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Leah S. Horowitz

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chapter Member: Wisconsin SSN

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About Leah

Horowitz's research focuses on grassroots engagements with environmental issues, including industrial expansion and biodiversity conservation. Overarching themes in Horowitz's writings include the importance of culture in shaping interactions among multiple stakeholder groups, ways that power and ideologies interact in the evolution of legal processes and corporate practices, and the role of politico-economic contexts in activists' efforts to effect change. Horowitz serves the broader community by volunteering with non-governmental organizations mobilizing against climate change, and public speaking about climate change and Indigenous rights.

In the News

Guest on Human Rights in a New Key Podcast, January 31, 2023.
Quoted by Ankur Paliwal in "It Was a Set-Up, We Were Fooled’: The Coal Mine That Ate an Indian Village," The Guardian, December 20, 2020.
Quoted by in "Horowitz Pushes Boundaries of Postcolonial STS Research," Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center, Madison, WI, April 10, 2020.
Interviewed in "The Australian Bushfire Crisis," WORT Eighty Nine FM, January 10, 2020.
Quoted by Gretchen Gerlach in "Making Connections: The Importance of Relationships at an R1 University," The Badger Herald, July 25, 2019.
Interviewed in "Women & Climate Change," Women’s Liberation Radio News, June 24, 2019.
Quoted by in "One Million Species At Risk For Extinction – What Now?," WORT Eighty Nine.Nine FM Community Radio Madison Wisconsin, May 14, 2019.
Interviewed in "Leah Horowitz Named a 2019 Recipient of the Vilas Early Career Investigator Award," (with Bekah McBride) Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, May 8, 2019.
Quoted by Mackenzie Christman in "Wisconsin Universities Aim To Help Environment Through Variety of Projects," The Badger Herald, November 13, 2018.
Quoted by Nina Bertelsen, Peter Coutu and Madeline Heim in "Students Take to Social Media To Show Solidarity With Standing Rock Protest," The Daily Cardinal, November 3, 2016.
Quoted by Melanie Ginsburg in "Horowitz Joins Nelson Institute Faculty With Expertise in Environmental Governance," Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, August 28, 2015.
Quoted by Izabela Delabre in "CSR, Mining, and Culturally Articulated Neoliberalisation," Geography Directions, January 16, 2015.
Quoted by in "Women’s Voice Blocked by Asylum Seeking Process – Study Reveals," University of Melbourne, June 24, 2011.


"The Double Movement and the Triple-Helix: Divestment, Decommodification, and the Dakota Access Pipeline." Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space (2023).

Investigates divestment movements, using the example of #DefundDAPL, which targeted private-sector funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), an oil conduit crossing the Missouri River a half-mile from the Standing Rock Reservation. Reveals complex interactions among ideologies, power relations, and policy-making, and demonstrates limits to private-sector initiatives’ ability to impose adequate restrictions on environmentally and socially harmful investment practices. Argues that a triple-helix lens helps unpack the black box of decommodification by revealing complex interactions among ideologies, power relations, and policy-making and demonstrates limits to private-sector initiatives’ ability to impose adequate restrictions on environmentally and socially harmful investment practices.

"Conflicts of Interests” Within and Between Elite Assemblages in the Legal Production of Space: Indigenous Cultural Heritage Preservation and the Dakota Access Pipeline." The Geographical Journal 188, no. 1 (2022): 91-108.

Studies the controversy over federal regulatory processes regarding the protection of Lakota and Dakota cultural heritage in permitting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Unpacks power differentials and dynamics among these various groups, as realized through particular interpretations and implementations of relevant legislation. Suggests that examining such “conflicts of interests” within and between elite assemblages, within the legal production of space, can elucidate controversies over industrial expansion’s socio-environmental threats.

"Indigenous Rights and the Persistence of Industrial Capitalism: Capturing the Law–Ideology–Power Triple-Helix" Progress in Human Geography 45, no. 5 (2020): 1192–1217.

