University of Calgary

Ben McKay

  • Assistant Professor

Research Interests

My research interests include the politics of agrarian change in Latin America, food sovereignty alternatives, the extractive character of capitalist agricultural development, the global food system, flex crops, and the rise of emerging economies and their implications for global agrarian transformation. I have carried out research and maintain research interests in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. I am a Fellow at the University of Calgary’s Latin American Research Centre and a Research Associate and part of the Global Secretariat of the BRICS Initiative for Critical Agrarian Studies (BICAS).


Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

McKay, B.M. (2017) ‘The politics of convergence in Bolivia: social movements and the Movimiento al Socialismo, Third World Quarterly, (in press)

McKay, B.M. (2017) ‘The politics of agrarian change in Bolivia’, Journal of Agrarian Change, In Press, DOI:10.1111/joac.12240  

McKay, B.M. (2017) ‘Colombia’s Agrarian Dynamics: Rights, Reform and Restitution’, Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d’études du développement, Early View

McKay, B.M. (2017). ‘Value-chain agriculture and control grabbing: BRICS, MICs and Bolivia’s soy complex’, Globalizations, Early View, 

McKay, B.M. (2017) ‘Agrarian extractivism in Bolivia’, World Development, 91, 199-21. 

Oliveira, G. de L.T., B. McKay, and C. Plank. (2017) How biofuels policies backfire: Misguided goals, inefficient mechanisms, and political-ecological blind spots, Energy Policy, 108, 765-775. 

McKay, B.M., R. Hall and J. Liu (2016). ‘Introduction: The rise of BRICS and its implications for global agrarian transformation’, Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal, 1(5):581-591.

McKay, B.M., A. Alonso-Fradejas, Z. Brent, S. Sauer, Y. Xu. (2016). ‘China in Latin America: towards a new ‘consensus’ of resource control?, Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal, 1(5):592-611.

McKay, B. and G. Colque. (2016). ‘Bolivia’s Soy Complex: The Development of ‘Productive Exclusion’’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 43(2):583-610.

McKay, B., S. Sauer, B. Richardson and R. Herre. (2016). ‘The political economy of sugarcane flexing: Initial insights from Brazil, Southern Africa and Cambodia’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 43(1):195-223.

McKay, B. and R. Nehring (2015) Situación de la soberanía alimentaria en América Latina: proyectos
políticos y vías alternativas en Venezuela, Ecuador y Bolivia, Cuestión Agraria, Vol. 2: 7-38.

McKay, B., R. Nehring, R. and M. Walsh-Dilley (2014). ‘The 'state' of food sovereignty in Latin America: political projects and alternative pathways in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6):1175-1200.

Book Chapters

McKay, B., Alonso Fradejas, A., Wang, C. & Borras, S.M. (2014). Contested Land Politics and Trajectories of Agrarian Change within an Emergent World Agro-commodity Regime: Insights from the BRICS and the Periphery. In W.D. Schanbacher (Ed.), The Global Food System: Issues and Solutions (pp. 211-242). Santa Barbara, California: Praeger.

Reports, Working Papers and Policy Briefs

McKay, B, F.V. Rodríguez Muñoz, and D. Fajardo. (2016). ‘The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security in Colombia: Towards democratic land-based resource control’, Commissioned Report for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO: Rome. Available in Spanish.

McKay, B. (2015) ‘BRICS and MICs in Bolivia’s ‘value’-chain agriculture’, Working Paper 6: BRICS Initiative for Critical Agrarian Studies (BICAS).

McKay, B., Sauer, S., Richardson, B. & Herre, R. (2014). The politics of sugarcane flexing in Brazil and beyond, Think Piece Series on Flex Crops & Commodities, no 4. Amsterdam: Transnational Institute.

McKay, B. and R. Nehring (2014) ‘Sustainable Agriculture: An assessment of Brazil’s family farm programmes in scaling up agroecological food production’, Working Paper #123, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, United Nations Development Programme, Brasilia, Brazil. Available in Spanish. 

McKay, B. and R. Nehring (2013) ‘The 'State' of Food Sovereignty in Latin America: Political Projects and Alternative Pathways in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia’, Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue, Yale University International Conference: New Haven, Connecticut.

Nehring, R. and B. McKay (2013) ‘Scaling up Local Development Initiatives: Brazil’s Food Acquisition Programme’, Working Paper #106, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, United Nations Development Programme, Brasilia, Brazil. Available in Spanish and Portuguese. 

McKay, B. (2012) ‘A Socially Inclusive Pathway to Food Security: The Agroecological Alternative’, Policy Research Brief #23, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, United Nations Development Programme, Brasilia, Brazil.

Lal, R., R. Nehring and B. McKay (2012) “Public Policies for Inclusive and Sustainable Agriculture: an Emerging Agenda for South-South Cooperation?’ in IPC-IG Poverty in Focus #24,. International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, United Nations Development Programme, Brasilia, Brazil.

McKay, B. and R. Nehring (2012) ‘Rio+20: Prospects for The Future We Want”, Revista Humana, Edition No. 85, August, United Nations Development Programme. Available from <>


McKay, B. (2017) The Politics of Control: New Dynamics of Agrarian Change in Bolivia's Soy Complex. PhD Dissertation. The Hague, NL: International Institute of Social Studies.

McKay, B. (2012) Agrarian Reform Under Chavez: Assessing the Impacts of Venezuela's State-led Agrarian Reform Programme on Rural Livelihoods. MA Dissertation. Halifax, NS: Saint Mary's University.

Book cover          TNI Policy Brief     FTIERRA    

 The Global Food System         IPC IG Poverty in Focus           UNDP Policy Brief 

UNDP Working Paper    BICAS


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