Meet Mike

Michael M. BellMike Bell — scholar, author, composer — is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At Madison, he serves as Director of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, and is a member of the faculty of the Agroecology Program, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and the Religious Studies Program.

Mike is the author or editor of nine books, three of which have won national awards. His recent books include two textbooks, An Invitation to Qualitative Fieldwork (2015, co-authored with Jason Orne) and the 5th edition of his An Invitation to Environmental Sociology (2016, co-authored with Loka Ashwood).

Mike is also a prolific composer of grassroots and classical music, as well as environmental and progressive song.  He performs regularly on mandolin with the award-winning “class-grass” band Graminy, and on guitar as a singer-songwriter.

Recent Book Releases

An Invitation to Environmental Sociology  

(Sage, 2016, 5th Edition)

The Strange Music of Social Life  

(Temple University Press, 2012)

More Books

Current Projects

Mike is currently conducting participatory fieldwork among the amaQwathi people of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The LAND (Livelihoods, Agroecology, and Nutrition for Development) Project is the product of a partnership between CIAS, Indwe Trust, Kidlinks World, and the farmers themselves.

Mike’s main current book project is City of the Good: Nature, Religion, and the Ancient Search for What Is Right to be published by Princeton University Press in late 2017 or early 2018. People have long looked to nature and the divine as paths to the good. In this panoramic meditation on the harmonious life, Mike traces how these two paths came to be seen as separate from human ways, and how many of today’s conflicts can be traced back thousands of years to this ancient divide. Taking readers on a spellbinding journey through history and across the globe, Mike begins with the pagan view, which sees nature and the divine as entangled with the human—and not necessarily good. But the emergence of urban societies gave rise to new moral concerns about the political character of human life. Wealth and inequality grew, and urban people sought to justify their passions. In the face of such concerns, nature and the divine came to be partitioned from the human, and therefore seen to be good—but they also became absolute and divisive. City of the Good urges us to embrace the plurality of our traditions—from the pagan to the bourgeois—and to guard against absolutism and remain open to difference and its endless creativity.

Mike is also beginning work on books about social justice, ecological economics, agroecological theory, and community.

His current musical projects include completing a fourth class-grass album with his band Graminy, and completing an album of his songs about the St. Lawrence River. Mike is also completing several suites of classical songs for voice and piano, and a large-scale choral work.

Samples of Mike’s Compositions

Latest News

2211, 2016

Graminy wins a second Classical Album of the Year Award!

November 22nd, 2016|0 Comments

The Madison Area Music Association has awarded my band Graminy its second Classical Album of the Year Award, for our 2015 release, Dance of the Plants. We won our first for our 2013 release, Germinations: A Bluegrass [...]

2911, 2015

Hey, now the new album IS done! Goes on sale Dec. 5, 2015

November 29th, 2015|0 Comments

  Well, Graminy's finally gone and done it!  We finished our third album, Dance of the Plants. It's a collection of Graminy tunes more on the grassy side of class-grass.  We're really pleased with how it [...]

2110, 2015

Graminy’s new album is almost done too!

October 21st, 2015|0 Comments

My band Graminy's new album, Dance of the Plants, is now being mastered, and it sounds great!  Look for it in time for Christmas.

1910, 2015

Almost done!

October 19th, 2015|0 Comments

My new website is nearly done!  And if you are reading this right now, it in fact IS done -- or at least done enough to go live.  Thanks to the marvelous John Christensen.