Ryan Isakson

Ryan Isakson
Associate Professor
Telephone number
(416) 287-7345
Building HL 416

Dr. Ryan Isakson is a political economist with a broad interest in food systems and agrarian development, particularly in Latin American contexts. His research is driven by a desire to understand the relationships between socio-economic change, land use practices, and the marginalization of agricultural producers, with the overarching objective of informing and fomenting the development of socially just and environmentally sustainable agri-food systems. To date, his research has focused upon three overlapping themes: (1) the interplay between market development, peasant livelihoods, and the cultivation of agricultural biodiversity in Guatemala; (2) how the contemporary processes of 'financialization' contour food economies; and (3) the interplay between financial inclusion, the commercialization of peasant agriculture, and the economic and environmental vulnerability of Central American farmers, especially in the context of climate change. 


PhD in Economics – University of Massachusetts Amherst 

BS in Economics and Spanish – University of Utah (summa cum laude)

Teaching Interests

Political economy of international development, food systems and agrarian change, Financialization and Financial Inclusion 

Research Interests

Environmental change and peasant livelihoods, Agroecology and agrarian change, Financialization and food systems, Land rights, Water rights, Latin America, US Southwest   

Awards and Grants


  • SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant, 2021-2023.  “Index-Based Agricultural Insurance, Climate Vulnerability, and Food Security in Rural El Salvador” 
  • SSHRC Insight Development Grant, 2017-2019. “Weather Derivatives, Farmer Vulnerability, and the Financialization of Agricultural Risk Management in Guatemala” 
  • International Development Research Centre and the Association of Universities of Canada Latin American and Caribbean Research Exchange Grant (LACREG) “The Socio-Ecological Ramifications of Boom Crops: Examining the Impacts of Oil Palm Expansion upon Food Entitlements, Water Quality, and Household Reproduction in Northern Guatemala” 


  • 2015 Bernstein-Byers Prize for best article published in the Journal of Agrarian Change  
  • 2011 Krishna Bharadwaj and Eric Wolf Prize for an Outstanding Article by a Young Scholar, The Journal of Peasant Studies


  • 2022 “Water Quality in the Lachuá Ecoregion: Comparing Streams from Forest, Milpa, and Oil Palm Systems.” Ciencia, Tecnología, y Salud, 9(1): 21-42 (with Oscar Rojas and Carlos Avendaño).  
  • 2020 “Commerical Agriculture for Food Security? The Case of Oil Palm Development in Northern Guatemala.” Food Security, 12(3):517-535. (with Anastasia Hervas) 
  • 2018 Speculative Harvests: Financialization, Food, and Agriculture. Black Point, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing and Practical Action Publishing. (with Jennifer Clapp) 
  • 2015 “Derivatives for Development? Vulnerability and the Financialisation of Climate Risk Management.” Journal of Agrarian Change, 15(4): 569-580. 
  • 2014 “Maize Diversity and the Political Economy of Agrarian Restructuring in Guatemala.”  Journal of Agrarian Change, 14(3): 347-379.