Sarah Lyon

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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.

Research Interets

Economic anthropology, international development, alternative food networks, ethical consumption and fair trade, agricultural production and commodity chains, coffee, Latin America, Maya culture and identity



I am currently conducting ongoing research on coffee, gender, economic development, and the impact of certification and quality standards in Mexico and Central America.

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. My book, Coffee and Community: Maya Farmers and Fair Trade Markets (University Press of Colorado, 2011), makes a critical contribution to economic anthropology by providing important insights into how exchange is vested in social relations and inequities in a globalizing world. 

Student Research Opportunities

I believe strongly that the best way to learn about anthropology is to actually become an anthropologist. Therefore, I welcome opportunities to work with interested undergraduate students on independent research projects. If you are interested in collaborating or are looking for a research mentor please contact me.  

Courses Taught

  • A & S 100: Ethical Consumption in the Digital Age
  • ANT 101: Introduction to Anthropology
  • ANT 301: History of Anthropological Thought
  • ANT 311: Anthropological Perspectives on Globalization
  • ANT 324: Contemporary Cultures of Latin America
  • ANT 338: Economic Anthropology
  • ANT 350: Business Anthropology
  • ANT 352: Anthropology of Tourism
  • ANT 538: Beyond Economic Growth
  • ANT 610: History of Anthropological Theory
  • ANT 734: Economic Anthropology
  • ANT 770: Globalization
  • ANT 770: Culture and Power in Latin America


Selected Publications: 




  • 2015 Lyon, S. Fair Trade and Indigenous Communities in Latin America. 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 Moodie, Ellen and Jennifer Burrell, eds. Central America and the New Millennium: Living Transition and Reimagining Democracy. 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.

Please see: for a complete list.

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