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Virtual Research Fellowship: Exploring Zimbabwean ecological knowledge and localising SDG 13


Dr. Sandra Bhatasara is one of nine African scholars awarded a Leeds University Centre for African Studies / Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute virtual research fellowship for the year 2021. Sandra is a Lecturer in the Department of Governance and Public Management at the University of Zimbabwe. She has trained in sociology, anthropology and public policy.  She is interested in decoloniality and intersectional approaches to gender, land and livelihoods, environmental and climate change adaptation studies.

Working with Professor David Higgins (English), Dr. Lata Narayanaswamy (CGD/POLIS) and Dr. Chris Paterson (Media and Communications), Sandra will be working on the project “Local ecological knowledge in responding to climate change: Localizing SGD 13 in the Zimbabwean context”. Using SDG 13 (Climate Action) as the starting point, the project will challenge the norms underpinning global climate knowledge frameworks. The analysis seeks to investigate how local climate knowledge in Africa is integral to implementing SDG 13, instead of uncritically or unduly imposing global climate change knowledge to local situations or disregarding local knowledge. The research will contribute to challenging global climate change knowledge (epistemic hegemonies as Achille Mbembe calls it) through developing an African discourse on climate action. The research combines African decolonial thinking and post-development theories, strengthening ongoing dialogues around ‘African knowledges’ in LUCAS. This exciting project shows that there are multiple ways of ‘knowing’ climate change and that there are important alternatives to its hegemonic, neo-colonialist framings. It aligns strongly with work being undertaken by David, Chris and Lata in their respective fields that also interrogates ‘whose knowledge counts’ in dominant climate discourses. It also speaks to work being undertaken in LUCAS around engaging with African knowledges.

Dr. Bhatasara says:

“I am extremely delighted to be awarded a LUCAS/LAHRI Research Fellowship. We are going through difficult times with COVID-19 where we have seen research funding and collaborations threatened. So to be awarded this Fellowship at this moment is a great opportunity to be part of a renowned and thriving academic and research community. I am probably the only Fellow with three mentors under this scheme, it’s a rare opportunity for cross-disciplinary learning and building enduring collaborations.”