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Dr. Jon Phillips

Dr. Jon Phillips

University Lecturer in Development Studies

MSci (Bristol), MA, PhD (King’s College London)

PhD Course Director 2019-20

Currently not taking PhD Students

Office Phone: 01223 764049


Jon Phillips is a University Lecturer in the Centre of Development Studies and PhD Course Director for Development Studies for 2019/20. He is interested in relationships between society and environment, which guide his research on the production of resources and the governance of energy in the developing world. He has explored these themes through doctoral study of the offshore oil industry in Ghana, postdoctoral research on urban energy politics in South Africa, and projects on carbon finance and energy governance in India and Kenya, respectively. His research aims to demonstrate the contingency of inequitable systems of energy and resource governance, which are at least partially open to change through alternative systems of technology, knowledge and power.


Prior to joining the Centre of Development Studies at Cambridge, Jon was a Research Fellow in Geography at the University of Exeter. His doctoral studies were in Geography at King’s College London. He has also held research posts in International Development at the University of East Anglia and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex. Jon’s work appears in journals including Global Environmental Change, African Affairs, Geoforum, Review of African Political Economy, and Environment & Planning C: Politics and Space.

Research Interests

As a human geographer, Jon is interested in relationships between environment, society and space. He draws on empirical work in sub-Saharan Africa to understand energy as a social relation and resource production as a social and material process. The first aspect of this research has been concerned with the spatial production of fossil fuel economies. He has worked with concepts of territory and materiality to explain why and how oil may become contested at modern resource frontiers, arguing that geographical analysis makes sense of several political controversies over oil in Ghana. These include struggles over resource sovereignty, the impacts of oil production on fishing livelihoods, and the effect of oil production on Ghana’s bilateral and multilateral partnerships.


The second aspect of Jon’s research has been the political economy of renewable energy. This has included analysis of how global climate finance schemes are governed in the countries that host carbon reduction projects (at UEA), and how renewable energy technologies gain traction (or don’t) in the South (at IDS). At Cambridge, Jon continues to work with collaborators in South African municipal government and NGOs to understand how more equitable and sustainable energy systems might be created in Southern cities; more information on the Urbatrans project at: Jon’s research has been funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, the Newton Fund, and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.


Jon teaches in the Centre of Development Studies, coordinating Paper 43 of the MPhil in Development Studies, Development Issues in sub-Saharan Africa and the PhD methodology course, Methods & Approaches in Development Studies, with Dr Helena Pèrez Niño. He also contributes to teaching on other core courses in Development Studies.

Key Publications


Phillips J. 2018. Who’s in charge of Sino-African resource politics? Situating African state agency in Ghana. African Affairs DOI: 10.1093/afraf/ady041

Baker L & Phillips J. 2018. Tensions in the transition: the politics of electricity distribution in South Africa. Environment & Planning C: Politics and Space. DOI: 10.1177/2399654418778590 

Newell P & Phillips J. 2016. Neoliberal energy transitions in the South: Kenyan experiences. Geoforum 74: 39-48

Phillips J, Hailwood E & Brooks A. 2016. Sovereignty, the ‘resource curse’ and the limits of good governance: a political economy of oil in Ghana. Review of African Political Economy 43(147): 26-42

Næss LO, Newell P, Newsham A, Phillips J, Quan J & Tanner T. 2015. Climate policy meets national development contexts: Insights from Kenya and Mozambique. Global Environmental Change 35: 534-544

Baker L, Newell P & Phillips J. 2014. The political economy of clean energy transitions: the case of South Africa. New Political Economy 19(6): 791-818

Phillips J, Das K & Newell P. 2013. Governance and technology transfer in the Clean Development Mechanism in India. Global Environmental Change 23(6): 1594-1604

Phillips J & Newell P. 2013. The governance of clean energy in India: the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and domestic energy politics. Energy Policy 59(8): 654-662

Newell P, Phillips J & Purohit P. 2011. The political economy of clean development in India: the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and beyond. IDS Bulletin 42(3): 89-96



Phillips J. 2018. Order and the offshore: The territories of deep-water oil production. In: K Peters, P Steinberg & E Stratford (eds) Territory Beyond Terra. London, Rowman & Littlefield International. pp 51-67

Phillips J, Newell P & Pueyo A. 2017. Triple wins? Prospects for pro-poor, low carbon, climate resilient energy in Kenya. In: F Nunan (ed) Making Climate Compatible Development Happen. Abingdon, Routledge. pp 114-129

Martin A, Akol A & Phillips J. 2013. Just conservation? On the fairness of sharing benefits. In: T Sikor (ed) The Justices and Injustices of Ecosystems Services. London, Routledge. pp 69-91



Cowley R & Phillips J. 2018. What Can Urban Sustainability Experiments Do? Exeter: University of Exeter

Newell P, Phillips J & Pueyo A, with Kirumba E, Ozor N & Urama K. 2014. The political economy of low carbon energy in Kenya. IDS Working Paper 445. Brighton, Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Newell P, Phillips J & Pueyo A. 2014. The political economy of low carbon energy in Kenya. STEPS Centre Low Carbon Development Briefing. Brighton, STEPS Centre, University of Sussex

Newell P, Phillips J & Mulvaney D. 2011. Pursuing clean energy equitably. Human Development Research Paper 2011/3. New York, UNDP Human Development Research Office

Newell P & Phillips J. 2011. Governing clean development: what have we learnt? Governance of Clean Development Policy Briefing 03. Norwich, University of East Anglia

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