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Peter Vandergeest

Peter Vandergeest

Professor Emeritus & Senior Scholar


PhD Development Sociology , Cornell University
MA Development Sociology , Cornell University
BSc Chemical Engineering , University of Waterloo

Research Keywords

Political Ecology; Asia; Migration; Labour; Fishing; Forestry; Agrofood.

Contact Information

Research Interests

My research is based in a political ecology approach that starts with the direct resource user -- farmers, fishers, gatherers, and labourers -- and locates what they do in multi-scale transformations in how these resources are re-made and governed. His current research builds on his recent work on the political ecology of labour relations, migration, and mobilities in Southeast and East Asia.  In this project, I am to build an approach to the study of labour relations and working conditions that starts with workers and their aspirations and experiences, and also builds relationships with worker support groups across the region.

Research Projects

Work at Sea:  Explaining Labour Relations in the Global Fishing Industry

This program of research seeks to explain poor or unacceptable working conditions among migrant workers in industrial fisheries, with a focus on fleets operated out of Taiwan and Thailand.  This year (2020) the project is oriented to conducting an assessment of issues created by the COVID19 pandemic for migrant workers in fisheries.  This is a collaborative program of research involving Melissa Marschke at the U. of Ottawa, Philip Kelly at York University, Elizabeth Havice at the University of North Carolina.  It is linked to another project entitled Sweatships at sea:  Labour reform in the Thai seafood supply chain via hybrid global governance, led by Alin Kadfak at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. 

Research Output

Vandergeest, P., and L. Schoenberger.  2018.  Decentering the Land Grab:  Southeast Asia Perspectives on Agrarian-Environmental Transformations.   Routledge.  (The Chapters were originally published as a special issue in The Journal of Peasant Studies).   Hardback:  24 April 2018

Rigg, J., and P. Vandergeest (eds.)  2012.  Revisiting Rural Places:  Pathways to Poverty and Prosperity in Southeast Asia.  Honolulu:  University of Hawaii Press and Singapore: National University of Singapore Press.

Wittayapak, Chusak., and P. Vandergeest (eds.).  2009.  The Politics of Decentralization:  Natural Resource Management in Asia.  Chiangmai, Thailand:  Mekong Press.

Vandergeest, P., P. Idahosa and P. Bose.  2007.  Development’s Displacements:  Economies, Ecologies, and Cultures at Risk.  Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

DuPuis, E.M., and P. Vandergeest 1996  Constructing the Countryside.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Recent Journal Articles

Havice, E., Marschke, M. and Vandergeest, P., 2020. Industrial seafood systems in the immobilizing COVID-19 moment. Agriculture and Human Values, Rapid Response, available at

Vandergeest, P. and Marschke, M., 2020.  Oceans as a working space: Commentary 5 to the Manifesto for the marine social sciences.  Maritime Studies

 Peluso, N.L. and Vandergeest, P., 2020. Writing Political Forests. Antipode 52(4): 1083-1103

Vandergeest, P. and M. Marschke.  2019.   Modern Slavery and Freedom:  Exploring contradictions through labour scandals in the Thai fisheries.  Antipode 52(1):291-315.

Belton, B., M. Marschke, and P. Vandergeest.  2019.  Fisheries development, labour and working conditions on Myanmar’s marine resource frontier.   Journal of Rural Studies 69: 204-213.

Vandergeest, P.  2019.  Law and lawlessness in industrial fishing: frontiers in regulating labour relations in Asia. International Social Science Journal 68(229-230): 325-341.

Kongkeaw, C., Kittitornkool, J., Vandergeest, P. and Kittiwatanawong, K., 2019. Explaining success in community based mangrove management: Four coastal communities along the Andaman Sea, Thailand. Ocean & Coastal Management178, p.104822

Marschke, M., Kehoe, C. and Vandergeest, P., 2018.  Migrant worker experiences in Atlantic Canadian fish processing plants. The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien 62(4): 482-493

Schoenberger, L., D. Hall, and P. Vandergeest.  2017.   Introduction: What Happened When the Land Grab Came to Southeast Asia?  Journal of Peasant Studies 44(4):697-725.

Vandergeest, P., Tran, O. and Marschke, M., 2017. Modern day slavery in Thai fisheries: academic critique, practical action. Critical Asian Studies 49(3):461-464.

Marschke, M. and Vandergeest, P., 2016. Slavery scandals: Unpacking labour challenges and policy responses within the off-shore fisheries sector. Marine Policy (68):39-46.  (February).

Courtney Kehoe, Melissa Marschke, Wichitta Uttamamunee, Jawanit Kittitornkool, and Peter Vandergeest.  2016. “Developing Sustainable Seafood Markets in Asia:  A Thai Example,” World Food Policy Journal 3(1): 32-50.

Vandergeest, P., Ponte, S. and Bush, S., 2015. Assembling sustainable territories: space, subjects, objects, and expertise in seafood certification. Environment and Planning A47(9): 1907-1925.

Recent Chapters in Edited Books

Vandergeest, P., and R. Roth 2016 “A Southeast Asian Political Ecology.”  Pages 82-98 (Chapter 6) in P. Hirsch (editor), Routledge Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia.  New York:  Routledge (published September)

Vandergeest, P.  2016 “Transnational Sustainability Certification as a New Extraterritoriality? Chapter 16 in C. Antons (editor), Routledge Handbook of Asian Law.  Pages 271-288.  New York: Routledge.

Vandergeest, P., and N.L. Peluso  2015  “Political Forests.”   Page 162-175 (Chapter 12) in R. Bryant (editor), Handbook of Political Ecology.  Edward Elgar.  Publication date:  August 28.