My research mobilizes social and political theory and political economic approaches to understand the making of different environmental landscapes including forestscapes and alternative agrarian spaces. I focus on what brings different people to labour on particular environmental spaces and the social positioning and identities of the workers that make nature. Finally, I examine the political possibilities and constraints at play within varied attempts to make environmental spaces.
The Ecological Fix
My current research develops the concept of an 'ecological fix’ through a conceptual engagement with David Harvey’s work and an investigation of the intersection of urban unemployment and forestry relief projects in British Columbia during the 1930s depression. This research asks whether an ecological fix might exist to the contradictions of capitalism. Moving forward, I will focus on how the finacialization of forests represent a contemporary manifestation of an ecological fix. Together with Scott Prudham, I am co-editing a special issue of Environment and Planning A, which brings together an international roster of junior and senior researchers in order to produce the first collection of scholarship on ecological fixes. My studies in this area are supported by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant.
The Antinomies of Unpaid Labour in the Alternative Food Movement
Together with Charles Levkoe, I am investigating the role of non-waged (e.g. intern, apprentice and volunteer) labour on small-scale farms in Ontario. This research project seeks to understand the reasons behind the use of non-waged labour, the key dimensions of the intern experience and the pursuit of social and environmental justice within the food movement in Ontario, Canada. In what is the first study of new forms of unpaid labour in the agroecological food movement, we endeavour to discover if socially-just labour is a key part of the alternative food movement, and how a consideration of labour and agrarian questions might alter small-scale forms of food production.
Producing the British Columbia Forestscape
What are the cultural, political and economic relations that produce resource landscapes? I am interested in how specific subjects, defined by relations of gender, sexuality, class and ‘race’, are made in conjunction with the production of different social and environmental landscapes. Here, I engage with debates on the production of nature and social difference to argue for a wider understanding of how specific social groups are enrolled in the labour of making natures. I examine these questions through an in-depth investigation of the British Columbia reforestation sector. Through interviews, oral histories and participant observation, I examine the shifting identities and recruitment of tree planters and the everyday politics of reforestation work over the course of four decades.
Gramsci, Geography and Environmental Hegemony
What might an engagement with Antonio Gramsci’s work mean for contemporary debates in geography and environmental studies? Despite his formidable presence in many disciplines, Gramsci has been conspicuously absent in debates in geography and environmental studies. I am interested in whether Gramsci’s work can enhance our understandings of environmental politics and questions of labour and unemployment. More generally, my research theoretically and empirically argues that the making of natures should be understood as hegemonic projects that seek to secure certain interests and forms of power. I have co-edited a collection titled Gramsci: Space, Nature and Politics, with Gillian Hart, Stefan Kipfer and Alex Loftus, which addresses Gramsci’s relevance to debates on geography, political ecology, ‘the political’ and difference.
Awards and Grants:
- Insight Development Grant, Social Science and Humanities Research Council (2013-2016) "The Ecological Fix: From Forestry Relief Projects to Financialized Forests"
- Insight Development Grant (Co-Applicant) (2014-2016) “The Antinomies of Unpaid Labour in the Alternative Food Movement”
- Postdoctoral Fellowship, Social Science and Humanities Research Council (2010)
- Fellowship, Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council (2007)
- Overseas Research Studentship, University of Oxford (2006)
- Ekers, M., Loftus, A., Hart, G., Kipfer, S. (Eds.), (2013) Gramsci: Space, Nature and Politics. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, (Wiley-Blackwell Antipode Book Series)
- Ekers, M., (2015) A Fix in the Forests: Relief Labour and the Production of Reforestation Infrastructure in Depression-Era Canada. Environment and Planning A, (in press)
- Ekers, M., Levkoe, C., Walker, S. and Dale, B. (2015) Will Work for Food: Agricultural Interns, Apprentices, Volunteers and the Agrarian Question. Agriculture and Human Values (in press)
- Ekers, M. and Levkoe, C., (2015) Transformations in Non-Waged Farm Work: From Kinship to Intern and Volunteer Labour, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (in press)
- Ekers, M., (2014) Labouring Against the Grain of Progress: Women's Reforestation Work in British Columbia, 1960-1975. Journal of Rural Studies (in press)
- Ekers, M. (2014) Everyday Environmentalism : Reconfiguring 'the Political', Cultural Geographies, 21(2), 307-310.
- Ekers, M., (2013) "'Pounding Dirt All Day’; Sexuality, Gender and Labour in the British Columbia Reforestation Industry. Gender, Place and Culture, 20(7), 876-895.
- Ekers, M. and Loftus, A., (2013). Revitalization of the Production of Nature Thesis: A Gramscian Turn? Progress in Human Geography,37(2), 234-252.
- Ekers, M. (2012) “The Dirty Scruff”: Relief and the Production of the Unemployed in Depression-Era British Columbia. Antipode, 44(4), 1119-1142
- Ekers, M., Hamel, P. Keil, R., (2012) Governing Suburbia: Modalities and Mechanisms of Suburban Governance. Regional Studies, 46(3), 405-422.
- Ekers, M. and Sweeney, B. (2010) (Dis)organizing Tree Planters: Labour and Environmental Politics in the British Columbia Silviculture Industry, BC Studies, 166(Summer), 95-123.
- Ekers, M. and Farnan, M. (2010) Planting the Nation: Tree Planting Art and the Persistence of Nationalism. Space and Culture, 13(1), 95-120.
- Ekers, M. (2009) Constructing hegemony in the forestscape: men, masculinities and work in depression-era British Columbia. Geoforum, 40(3), 303-315.
- Ekers, M., Loftus, A. and Mann, G. (2009) Gramsci Lives! Introductory Editorial to Special Issue on Gramsci and Political Ecology, Geoforum, 40(3), 287-291.
- Ekers, M. and Loftus A. (2008) The Power of Water: Developing Dialogues Between Gramsci and Foucault. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 26(4), 698-718.
- Ekers, M. (2014) On the Concreteness of Labour and Class in Political Ecology. In Perreault, T. Bridge, G. and McCarthy, J. Handbook of Political Ecology. New York: Routledge.
- Ekers, M., Hamel, P. Keil, R. (2014) Governing Suburbia: Modes and Mechanisms of Suburban Governance. In Hamel, P. and Keil, R. (Eds.), Suburban Governance: A Global View. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
- Ekers, M. (2013) Gramsci and the Erotics of Labour: More Notes on the Sexual Question. In Ekers, M., Loftus, A. Kipfer, S. and Hart, G. (Eds.), Gramsci: Space, Nature, and Politics. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, pp, 217-237. (Wiley-Blackwell Antipode Book Series).
- Ekers, M. and Loftus, A. (2013) Gramsci; Space, Nature and Politics. In Ekers, M., Loftus, A. Kipfer, S. and Hart, G. (Eds.), Gramsci: Space, Nature and Politics. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 15-43. (Wiley-Blackwell Antipode Book Series).