Joshua Daniel Kirshner

Dr

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Personal profile

Biography

I am a senior lecturer (associate professor) in the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York. I have research interests in urban geography, environment and development, and social theory in planning and geography. My work develops critical perspecives on resource governance, urban and environmental change, and the geographies of low-carbon transition. I have researched these questions in various sectors, working at international levels and with colleagues in several countries across the world. Before coming to York, I held posts at Durham University (UK), and Rhodes University and University of Johannesburg, in South Africa.

I am co-investigator on the CESET project (Community Energy and the Sustainable Energy Transition in Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique), and I co-led a project on improving electricity grid access and reliability in urban Mozambique funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID – now FCDO). My current line of work focuses on energy geographies and low-carbon transitions in the global South and falls into two strands. First, it explores the intersections between struggles over resource extraction, commodity and investment frontiers, and urbanisation. Second, it considers the opportunities and challenges arising from post-carbon transition, including local and community ownership and governance of renewables, the role of planning for distributed systems, access to clean energy technologies, green electrification, and power relations within ‘resilient’ development.

Other research interests include landscape, histories of urban infrastructure, regional development, migration, and urban climate responses. My research and teaching have spanned several regions including Southern and West Africa, Latin America and North America and combine critical theory (uneven development, socio-natures, extractivism) with participatory methods for social learning and change. My work on urban environmental governance has sought to highlight peripheral, frontier, and resource-rich cities and regions, including in lowland Bolivia and central Mozambique, and their global linkages. I have successfully received project funding from a variety of funding bodies including UK Research Councils (ESRC, NERC), government agencies (UK Aid, US Fulbright Commission), and foundations such as the British Academy, Atlantic Philanthropies, and Tinker Foundation.

My work has been published in international journals across the planning, geography, energy and environmental policy fields. I serve on the editorial boards of Energy Research & Social Science and Frontiers in Sustainable Cities. I have a PhD from Cornell University in City and Regional Planning, an MA from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in Urban Planning, and a BA (magna cum laude) from Harvard University in Social Anthropology.

 

Projects

Recently funded research has included:

I am a Co-investigator in ‘Community Energy Systems and the Sustainable Energy Transition in Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique (CESET),’ a UKRI-GCRF project (2021-2024), led by Vanesa Castán Broto (Sheffield), which explores the potential of community energy to support inclusive and clean energy transitions. The project focuses on diversity of community energy models and explores the notion of community through the lens of intersectionality.

I was PI for the project ‘A Political-Economic Analysis of Electricity Grid Access Histories and Futures in Mozambique’ (2019-2021), co-led with Teesside University and supported by DfID/FCDO. Working with local partners, the research demonstrated how energy access in Mozambique is shaped by the country’s pre-independence and post-colonial histories. 

I was a Co-I in ‘Integrating Ecological and Cultural Histories to Inform Sustainable and Equitable Futures for the Colombian Páramos,’ a NERC, AHRC and Colombia Bio programme project (2018-2021), with collaborators from Universidad de Los Andes, Humboldt Institute and the Nature Conservancy (all Colombia), Cambridge University (UK) and University of Florida (US).

Previously, I was Co-I in ‘Sustainable Energy Access in Mozambique: Socio-political factors in conflict-laden urban areas,’ in collaboration with Vanesa Castán Broto (PI, Sheffield) and Idalina Baptista (Co-I, Oxford) and funded by the British Academy/GCRF Sustainable Development Programme (2016-2018). I led the project’s work package 2, “Political Economy of the Energy Sector,” which examined how conflict around resource investments has created instability in Mozambique’s insertion in global trade circuits.

I was Co-I in STRIPES (‘Social Transformative Research Informing Processes of Environmental Science’), a British Academy-funded Knowledge Frontiers project that examined knowledge production, innovation and the socio-environmental implications of advanced bioethanol generation in Alagoas, in northeast Brazil, using enzymes. The project included an interdisciplinary team spanning the social and natural sciences, with collaborators at University of São Paulo.

I have also contributed to developing a partnership between academics at York and University of Ghana to study the management of small-scale and artisenal mining, exploring its socio-environmental impacts in the past, present and future.

 

Impact and Engagement

I have contributed to the CESET project’s Regional Energy Learning Alliance, which fosters knowledge exchange and capacity building to support community energy in the region. This has included hosting a conference on territorial strategies for delivering off-grid energy, preparing briefing papers, and hosting a webinar series. We are also setting up a Community Energy Lab in Maputo with community members, researchers, local authorities, and the social enterprise SCENE to co-design/produce a micro-grid for sustainable energy supply that meets the needs of those using it. It will serve as a demonstration site to explore and test what works for off-grid energy services in peri-urban communities. This includes needs assessment and evaluation.

Previously, I convened a two-day workshop, ‘Learning from Cyclone Idai: Response, Recovery and Future Risk’ held in York to explore post-disaster recovery in coastal southern and East Africa, with participants from the national electricity provider and municipal governments in Mozambique, along with researchers from University of York.

I contributed to staging a public exhibit, ‘Living with the Network: Experiences of energy access in Maputo,’ for British Academy’s Summer Showcase in London in 2019. We depicted everyday domestic practices with energy, using an installation with objects and soundscape.

I consulted on the filmmaker Sean Lovell’s short animation on charcoal and cooking, Life of a Cookstove,’ and another short film on off-grid energy in Malawi, Community Energy in Malawi: On the Ground Experiences.’

 

 

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Cornell University

1 Sept 20041 Jul 2009

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or