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Dr. Sheila Rao

Assistant Professor (LTA), Sociology and Anthropology

Dr. Sheila Rao
Availability: For May and June, my office hours are: 3pm-4pm, or by appointment.

I am a socio-cultural anthropologist specializing in the feminist political economy of agri-food systems and organizational change, with long-term engagement in the East Africa Region and in urban settings in Canada. My research experience with qualitative and collaborative research design and analysis includes a diverse range of experiences  from large-scale, multi-country 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, communication and advocacy. 

I completed my PhD in Anthropology at Carleton University, with external funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Ontario Graduate Studies (OGS) Scholarship,  and The International Development Research Centre (IDRC). My doctoral research examined the gendered labour of 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 and Cooperation Canada (Co-funded by MITACS) analyzed 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 investments.

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, I study food labour in relation to the various meanings, practices and politics of dietary health. Current areas include:  gene-editing technologies for nutrient-uptake, farmer-led seed systems management, and women's rights advocacy with agroecology practice as care work. 

Teaching activities

Current Courses (2023-2024):

Introduction to Culture 

Field Research Methods 

Gender and Society

Food and Social Change 

Previous Courses Taught:

Ethnography of Sub-Saharan Africa

Gender, Globalization and Ethnography

Anthropology of Development and Underdevelopment


Selected publications and contributions

Oliver, B., Deawuo, L. A., & Rao, S. (2022). A Food Sovereignty Approach to Localization in International Solidarity. Societies12(5), 145.

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.

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.

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