Michelle Pressend


MSc (University of Cape Town)

Office: Rm4.37, Leslie Social Sciences Building 

Consultation Times:
(by appointment) 
Please email me in advance.

My research interest is in re-thinking the political economy of socio-ecological challenges in a manner that opens collective imaginaries to respond differently to the multiple crises facing the world, particularly the climate crisis.  I am interested in, deploying philosophical positions, ideas and approaches that work across the Humanity and Nature divide to enhance our ability to undo binaries, alienation and separation. The research approach places emphasis on multi-disciplinary methodologies and draws on the contribution that other disciplines can make to post-humanism and the anthropocentrism debate in the social sciences and humanities. My research focuses on ways to create, reclaim and defend renewable energy transitions and energy use in terms of relationships. Moreover it explores what ‘energy democracy’ might look like and engages with the ecosophical articulations  and the ethics of sustainability.



  • Pressend, M. and Othieno, T. (2009).  Rethinking Natural Resources in southern Africa, Institute for Global Dialogue.
  • Pressend, M. and Ruiters, M. (2008). Dilemmas of Poverty and Development: A proposed policy framework for the Southern Africa Development,  Institute for Global Dialogue.
  • Pressend, M. (2007). Poverty and Development: A proposed policy framework for the Southern Africa Development Community developed as part of the Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy, Institute for Global Dialogue. Available: http://www.igd.org.za/jdownloads/IGD%20Reports/povertydevelopment2.pdf
  • Pressend, M. (2006). Trade liberalisation and Environmental Linkages: Implications for Sustainable Development, Published by the Institute of Global Dialogue.

Selected articles and policy briefs

  • Pressend, M. (2014). Corporate Capture in Southern African Infrastructure Development, Amandla, Issue No.35 August/September 2014
  • Pressend, M. (2014). Transforming Global Governance Institutions: Toward Public Interest? Theme: Reforming Global Governance Institutions, In Papers of the Fifth BRICS Academic Forum, BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development , Integration and Industrialisation, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, South Africa.
  • Pressend, M. (2011).  Financial Barriers to Adaptation Implementation: A South African Case Study on Financing Water Adaptation. In L. Masters (Ed).  Overcoming Barriers to Climate Change Adaptation Implementation in Southern Africa, Institute for Global Dialogue. www.igd.org.za
  • Masters, L. and Pressend, M. (2008). Trade and Environment: Carbon trading: Getting the price right? Trade Winds, Volume 2. No.1.
  • Pressend, M. (2008). Climate change clouds keep gathering. Global Dialogue, Volume 13.2. August 2007.
  • Pressend, M. (2008).  Biofuels and sustainable development: hope on a slippery slope, Global Insight, Issue 80. August 2007.
  • Pressend, M. (2008). Book Review: A brief guide to Global Warming by Jessica Wilson and Stephen Law. Global Dialogue, Volume 13, March 2007.
  • Pressend, M. (2007). UN Commission deadlocks on Climate Change and Clean Energy. Global Insight, Issue 69,  June 2007.
  • Pressend, M. (2006). Trade in Environmental Goods and Service is another WTO Battlefield, Global Dialogue, Volume 11. May 2006.
  • Pressend, M. (2005). Unpacking the Kyoto Protocol: What happened to the Sustainable Development Goals? Global Insight, Issue No. 50. June 2005.
  • Pressend, M. (2005). The World Summit on Sustainable Development: Follow-up in South Africa? Institute for Global Dialogue, Global Insight, Issue No. 46.March 2005.
  • Hamann, R., Patel, Z. and Pressend, M. (2002).  Competing Visions and Conflicting Priorities: A Southern African Perspective on the World Summit, Environment, July/August 2002.

Others: Several previously published articles are accessible via the archive of the South Africa’s Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS) http://sacsis.org.za/s/stories.php?iUser=4

Environmental Humanities South (EHS)

Associated with EHS, a Research Centre at the University of Cape Town, located in the Humanities Facility. Environmental humanities places emphasis on multi-disciplinary research that explores how we understand the relations between humans and the environment in all areas of cultural production, ranging from scientific decision-making to government policy, from social justice movements to the creative arts. It examines questions of sustainability, human wellbeing and the environment in their broadest sense. http://www.envhumsouth.uct.ac.za/


I have worked as a researcher, policy analyst, and activist on environmental and socio-economic issues primarily within the non-governmental sector. I, also served in national government during the World Summit on Sustainable Development. My work focuses on dynamic interplay between global political economy, environmental policies shaped in multilateral institutions, and struggles to achieve  sustainable development and socio-ecological justice. My work covered local, national and regional and multilateral levels such as engaging in the United Nations Commission on Sustainable  Development (UNCSD), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Trade Organisation (WTO). I also engaged with  “alternative” global initiatives  such as the World Social Summit.