Examines the power relations that unfold when Indigenous-led struggles invoke settler-colonial law toward protection from industry’s impacts. Builds on Critical Race Theory and posits a ‘triple-helical’ relationship between law, power, and ideology, which coproduce one another, mediated by nudges from individual agents. Concludes with a research agenda for applying the triple-helix framework to Indigenous-led engagements with industry.

"It Shocks Me, the Place of Women’: Intersectionality and Mining Companies’ Retrogradation of Indigenous Women in New Caledonia"" Gender, Place & Culture 24, no. 10 (2017): 1419-1440.

Uses an ethnographic study of Kanak women’s engagements with mining in New Caledonia, to examine three questions. Recognizes Indigenous women’s increasing agency in engaging with external actors, such as industrial projects, yet also shows how outsiders can commit retrogradation to further marginalize young, rural, poor community women. Points to a way out of oppression, through the transformation of hegemonic ideologies.

"Rhizomic Resistance Meets Arborescent Assemblage: UNESCO World Heritage and the Disempowerment of Indigenous Activism in New Caledonia" Annals of the American Association of Geographers 106, no. 1 (2015): 167-185.

Explores how the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage listing of New Caledonia's reefs contributed to the demise of Rhéébù Nùù, an indigenous activist group that had been targeting a multinational mining project. Determines ultimately, conservation does not only result in the extension of state powers, as the literature has shown; as this study demonstrates, it can surreptitiously support the extension of environmentally damaging industrial development at the expense of grassroots action.

"Culturally Articulated Neoliberalisation: Corporate Social Responsibility and the Capture of Indigenous Legitimacy in New Caledonia" Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40, no. 1 (2015): 88-101.

Expands our understanding of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a form of roll-out neoliberalism, building on analyses of CSR initiatives as elements of a capitalist system actively working to create its own social regularisation – to secure a socio-politico-economic context supporting capitalist development. Finds that counter-hegemonic possibilities reside in the perpetual dynamism of cultures.

"Toward Empathic Agonism: Conflicting Vulnerabilities in Urban Wetland Governance" Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 45, no. 10 (2013): 2344-2361.

Examines a dispute over urban wetland management and argues that it is essential to educate the public about the vulnerability, and value, of protected areas and species. Concludes that participants in a public debate may not simply be pursuing self-serving goals, nor might open communication resolve their differences, but instead, each may be deeply convinced that he or she is advocating the most rational and moral course of action.

"Translation Alignment: Actor-Network Theory, Resistance, and the Power Dynamics of Alliance in New Caledonia" Antipode 44, no. 3 (2012): 806-827.

Investigates stakeholder groups involved in protests over a mining project, and finds that alliances between groups with unequal power further diminish the less powerful group’s ability to achieve its goals. Shows findings also enhance radical geographical understandings of capitalism's infrastructure, as uneven development increasingly relies upon—yet finds it increasingly difficult to achieve—the alignment of local communities’ translations with those of the agents of industry.

"“Twenty Years Is Yesterday”: Science, Multinational Mining, and the Political Ecology of Trust in New Caledonia" Geoforum 41, no. 4 (2010): 617-626.

Explores villagers’ decisions about whether to trust the information provided by, or seemingly in support of, a multinational mining project. Surmises that expectations of long-term social relationships, and concerns about long-term economic security, played a large role in determining which “scientific” information they chose to trust. Argues for the usefulness of a deeper understanding of relationships between trust, affiliation, and expectations of long-term social and economic relations, in analyzing lay persons’ evaluations of science.

"Environmental Violence and Crises of Legitimacy in New Caledonia" Political Geography 28, no. 4 (2009): 248-258.

Finds that environmental violence may result not only from resource scarcity or abundance, but from a lack of faith in the government or even the political system. Theorizes protest groups may be subject to the same criteria of legitimacy as the governments or other bodies that they oppose.