Ryan Isakson

Associate Professor
(416) 287-7345



Associate Chair, Department of Global Development Studies (2021 - Present)

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

Political economy of food and agrarian change, Political ecology, Financialization, Peasant livelihoods, Agroecology, Environmental change, Land and water control, Latin America, Guatemala.


I am a political economist with a broad interest in food systems and agrarian development, particularly in Latin American contexts. My research is driven by a desire to understand the relationships between socio-economic change, land use practices, and the marginalization of agricultural producers, with the overarching objective of informing and fomenting the development of socially just and environmentally sustainable agri-food systems. To date, my research has focused upon three overlapping themes: (1) the interplay between market development, peasant livelihoods, and the cultivation of agricultural biodiversity in Guatemala; (2) how the contemporary processes of 'financialization' contour food economies; and (3) the interplay between financial inclusion, the commercialization of peasant agriculture, and the economic and environmental vulnerability of Central American farmers, especially in the context of climate change.


Jennifer Clapp and S. Ryan Isakson. 2018. Speculative Harvests: Financialization, Food, and Agriculture. Fernwood and Practical Action Publishing (Open Access).

Saturnino M. Borras, Jr., Jennifer C. Franco, S. Ryan Isakson, Les Levidow, and Pietje Vervest. 2016. “The Rise of Flex Crops and Commodities: Implications for Research.” The Journal of Peasant Studies, 43(1): 93-115.

S. Ryan Isakson. 2015. “Derivatives for Development? Vulnerability and the Financialisation of Climate Risk Management.” Journal of Agrarian Change, 15(4): 569-580.

S. Ryan Isakson. 2014. “Food and Finance: The Financial Transformation of Agro-food Supply Chains.” The Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(5): 749-775.

S. Ryan Isakson. 2014. “Maize Diversity and the Political Economy of Agrarian Restructuring in Guatemala.” Journal of Agrarian Change, 14(3): 347-379.

S. Ryan Isakson. 2010. “No Hay Ganancia en la Milpa: The Agrarian Question, Food Sovereignty, and the On-Farm Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity in the Guatemalan Highlands.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 36(4): 725-759.


PhD, University of Massachusetts Amherst
BA, University of Utah