Skip to main content

Centre of African Studies: People


Sam Spiegel

Sam Spiegel
Dr Sam Spiegel
Senior Lecturer in International Development and Director of Research, Centre of African Studies
B.02 19 George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0) 131 651 3066


-PhD, Geography, University of Cambridge

-MSc, Interdisciplinary Studies, University of British Columbia

-BA (Hons), Politics, Whitman College

Major research themes

-   Theories of Social Justice, Environental Justice and Climate Justice

-   Decolonial Theories, Present-Day Coloniality, Inequality and Social Change

-   Community-Based Research and Mixed Methods Approaches in Political Ecology Research

-   Interdiscilinarity in the Study of Socio-Environmental Interactions

-   Global Environmental Governance and Extractive Sector Politics

-   Knowledge Construction in Relation to Contested Land, Resource and Territorial Control, Water and Rights

-   Rural Studies, Resource Management, Local Activism, Protest and Solidarity-Building

-   Conceptualisations of Informal Sector and Illegal Economic Activities in relation to State and Non-State Actors


Sam is a Senior Lecturer in International Development at the School of Social and Political Science and Director of Research at the Centre of African Studies.  Broadly speaking, his current work engages conceptual and methodological debates in political ecology, environmental justice and ecological economics internationally, with a focus on narratives and struggles in relation to resource extraction and territorial control.  

Prior to joining the School of Social and Political Science in Edinburgh in 2011, he conducted his doctoral research at the University of Cambridge, where he studied geography as a Trudeau Scholar and Cambridge Commonwealth Scholar at Trinity College, examining struggles in small-scale mining regions and social justice debates in Zimbabwe. Over the years he has conducted extensive research in Zimbabwe and Indonesia. He also has served as an advisor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and worked with governments and civil society organizations in Africa and Asia on a variety of initiatives to address resource management and livelihood issues. Interested in interdisciplinary approaches for understanding issues of global and regional injustice, Sam's publications have addressed a variety of inter-linkages in the socioeconomic, environmental and political dimensions of resource extraction and struggle in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Sam has conducted research in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Indonesia, Cambodia and Brazil. 

He is currently directing ESRC-funded and Canadian government-funded projects engaging community-based research approaches to explore the construction of knowledge in relation to the extractive sector, its impacts, and collecitve mobilisations in pursuit of environmental and social justice.

 In September 2016, at the Chancellor's Awards Dinner, Dr. Spiegel received the 2016 Chancellor's Rising Star Award at the University of Edinburgh, recognising " the resonance and impact of his work in development studies, including his very high quality publications, demonstrable research impact, an excellent track record in research funding, and his contributions to mentoring and research leadership."  

Main Teaching Responsibilities

As I am currently conducting a 3-year project funded by an ESRC Future Research Leader Award, I am only available for PhD supervisions at present. Some of my past MSc teaching responsibilities have included:

-Resource Politics and Development (course convenor and lecturer)

-Programme Director, MSc Programme in Global Challenges

-Programme Director, Postgraduate Certificate Programme in Africa and International Development - Distance Learning Programme

-Politics and Theories of International Development - distance learning course (lecturer)

-Roots of African Poverty - distance learning course (lecturer)

-Analysing Development -distance learning course (lecturer)

-MA Programme in Sustainable Development (lecturer)

-MA Programme in International Development (lecturer)

-Development Research Methods (lecturer)

Recent research projects

"Mining sector regulation and advocacies of artisanal and small-scale mining associations in Zimbabwe: Insights from Insiza, Kadoma and Mazowe"

Funded by the University of Edinburgh's Strategic Research Support Fund, this research examines artisanal mining associations' advocacies in Zimbabwe, particularly in Insiza District, Kadoma District and Mazowe District in 2012 and 2013. The project builds upon Sam Spiegel's longstanding research in Zimbabwe since 2005, drawing on comparative cases to understand critical challenges facing gold mining communities. On 14 February, 2013, a newly created national federation, the Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small-Scale Sustainable Development Mining Council, invited him to present findings from his research on strategies for managing riverbed alluvial gold panning and primary ore mining at its inaugural launch attended by policymakers from the Ministry of Mines and the Ministry of Environment, representatives of mining communities, NGOs and the public. Media references to Sam Spiegel's work in Zimbabwe can be seen, for example, in Sunday News, Newsday and The International New York Times.

"Formalisation Policies, Informal Resource Sectors and the De-/Re-Centralisation of Power: Geographies of inequality in Africa and Asia"

Funded by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the European Union (EU) as part of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan (FLEGT), this research project examines national and district-level governance paradigms for managing informal resource sectors. The project adopts a comparative approach in examining cases in Africa and Asia, focusing on regional contexts where governments had experimented with "de-centralization" policies before "re-centralizing" authority over rural resource sectors. The draws together lessons learned from land tenure formalization research and research on formalization in the artisanal mining sector. The preliminary findings of this study have been published in a report by the Centre for International Forestry Research (and lecture video available here).

