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Leigh Johnson

Leigh Johnson profile picture
  • Title: Assistant Professor
  • Phone: 541-346-2644
  • Office: 151 Condon Hall
  • Affiliated Departments: African Studies
  • Interests: Climate change, finance, political ecology, development, East Africa, Latin America


How is the emergence of climate change transforming markets? And how can we understand the novel configurations of public and private sector actors and finance emerging in anticipation of climate change? The intersections of political ecology, science and technology studies, and development studies inform my investigation of the growth of formal risk transfer markets and the changing forms of vulnerability, knowledge, and financial flows that accompany them.          

My current research focuses on index-based insurance for farmers and pastoralists in the global South. This includes an ongoing case study of a livestock insurance program for pastoralists in Northern Kenya, a study of index insurance in development practice and climate policy, and collaborative work on the impact of insurance on social and ecological risk coping strategies in agriculture. A new project investigates how climate change is reshaping the governance of sovereign financial risk and humanitarian aid financing, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

I find a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods indispensable, including interviews, surveys, focus groups, and institutional ethnography. I am interested in working with students on topics at the intersection of finance, environmental risk, and development.

Prior to joining the Geography Department in 2016, I was a lecturer in Economic Geography at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.



B.A. Columbia University, 2003; Ph.D. UC Berkeley, 2011

Selected Publications

Christophers, B., P. Bigger, and L. Johnson. 2018  “Stretching scales? Risk and sociality in climate financeEnvironment and Planning A: Economy and Space. (Early View)

Ouma, S., L. Johnson, P. Bigger. 2018 “Rethinking the financialization of nature”, Environment and Planning A. (50) 500-511

Johnson, L., B. Wandera, N. Jensen, and R. Banerjee. 2018 "Competing expectations in an index-based livestock insurance project", Journal of Development Studies (Early View)

Müller, B., L. Johnson, and D. Kreuer. 2017 "Maladaptive outcomes of climate insurance in agriculture", Global Environmental Change 46: 23-33

Johnson, L. and C. Rampini. 2017. “Are climate models global public goods?”, in D. Tyfield, R. Lave, S. Randalls, and C. Thorpe (eds), Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of Science. London: Routledge.

Johnson, L. 2015 “Catastrophic fixes? Cyclical devaluation and accumulation through climate change impacts”, Environment and Planning A (47) 2503-2521

Johnson, L. 2015 “Near futures and perfect hedges in the Gulf of Mexico”, in M. Watts, A. Mason and H. Appel (eds), Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Johnson, L. 2014 “Geographies of securitized catastrophe risk and the implications of climate change”, Economic Geography (90) 155-185

Lave, R., M. Wilson, E. Barron, C. Biermann, M. Carey, M. Doyle, C. Duvall, L. Johnson, M. Lane, J. Lorimer, N. McClintock, D. Munroe, R. Pain, J. Proctor, B. Rhoads, M. Robertson, J. Rossi, N. Sayre, G. Simon, M. Tadaki, and C. Van Dyke. 2014 "Intervention: Critical Physical Geography", The Canadian Geographer (58) 1-10

Johnson, L. 2013 “Index insurance and the articulation of risk-bearing subjects”, Environment and Planning A (45) 2663-2681

Johnson, L. 2013 “Catastrophe bonds and financial risk: Securing capital and rule through contingency”, Geoforum (45) 30-40

Johnson, L. 2010 “The fearful symmetry of Arctic climate change: Accumulation by degradation”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 (5) 828-847

Johnson, L. 2010 “Climate change and the risk industry: The multiplication of fear and value” In R. Peet, P. Robbins & M. Watts (eds), Global Political Ecology. London: Routledge.