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Profile summary

  • Environmental stewardship
  • Urban sustainability
  • Community-based organisations
  • Water governance
  • Sense of place
  • Global South

Johan Enqvist's postdoctoral research focuses on understanding how urban water scarcity affects people’s relationship with nature

Enqvist’s research explores people’s relationship to the rest of nature, focusing on values, perceptions and actions to protect, conserve and restore ecosystems and natural resources. He is currently funded by VR (the Swedish Research Council) to investigate how the recent drought in Cape Town, South Africa, affected people’s awareness of and behaviour in response to water scarcity. Justice and inequality are important aspects of this work, and Enqvist collaborates directly with various community-based groups and local and international NGOs involved with social as well as environmental issues.

Enqvist is also actively involved with Stockholm Resilience Centre’s Biosphere Stewardship Stream and its investigations of the interplay between care, knowledge and agency in stewardship and pro-environmental behaviour. This includes discussions around actions from local to global scales, involving indigenous knowledge systems, social movements, and public-private-civic efforts to collaborate. Enqvist’s research zooms in on aspects of informality in urban contexts, where cities that grow beyond the planning and management capacities of formal authorities present important challenges and opportunities for environmental governance.

Prior to his current position, Enqvist completed a two-year postdoc at University of Cape Town’s Department of Environmental and Geographical Science. This studied urban resilience and water governance during and in the aftermath of Cape Town’s three-year drought (2015-2018), focusing on how multiple interpretations of resilience and sustainability affects cross-scale governance in urban environments.

Enqvist earned his PhD at SRC in October 2017. His thesis explored the concept of stewardship through case studies of civic engagement in urban ecosystem management in Bangalore, India and New York, USA. This work demonstrated different methodological approaches to studying three main dimensions of stewardship: care, knowledge and agency.

Enqvist’s PhD included collaborations with and extended research visits to colleagues at Cornell University and the US Forest Service in USA, and the Ashoka Trust for Research on Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in India. He also collaborated with ATREE during his MSc thesis project, which was earned in 2012 through SRC’s master’s programme Ecosystems, Resilience and Governance. Enqvist holds an undergraduate degree from 2010 in Environment and Development from Södertörn University.

In his current research project, Enqvist works closely with three partners in addition to SRC. He is primarily based at University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative, working with Assoc. Prof. Gina Ziervogel who has many years’ experience researching governance around climate adaptation and water issues in Cape Town. Enqvist also collaborates with Prof. Christopher Raymond at Helsinki Institute of Sustainability at University of Helsinki, jointly examining how changes in social-ecological systems affects pro-environmental behaviour. In addition, Enqvist also works with Assoc. Prof. Michelle Cocks at Rhodes University’s Department of Anthropology, developing tools and approaches for understanding human-nature interactions in a South African and urban context.

Enqvist’s research is increasingly transdisciplinary, involving in particular community-based organisations (CBOs) in planning, design, execution and dissemination of studies. This includes close collaboration with Cape Town-based NGO Environmental Monitoring Group, and CBO Western Cape Water Caucus. Through his collaboration with Dr. Ziervogel, Enqvist is also able to attend and share research findings at the City of Cape Town’s monthly meetings of the Water Resilience Advisory Committee.


  • Mobility grant from VR (Swedish Research Council), 2019.
  • Fellowship grant from the Sweden-America Foundation, 2015.
  • Minor Research Project grant from Stockholm University, 2013.
  • MSc fieldwork scholarship from SRC, 2011.
  • Minor Field Study grant from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, 2009.


Publications by Enqvist, Johan