"Exploring Online Distance Learning: Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Student Experiences in International Development Studies"

Funded by the Institute of Academic Development (IAD), this a research project examining student experiences in online distance learning courses in the field of international development. In Europe, Africa and around the world, approaches for supporting collaborative online distance learning are becoming increasingly important. This project examines interactive online distance learning experiences with practitioner-students who participate in the Global Challenges programme, drawing on interviews with students from across 5 continents as well as academic faculty members. The project explores how participants define their learning goals and how they combine academic work with part-time and/or full time jobs with non-governmental organizations, international humanitarian and development agencies and other practitioner contexts. It also examines how knowledge about the experiences of participants in distance learning can help to strengthen strategies for collaborative curriculum development in the field of international development.

"Formalization of the artisanal and small-scale mining sector: international experiences"

Commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme, this research is one of five case studies developed to inform governments internationally on the complexities of "formalizing" artisanal and small-scale mining. The study examined national laws and policy frameworks in place in Tanzania's artisanal and small-scale mining sector, and was published in June 2012. In 2013, more than 140 countries agreed to sign a historic treaty on mercury pollution, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which includes explicit attention to small-scale mining. The 5 case studies commissioned by UNEP contribute to inter-governmental dialogue on the equity provisions of policies for addressing this sector.

Selected Academic Publications

Brown, B., & Spiegel, S.J. Coal, climate justice, and the cultural politics of energy transition. forthcoming in Global Environmental Politics

Kachena, L., & Spiegel, S.J. Borderland migration, mining and transfrontier conservation: questions of belonging along the Zimbabwe–Mozambique border. GeoJournal 1-14.

Kistnasamy, B., Yassi, A., Yu, J., Spiegel, S. J., Fourie, A., Barker, S., & Spiegel, J. M. (2018). Tackling injustices of occupational lung disease acquired in South African mines: recent developments and ongoing challenges. Globalization and Health14(1), 60.

Mkodzongi, G., Spiegel, SJ Artisanal gold mining and farming: livelihood linkages and labour relations after land reforms in Zimbabwe, Journal of Development Studies (forthcoming)

Spiegel, S, Agrawal, S., Mikha, D., Vitamerry, K., Le Billon, P., Veiga, M., Konolius, K., Paul, B. 2018. Phasing Out Mercury? Ecological Economics and Indonesia’s Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector, Ecological Economics 144: 1-11.

Spiegel, SJ, 2017. EIAs, Power and Political Ecology: Situating Resource Struggles and the Techno-Politics of Small-Scale Mining. Geoforum 87: 95-107.

Spiegel, SJ., Brown, B. 2017. Fossil fuels: Heed local impact of coal mining. Nature 550: 43 (correspondence).

Brown, B., Spiegel, SJ. 2017. Resisting Coal: Hydrocarbon Politics and Assemblages of Protest in the UK and Indonesia, Geoforum 85: 101-111.

Spiegel, S., Gray, H., Bompani, B., Bardosh, K., & Smith, J. 2017. Decolonising online development studies? Emancipatory aspirations and critical reflections–a case study. Third World Quarterly, 38, 270-290.

Spiegel, SJ, 2017. New mercury pollution threats: a global health caution. The Lancet, 390, 226-227.

Spiegel, S. 2016. Land and ‘space’for regulating artisanal mining in Cambodia: Visualizing an environmental governance conundrum in contested territory. Land Use Policy54, 559-573.

Spiegel, S., Keane, S., Metcalf, S., & Veiga, M, 2015. Implications of the Minamata Convention on Mercury for Informal Gold Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa: From Global Policy Debates to Grassroots Implementation?. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 17(4): 765-785.

Gamu, J., Le Billon, P., Spiegel SJ. 2015. Extractive Industries and Poverty: A Review of Recent Findings and Linkage Mechanisms. Extractive Industries and Society 2(1), 162-176.

Spiegel, SJ. 2014. Rural Place-Making, Globalization and the Extractive Sector: Insights from Gold Mining Areas in Kratie and Ratanakiri, Cambodia. Journal of Rural Studies 36: 300-310: 765-785.

Spiegel, S., Keane, S., Metcalf, S., Veiga, M., Yassi, A. 2014. The Minamata Convention on Mercury: Time to Seek Solutions with Artisanal Mining Communities. Environmental Health Perspectives 122(8): A203.

Spiegel SJ Ribeiro CAAS, De Sousa RN, Veiga MM. 2012. Mapping Spaces of Environmental Dispute: GIS, Mining and Surveillance in the Amazon. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102(2): 320-349.

Spiegel SJ. 2012. Governance Institutions, Resource Rights Regimes and the Informal Mining Sector: Regulatory Complexities in Indonesia. World Development 40(1): 189-205.

Spiegel SJ. 2012. Microfinance Services, Poverty and Artisanal Mineworkers in Africa: In Search of Measures for Empowering Vulnerable Groups, Journal of International Development 24(4): 485-517.

Sousa, R., Veiga M., Van Zyl D., Telmer, K, Spiegel, S. Selder, J. 2011. Policies and Regulations for Brazil's Artisanal Gold Mining Sector. Journal of Cleaner Production 19(6-7): 742-750.

