About

Marion Dixon is a professorial lecturer in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. and is a member of the School’s (MA) International Development Program. Dr. Dixon is a historical and environmental sociologist who studies global agri-food system change and political resistance to this change, with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa. She received her PhD from the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University in 2013.

Her two main research projects are the following:

I am developing my doctoral dissertation into a book manuscript on agriculture and food system change in Egypt from the long 19th century to the 2011 political uprising. This project is based on multi-method field research that I conducted in Egypt from 2008 to 2012. In my book manuscript I detail the enabling factors of, and resistance to, accelerated commodification of agriculture and food during the two periods of heightened national integration into the world economy – in the 19th century and the neoliberal period. I demonstrate that in the neoliberal period the growth of an agri-food industry has contributed to food insecurity, losses in smallholder livelihoods, and a number of public health threats (including obesity and the Avian flu).

My first early career research project is a socio-ecological history of chemical fertilizer. Thus far I have focused my research on two ends of this long history: the role of phosphate rock, a mined natural resource commodity, in the development of a new class of chemical fertilizers in the long 19th century, and the present-day role of the industry in ‘Greening Africa’ development initiatives. Through a lens on phosphate rock I demonstrate that the development of this natural resource commodity (primarily in the American Southeast, French North Africa, and the South Pacific) was critical not only to industrializing agriculture in the industrializing world, but also to the growth of national chemical industries (in North America, western Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand).

Both of my research projects address key issues in the sociology of development, and since 2014 I have taught the core courses of both the International Development (Masters) Program and the Global Inequality and Development concentration for the International Studies (BA) major at American University. In these introductory courses I offer an ecological perspective on development and social change.

I grew up in the US and spent much of my adulthood abroad. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco in 2002-2003, and did volunteer work and interned for human rights and other advocacy organizations in India, Russia, and South Africa. I have traveled throughout parts of the Middle East and North Africa as well as southern Africa. As a graduate student, I studied development at St. Antony’s College at Oxford University in the UK. As an undergraduate, I studied abroad at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. My many and varied experiences abroad guide my advising and mentoring of students on study abroad, internship, volunteer and career opportunities.