Area of Interest:
I’m a sociocultural anthropologist with a focus on food and agrarian politics. My dissertation research is based in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba, but my area of interest includes food, land and politics throughout the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean. I situate my work within engaged scholarship, political ecology, social movement studies and studies of alternative economies. I hope to bring knowledge gathered through anthropological/ethnographic methods to bear on policy advocacy work.
PhD in Anthropology expected 2016
MA in Anthroplogy, UNC, 2012. Thesis: Agroecology Versus Productivism: Competing discourses on the future of Cuban agriculture
BA in Sociocultural Anthropology and minor in Photography, George Washington University, 2007. Thesis: Tension in Love City: Tourism and racism in St. John, USVI
Prior to beginning graduate school at UNC, I worked as a researcher and policy analyst for the advocacy organization Food & Water Watch in Washington, DC. My work covered issues of food safety, trade, fisheries management, fish farming policy, organic standards and economic justice for coastal communities. I continue to consult part time for non-profit organizations on these topics. As a doctoral intern I have also worked with Food First, the Institute for Food and Development Policy in Oakland, CA.
Research & Activities:
My dissertation research relates to the agroecology and permaculture movements in Cuba. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba entered into a period of severe material scarcity in the 1990s. This crisis and the necessity for self-sufficiency that it brought on opened the doors to a flurry of activity and infrastructure-building around urban agriculture, agroecology research and horizontal knowledge exchange between growers. Cuba never became entirely organic and there were always conflicts of opinion within the state and amongst farmers as to the benefits of agroecological vs. conventional agriculture. However, the impressive gains that the country did make in alternative agriculture attracted international change and many advocates began to paint Cuba as the poster-child for agricultural transition. Despite this, relatively little research has been done to truly explore the perspectives, visions and expectations of the actors (growers, extension agents, government representatives, etc.) as they go about their daily dealings with food and agriculture. My fieldwork, carried out for five weeks in 2011, five weeks in 2012, one year in 2014, and intermittently in 2015, investigates the current state of the alternative agriculture project in a central Cuban province, within the context of the changing national political-economic climate. Although many foreign commentators have remarked that Cuba is losing its edge in alternative agriculture as the state explores other options, I argue that the movement is gaining strength on a grassroots level that operates outside the formal programming of the state.