Spiegel SJ, Veiga MM. 2010. International Guidelines on Mercury Management in Small-Scale Gold Mining, Journal of Cleaner Production 18(4): 375-385.

Spiegel SJ. 2009. Socioeconomic Dimensions of Mercury Pollution Abatement: Engaging Artisanal Mining Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ecological Economics 68(12): 3072-3083.

Spiegel SJ, Le Billon P. 2009. China's Weapons Trade: From Ships of Shame to the Ethics of Global Resistance, International Affairs 85(2): 323-346.

Spiegel SJ. 2009. Resource Policies and Small-Scale Gold Mining in Zimbabwe, Resources Policy 34: 39-44.

Swain E, Jakus P, Rice G, Lupi F, Maxson P, Pacyna J, Penn A, Spiegel SJ, Veiga MM. 2007. Socioeconomic Consequences of Mercury Use and Pollution, Ambio - Journal of the Human Environment. 36:45-61.

Spiegel SJ, Savornin O, Shoko D. and Veiga MM. 2006. Mercury Reduction in Munhena, Mozambique: Homemade Solutions and the Social Context for Change. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 12: 215-221.

Spiegel SJ, Yassi A, Spiegel J, Veiga M. 2005. Reducing Mercury and Responding to the Global Gold Rush, The Lancet 366: 2070-2072.

Spiegel SJ and Veiga MM. 2005. Building Capacity in Small-Scale Mining Communities: Health, Ecosystem Sustainability and the Global Mercury Project. EcoHealth 2(4): 1-10

Published Book Reviews

Spiegel, SJ. 2015. Review of “Modes of Governance and Revenue Flows in African Mining,” B. Campbell (Ed.), Palgrave Macmillan, Extractive Industries and Society. doi:10.1016/j.exis.2015.03.004

Spiegel SJ. 2007. Review of “Small-Scale Mining, Rural Subsistence and Poverty in West Africa,” Ed, G. Hilson, Natural Resources Forum, 31: 3, 243-245

Selected Reports to United Nations Agencies and Governments

Spiegel SJ, 2012, Analysis of Formalization Approaches in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector. Report to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Spiegel SJ and Hoeung S, 2011. Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining: Policy Options for Cambodians. United Nations Development Programme

Spiegel SJ, Addressing the Challenges of Small-Scale Gold Mining in Cambodia: An Examination of Sector Complexities and Practical Policy Options. Commissioned Report for the United Nations Development Program and the Royal Government of Cambodia (2010)

Spiegel SJ, Governance Strategies in Artisanal Mining Communities: Supporting Livelihoods and Enhancing Social Opportunities. Report for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (2010)

Spiegel SJ, Veiga MM. Report on the Policy and Governance Initiative: Enhancing Multi-Stakeholder Approaches to Address Mercury, Small-Scale Gold Mining and the Institutional Dynamics of Change, Report for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (July 2007).

Spiegel SJ, Technical Measures for Incorporation into the U.N. International Guidelines on Mercury in Small-Scale Mining. Report to the United Nations Environment Program (2007)

Spiegel SJ and Veiga MM. Global Impacts of Mercury Supply and Demand in Small-Scale Gold Mining. Report Commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program Governing Council, February 2007, Nairobi Kenya (translated in UN languages and circulated to governments worldwide) (Summary available at:

Spiegel SJ, Microfinance Strategies in Artisanal Mining Communities: Integrating Training in Tanzania.  United Nations Industrial Development Organization (2007)

Spiegel SJ, Policy Recommendations for Mitigating Mercury Pollution in Small-Scale Gold Mining, United Nations Report to the Government of Tanzania (2007)

Spiegel SJ, Policies for Empowering Small-Scale Gold Miners in Zimbabwe: Concerns Regarding Fair Mineral Marketing, Environmental Impact Assessment, Technology Transfer and Environmental Policy Implementation, United Nations Report to the Government of Zimbabwe (2007)

Spiegel SJ and Veiga MM, Global Mercury Project - Strategic Plan on Policy and Governance United Nations Industrial Development Organization (2006)

Co-Author, Pilot Project for the Reduction of Mercury Contamination from Mining Fields in Manica District, Mozambique Report to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, accessible at (2005)

Other Lectures

Spiegel SJ. Invited Expert Panelist, “First International Conference on Mining in Cambodia. Hosted by the United Nations Development Program in conjunction with the Royal Government of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 27, 2010. Speech Title: Governance Approaches in Artisanal Gold Mining Communities: Supporting Livelihoods and Enhancing Social Opportunities in the Asia-Pacific Countries.

Spiegel SJ. Invited Expert Panelist, 18th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Ministerial Roundtable on Mining. United Nations Headquarters, New York, May 12, 2010. Speech title: Governance Strategies in Artisanal Mining Communities: Supporting Livelihoods and Enhancing Social Opportunities. Video of Speech Available at Online United Nations Webcast: (speech link at bottom of webpage)

Spiegel SJ, Policy and Governance Models for Engaging Small-Scale Gold Mining in Africa (Presentation in French) United Nations Industrial Development Organization Conference on Small-Scale Gold Mining, Bamako, Mali, December 9, 2009.