Assistant Professor, Sociology


Ph.D. in Sociology, University of California, San Diego, June 2016
M.A in Sociology, University of California, San Diego, June 2012
B.A in Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz, June 2008


Rachel Soper earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from UC San Diego in 2016. She researches the alternative food movement, with particular interest in the relationship between environmental sustainability and social justice. When do these dual goals complement each other, and when are they contradictory?

For her dissertation, Rachel travelled to Ecuador to study indigenous peasant farmers in the rural Andean highlands. She compared the experiences of these small farmers with the discourse of food sovereignty and found that local organic food production was not their ideal. Instead, local markets and organic methods entail ethnic discrimination and exhausting manual labor while export production offers better prices and livelihood security. Thus, efforts to make the food system more sustainable must also pay closer attention to farm labor and livelihoods.

Bringing this same research interest closer to home, Rachel is starting a new research project on agricultural production in Ventura County. She plans to compare the working conditions of indigenous and mestizo farm labor on organic and conventional strawberry farms in the area. She would like to join with students and local advocacy organizations to make the findings of this research useful to policy efforts such as the Farmworker Bill of Rights.

Rachel currently lives in San Diego with her husband and daughter. She enjoys long walks with the stroller, reading under a shady tree at the park, and people watching at coffee shops. Rachel looks forward to starting at CI in January 2017.

Select Publications

  • Soper, Rachel. 2016. “Local is Not Fair: Indigenous Peasant Farmer Preference for Export Markets.” Agriculture and Human Values 33(3): 537-548.

  • Soper, Rachel. 2015. “Globalization and the Agrarian Question: Divergent Development of Two Export-Oriented Farming Communities.” Current Perspectives in Social Theory 34(1): 235-260.

  • Soper, Rachel. 2013. “Reclaiming Development: Indigenous Community Organizations and the Flower Export Industry in the Ecuadorian Highlands.” Pp 128-149 in Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorians Facing the Twenty-First Century, edited by Marc Becker. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.


Food and Agriculture, Environment, Development, Globalization, Social Movements, Latin America, Race and Ethnicity, Labor

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