My research sits at the intersection of studies of economy, environment, labor, and development. My first book, The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India is an ethnography of how global movements for a more ethical capitalism intersect with regional subnational agitations. The Darjeeling Distinction won the 2014 Society for Economic Anthropology Book Prize. An article in Agriculture and Human Values on Geographical Indication won the 2014 Anthropology & Environment Society Junior Scholar Award.
My forthcoming book, Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea (University of California Press, 2020), examines how quality became a discrete category of knowledge and value from the final decades of British rule in India to the early years of Indian independence. It explores how a tension between taste and the market came to be embodied in the experts who evaluate tea's flavor; the buyers who purchase tea at auction in India; the blenders who create flavors tailored to specific markets; the scientists who study and manipulate tea’s chemical contents; and, finally, mass-market black tea itself.
I co-edited How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet with Alex Blanchette (Tufts University) on the intersections of labor studies and environment anthropology. The book is based on an School for Advanced Research Advanced Seminar and will be will be published by SAR/UNM Press in September 2019.
I also have recently started new research on land, water, climate change, and geopolitics in the Himalayan border region of Kalimpong, a district of the Indian state of West Bengal.
Before coming to Brown, from 2012-2015, I was a postdoctoral fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012.
Visit my personal website www.sarahbesky.com for more information about and pdfs of my publications.