Sarah Lyon

smlyon3's picture
  • Professor
  • Associate Dean of Faculty
  • Anthropology
  • Gender and Women's Studies
  • Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies
  • Environmental and Sustainability Studies
257 Patterson Office Tower
859 257-5038, 859-539-1296
Research Interests:

Ph.D. Emory University
B.A. Smith College


My work is situated at the juncture of development studies, economic anthropology and food studies. I am particularly interested in how alternative food networks such as fair trade work to create and sustain diverse economies in the United States and Latin America.



My current research explores how changing labor practices, economic relations, and discourses surrounding marketable coffee qualities (e.g., organic, fairtrade) within global value chains affect cooperatives and communities. Specifically, we are investigating how these changing practices shape the gendered conditions of women's coffee production in Oaxaca, Mexico and struggles for gender equity across the value chain.

My past research explored the nature of producer and consumer relations in certified commodity networks and questioned the promise that fair trade and other consumption based development initiatives hold for agricultural smallholders in developing countries. Fair trade is a form of alternative trade that seeks to improve the position of disempowered small-scale producers through trade as a means of development. The movement, which promotes labeling, certification, and consumer action, rejects the narrow view of third world producers as victims and instead emphasizes the role that northern consumption can play in their economic empowerment and well-being. 

Courses Taught

  • ANT 101: Introduction to Anthropology
  • ANT 245: Food, Culture, and Society 
  • ANT 301: History of Anthropological Thought
  • ANT 311: Anthropological Perspectives on Globalization
  • ANT 324: Contemporary Cultures of Latin America
  • ANT 338: Economic Anthropology
  • ANT 352: Business, Culture, and Society
  • ANT 352: Anthropology of Tourism
  • ANT 480: Business and Organizational Cultures
  • ANT 582: Public Anthropology - Senior Seminar
  • ANT 601: Contemporary Theory
  • ANT 610: History of Anthropological Theory
  • ANT 680: Business and Organizational Cultures
  • ANT 734: Economic Anthropology
  • ANT 770: Globalization
  • ANT 770: Culture and Power in Latin America


Selected Publications: 




  • 2021 Lyon, S. Fair Trade's Impact on Smallholders. Handbook on the Human Impact of Agriculture. James, Harvey S. Jr., ed. Pp. 194-217. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • 2021 Lyon, S. Business Anthropology. In Sage Handbook of Cultural Anthropology. Pedersen, Lene and Lisa Cliggett, eds. Pp. 364-382. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
  • 2018 Lyon, S. Digital Connections: Coffee, Agency, and Unequal Platforms. In Digital Food Activism. Schneider, Tanja, et al., eds. Pp. 70-88. New York: Routledge.
  • 2017 ​Lyon, S.  Economics. In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology. Brown, Nina, et al, eds. Pp. 1-27. Wasington DC: American Anthropological Association.
  • 2015 Lyon, S. Fair Trade and Indigenous Communities in Latin America. In Handbook of Research on Fair Trade.  Raynolds, Laura and Elizabeth Bennett, eds. Edward Elgar.
  • 2012 Lyon, S. “Here The Campesino is Dead”: Can Central America’s Smallholders Be Saved? In Central America and the New Millennium: Living Transition and Reimagining Democracy. Moodie, Ellen and Jennifer Burrell, eds. Pp. 196-211. New York: Berghan Books.
  • 2012 Lyon, S. and C. Wells. Ethnographies of Global Tourism: Cultural Heritage, Economic Encounters, and the Redefinition of Impact. In Global Tourism: Cultural Heritage and Economic Encounters.  Lyon, S. and E. Christian Wells, eds. Pp. 1-20. Walnut Creek: CA: Alta Mira Press.
  • 2010 Lyon, S. A Market of Our Own: Women’s Livelihoods and Fair Trade Coffee Markets. In Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies. Lyon, S. and M. Moberg, eds. Pp. 125-146. New York: New York University Press.
  • 2010 Lyon, S. and M. Moberg. What’s Fair? The Paradox of Seeking Justice through Markets. In Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies. Lyon, S. and M. Moberg, eds. Pp. 1-24. New York: New York University Press.
  • 2006 Just Java: Roasting Fair Trade Coffee. In, Fast Food-Slow Food: The Economic Anthropology of the Global Food System. Wilk, R., ed. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.
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