Madeleine Fairbairn
  • Title
    • Associate Professor
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Environmental Studies Department
  • Affiliations Community Studies Program, Science & Justice Research Center, Research Center for the Americas, Coastal Science & Policy Program
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, 426
  • Mail Stop Environmental Studies
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Agroecology and Agriculture, Sociology of Development, Environmental Justice
  • Courses ENVS 80F Introduction to Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, ENVS 100/L Ecology and Society, ENVS 158 Political Ecology

Summary of Expertise

Agri-food systems, environmental sociology, political ecology, globalization and development, ownership and access to land


Research Interests

I do qualitative sociological research on the political economy of the global agro-food system. I am particularly interested in how transnational economic processes shape access to food, land, and other natural resources globally. My current projects explore the financial sector's growing interest in buying farmland, as well as the dynamics of the agri-food technology sector. My first book, Fields of Gold: Financing the Global Land Rush, was released in 2020 by Cornell University Press. 

Biography, Education and Training

Ph.D., Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

M.S., Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

B.S., Development Sociology/Natural Resource Management, Cornell University

Selected Publications


Fairbairn, Madeleine. 2020. Fields of Gold: Financing the Global Land Rush. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Open access



Reisman, Emily and Madeleine Fairbairn. 2020. "Agri-food systems and the anthropocene." Annals of the American Association of Geographers. DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2020.1828025. 

Fairbairn, Madeleine, James LaChance, Kathryn De Master, and Loka Ashwood. 2020. “In vino veritas, in aqua lucrum: Farmland investment, environmental uncertainty, and groundwater access in California’s Cuyama Valley.” Agriculture and Human Values. DOI: 10.1007/s10460-020-10157-y

Ashwood, Loka, John Canfield, Madeleine Fairbairn, and Kathryn De Master. 2020. “What owns the land: The corporate organization of farmland investment.” Journal of Peasant Studies. DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2020.1786813. 

Egerer, Monika and Madeleine Fairbairn. 2018. "Gated gardens: Effects of urbanization on community formation and commons management in community gardens." Geoforum 96: 61-69.

Kish, Zenia and Madeleine Fairbairn. 2018. "Investing for profit, investing for impact: Moral performances in agricultural investment projects." Environment and Planning A. 50(3): 569-588. 

Fairbairn, Madeleine. 2015 “Foreignization, financialization, and land grab regulation.” Journal of Agrarian Change. 15(4): 581-591.

Fairbairn, Madeleine. 2015. “Finance and the agro-food system.” Pp.232-248 in Alessandro Bonanno and Lawrence Busch, eds., Handbook of International Political Economy of Agriculture and Food. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Fairbairn, Madeleine. 2014 “‘Like gold with yield’: Evolving intersections between farmland and finance.” Journal of Peasant Studies. 41(5): 777-795.

Fairbairn, Madeleine. 2014. “‘Just another asset class’?: Neoliberalism, finance and the construction of farmland investment.” Pp. 245-262 in Alessandro Bonanno and Steven Wolf, eds., The Neoliberal Regime in the Agri-Food Sector: Crisis, Resilience and Restructuring. London: Earthscan.

Fairbairn, Madeleine, Jonathan Fox, S. Ryan Isakson, Michael Levien, Nancy Peluso, Shahra Razavi, Ian Scoones, and K. Sivaramakrishnan. 2014. “Global agrarian transformations: New directions in agrarian political economy.” (Editorial introduction to special issue.) Journal of Peasant Studies. 41(5): 777-795.

Fairbairn, Madeleine. 2013. “Indirect dispossession: Domestic power imbalances and foreign access to land in Mozambique.” Development and Change. 44(2): 335-356.

Fairbairn, Madeleine. 2012. “Framing transformation: The counter-hegemonic potential of food sovereignty in the U.S. context.” Agriculture and Human Values. 29(2): 217-230.

Fairbairn, Madeleine. 2010. “Framing resistance: International food regimes and the roots of food sovereignty.” Pp. 15-32 in Hannah Wittman, Annette Desmarais, and Nettie Wiebe, eds., Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature and Community.  Point Black, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing.