SS (Serena) Stein BA MPhil

SS (Serena) Stein BA MPhil


Serena is an Anthropologist, with specialization in agriculture development, commodity frontiers, human-environmental relations, farmers and technology, and South-South linkages. She is a Researcher in the Sociology of Development and Change and Rural Sociology Groups since October 2020.

Drawing on a decade of ethnographic and professional experience among small-scale farming communities and frontier plantations in southern Africa and Brazil, Serena studies new imperialism and agribusiness within and across the Global South, and the social, ecological, economic, and political possibilities of food and farming system transformations. 

Drawing on two years of ethnographic research, her doctoral work examines South-South experiments in agriculture development and commodity extraction in northern Mozambique. The project follows enduring imperial intimacies between Brazil and Mozambique that shape top-down and grassroots projects to remake an African agrarian landscape in the image of 'exemplars' of rural development and peasant mobilization in the Global South. This research feeds two book projects. The first, Kindred Frontiers, examines the failed imagination of offshoring Brazilian soybean production to Africa, via living with and farming alongside small-scale farmers in northern Mozambique. The second, Soybeans Go to Africa, combines archival materials and long-term ethnography to trace the introduction of soybean and soy capitalism in Africa.  

New research brings work on agriculture development and extractive frontiers into conversation with food systems transformation and multispecies conviviality. At the nexus of Regenerative Agriculture and Convivial Conservation, she cultivates a critical perspective of sustainable farming, species entanglement, environmental racism and resistance through comparative work on farmers' soil relations and epistemic communities taking shape around carbon sequestration in soil in Brazil, the United States, and southern Africa. In this vein, Serena is a lead researcher for Regeneration Midwest, investigating changing farming practices, environmental health, and impacts of COVID-19 on agricultural communities in the United States.

Additionally, ongoing projects use experimental research methods with sound, image, and collaborative ethnography to examine how people revalue, remember, and regenerate threatened ecologies and 'empty' landscapes. Serena currently co-leads the SSRC-funded Mangrove CoLAB, which is building networks of scholars, practitioners, and agrarian communities across the Indian Ocean World to study emerging linkages between East Africa and western India amid coastal port development, coal extraction, and agrarian change. As a National Geographic Explorer, Serena also accompanies conservation politics, salvage ecology, and indigenous eco-relations among farming communities on Mozambique's Mount Namuli.

Serena comes to WUR from doctoral studies in Anthropology at Princeton University. Previously, she received an M.Phil (with Distinction) in Development Studies from University of Oxford and a BA (summa cum laude) from University of Pennsylvania.