Jesse Ribot is an Africanist scholar specializing in rural environmental justice, and has advised governments and international organizations on their environment and development policies and programs. His work explores political representation and equity in struggles over the benefits from natural resource use and commerce. He also studies the causes of vulnerability to climate-related crises, most recently focusing on the role of climate change in the decisions of young Sahelian farmers to cross the Sahara and Mediterranean to Europe.
Since 2008, he has directed the Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy program at the University of Illinois, where he is a professor in the departments of Geography, Anthropology, and Natural Resources. In 2011, he also joined the faculty of Humanities and Development Studies at China Agricultural University in Beijing. From 1999 to 2008 he was a senior associate at World Resources Institute in Washington, and from 1990 to 1994 he taught in Urban Studies and Planning at MIT.
As an educator, Jesse is known for mentoring young African scholars through comparative research programs. He guides cohorts of researchers through long-term ethnographic fieldwork that involves collective research questions plus the generation of individual questions and hypotheses and the publication by each research of single-authored articles in peer-reviewed journals. He developed this mentoring system under the rubric of ‘comparative research as higher education’. He is currently a Guggenheim Fellow (2018-19) working on a project on cause and responsibility in the anthropocene that explores how the causes of climate disasters are linked to responsibility and to response.
Jesse has also held fellowships at Harvard, Yale, Rutgers, the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, the University of Copenhagen, and, most recently, Stanford. He has also been affiliated with Anthropology at Columbia, the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, and the Department of Politics at The New School.