Dr. Sheila Rao
Assistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
I am a socio-cultural anthropologist specializing in the feminist political economy of agri-food systems, communication technologies and organizational change in international development, with domestic interests in feminist policies and social inequality and justice movements. My research experience with qualitative and collaborative research design and analysis includes a diverse range of projects from large-scale, multi-country, multi-regional projects to more in-depth ethnographic studies with international research and non-governmental organizations. My approach is guided by scholarship and lived experiences that aim to decolonize research processes.
I completed my PhD in Anthropology at Carleton University, with external funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and The International Development Research Centre (IDRC). My doctoral research examined the gendered labour and natural resources investment into bio-fortified sweet potato production, provision and sales in Mwanza, Tanzania. My post-doctoral research with the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa studied the role of civil society organizations in addressing systemic barriers to social and economic inequality in both the broader international development sector and more specifically in agricultural and nutritional development initiatives.
Currently, my work is situated in two sites: in West and Central Tanzania regions and in the Ottawa Valley, where I work with feminist and food justice organizations. Through the lens of feminist agroecology and social reproduction, my research and advocacy work examines food labour in relation to the various meanings of dietary and nutritional health.
Current Courses (2021-2022):
Introduction to Culture (online)
Field Research Methods (online and in-person)
Previous Courses Taught (2017-2020):
Ethnography of Sub-Saharan Africa
Gender, Globalization and Ethnography
Anthropology of Development and Underdevelopment
Selected publications and contributions
Rao,S., (2021) The role of funders in facilitating a gender equal media, Centre for International Media Assistance (CIMA), Long Abstract Series on Gender Equal Media, Washington, D.C.
Rao, S. (2020) ‘Health and wealth’ from biofortified crops, but for whom? A gendered analysis of sweet potato promotion in Tanzania. Canadian Journal of Development Studies/ Revue canadienned'études du développement, Special Section, 41:2, 314-332.
Moorsom, T.M, Rao, S., Gengenbach, H., & Huggins, C. (2020) Food security and the contested visions of agrarian change in Africa, Canadian Journal of Development Studies / Revue canadienne d'études du développement, 41:2, 212-223.
Rao, S. and Tiessen, R. (2020) Whose feminism(s)? Perceptions of feminism from partner organizations, and implications for future implementation of Canada’s Feminist International Aid Policy (FIAP) in the Global South. International Journal, Special Issue.
Tiessen, R., Rao, S., and Lough, B. (2020) Everyday Interactions and relational dynamics in gender equality and women’s economic empowerment programs: Volunteering for development (V4D) as spaces for transformational feminist practice? Journal of Developing Societies.
Rao,S., (2020) Organizational and human resource capacity for addressing gender equality: Civil society engagement with the Feminist International Assistance Policy. Working Paper for Cooperation Canada. Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), Le CQFD del’Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI).
Rao, S., Huggins, C. (2017) Sweet Success? Contesting Biofortification in Tanzania. In James Sumberg (ed.) Agronomy For Development: The Politics of Knowledge in Agricultural Research. University of Sussex: Brighton, 104-120.
Masuki K.F.G. · Mowo J.G. · Rao, S. ·Kamugisha R., Opondo, C. Tanui J. (2011) Improving smallholder farmers’ access to information for enhanced decision making in natural resource management: Experiences from South Western Uganda, in Innovations as Key to the Green Revolution in Africa, Publisher: Earthscan, Editors: Bationo A, Waswa BS, Okeyo J, Maina F, pp.1145-1159.