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Centre of African Studies: People


Kate Symons

Kate Symons
Dr Kate Symons
Online Learning Co-ordinator
4.03 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0) 131 651 1756
Research Interests
International development, Political ecology, Extractive industries and resource governance, Conservation and development, blockchain

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Please email me for an appointment.

Overview and research interests:

I specialise in the politics of sustainable development and the political ecology of conservation in Africa, where my empirical research focusses primarily on Mozambique. I also research contested ‘technologies for good’ in international development. I have a special interest in developing innovative online and blended pedagogies.


My teaching at the University of Edinburgh spans political ecology, human geography, marine systems and policies, and geographies of development, including online, in person and in the field.

Current research:

My current research focusses on blockchain and international development. I am interested in what new forms of digital exchange and value (especially blockchains, cryptocurrencies and smart contracts) mean for international development. I have been involved with two research projects in this area, OxChain (a major interdisciplinary project between the Universities of Edinburgh, Lancaster and Northumbria and Oxfam) as a Research Fellow, and Blockchain and the Global South, supported by the Edinburgh Futures Institute as Principal Investigator. 

I also research the changing political topographies of major conservation areas and extractive projects in Mozambique and southern Africa more broadly, with a focus on marine and coastal aspects (marine reserves, blue and green growth discourses, extractive projects, and contested and illicit marine resources). 

I am Principal Investigator on a Principal's Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS) project investigating more creative and exciting ways to provide digital lectures to online students. 

PhD students supervised:

Dilek Genc (Leverhulme funded) ‘The Blockchain’ in Humanitarianism: Accountability, Trust, and the Private Sector in a Changing Humanitarian Landscape. 

Publications and Special Issues:

Co-editor, special issue of Environmental Humanities on Geographies of Extinction (Published May 2020)

Co-editor, special issue of Frontiers in Blockchain on Blockchain Technologies and the Global South (Published November 2019).

Symons, K. (2018) The tangled politics of conservation and resource extraction in Mozambique's green economy. Journal of Political Ecology. Vol 25, No 1 (2018)

Symons, K. (2018). Land rights and justice in neoliberal Mozambique: The case of Afungi community relocations. In Apostolopoulou, E. and Cortes-Vazquez Eds. (2019). Conservation and Transformation: ‘Rights to Nature: Tracing alternative political ecologies against the neoliberal environmental agenda’. Routledge-Earthscan P. 70-83.

Dodgson, K., Beynham-Herd, Z., Symons, K.(2018). Blockchain and global challenges: A Roadmap for NGOs. Edinburgh Futures Institute Research Paper. November 2018. Available at: 

Bunduchi, R., Elsden, C., Symons, K.and Speed, C., 2018. Adding value with blockchain: an explorative study in the charity retail sector. In ISPIM Conference Proceedings (pp. 1-7). The International Society for Professional Innovation Management(ISPIM).

Elsden, C., Vines, J., Spaa, A., Symons, K. and Speed, C. (2018) Searching for an OxChain: Co-Designing Blockchain Applications for Charitable Giving. In: CHI 2018 - 2018 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 21st - 26th April 2018, Montreal, Canada.

Symons, K. (2017, April). Trans-frontier Conservation and the Neoliberalisation of Nature: The Case of the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, Mozambique. PhD thesis awarded April 2017. Available at the University of Edinburgh online repository.

Symons, K. 2016. Transnational spaces, hybrid governance and civil society contestation in Mozambique’s gas boom. The Extractive Industries and Society, 3(1), 149-159.  

Symons, K.2014. Anti-politics, Apocalypse and Adaptation in Kenya's National Climate Change Response Strategy. Scottish Geographical Journal, 130(4), 266-278.    

Symons, K.2013. How Bioenergy Can Help Local Communities Adapt to Climate Change: Lessons from Nyanza Province, Kenya. PISCES Working Paper. April 2013. 

Topics interested in supervising

Politics of conservation areas (marine and land) The extractive sector in Africa Blockchain innovations in international development

If you are interested in being supervised by Kate Symons, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in International Development