Department of Political Science


Professor Lisa Vanhala

Lisa smiles into the camera
Professor of Political Science
Room: 3.03, 31 Tavistock Square
Tel: 020 7679 4984 (ext. 24984)
Email: l.vanhala@ucl.ac.uk


I am a Full Professor in Political Science. I hold a DPhil and MPhil in Politics from University of Oxford. I spent my undergraduate years at McGill University and Sciences Po Paris. Prior to joining UCL, I held positions at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies in Oxford and at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE. I have held visiting professorships at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley and the European University Institute in Florence. I have held major grants, including a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, an ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship and a European Research Council Starting Grant.

Please note: I am on research leave from 2018 to 2023.


I am interested in the politics of climate change and the socio-legal study of human rights and equality issues. My current, ERC-funded project, the Politics and Governance of Climate Change Loss and Damage (CCLAD), explores attempts to govern the impacts of climate change we will not be able to adapt to at a global and national level. Relying on a political ethnographic approach, the project explores the role of norms, identities and the micro-level, everyday dynamics of global environmental governance.  

Another facet of my work looks at the ways in which civil society organisations engage with the law to shape policy and social change. My first monograph, Making Rights a Reality? Disability Rights Activists and Legal Mobilization, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011. The book won the Socio-legal Studies Association and Hart Early Career Prize 2012 and the Best Book in Comparative Politics, Canadian Political Science Association 2012. Since then, I have focused on the use of law by organisations interested in environmental issues and climate change as well as those concerned with human rights and equality.

I also work as a consultant and learning partner to a number of civil society organisations and philanthropic foundations. This has included work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Public Law Project, Access Social Care, Independent Age, Impact Law for Social Justice, the Baring Foundation, the Lankelly Chase Foundation, the Legal Education Foundation and BBC Children in Need. I also sit as a co-opted member on the Sustainable Future Committee of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.    


Uncovering Politics logo showing people with raised banners and hands in silhouette
Podcast: UCL Uncovering Politics

Hear Dr Vanhala speak about her research on the following podcast episode
S10 Ep7 | Climate Change Loss and Damage



Book chapters
Journal articles












  • Vanhala, L. (2011) ‘Social Movements Lashing Back: Law, Social Change and Socio-legal Backlash in Canada’, Studies in Law, Politics and Society, 54.




Journal special issues

Other publications


I am currently on research leave (2018-2023). I am available to take on a limited number of PhD students who are interested in the law and politics of climate change loss and damage, or in studies of legal mobilization.