• RFGI Researcher on Top of the World, Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa.

    RFGI Researcher on top of the World

  • Group Photo 2014, Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Table Mountain Hike Responsive Forest Governance Team Cape Town

    RFGI Hike at Table Mountain

Professor Jesse Ribot


Department of Geography & GIS
2032 Natural History Building, MC-150
1301 W Green Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Telephone: (217) 333-7248
Email: ribot@illinois.edu


Jesse Ribot is a Professor of Geography with appointments in the Department of Anthropology, School of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, Global Studies, Women and Gender in Global Perspective (WGGP), and Institute for Sustainability, Energy and the Environment (iSEE), and is on the faculty of the College of Humanities and Development Studies of China Agricultural University in Beijing. He is also a co-director and co-founder of the Initiative on Climate Adaptation Research and Understanding through the Social Sciences (ICARUS). Before coming to Illinois Ribot was a Senior Associate in the Institutions and Governance rogram at the World Resources Institute from 1999 to 2008. He has been a visiting professor in Politics at the New School for Social Research in New York, and a or fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Yale Program in Agrarian Studies, Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture at Rutgers, MacArthur Fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, and a Fellow at the Stanford Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences. From 1991-94 he was a lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. He also advises foreign governments and international development agencies.

Research Description

Professor Ribot conducts research in four inter-linked arenas: 1) decentralization and democratic local government; 2) natural resource tenure and access; 3) distribution along natural resource commodity chains; and 4) household vulnerability in the face of environmental change. He uses a political-economy approach drawing on disciplines of sociology, anthropology, political science, political philosophy and geography. He develops in-situ research-based education programs, and has used comparative research to train over eighty young scholars in their own countries to conduct in-depth policy research and to translate that research into scholarly writing and policy relevant briefs and seminars. For more details on his research see the attached CV and see the SDEP web page.

Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy (SDEP)

SDEPThe Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy (SDEP) Program is a campus-wide endeavor to deepen our understanding of society’s relations with the environment. SDEP aims to generate and use new knowledge on the social and political-economic dimensions of human-environment relations to improve the management of earth's environment and to ensure social wellbeing. SDEP programs (see the SDEP web page) integrate humanities and natural and social science research to help us understand the social and political-economic forces shaping just, equitable, and sustainable environmental policy. SDEP is a program of the School of Earth, Society and Environment, the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science and the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, with affiliates from the departments of Anthropology, English, Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology. SDEP welcomes all disciplines into our campus-wide dialogues on the social and political-economic dimensions of our treatment of and responses to the resources that sustain us.
To affiliate with SDEP or to be included on our mailing list, please write SDEP Director Jesse Ribot at Ribot@Illinois.edu.

Responsive Forest Governance Initiative (RFGI)

RFGI at Table MountainThe Responsive Forest Governance Initiative (RFGI) was a five-year research and training program, focused on environmental governance in Africa. The aim of RFGI is to make environmental policy more democratic and emancipatory. The RFGI was funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and executed by the Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. RFGI was coordinated and carried out by co-directors James Murombedzi, Jesse Ribot, and Gretchen Walters. The program supported four postdoctoral fellows and thirty-four researchers working in fourteen countries. In Africa, RFGI worked in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Comparative cases were conducted in Nepal and Peru.
RFGI was completed in 2017. It produced 25 working papers, a policy brief, and over 100 publications. Click on title link above for details.

ICARUS: Initiative on Climate Adaptation Research and Understanding through the Social Sciences

ICARUSVulnerability and adaptation are key concepts in the social science literature on climate change. They have long inter-linked histories. Scholars of development, disaster management and mitigation, hunger, famine, and migration, and ecological systems have contributed insights on the meanings and drivers of vulnerability. Development of systematic ideas about adaptation continues to occur in a variety of fields – in both the ecological and the social sciences. The ways these writings are applicable to understanding and intervening in climate-related stresses, crises and responses remain vigorous arenas query and debate. In recent years there have been many calls (by IPCC, NSF, Stern Review and others) for greater social science engagement in climate research. ICARUS responds to these calls. Each year since 2011 ICARUS holds a global conference. When papers presented at the ICARUS conferences regroup into coherent themes, we hold writing workshops called ‘writeshops’ in which conference participants can develop their papers into journal special issues. ICARUS promotes is a group of cool heads engaged in collective reflection to help us to live better in a hot world!

Book in search of a publisher - The Business of Sustainability: An African Forest Tale [PDF]

Illustration: Mor Gueyeexcerpt:
Look here in the rulebook—which you must obey -
you have rights to the things that we don’t take away.

But we can’t take the wood without taking the trees
so you’ll have to make due with the stumps and some seeds.

You can grow village woodlots—eucalyptus or pines
we’ll help you to manage them through incentives and fines.

If you want to participate please lend in a hand.
Do as we tell you and we’ll tell you you can.

If you listen-look-learn and do as we say
even democratization will be on its way!

We must protect forests from people like you
so people with business will have business to do.