Job opening: Assistant Professor Rural Sociology (tenure track position)

The Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University invites applicants for a tenure Track position (assistant professor, 0.8 – 1.0 fte) in rural sociology, with a focus on critical agrarian and rural studies and international development studies.

In this challenging career trajectory:

  • You will undertake independent research and participate in (international) research projects, focusing on topics such as inclusive agrarian and rural development,  agri-food system dynamics, international comparison of agrarian change, and the politics of agrarian and rural development.
  • You will teach and coordinate one or more courses for the Bachelor and Master programs International Development Studies (BIN/MID) and the Master programs Organic Agriculture (MOA) and Rural Development and Innovation (MDR). On our website you find all courses, and they are clearly connected with our research
  • You will also  supervise Bachelor and Master thesis students for these programs.

Other aspects of the job include project acquisition, training and supervision of PhD students and participation in research or education committees. Approximately 40-45% of your time will be spent on research, 40- 45% on education and 10-20% on management and academic service activities.

We ask

We are looking for candidates with

  • A PhD degree in agrarian or rural sociology, human geography, anthropology, or related social science discipline;
  • An inspiring vision on rural sociology and the future challenges and priorities of agriculture and rural development from a critical perspective;
  • Evidence of high quality research in rural studies, preferably proven by the ability to publish in leading scientific journals and/or with top academic publishers;
  • A relevant international academic network, combined with good connections with grassroots networks and policymakers (at different levels);
  • Ample empirical research experience in different geographical settings (preferably Europe as well as the global South), allowing for a comparative perspective;
  • Ability to develop high-quality research proposals and to be(come) successful in the acquisition of externally funded research grants;
  • Ability to work in interdisciplinary and international teams;
  • Good didactic qualities and the capacity to motivate and inspire students;
  • Teaching competences that comply with the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Program (LTHEP, in Dutch referred to as BKO, a system adopted by all Dutch universities) or willingness to follow the LTHEP;
  • Strong communicative and interpersonal skills and a flexible and collaborative attitude.
  • Fluency in English and, if appropriate, commitment to learn Dutch within 2 years of appointment.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will be offered a fixed-term, 7 year contract which, upon positive evaluation based on criteria elaborated in the University’s Tenure Track policy, can lead to a permanent employment contract as professor. Depending on your experience, we offer a competitive gross salary of between €3.974,- and €6.181,-  for a full-time working week of 38 hours in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale 11 or 12).

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 17th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research’s International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

More information
Additional enquiries should be addressed to the chair of the Rural Sociology group, Prof. dr. Han Wiskerke (E-mail address: han.wiskerke@wur.nl). A more detailed profile of the Rural Sociology Group can be found in its 75th Anniversary book ‘On meaningful diversity: past, present and future of Wageningen rural sociology’.
 
Tenure Track is a career path for hardworking scientists who pursue to excel in education and research. We seek to attract scientific talent and to stimulate and support their development.

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on the WUR website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.

To apply, please upload the following:

  • Letter of motivation
  • A current Curriculum Vitae, including a list of publications
  • Names and contact details of two referees
  • One selected publication
  • A teaching dossier or statement of teaching interests and experience (including teaching outlines and evaluations if available)

Please note that only applications sent through the online application button can be taken into consideration.

This vacancy will be listed up to and including September 12th 2022. The first job interviews will be scheduled on 28-30 September 2022. A second interview including a (public) lecture will be held on 13 or 14 October 2022. Candidates invited for a second interview will also be asked to submit  a written statement on their research vision of the advertised position.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

Wageningen University and Research
The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialized research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 7.200 employees and 13.200 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

The Rural Sociology Group (RSO)
Central to the research program of the Rural Sociology is a relational approach to transformation processes, explored from the perspective of the everyday life of people, and with a focus on agrarian and rural change, food provisioning, and place-based development. These processes are studied from an range of critical perspectives (e.g. interpretative and micro-sociological perspective, cultural political economy, or governmentality studies). We actively engage in interdisciplinary (including collaborations with natural scientists), multi-method and multi-stakeholder approaches. A common denominator in our research is the focus on actors, agency, institutionalization of practices, differential development paths, and political organization.
Our mission is to contribute to the development of sustainable and socially acceptable modes of farming, food provisioning, and rural development, which foster social and spatial justice. Through our research we attempt to un-familiarize the familiar and undertake critical analyses, but, importantly, also be transformative by engaging in the exploration of new practices and by showing a diversity of credible options beyond dominant understandings and constellations. A key characteristic of our research program is its threefold relevance: it should contribute to the scientific development of our field and scientific discipline(s), inform policymaking and provide support for practitioners.

The Rural Sociology Group is embedded in the sub-department Space, Place & Society (SPS)  together with two other chair groups: Health & Society (HSO) and Sociology of Development and Change (SDC). Within SPS the groups share administrative support and collaborate in education. Together with the Cultural Geography group the sub-department Space, Place and Society has founded the Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS), which aims to advance critical-constructive scholarship within the social sciences with a particular focus on issues of socio-spatial inequalities and social and environmental justice. Within the CSPS the chair groups participate in research and PhD supervision and training.

