Associate Professor Nathan Cooper

Qualifications: Bachelor of Laws (LLB Hons), Master of Arts (MA Political Economy), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) (Sheffield)

About Me

I am an academic lawyer - I work at the interface of environmental law and human rights law, and in particular on questions around the compatibility of ‘rights claims’ with ecologically sustainable governance. I am interested in the way that formal law shapes norms and interacts with other norms, and in the role of ‘vernacular law’ and law-like emanations, in pursuing (ecosystems) solidarity, and in achieving (ecologicial) justice and (ecocentric) welfare.

Legal Philosophy - Jurisprudence

I am very interested in Marx’s critique of political economy and in the ways that critiques of ‘class’ and capitalism can translate beyond anthropocentric confines, towards re-imagined configurations of law, and practical action. For this I study works across academic disciplines including political science, economics and social geography, drawing on Antonio Gramsci, Antonio Negri, and David Harvey amongst others. Furthermore I am interested by the philosophical insights of Michel Foucault on power and hierarchy, and by the implications of this for law and theology, as alluded to by Bonhoeffer and Derrida, and elucidated by John Caputo.

Practical Law

My current focus is on the governance of socio-economic necessities – in particular on water governance – through international human rights law, domestic constitutions, development goals, and grass-roots organisation. I am also interested in re-imagining the concept of property in the Anthropocene.

Papers I Teach

Research Supervised

Qaraman Mohammed Hasan (in progress): Equitable utilisation and minimisation of environmental harm in the case of Tigris and Euphrates under international environmental law.

Research Interests

I am currently working on a research project entitled ‘Eco-law for new challenges: Re-imagining resilience and vulnerability in the Anthropocene’. The project - being developed for application to the Marsden ‘Fast-Start’ programme - gathers a diverse range of legal scholars to, theorise the concept of vulnerability in international law, before applying vulnerability theory to identified areas of contemporary eco-social significance. In doing so, the project challenges the deontological assumptions of anthropocentric law and governance within a methodologically sensitive and conceptually ambitious framework.


Legal theory, Ecological Law and governance, law in the Anthropocene, international environmental law, international human rights law, water governance, law and development

Recent Publications

  • Cooper, N. (2019). Just transition or hollow transaction? Searching for the normative foundations of energy justice. Resource Management Bulletin, 12, 180-181.

  • Cooper, N. J. (2018). Grassroots responses to water poverty, and the limitations of a right to water in South Africa and Malawi. South African Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, 23(1), 31-73. Retrieved from

  • Cooper, N. J. (2017). After Mazibuko: Exploring the responses of communities excluded from South Africa's water experiment. Journal of African Law, 61(01), 57-81. doi:10.1017/S0021855317000055

  • Swan, A., Cooper, N., Gamble, W., & Pritchard, M. (2017). Using smart pumps to help deliver universal access to safe and affordable drinking water. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Engineering Sustainability, 1-9. doi:10.1680/jensu.16.00013

Find more research publications by Nathan Cooper