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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Academic Staff  /  Vera Ehrenstein

Véra Ehrenstein

IMG-5979-2.jpgDr Véra Ehrenstein

Teaching fellow in Environment, Politics & Society

UCL Department of Geography
North West Wing, Gower Street, WC1E 6BT







I was a Junior Research Fellow at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies (2018-20, Turbulence) before joining the Department of Geography as a teaching fellow in Environment, Politics & Society. My work has been mostly concerned with the interplay between natural sciences, politics and economics in the climate crisis. I am active within UCL Anthropocene Initiative and with Alice Rudge from the Department of Anthropology I co-lead the project ‘Anthropocene Substitutions’ (Feb-July 2021) supported through the SHS Dean’s Funds. Beyond UCL, I am a researcher in the ‘African Technoscapes’ cluster of the Regions2050 project hosted by Wiser at Wits University (Johannesburg, South Africa).

Trained in the physical sciences, I graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique (France) in 2009. A research internship on public debates about genetically modified crops at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin, Germany) sparked my interest in environmental issues and the social sciences. I decided to do a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at the Centre for the Sociology of Innovation, Ecole des mines de Paris (France). In 2014, I moved to the UK to work as a postdoctoral researcher on the ERC project ‘Can Markets Solve Problems?’ (PI: Prof. Daniel Neyland) in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths College. I have conducted fieldwork in Europe (France, the UK, Germany) and Africa (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Burkina Faso and Gabon). While finishing my PhD, I briefly worked with the Research unit of the French Development Agency.

The emergence and contestation of carbon markets

I have conducted research on the development of carbon offsetting and incentives to reduce tropical deforestation (REDD+) in the UNFCCC negotiations. This work involved tracing how the promissory politics of environmental markets played out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I also carried out research on the European Union emissions trading system where I examined the relationships between economic expertise, industrial lobbying and environmental activism. I continue to be interested in carbon markets and their ongoing contestation.


Vaccine procurement in the global health era

I have conducted work on how vaccine procurement for low income countries has been transformed in the last 20 years. I focused on a global health partnership called Gavi set up to engage the pharmaceutical industry and make new vaccines more widely available. I examined one of Gavi’s early ‘market shaping effort’: the Advance Market Commitment for pneumococcal vaccines. This initiative is now presented as a model for the Covax AMC, which is expected to ensure that poorer nations also get access to vaccines against covid-19.


Tropical forests, science and postcolonial politics in the Anthropocene

My current research examines the production of knowledge about the ecological properties of the Central African forests. I am particularly interested in the importance taken on by measuring the carbon stored in trees’ woody tissue. My objective is to explore a range of issues, such as the extent to which the Earth system paradigm redefines field sciences and their practices (ecology, forestry), the postcolonial relations that shape collaborations between European and African research teams, and the tricky interplay between science and politics in Internet-mediated debates about the role of tropical forests in addressing climate change.


Neyland, D., Ehrenstein, V., Milyaeva, S. (2019) Can markets solve problems? An empirical inquiry into neoliberalism in action. London: Goldsmiths Press.

Muniesa F., Doganova L., Ortiz H., Pina-Stranger A., Paterson, F., Bourgoin A., Ehrenstein V., Juven P.-A., Pontille D., Saraç-Lesavre B., Yon G. (2017) Capitalization: A cultural guide, Paris: Presses des Mines.


Peer-reviewed articles

Ehrenstein, V., Neyland D. (2021) ‘Economic under-determination: Industrial competitiveness and free allowances in the European carbon market’, Journal of Cultural Economy, online first.

Neyland, D., Ehrenstein, V., Milyaeva, S. (2019) ‘On the difficulties of addressing collective concerns through markets: from market devices to accountability devices’, Economy and Society, 48(2), 243-267.

Ehrenstein V. (2018) ‘Carbon sink geopolitics’, Economy and Society, 47(1), 162-186.

Ehrenstein V. (2018) ‘The friction of the mundane: On the problematic marketization of the carbon stored by trees in the tropics’, Journal of Cultural Economy, 11(5), 404-419.

Ehrenstein V., Neyland D. (2018) ‘On scale work: evidential practices and global health interventions’, Economy and Society, 47(1), 59-82.

Neyland D., Ehrenstein V., Milyaeva S. (2017) ‘Mundane Market Matters: On sensitive metrology and the governance of market-based interventions for global health’, Revue française de sociologie, 58(3), 425-449.

Leménager T., Ehrenstein V. (2016) ‘Des principes agroécologiques à leur mise en pratique. Quels effets environnementaux en Zambie et quels enseignements pour les bailleurs de fonds ?’, Revue Tiers Monde, 226-227 (2-3), 65-93.

Ehrenstein V. (2013) ‘Les professionnels de la préparation. Aider la République Démocratique du Congo à réduire sa déforestation’, Sociologies pratiques, 2(27), 91-104.

Ehrenstein V., F. Muniesa (2013) ‘The conditional sink: Counterfactual display in the valuation of a carbon offsetting reforestation project’, Valuation Studies, 1(2), 161-188.


Book chapters

Ehrenstein, V. (forthcoming) ‘Technocratic activism: environmental organisations, carbon markets and European bureaucracy’, in Birkbak A., Papazu I. (eds.), Democratic Situations, Mattering Press.

Ehrenstein, V. (forthcoming) ‘Financial circuits of vaccine procurement in the global health era’, in Chiapello E., Engels A., Gresse E. (eds.), Financialising Development: Global Games and Local Experiments, Routledge.

Ehrenstein V., Laurent B. (2016) ‘State experiments with public participation: French nanotechnology, Congolese deforestation, and the search for national publics’, in Chilvers J., Kearnes M. (eds.), Remaking participation: Science, environment and emergent publics, London: Routledge.


Special issues

Ehrenstein V., Bollington L. (2020) Turbulence, Think pieces, 2, Spring 2020.

Neyland D., Ehrenstein V., Milyaeva S. (2018) ‘Mundane market matters: from ordinary to profound and back again’, Journal of Cultural Economy, 11(5).



Rudge A., Ehrenstein V. (2021) ‘Dreams of Purity: Improved Palms, Refined Oils, and Ethical Consumption’, Society + Space Magazine, April 2021.

Ehrenstein V., Valiergue A., (2021) ‘Studying a (contested/concerned) market in the making: Voluntary offsetting, from UN climate talks to corporate sustainability departments’, economic sociology _the european electronic newsletter, 22(2), 4-9.

Ehrenstein, V. (2019) ‘Simone Lovera-Bilderbeek, 2019, Agents, assumptions and motivations behind REDD+: creating an international forest regime’, Review of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Studies, 100(1-4), 149-152.


GEOG007 Human Ecology

GEOG0150 Space and Society

GEOG0025 Political Geography & Geopolitics

Tutor for GEOG0151 & GEOG0012 (Thinking Geographically I & II)

Dissertation supervision



GEOG0073 Environmental Knowledges

Dissertation supervision MSc Environmental, Politics and Society