I completed my graduate studies at the University of Guelph, receiving my PhD in Development Geography in 2013 and my MSc in Rural Extension Studies and International Development in 2002. Prior to joining Laurier, I was an instructor at the University of the Fraser Valley where I taught eight to 10 courses per year.
I am a development geographer broadly interested in the politics of socio-economic and environmental change, with thematic interests in political ecology, labour geography, and sustainable livelihoods. In particular, my expertise lies in studies of globalisation processes, especially in rural and developing locales, coupled with a strong commitment to India, its professional research networks, and several rural communities in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Growing up in rural Northwestern Ontario fuelled my passion to explore human-environment relations and processes of inequality. I began working toward a more comprehensive understanding of the spatial relationships between the ‘margins’ and ‘cores’, and challenging myself in contexts beyond my ‘small world’ and comfort zone, expanding my sense of place and identity.
The particular foci of my research and publications to date include sustainable livelihoods, agricultural and agrarian change, policy and development narratives, and labour geography. My PhD dissertation notably examined in-depth the impacts of agricultural policy liberalisation on India's important coconut economy and generated considerable empirical data. I conducted detailed ethnographic study (100+ in-depth interviews) and a quantitative survey (550+ household questionnaires) during my intensive 24 months of fieldwork, in two regions of the State of Kerala that offered a textured account of how liberalisation related to community development. These areas were selected for their regional differences, specifically their varying agrarian change, coconut production statistics, local ecologies, and social and political-economic histories. I argued how multiple ecological and political economy processes in Kerala informed its regional trajectory over 25 years.
I am interested in expanding my work on the coconut economy of Kerala, embarking on a comparative study of Tamil Nadu. The long-term objective of my research is to establish a robust understanding of the politics of agrarian and livelihood change in South India, while developing mechanisms for tangible contributions within communities. Environmental struggles are increasingly now becoming also class and regional/nationality struggles within India, and vice versa whereby it is thus necessary to bring politics into analyses on sustainable livelihoods. Conflict over resources is, and will continue to be, a growing concern. These issues are deeply worrying as the gap between the rich and poor widens, and poverty in conjunction with a deteriorating environment, is overshadowed by discussions of India as the world's largest democracy and rising economic power.
I am available to co-advise graduate students and contribute as a graduate committee member. I am interested in advising undergraduate honours thesis students, particularly in the areas of development geography, environmental change and resource management, political ecology, labour geography, and sustainable livelihoods.
Sportel, T. and Véron, R. 2016. Coconut Crisis in Kerala? Mainstream Narrative and Alternative Perspectives. Development and Change. 47 (5): 1051-1077. doi: 10.1111/dech.12260.
Sportel, T. 2013. Agency within a Socially Regulated Labour Market: A Study of 'Unorganised' Agricultural Labour in Kerala. Geoforum. 47, 42-52. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.02.007.
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