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  • Associate Professor of Sociology
  • Sociology
  • Appalachian Center
  • Social Theory
1539 Patterson Office Tower
Ashwood CV 2023.pdf (372.62 KB)
Other Affiliations:
  • Auburn University Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology

Loka Ashwood

Research Interests:
Agrarian Studies
Environmental Justice
Social Action
Social Theory
Rural Politics
political economy

Ph.D., Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015

M.Litt., Geography, National University of Ireland, 2009

B.S., Journalism and Political Science, Northwestern University, 2007



Professor Ashwood studies how the state works, often to the ire of rural people. Her book, For-Profit Democracy: Why the Government is Losing the Trust of Rural America (Yale 2018), pinpoints corporate-state land takings as a motivator of rural unrest across racial lines. Her related research pulls apart corporations and property rights to understand environmental injustices. Specifically, she studies monopoly power, eminent domain, corporate landownership, and Right-to-Farm laws. She is especially interested in how social action works, and uses community-based research to find more direct pathways for change.

Ashwood's work feeds into the One Rural collective at University of Kentucky.


Selected Publications:



Ashwood, L., A. Imlay*, L. Kuehn, A. Franco,  and D. Diamond. Forthcoming. Empty Fields, Empty Promises: A State-by-State Guide to Understanding and Transforming the Right to Farm. The University of North Carolina Press.

Bell, M., L. Ashwood, I. Leslie*, L. Hanson Schlachter*. 2021. An Invitation to Environmental Sociology. 6th Edition. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.

Ashwood, L. 2018. For-Profit Democracy: Why the Government is Losing the Trust of Rural America. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Bell, M. M. and L. Ashwood. 2016. An Invitation to Environmental Sociology. 5th Edition. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.


Special Issue Editor/Introduction:

Journal of Rural Studies, Special Issue “Rural as a Dimension of Environmental Injustice.” Volume 47 A. Co-editor with Kate MacTavish.  

Ashwood, L. and Kate MacTavish. 2016. “Tyranny of the Majority and Rural Environmental Injustice.” Journal of Rural Studies 47(A): 271-277.


Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles:

Ashwood, L., Vick, KC*, C. Hiett, M. Lee and N. Damova. Forthcoming. “Rural and Community-Based Cancer Cluster Research.” Environmental Justice.

 Ashwood, L., A. Pilny, J. Canfield*, M. Jamila, and R. Thomson. 2022. “From Big Ag to Big Finance: A Market Network Approach to Power in Agriculture.” Agriculture and Human Values 39(4): 1421-1434.

Ashwood, L., J. Canfield*(co-first author), M. Fairbairn, K. De Master. 2022. “What owns the land: the corporate organization of farmland investment.” Journal of Peasant Studies 49(2): 233-262.

    • Lead Article.
    • Covered by Investigate Midwest. Also broadcasted across the country through local TV station affiliates of InvestigateTV in 2022.

 Ashwood, L. 2021. “‘No matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or neither’: pragmatic politics in opposition to industrial animal production.” Journal of Rural Studies 82: 586-594.

    • Covered and hyperlinked to by The Los Angeles Times in 2022.

Fairbairn, M. J. LaChance*, K. De Master, and L. Ashwood. 2021. “In vino veritas, in aqua lucrum: Farmland investment, environmental uncertainty, and groundwater access in California’s Cuyama Valley.” Agriculture and Human Values 38: 285-299.

Ashwood, L., D. Diamond, and F. Walker*. 2019. “Property Rights and Rural Justice: A Study of U.S. Right-to-Farm Laws.” Journal of Rural Studies 67: 120-129.

 Ashwood, L. 2018. “Rural Conservatism or Anarchism? The Pro-State, Stateless and Anti-State Positions.” Rural Sociology 83(4): 717-748.

    • Lead Article.
    • Top 20 downloaded articles, 2017-2018

Ashwood, L. and M.M. Bell. 2017. “Affect and Taste: Bourdieu, Traditional Music, and the Performance of Possibilities.” Sociologia Ruralis 57(S1): 622-640.

Ashwood, L. and Steve Wing. 2016. “Exposure and Compensation for Nuclear Weapons Workers.” New Solutions 26(1): 55-71.

Ashwood, L., N. Harden, M. M. Bell, and W. Bland. 2014. “Linked and Situated: Grounded Knowledge.” Rural Sociology 79(4): 427-452.

    • Rural Sociology 2015 Best Paper Award.
    • Lead Article.

Ashwood, L., D. Diamond, and K. Thu. 2014. “Where’s the Farmer? Limiting Liability in Midwest Industrial Hog Production.” Rural Sociology 79(1): 2-27.

Harden, N., L. Ashwood, M. M. Bell, and W. Bland. 2013. “For the Public Good: Weaving a Multifunctional Landscape in the Cornbelt.” Agriculture and Human Values 30(4): 525-537.

    • Early Version Winner of 2009 Agriculture, Human Values, and Society Graduate Student Paper Competition.
    • Early Version Winner of 2009 International Symposium on Society and Natural Resources Doctoral Student Paper Competition.