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Michael Watts—University of California, Berkeley
Michael J. Watts is "Class of 1963" Professor of Geography and Development Studies at the University of California, Berkeley where he has taught for almost forty years. He served as Director of the Institute of International Studies on campus for over a decade and Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Social Science Research Council in New York. He is retiring in June 2016. At the center of Watts’ research and teaching interests is a longstanding engagement with the political economy of development and in particular energy and agro-food sectors in Africa. He was written on food security and famine, agrarian change and the peasant question, political ecology, radical Islam, and more recently the oil and gas sector in Africa and elsewhere.
Dr. Watts' talk will focus on frontiers as a particular sort of space, long of interest to geographers. Using the case of "oil frontiers" in differing parts of the world -- Gulf of Guinea, and the Gulf of Mexico – he will attempt to rethink the frontier space in Lefebvrian terms, and as a space which need not be associated with "early" post-colonial state building or periods of imperial expansion. He is interested in exploring the relations between frontiers and forms of conflict and violence and why frontiers are typically experienced as "violent economies."