UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Dr Matthew Davies

Associate Professor

Lead for Taught Programmes
Programme Lead MSc Global Prosperity

Research Summary

My research explores issues around prosperity, society and the environment. I am especially interested in the management of landscapes, ecological diversity, climate, and questions of sustainability, resilience and regeneration. Most of my work has focussed on agricultural systems in Eastern Africa and has examined community practice and knowledge both historically and anthropologically, often employing a perspective known as historical ecology. This has involved analyses of the spatial, material and temporal dynamics of farming systems, including understandings of soils, crops, irrigation, exchange networks and forests/vegetation. I have also explored histories of failed external 'development' and my work is increasingly drawn towards wider analyses of food systems, agro-ecology, food sovereignity, farmer innovation and intersections with nutrition and health. My work often employs practices of physically mapping the landscape and I work closely with local Citizen Scientists within a trans-disciplinary framework. Much of this work aims to facilitate processes of co-design to reshape practice and policy. At IGP I head-up a growing portfolio of research under the framework of Prosperity Co-Lab Kenya and as part of the wider IGP community I am developing work on prosperity metrics and on questions around 'Natural Prosperity'. 

My published work is diverse, but has especially focussed on the temporal dynamics of Eastern African agricultural systems and Regenerative Agriculture. My research draws on long-standing anthropological and historical fieldwork with Citizen Scientists and the Marakwet and Pokot communities of Kenya. I have previously undertaken a range of work on the deeper archaeology and heritage of Eastern Africa and have written widely on the Later Iron Age of the region, monumentality, historical and contemporary archaeology, and the archaeology of South Sudan. Before joining IGP I was lecturer in African Studies at UCL, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Cambridge and Assistant Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa. I have held several editorial and examiner roles, and positions on academic bodies. 

I currently Lead the Taught Teaching programmes at IGP and am the Programme Lead for the MSc in Global Prosperity. I am Departmental Graduate Tutor (taught) and Chair of the Built Environment Faculty Examination Board. I supervise multiple PhD and MSc students.

Please see my IRIS profile for further information.