Karin Steen

LUCID Graduate



Current Research

The research question guiding my current post doc research is: to what extent is the gendered organisation and management of labour and land in subsistence farming a constraining or enabling factor for achieving food security?

I am also initiating new research on subsistence farming in Zimbabwe in collaboration with Mabel Hungwe at University of Zimbabwe. The focus is on effects of different land tenure systems and specifically how difference in tenure may affect production output. We will study farmer’s livelihoods when living in communal areas as well as in resettlement areas. Using interviews and observations we will study agents of change in order to detail circumstances characteristic for individuals and livelihoods that succeed in increasing production.

In collaboration with Lena Christensen at LUCSUS I am currently developing a new research project called ‘Water diaries’ focusing on flooding as an effect of climate change. The project will combine research traditions and methods from humanities and social sciences in order to aim at a truly transdisciplinary research strategy. Drawing on constructivist methodology, using the methods of diaries and interviews from social sciences and ecocritical and reader response theory from literary studies, the project focuses on urban youths’ relations to acute and familiar types of flooding and how they construct their identities with or against floods.


I am a PhD in Sustainability science at LUCSUS and currently a Post Doc. In my research I have focused on gender aspects of processes of social and institutional change, mainly in relation to issues of land and labour. I study the social aspects of land where I focus on the importance of land in how gender is enacted in everyday strategies and constructed in terms of identities.

Using qualitative methods, such as different kinds of interviews and observations, and drawing on gender and institutional theories, which recognise power and discursive signs of institutional change, my research aims at understanding the dynamics of gender and social change.

Further, I am interested in qualitative methodology and ways to grasp social change. In this aspect I am interested in how social constructivism and grounded theory can be used to study institutional change.

My regional focus is on Sub-Saharan Africa. My PhD thesis focused on Zimbabwe and I have continued with this regional focus within my post doc research.

PhD Thesis: Time to farm


I teach at international profile Masters in Development, Masters in Critical Asian Studies and undergraduate courses in multi-disciplinary development studies. I am currently a tutor for students at bachelor level in development studies and at master level at international profile Masters in Sustainable Development and Global Studies.

Papers and publications

Steen, Karin 2011. Time to farm. A qualitative inquiry into the dynamics of the gender regime of land and labour rights in subsistence farming: an example from the Chiweshe communal area, Zimbabwe. Lund Dissertations in Sustainability Science No 2.

Steen, Karin 1997. Women and Land Rights in Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Development. Lund Papers in Economic History No. 64

Conference papers
Lessons from history for development: explaining stagnating food production in Zimbabwe communal areas: what are the gendered drivers? ERSA/FRESH conference ‘Lessons from history for development’ 24th – 26th November 2010 Stellenbosch, South Africa

Why poor peasant farmers stay poor: gendered drivers behind stagnating food production in Zimbabwe Communal areas, African Economic History Workshop LSE 28th April 2010, London, UK

Gendered Land and Labour Rights in small scale commercial maize farming in Chiweshe Communal Area, Zimbabwe, African Studies Association (ASA) Annual Meeting San Francisco, USA, 2006

SAP, the Government and Girls’ Education – the Case of Zambia, Africa Days, Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala Sweden 19-21 September 1997

Definition and organisation of Land and Labour, Case of small scale commercial maize farmers in Chiweshe Communal Area in Zimbabwe, African Studies Association (ASA) Annual Meeting Washington, USA, 2005

Africa between commons and private property, Swedish Economic History Meeting 24-25 October 1997, Stockholm

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