (Health special issue 2012).
- King, B. Forthcoming. "Disease as shock, HIV/AIDS as experience: Coupling social and ecological responses in Sub-Saharan Africa." Chapter for Ecologies and Politics of Health, B. King and K. Crews (editors)
- King, B. 2010. Political ecologies of health. Progress in Human Geography 34(1): 38-55.
Social and environmental justice
Colonial and apartheid governments utilized space to forcibly classify and regulate human populations throughout rural and urban South Africa. Central to this project were the bantustans, which were intended to become discrete territories for the majority African population. I have conducted qualitative and archival research in the former KaNgwane bantustan since 1999 to examine how social and environmental systems were discursively constructed by colonial and apartheid authorities. This work considers the relationships between society and space to evaluate how the geographies of apartheid remain relevant for local populations while simultaneously providing opportunities for change. My research demonstrates that the post-apartheid transition remains socially and spatially structured by historical spatial economies but is creating new opportunities and avenues for development agencies to pursue their particular goals. The dynamic reimagining that is occurring is generating often conflicting agendas for these territories that include nature tourism, sugar cane farming and livestock grazing being advocated as idealized development schemes.
- King, B.H., and B. McCusker (Guest Editors). 2007. Environment and development in the former South African bantustans. The Geographical Journal 173(1): 6-12.
- King, B.H. 2007. Developing KaNgwane: Geographies of segregation and integration in the new South Africa. The Geographical Journal 173(1): 13-25.
- King, B.H. 2006. Placing KaNgwane in the new South Africa. The Geographical Review 96(1): 79-96.
- King, B.H. 2002. Towards a participatory GIS: Evaluating case studies of participatory rural appraisal and GIS in the developing world. Cartography and GIS 29(1): 43-52
Development theory and policy
The last major theme of my research is an engagement with the field of development studies to interrogate how development theory and practice shapes social and ecological landscapes within Southern Africa and elsewhere. Building upon this research, I am working to integrate space more directly into livelihood analyses and critical development studies. Additionally, the ‘institutional turn’ within critical development scholarship is also of interest in order to understand how social networks advance particular ideas, and how these ideas become hegemonic at the expense of competing alternatives.
- King, B. 2011. Spatialising livelihoods: Resource access and livelihood spaces in South Africa. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 36(2): 297-313.
- King, B. 2009. Commercializing conservation in South Africa. Environment and Planning A 41(2): 407-424.
- King, B.H. "Development" in Encyclopedia of Environment and Society, Ed. Paul Robbins, Sage Publications. June 2007.
- King, B.H. 2005. Spaces of change: Tribal authorities in the former KaNgwane homeland, South Africa. Area 37(1): 64-72.
At Penn State I have taught Human Use of the Environment (GEOG 408), Geographies of Environment and Sustainability (GEOG 30), Geographies of Justice (GEOG 497), and a graduate seminar on political ecology (GEOG 597). In the future, I will offer undergraduate courses on political geography, development studies, and environmental justice. My graduate courses concentrate upon political ecology and international development.
Prior to arriving at Penn State, I taught several undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Texas, including:
- Conservation (GRG 306)
- National Parks and Protected Areas (GRG 336)
- Sustainable Development (GRG 342)
- Poverty and Environment in the Developing World (GRG 396)
- Teaching Geography (GRG 398)
Prospective graduate students who share similar research interests should feel free to contact me.
- Southern Africa
- cultural and political ecology
- 2004-2008, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Texas-Austin
- 2007-2008, Faculty Research Associate, Population Research Center, University of Texas-Austin
- Ph.D. Geography with certificate in Development Studies, University of Colorado-Boulder, 2004
- M.A. Geography, University of Colorado-Boulder, 1999
- B.A. Environmental Studies with Honors, Bucknell University, 1995
Kayla Yurco, Ph.D. Geography (current)
Arielle Hesse, Ph.D. Geography (co-advisor with Dr. Melissa Wright, current)
Maureen Biermann, Ph.D. Geography (current)
Jamie Shinn, Ph.D. Geography (current)
Daniel Kunches, Ph.D. Geography (current)
Patrick Hammons, M.S. Geography (current)
Paul Shaffner, M.S. Geography (current)
Lauren Anderson, M.S. Geography (2011)
Chelsea Hanchett, M.S. Geography (2010)
Zachary Hurwitz, M.A. Geography at UT-Austin, co-advisor with Dr. Bill Doolittle (2009)
Sean McGrath (Undergraduate honors thesis, 2010)
Allison Bullock (Undergraduate honors thesis, 2009) University Co-op/George H. Mitchell Undergraduate Student Award recipient, Rapaport-King Scholarship recipient, First author on forthcoming publication in Journal of Environmental Management
Kevin Kalra (Undergraduate Honors Thesis, 2007)
Kendle Wade (Undergraduate Honors Thesis, 2007) Plan II Model Thesis Recipient
Tuyen Lee (Undergraduate Honors Thesis, 2006)
Marlena Del Hierro (Undergraduate Honors Thesis, 2005) Rapaport-King Scholarship recipient
Alex Wagner (Undergraduate Honors Thesis, 2005)
Megan Chavez, (Undergraduate Honors Thesis, 2005)
- GEOG 497B
- GEOG 030
- GEOG 408
- GEOG 597
- GEOG 430
- Parks and People