Michael Ekers

Michael Ekers
Associate Professor
(416) 208-2238


In broad terms I’m interested in denaturalizing landscapes and understanding the social production and contestation of what we commonly refer to as nature.  I draw on social and political theory and political economic approaches to understand the making of different environmental landscapes including forestlands and alternative agrarian spaces. I am interested in the cultural politics of landscape and the social positioning and identities of the workers that produce various natures.  Finally, I examine the political possibilities and constraints at play within varied attempts to make environmental spaces.

Research Interests: 

The Socio-Ecological Fix

My current research develops the concept of a ‘socio-ecological fix’ through a conceptual engagement with David Harvey’s work among others. The theoretical part of this project is a collaborative endeavor with Scott Prudham.  On the more concrete side of the project, I am interested in both historical and contemporary ‘fixes’. Regarding the former, I investigate the intersection of urban unemployment and forestry relief projects in British Columbia (BC) during the 1930s depression.  Concerning the latter, I examine the finacialization of forests in BC as institutional investors and asset management companies acquire and mange massive amounts of private forest land. Overall, the research examines how ‘nature’ is targeted for investment in response to political economic and ecological crises and tracks the effects of such flows of capital.

The Antinomies of Non-Waged 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 ecological farms in Ontario and more broadly across Canada. 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 what is the first study of new forms of non-waged and 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 ecological forms of food production.

We have published a report titled “Ecological Farm Internships: Modes, Experiences and Justice” that brings together key thinkers on non-waged farm work and alternative agriculture.

For more information on this project and the report see http://www.foodandlabour.ca

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, the production of nature and also accounts of spatial and socio-ecological fixes. 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 social difference.

Teaching Interests: 

GGRA02H3 Geographies of Global Processes

GGRC24H3 Socio-Natures and the Cultural Politics of the Environment

JPG1429H Political Ecology of Food and the Agrarian Question

Awards and Grants: 

•    Connaught New Researcher Award, Connaught Fund, University of Toronto.
•    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”


•    Ekers, M., Loftus, A., Hart, G., Kipfer, S. (Eds.), (2013) Gramsci: Space, Nature and Politics. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, (Wiley-Blackwell Antipode Book Series)

Journal Articles
•    Ekers, M. and Prudham S. (2017) The Metabolism of Spatial    Fixes: Capital Switching, Spatial Fixes and the Production    of Nature. Annals of the American Association of    Geographers, (published online, ‘Latest articles’)
•    Ekers, M. and Prudham S. (2017) The Socio-Ecological Fix:    Fixed Capital, Metabolism and Hegemony. Annals of the    American Association of Geographers, (published online,    ‘Latest articles’)
•    Ekers, M., Levkoe, C., Walker, S, and Dale, B. (2016) Will    Work for Food: Agricultural Interns, Apprentices, Volunteers    and the Agrarian Question. Agriculture and Human Values,    33(3), 705-720.
•    Ekers, M. and Levkoe, C. (2016) Transformations in Non-Waged Farm Work: From Kinship to Intern and Volunteer Labour. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 6(2), 1-5.
•    Ekers, M.  (2015) A Fix in the Forests: Relief Labour and the Production of Reforestation Infrastructure in Depression-Era British Canada. Environment and Planning A, 47(12), 2537-2553.
•    Ekers, M. and Prudham, S. (2015) Towards the Socio-ecological Fix: Editorial Introduction. Environment and Planning A 47(12), 2438-2444.
•    Ekers, M., (2014) Labouring Against the Grain of Progress: Women's Reforestation Work in British Columbia, 1960-1975.Journal of Rural Studies, 34, 345-355.
•    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.

Book Chapters
•    Ekers, M. (2017) The Social Construction of Nature. In    Castree, N., Hulme, M. and Proctor, J. (Eds.), Companion    to Environmental Studies. London & New York: Routledge    (in press)
•    Ekers, M. (2015) On the Concreteness of Labour and Class in    Political Ecology. In Perreault, T. Bridge, G. and McCarthy,    J. (Eds.), Handbook of Political Ecology. New York:    Routledge, 545-558.
•    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).
•    Ekers, M. Hart, G, Kipfer, S. and Loftus, A. (2012) “A Barbed Gift of the Backwoods”: Gramsci’s Sardinian Beginnings. In Ekers, M., Loftus, A. Kipfer, S. and Hart, G. (Eds.), Gramsci: Space, Nature and Politics. Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 3-5.  (Wiley-Blackwell Antipode Book Series)