Profile summary

  • Environmental stewardship
  • Human-nature relations
  • Urban wildlife management
  • Social psychology
  • Water governance
  • Inequality and environmental justice

Enqvist researches how people who live in cities deal with nature that does not behave the way they expect it to.

Enqvist studies people’s relationship with the rest of nature, focusing on how values, perceptions and actions shape stewardship of urban social-ecological systems. As the planet becomes increasingly urban, many people’s notions of “nature” are associated with something controlled, remote, or destroyed. However, following urbanisation in biodiversity-rich regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asian, and rewilding and regreening of postindustrial cities in Europe and North America, many species are learning to survive and even thrive in human-dominated landscapes.

This is the focus of Enqvist’s Unruly Natures project, which studies the highly polarised human-baboon relationships in Cape Town, South Africa. The project is designed in dialogue with local communities and uses mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to systematically examine subjective experiences, unpack underlying values, and provide more robust knowledge about how to build more sustainable management practices. The project speaks to fundamental questions of biosphere stewardship and the role of care, especially in the Anthropocene where uncertainty makes discussions about what world we want increasingly contested and value-based.

Enqvist has completed two postdocs in collaboration with colleagues at University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative, studying urban resilience, water governance and environmental justice during severe drought, and impacts of acute water scarcity on people’s awareness of, concern for and ability to act to conserve water resources. He earned his PhD at SRC in October 2017, with a dissertation exploring 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, completed in 2012 through SRC’s master’s programme Ecosystems, Resilience and Governance. Enqvist holds an undergraduate degree in Environment and Development from Södertörn University.

Through highly place-based research projects, Enqvist’s approach to research is increasingly focused on building trust and strong relationships with local stakeholders and communities. The Unruly Natures project engages with local residents through an Advisory Board with representatives from concerned communities and consults regularly with local conservation practitioners. Prior to this work, Enqvist has worked closely with non-academic partners such as NGOs and community-based organisations advocating for better access to water services in historically disadvantaged communities, as well as attended and share research findings at the City of Cape Town’s monthly meetings of the Water Resilience Advisory Committee set up during the city’s water crisis.

Awards and achievements

  • Early career research grant, 2022-2025, Formas (a Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development)
  • Mobility Grant, 2019-2022, Vetenskapsrådet (the Swedish Research Council)
  • Fellowship Grant, 2015-2016, Sweden-America Foundation
  • Minor research grant, 2014, Stockholm university
  • Minor field study, 2010, Sida (The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency)

Key publications

Enqvist, J. et al. Stewardship as a boundary object for sustainability research: Linking care, knowledge and agency. Urban Plan. 179, 17–37 (2018).

Enqvist, J. & Ziervogel, G. Water governance and justice in Cape Town: An overview. Wiley Interdiscip. Rev. Water 6, e1354 (2019).

Enqvist, J. et al. Informality and water justice: community perspectives on water issues in Cape Town’s low-income neighbourhoods. J. Water Resour. Dev. 38, 108–129 (2022).

Enqvist, J. P., Campbell, L. K., Stedman, R. C. & Svendsen, E. S. Place meanings on the urban waterfront: a typology of stewardships. Sci. 14, (2019).

Enqvist, J. P., Tengö, M. & Bodin, Ö. Are bottom-up approaches good for promoting social–ecological fit in urban landscapes? Ambio 49, (2020).

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Publications by Enqvist, Johan