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Derly Sánchez Vargas

Former Research Student

Derly Sánchez Vargas


I am a sociologist (B.A Universidad Nacional de Colombia; M.A Lancaster University), currently Ph.D. student in Organisation Work and Technology in the Management School. I have worked primarily in science and technology studies and recently in Organisation Studies. My Ph.D research is about the role of certification standards in the production of sustainable coffees, following as case study the use of Rainforest Alliance in Colombia. I am interested in exploring the role of knowledge practices in agri-food governance, in particular the role of standardization infrastructure in the regulation of practices and in the shaping of markets. In parallel I have professional experience as consultant in Public Engagement with Science and Technology in Science Centres in Colombia.

Current Research

Sustainability Standards have become one of the most important strategies for generating ‘Sustainability’ in coffee production. The idea of sustainability in agriculture has been linked with ‘economic viability’, ‘social responsibility’ and ‘environmental conservation’. In the case of the coffee market, these standards have been represented as a way of adding value to coffee beans and making more dynamic a paralysed market (Giovannucci and Ponte, 2005: 285). Sustainability standards are also introducing important changes in the governance of nature and agriculture relations (Busch, 2011) as well as the production of trust and markets. Sustainability Standards have been regarded as neoliberal projects, market driven initiatives (Reinecke et al, 2012) that commoditise social and environmental dimensions (Guthman, 2007) of coffee production in the context of a moral economy. My PhD research studies the specific arrangements for producing ‘sustainability’ through sustainability standards in coffee production in Colombia.

Following Science and Technology Studies –STS- (Law, 1994; Bowker and Leigh Star, 1999) and Sociology of Standardisation (Epstein and Timmermans, 2010; Busch, 2012) I analyse how Sustainability Standards (enacted in such certification schemes) generate ordering modes and how they reach “universality” of if rather such strategies are fragmented. Universality is a complex construct; it is the result of recruiting and mobilising a wide arrangement of things and people. Standards in this case act as coordination devices.

My research explores the ways in which Sustainability Standards are producing new social conditions (Power, 1997) in the production of sustainable coffees in Colombia. Firstly, I attempt to identify new organisations such as standards setters, certification bodies, auditing bodies, expert committees, NGOs and Alliances. Secondly, I trace the production of new and hybrid knowledge practices which combine environmental, social and managerial aspects. Such hybrids shape sustainability into specific frames to perform markets that should be trusted as ‘sustainable’. Finally I identify new audit practices and traceability technologies have been produced and modified in order to carefully practice sustainability in specific, monitored, controlled and differentiated ways.


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