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Indiana University Bloomington
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Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences
One Discipline, Four Fields

Sarah Osterhoudt


Assistant Professor, Anthropology Department


(812) 855-0871 | Email | Office Hours

  • Ph.D. Yale University Department of Anthropology and School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. 2014
  • Joint-Ph.D. New York Botanical Garden. 2014
  • M.E.M. in Social Ecology, Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
  • B.S. in Biology with Certificate in Science in Society, Wesleyan University

Geographical Areas of Specialization: Madagascar, Africa, Indian Ocean

Topical Interests: Environmental anthropology, agrarian studies, agro-ecological systems, political ecology, trade and development, anthropology of knowledge


My research examines the relationships between people, the environment, and global trade systems, especially within agricultural and agro-ecological landscapes. I ask: what are the connections between the cultivation of land and the cultivation of self? Working with smallholder vanilla and clove farmers in Northeastern Madagascar, I investigate ways agrarian landscapes emerge as cultural landscapes, where individuals simultaneously cultivate meanings, moralities and memories. I examine how ideological dimensions of landscape become particularly important in times of pronounced cultural and environmental change, including the increase in religious conversions to Christianity and the proliferation of conservation and development programs.

Currently, I am researching the centuries-old global trade history in Madagascar’s Bay of Antongil, asking how this economic history is reflected and reinvented within the identities, idioms, moralities, and practices of individuals of the region. I also situate current trade programs such as Fair Trade and Organic certifications within the larger history of linked economic and social relationships in Northeastern Madagascar.

My research has been supported by organizations including the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays Program, the Lewis B. Cullman Foundation, the Yale Program in Agrarian Studies; the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.

In addition to my academic research, I have 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, Catholic Relief Services, and the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency.


E101: Sustainability & Society

A205: Sustainable Agriculture & Trade

E318: Nature / Culture: Global Perspectives in Environmental Anthropology

E444 / 644: People & Protected Areas: Conservation in Theory and Practice

E606: Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology

Selected Publications


2017. Vanilla Landscapes: Meaning, Memory and the Cultivation of Place in Madagascar. Advances in Economic Botany Series, New York Botanical Garden Press.

Articles & Chapters

Accepted. Community conservation and the (mis)appropriation of taboo. Development and Change. 

Accepted. Remembered Resilience: Commentary on Oral History Narratives and Community Resilience in Agroforestry Systems. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, special issue: Agriculture, Food Systems, and Climate Change.

2017. The land of no taboo: Agrarian politics of neglect and care in Madagascar. Journal of Peasant Studies.

2016. Written with Seed: The Political Ecology of Memory in Madagascar. Journal of Political Ecology 23: 263-278.

2015. Disaster, Degradation, Dystopia: A Political Ecology Approach to Disaster Research. With: Catherine Claus, Michael Dove, Lauren Baker, Luisa Cortesi, Chris Hebdon and Amy Zhang. In: A Handbook of Political Ecology, Raymond Bryant and Soyeun Kim, eds. Edward Elgar Publishers.

2013. Whose Diversity Counts? The Politics and Paradoxes of Modern Diversity. With: Lauren Baker, Michael Dove, Dana Graef, Alder Keleman, David Kneas, and Jeffrey Stoike. Sustainability 5(6): 2495-2518.

2012. Sense and Sensibilities: Negotiating Meanings within Agriculture in Northeastern Madagascar. Ethnology 49(4): 283-301.

2010. The field as Labyrinth: Exploring Ethnographic Practices through the works of Jorge Luis Borges. Anthropology Matters 12(1).

2009. Writing Knowledge: Re-articulations of Vanilla Production in Imorona Madagascar. Tropical Resources Institute Research Bulletin. 28:13-16.