Class of 1963 Professor of Geography and Development Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Siemens Fellow - Class of Fall 2016
Class of 1963 Professor of Geography and Development Studies at the University of California, Berkeley Michael Watts has published widely on Nigeria and the Niger Delta. For ten years he served as director of the Institute of International Studies, which promotes cross-disciplinary research and training on global issues. He established the Berkeley Working Group on Environmental Politics and directed the Africa Studies Center and Rotary Peace Fellows program. His work has been recognized by the Guggenheim Foundation and the Royal Geographical Society.
Watts’ research demonstrates a long engagement with theories of political economy, particularly mass poverty in the Third World. During the 1980s and 1990s he conducted fieldwork in Senegambia on gender, household dynamics, irrigation politics, continued his work in Nigeria on Islam, and examined the political economy and ecology of oil. He has worked with development organizations and philanthropic institutions such as the UN Development Programme, Ford Foundation, OXFAM, and small NGOs, most recently, Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria.
His first major study, Silent Violence: Food, Famine, and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria (California, 1983; reprinted 2013), dealt with the effects of colonialism on the susceptibility of Northern Nigerians to food shortage and famine. Watts’ Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in The Niger Delta (powerHouse, 2008), featuring images by photojournalist Ed Kashi, traces the history of Nigeria’s oil interests and the resulting environmental degradation and conflicts in the region.