Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

food movements in Latin America and the Caribbean or Scotland; historical and geographical trajectories of single commodities; moral economies and geographies of food; geographies of (de)commodification; interdisciplinary social scientific research related to agri-food systems and development

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Personal profile


I am a senior lecturer in human geography at the University of Edinburgh. My research and teaching develops understanding of the uneven effects of plantation agriculture on environments, cultures, and bodies. 

Current research 

I am currently co-developing research and impact as principal investigator on the following projects:

  • Recipes for Resilience: Engaging Caribbean Youth in Climate Action and Afrodescendant Food Heritage through Story Mapping and Song, AHRC Standard Grant (AH/W004550/1), £10,074, PI; with Co-Is Drs. Patricia Northover, Thera Edwards, Sylvia Mitchell, Nicole Plummer, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica; Dr Kate Crowley, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, University of Edinburgh; Anthony Richards, Wild Caribbean. This project provided a forum for Caribbean youth to share their perspectives at COP26. For more about the project, and to hear the stories and song from the project, go to: 
  • Teaching Climate Justice through Ancestral Plant Heritage in Jamaica (ESRC Impact Accelerator Grant, c. £20,000), PI; with Co-Is: Kate Crowley, Judith Carney, Inna Yaneva-Toraman, Charmaine McKenzie, Anthony Richards, Patricia Northover, Sylvia Mitchell, Nicole Plummer, Thera Edwards). This project will use climate heritage research developed through two recent projects to support and extend the existing work of Jamaica's National 4-H Gardening Programme. Through a two-day workshop with twenty educators in St Catherine, Jamaica, we will co-develop two online teaching resources: a Recipes for Climate Justice Cookbook and a Digital Tour of the Jamaican Hummingbird Taino and Maroon Peoples Ancestral Garden. We will disseminate these resources across the Caribbean through our partners’ contacts and develop an ancestral school gardening network within and beyond Jamaica. The project will support climate heritage research to action, strengthening and extending existing partnerships.
  • Living Histories of Sugar in Scotland and the West Indies: Transnationalisms, Performance and Co-creation, AHRC Research Networking Grant (AH/S01148X/1), £44,790, PI; with Co-I Robin Sloan, Abertay University. This project aims to recast the way we think about, understand and live with the transnational and unfinished nature of the sugar industry in the West Indies and Scotland. The primary aim of the project is to decentre established historical narratives about sugar, enslavement and sugar work by encouraging performance artists and audiences from the West Indies and Scotland to contest, resignify or otherwise rework the historical record. The project performance is currently scheduled to run in Kingston, Greenock and Edinburgh during Black History and Calypso History Month, October 2022. 

I am co-investigator on the following projects:

  • Teaching Slavery in Scotland. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Accelerator Grant, c. £20,000. Co-I; with PI Diana Paton and Co-Is Brunache, Whyte, Vos, George 
  • Caricrop: Exploring Equitable Design Approaches of DLT-based Payment Systems for Agricultural Development, CIBC-First Caribbean International Bank, USD $8,000. Co-I; with PI Drs Arlene Bailey, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and Larissa Pschetz, University of Edinburgh.

Useful concepts

I find the concept of structural violence useful for explaining the persistence of plantation economies, cultures, and environments in the Caribbean and other postcolonial places. Structural violence exposes subtle, often invisible and systematic ways in which historical and geographical conditions are perpetuated, to the detriment of people and environments. For instance, colleagues and I have developed the concept in order to explain the escalating consumption of ultra-processed foods in Trinidad (which have recently been shown to have high environmental impacts in Brazil; Tereza da Silva et al. 2021), and progressively destructive agricultural land use in Trinidad (e.g.

The counterpart to structural violence is epistemic violence, or the predominance of particular moral economic narratives (e.g. of ‘development,’ ‘progress,’ or ‘modernity’) that can prevent historically marginalised peoples from valuing their own experiences and forms of expertise. Continuing along the scholarly pathways carved out by Caribbean scholars such as Franz Fanon, George Beckford, Kari Polanyi-Levitt and others, I am developing an approach to moral economy that is helpful for understanding this kind of 'coloniality of knowledge', but also for explaining how and why certain western forms of knowledge (e.g. market liberalism) continue to dominate despite being unfavourable to human and planetary health (e.g.; .

Finally, I have deepened and broadened interdisciplinary work on the concept of alternative food networks (AFNs), with an ethnographic monograph ( and edited volume ( that questions what 'alternative' food networks or economies may mean for people and places living with and/or against extractivist forms of capital accumulation and postcolonial hierarchies of modernity.

Next steps 

I have studied Cuba's national food sovereignty project and I am currently asking questions regarding who is included, who is excluded, and whether and how Cuba's so-called 'alternative food network' is hindered by long-term racial inequalities in access to land. I am developing projects with academics and activists in the Caribbean that seeks to increase recognition of and respect for Afrodescendant farmers in the Americas, who have maintained culinary and agrobiodiversity since the time of slavery.  

Research Interests

Food (in)justice and agrarian change; alternative food networks; alternative economies; Latin America and the Caribbean; transnational sugar histories; moral economies and moral economy research 

Research Groups

Geography of Social Justice Research Group, Cultural and Historical Geography Research Group, Sustainable Rural and Agricultural Development Research Group (University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, steering group member), Centre for Contemporary Latin American Studies

My research in a nutshell

Marisa Wilson’s work focuses on historical, political and cultural economies of agri-food networks, with a focus on Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and trans-Atlantic sugar networks linking the West Indies and Scotland. She uses ethnographic, oral history and visual/digital methods to increase understandings of food production and consumption in (post)colonial contexts. Her work on Caribbean food economies illustrates cultural, historical and political economic reasons behind food preferences, agricultural land use and, more recently, the outcomes of nutrition and other interventions aimed at re-localising food. She is currently exploring the use of digital methods such as story maps to create people-led understandings and alternatives to corporate food networks.



Research in a nutshell video:   



Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Social Science, University of Oxford

Award Date: 1 Jan 2009

Master of Social Science, University of Oxford

Award Date: 1 Jan 2004

Bachelor of Literature or Bachelor of Letters, University of California, Berkeley

Award Date: 1 Jan 2002

Bachelor of Social Science, University of California, Berkeley

Award Date: 1 Jan 2002


  • G Geography (General)
  • HB Economic Theory
  • GN Anthropology
  • GT Manners and customs
  • S Agriculture (General)
  • JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
  • F1201 Latin America (General)
  • JF Political institutions (General)
  • GE Environmental Sciences


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