Sarah Osterhoudt

Sarah Osterhoudt

Associate Professor, Anthropology


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

Geographical areas of specialization
Madagascar; Africa; Indian Ocean

Research Interests
environmental anthropology; agrarian studies; agroforestry systems; political ecology; ethnobotany; commodities and trade; ethnographic writing; anthropology of knowledge


About Sarah Osterhoudt

My 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, I investigate the ways agrarian landscapes emerge as cultural landscapes. I examine how ideological dimensions of landscapes, and the forms of power they engender, become particularly important in times of pronounced cultural, economic, and environmental change.

Currently, I am researching the dramatic vanilla boom in Madagascar, and its influence on the cultural, economic and environmental dynamics of smallholder vanilla farmers, as well as for others situated across the international vanilla supply chain. In particular, I am examining the affective dimensions of violence, and the competing notions of justice, associated with the market boom.

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 (FAO), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (SIDA).


  • E101: Sustainability & Society
  • A205: Sustainable Agriculture & Trade
  • E318: Nature / Culture: Global Perspectives in Environmental Anthropology
  • E366: Commodities & Culture
  • 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.


2020   Osterhoudt, Sarah. Nobody Wants to Kill: Economies of affect and violence in Madagascar’s vanilla boom. American Ethnologist 47(3): 249-263.

2020   Osterhoudt, Sarah, Dana Graef, Alder Keleman Saxena, Shaila Seshia Galvin, and Michael Dove. Chains of Meaning: Crops, Commodities, and the Spaces in-between. World Development 135 (November).

2019   Neimark, Benjamin, Sarah Osterhoudt, Lloyd Blum and Tim Healy. Mob Justice and ‘The Civilized Commodity.’ Journal of Peasant Studies (December 2019): 1 – 20.

2019   Neimark, Benjamin, Sarah Osterhoudt, Hayley Alter, and Adrian Gradinar. A New Sustainability Model for Measuring Changes in Power and Access in Global Commodity Chains: Through a Smallholder Lens. Palgrave Communications 5(1): 1—11.

2018   Osterhoudt, Sarah. Community conservation and the (Mis)appropriation of taboo. Development and Change 49(5): 1248-1267. 

2018   Osterhoudt, Sarah. Remembered Resilience: Oral History Narratives and Community Resilience in Agroforestry Systems. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, special issue: Agriculture, Food Systems, and Climate Change. 33(3): 252-255.

2018   Osterhoudt, Sarah. Land of no taboo: The agrarian politics of neglect and care in Madagascar. Journal of Peasant Studies 45(7): 1297-1313.

2016   Osterhoudt, Sarah. Written with seed: The political ecology of memory in Madagascar. Journal of Political Ecology 23(1): 263-278.

2015   Claus, Catherine, Sarah Osterhoudt, Michael Dove, Lauren Baker, Luisa Cortesi, Chris Hebdon and Amy Zhang. Disaster, degradation, dystopia: A political ecology approach to disaster research. In: A Handbook of Political Ecology, eds. Raymond Bryant and Soyeun Kim. Edward Elgar Publishers. pp.291–304.

2013   Baker, Lauren, Michael Dove, Dana Graef, Alder Keleman, David Kneas, Sarah Osterhoudt, and Jeffrey Stoike. Whose diversity counts? The politics and paradoxes of modern diversity. Sustainability 5(6): 2495-2518. doi:10.3390/su5062495

2012   Osterhoudt, Sarah. Sense and sensibilities: Negotiating meanings within agriculture in northeastern Madagascar. Ethnology 49(4): 283-301.

2010   Osterhoudt, Sarah. The field as labyrinth: Exploring ethnographic practices through the works of Jorge Luis Borges. Anthropology Matters 12(1).