More information about Wageningen University, the Rural Sociology Group, the sub-department SPS and CSPS can be obtained through one of the following links.

AUTONOMY IN AGRARIAN STUDIES, POLITICS, AND MOVEMENTS: AN INTER-PARADIGM DEBATE

Kees Jansen and Leandro Vergara-Camus

Autonomy has been a word that has been rolling off the tongues of leftist activists and academics for decades and has been the subject of countless articles and books. It has been theorised from Marxist, Anarchist, Post-Marxist, Foucauldian and Feminist perspectives. Historically, the term autonomy has often been used to express the ability of individuals or collective subjects to escape, in one way or another, the rule of capital or the control of the state. More recently, academic interventions on autonomy have been fundamentally about assessing how global capitalism operates and what kinds of subjects, spaces, and practices can resist it and build alternatives to it. Within agrarian studies and peasant movements, the concept has referred to the ability of peasants to mount collective responses to the dominant actors in the globalised market or within the state, while remaining independent from political parties or politicians. For indigenous movements, the term autonomy has been associated with a struggle or a project to take back control over their ancestral territories by challenging the nation-state. Discussions about autonomy are thus necessarily about the collective agency of social subjects within capitalism.

The idea of a special issue on autonomy in agrarian studies, politics and movements then was triggered by discussions within the Agrarian Change Working Group at the IIPPE annual conference in Lisbon and Pula. We followed this up with a workshop with contributors, hosted by Kees Jansen, at Wageningen University in the Netherlands in December 2019, just before the pandemic. This was a unique workshop where we debated, as social scientists, ontological and epistemological questions: the current nature of capitalism, its different manifestations in rural settings across the world, the ways different rural groups are inserted within it, and the struggles that different agrarian movements have led to resist it economically, politically and culturally. Coming from different theoretical traditions or positions, we had different understandings of markets and market relations, the role of collective action as well as the dialectical relationship between agency and structure.

This lack of consensus has been preserved in the Special Issue as well, which we hope can contribute to an inter-paradigm debate within agrarian studies on this topic. At the same time, in keeping with the tradition of the Journal of Agrarian Change, the different uses of the term (and the perspectives on) autonomy have been critically discussed from a critical agrarian political economy approach and placed within contexts of contradictory and complex class, ethnic and gender relationships.

The contributions critically analyse and assess different experiences of autonomy (peasant, indigenous, women, and guerrilla) by focusing on the varying spheres from which autonomy is sought (the market, the state, development, patriarchy) and on the type of collective action adopted by the different groups (economic, political, ethno-cultural). It includes contributions covering Latin America, the Middle East, and South-East Asia that are organised around the following four themes:

i) Capitalism in the Countryside and in Agricultural Production: The first discussion of autonomy revolves around a critical assessment of the type of agency that emerges around the demand and search for autonomy and the conditions that make it possible. Characterisations of contemporary capitalism in the countryside, the nature of small-scale farming, and the class position and consciousness of subaltern agricultural producers are central to this discussion. Natarajan and Brickell engage with feminist scholarship on women’s reproductive labour and combine it with Henry Bernstein’s critique of the notion of the autonomous ‘peasant’. They explore how the deeper market integration of women in rural Cambodia, through distress sales of land or use of land as collateral for microfinance borrowing, simultaneously renders women more dependent on markets whilst also constituting a temporary path towards an aspirational autonomy. Jansen, Vicol, and Nikol, on the other hand, develop a critique of van der Ploeg’s book The New Peasantries which presents the struggle for autonomy as central to the peasant condition. They dissect the book’s peasant bias, the usefulness of the notion of autonomy in a human society saturated with social relationships and the neglect of the complexities of agrarian class formation and differentiation at the local level.

ii) Autonomy from the Market or via the Market: The second discussion of autonomy has to do with the different ways of conceptualising markets, especially the relationship between capitalist relations and non-capitalist relations. Sankey shows how different histories, levels and types of market integration within Colombia lead to different kinds of exposure to the imperative of the market and responses to the crisis of small-scale agriculture triggered by neoliberalism. Using the case of O Circuito, an extended market in Brazil constructed by a peasant movement and its urban allies, the paper by van der Ploeg and Schneider develop the notion that autonomy is a political collective project that can rest on the construction of ‘nested markets’.

iii) Social Movements, Autonomy in State and Non-state Politics: All the contributions address questions of class, state and politics, but these questions are the central focus of the contributions by Bretón et al., Guimarães and Wanderley, and Jongerden. Bretón et al. draw from four emblematic cases of peasant and indigenous autonomy in Latin America (the MST in Brazil, the indigenous movement in Ecuador, the indigenous and Afro-descendants in the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, and the peasant movement in Mexico) to critically analyse the promises, achievements, and contradictions of projects of autonomy during the era of neoliberalism across four dimensions: political independence, economic relations, ethno-cultural goals, and the internal politics.

