I am interested in the political economy of international development and the cultures and ethics of social change. With a background in sustainable agriculture and fair trade, I investigate questions pertaining to: (1) rural livelihoods and identities; (2) production standards and certifications; and (3) sustainability governance and participation. By examining power structures and relations at multiple levels of analysis, my work connects local experiences to regional and global forces, enabling me to unpack the relationship between structure and agency. I also employ methods that open spaces of radical openness where agrarian communities can share their expertise, voice their concerns, and collaborate with professionals to improve sustainability in practice.
In 2010, I worked with small-scale rooibos tea farmers in South Africa's Western Cape Province to co-develop a participatory research, training, and networking initiative. At that time, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork with a team of community-based farmer leaders, generating in-depth understanding of the issues facing producers in rural coloured (mixed race) areas, including challenges with Fairtrade and organic market access. Our engagement resulted in a ‘participatory commodity networking’ approach to Fairtrade producer support.
I also have spent significant time in Latvia where I developed a nationally accredited teacher training program as a Peace Corps Volunteer then returned under a Fulbright grant to examine the impacts of European integration on Latvia's organic farming movement. More broadly, I have consulted on Fairtrade charcoal standards in Namibia, evaluated rural income generation activities in Northern Ghana, and helped launch UNESCO's global EDUCAIDS initiative to coordinate educational responses to HIV and AIDS.
My recent work focuses on the ethics of development, with three article-length manuscripts in progress. The first of these connects the wide-ranging discourse on development ethics to propose a common set of principles for planning, conducting, and evaluating development research while the second comprises an empirical analysis of the ethical challenges facing action researchers who work in development. The third manuscript elucidates the contributions of subaltern feminist theories to development ethics.
In the near future, I will embark upon a comparative historical study on the topic of transformative society. Engaging the cases of post-Soviet Latvia and post-Apartheid South Africa, this book-length project will query the role of cultural worldviews in generating democratic social change, with particular focus on the indigenous value systems informing anti-authoritarian resistance movements, national transitions to democracy, and post-authoritarian sustainable development agendas. "Post-authoritarian Perspectives on Democracy and Sustainable Development" will advance understanding of the sociopolitical dimension of sustainability, contributing to the literature on political rights, environmental ethics, and social change.