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Dr. Sarah Ruth Sippel

Research Fellow

Schillerstraße 6, Room 403
04109 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97-37223
Fax: +49 341 97-37229


Sarah is a tenured lecturer at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and a Principal Investigator at the Collaborative Research Centre SFB 1199. She researches the complex nature of global agri-food relationships, particularly questions in relation to food security, the financialization and digitization of agriculture and food, and the alternatives developed to the current agri-food system. All these issues raise important questions in relation to politics, ethics, and social justice, which motivate her research. As a human geographer with a background in Middle Eastern Studies and Philosophy, Sarah investigates social phenomena from an interdisciplinary perspective. She intensively worked on the interlinkages between export agriculture, rural livelihood security, and labour migration in North Africa and the Western Mediterranean. Her current research addresses the diverse (re)imaginations of land in Australia, and the research and development of digital farming technologies.

Professional career

  • since 06/2016
    Lecturer, Institute of Cultural Anthropology, University of Leipzig
  • since 01/2016
    Honorary Senior Research Fellow, School of Social Science, University of Queensland
  • 04/2010 - 05/2016
    Senior Researcher, Centre for Area Studies, University of Leipzig


  • 03/2012 - 10/2020
    Habilitation, Geography, University of Leipzig
  • 04/2007 - 02/2012
    PhD candidate, Geography, University of Leipzig, DFG (German Research Foundation) Doctoral Programme "Critical Junctures of Globalization"
  • 04/2001 - 03/2007
    MA (Magister Artium), Middle Eastern Studies and Philosophy, University of Leipzig and Université de Provence, Aix-en-Provence

My current research investigates how land, a vital resource for human survival, is turned into a ‘financial asset’ – an object for financial investment and speculation. By focusing on the people advancing this process – farmers, financiers, farm managers, brokers, politicians, among others – I provide an in-depth account of how and why this 'financial future' for land is being forged. Drawing on research throughout Australia and global agri-finance networks, my research complicates the narrative of ‘finance going farming’. I reveal the various motivations, constraints, and dilemmas, which – after several decades of neoliberal capitalism – draw increasing amounts of finance capital into agriculture; how farmers search for new financial alliances and sources of non-debt capital; how brokers ‘translate’ the vagaries of farming into the numbers needed to convince financiers to invest in farmland; and why politicians – following neo-nationalized agendas – court domestic and foreign financial capital aligned with ‘national interests’.

In addition to this research, I am currently developing a project on the research and development of digital farming technologies. This project aims to understand how, by whom, and with what intentions and objectives these technologies are being developed, and what this means for the future of food production. I will do this by undertaking participant observation and qualitative interviews in California and the Netherlands.

  • Land Imaginations: The Repositioning of Farming, Productivity, and Sovereignty in Australia
    Sippel, Sarah Ruth
    Duration: 01/2016 - 12/2019
    Funded by: DFG Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
    Involved organisational units of Leipzig University: Centre for Area Studies; Ethnologie; SFB 1199: Verräumlichungsprozesse unter Globalisierungsbedingungen
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  • Reimaginations of Land and Agriculture in the Context of Digitization
    Sippel, Sarah Ruth
    Duration: 01/2020 - 12/2023
    Funded by: DFG Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
    Involved organisational units of Leipzig University: Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics (ReCentGlobe); Institut für Ethnologie; SFB 1199: Verräumlichungsprozesse unter Globalisierungsbedingungen
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Throughout my career I have taught at the Universities of Leipzig, Queensland, and Graz across the disciplines of human geography, anthropology, development studies, Middle Eastern studies, and global and area studies, from BA to MA and PhD level. I have taught core courses in human geography, socio-cultural anthropology, and global and area studies, specialized courses on the global agri-food system, finance, and spatial theory, as well as qualitative and quantitative research methods.

  • MA Current Debates in Anthropology - ETH 2011

  • MA Methods in Anthropology - ETH 2002

  • Regional Anthropology: Middle East and North Africa - ETH 1029

  • Introduction to Economic Anthropology and Geography - ETH 1027

  • Introduction to Regional Anthropology - ETH 1027