The core of the Agrarian Studies Program’s activities is a weekly colloquium organized around an annual theme. Invited specialists send papers in advance that are the focus of an organized discussion by the faculty and graduate students associated with the colloquium.
This topic embraces, inter alia, the study of mutual perceptions between countryside and city, and patterns of cultural and material exchange, extraction, migration, credit, legal systems, and political order that link them.
It also includes an understanding of how different societies conceive of the spatial order they exhibit. What terms are meaningful and how are they related?: e.g., frontier, wilderness, arable, countryside, city, town, agriculture, commerce, “hills,” lowlands, maritime districts, inland. How have these meanings changed historically and what symbolic and material weight do they bear?
Sarah Osterhoudt is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research examines the relationships between people, the environment, and global trade systems, especially within agricultural and agroforestry landscapes. Working with smallholder vanilla and clove farmers in Northeastern Madagascar, she investigates the ways agrarian landscapes emerge as cultural landscapes. She examines how ideological dimensions of landscapes, and the forms of power they engender, become particularly important in times of pronounced cultural, economic, and environmental change.
In addition to my academic research, she co-founded an organization that partners with farmer cooperatives in Madagascar to foster more integrated and equitable agricultural supply chains. This organization has received support from USAID, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (SIDA).