Following a fundamentally political understanding of autonomy inspired by Cornelius Castoriadis, Guimarães and Wanderley build a Polanyian analysis of the different forms of organisation and struggles that indigenous peasants adopted in Bolivia. Still another approach emerges in the paper by Jongerden who argues that agricultural development by the Kurdish movement in Rojava and North and East Syria is better seen as a third, self-constituting, or autonomous mode of ordering. He traces the influence of Murray Bookchin’s autonomist thought on Kurdish intellectuals and discusses the recent Kurdish agrarian policies in Rojava to rebuild the war-ridden agrarian economy on the principle of autonomy.

iv) Autonomy and Technological Revolutions: While several other papers discuss this theme tangentially, for Stone, the question of autonomy is centrally one of technology and knowledge. He shows how the emerging surveillance farming seems to be replicating earlier phases of agricultural development. Stone also raises concerns about how the big data revolution in agriculture could lead to agricultural deskilling and loss of farmer’s autonomy.

A deeper understanding of autonomy in political theory and practice, as developed through this Special Issue, sheds new light on how to conceptualise class within the continuum of a basically economic category or the outcome of a political process. It asks what makes certain social subjects, be it peasants, indigenous peoples or revolutionaries develop an ideology and political projects that present autonomy (from the market, the state or development) as a desired horizon.

Read the full introduction by the Special Issue editors here.

Read the full Special Issue here – Free access for three months.

In memoriam Dr Paul Hebinck

It is with a very heavy heart that we have to announce that our beloved, recently retired colleague Dr Paul Hebinck has suddenly passed away, while on holidays in France. Paul was a colorful, committed and extremely collegial development sociologist who worked at Wageningen University from 1989 until his retirement in 2019. Specialized in rural development, land and agrarian reform, resource management and agricultural livelihoods, Paul was happiest doing long-term research in what he referred to as his ‘dorpies’ (local villages) in Kenya, Namibia and South Africa. His commitment to the people that he worked with, studied and supported was unwavering, akin to his commitment to his many students, colleagues and academic friends all over the world. Transformation, Paul consistently taught us, needs to be studied and supported ‘from below’, and must be inspired by and rooted in the people that work the land. This is a lesson we hold dear at the Sociology of Development and Change and Rural Sociology groups, and that we will continue to spread and teach. Paul did not want to retire and was indeed still very active with publications and projects. Those who knew Paul understand that the world truly is a lot quieter without him. We will miss Paul dearly and think of his wife, children, family and friends.

On behalf of the Sociology of Development and Change Group and the Rural Sociology Group, prof. Bram Büscher, prof. Han Wiskerke

75th Anniversary Rural Sociology – The After Movie

75th anniversary event

On 13 May 2022, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University with a public event entitled “Rural Sociology: past, present and future”. The event took place in Akoesticum in Ede and was attended by approximately 130 people: current and former staff members, current and former MSc and PhD students, and current and former collaborators in (inter)national research projects. In addition to this event we wrote and edited a book entitled ‘On Meaningful Diversity: Past, present and future of Wageningen rural sociology’ and a group of (former) PhD students put together a PhD magazine. Both are open access publications.

The entire anniversary event was filmed and a 16 minute compilation video of the day can be found here:

Compilation video of the 75th anniversary event of the Rural Sociology Group

In addition all presentations and talks are available online in order of the program of the day:

  1. Opening by Arthur Mol (Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University)
  2. Keynote by Han Wiskerke: Meaningful diversity: Past, present and future of rural sociology
  3. Keynote by Haroon Akram-Lodhi: From peasant studies to critical agrarian studies
  4. Rural Talk Show:  Interactive session including invited guests and audience participation. The Talk Show was chaired by Matt Reed, with Jan Douwe van der Ploeg as a permanent table guest, and changing table guests around the following three themes:
    • Session 1– Societal engagement or academic distance; with Jessica Duncan, Aya Kimura, Han Wiskerke
    • Session 2 – Discussing the rural-urban dichotomy; with Henk Oostindie, Sally Shortall, Esther Veen
    • Session 3 – A continuing debate: agency and structure; with Bettina Bock, Bram Büscher, Mark Vicol
  5. Closure morning session by stand-up musician Bart Kiers
  6. Keynote by Hannah Wittman: Bridging rural and urban through agroecological networks: cultivating agrarian citizenship in a climate crisis
  7. Presentation of Research Agendas: Imagining the next 25 years of rural sociology. Interactive session around three research agendas, briefly pitched by RSO staff, followed by an open floor exchange of ideas and discussion:
    • Pitch 1– Agriculture – introduction Kees Jansen
    • Pitch 2 – Place – introduction Joost Jongerden
    • Pitch 3 – Food – introduction Jessica Duncan
  8. Closure afternoon session by stand-up musician Bart Kiers



Professor Joost Dessein: Friends of RSO video series

In this video, we interview Professor Joost Dessein, Department of Agricultural Economics at Ghent University, and President of the European Society for Rural Sociology.

Joost reflects on the innovativeness of the RSO Group, our passionate dedication, and our academic skills that allow us to stay at the cutting edge. He points to the role of members of RSO, notably Professor Bettina Bock, for their leadership in Rural Sociology across Europe.

He shares a story of meeting Professor Jan Douwe van der Ploeg after he came across his work.

In terms of the future of rural sociology, he anticipates the emergence of new themes given the dynamism ahead.

Thank you to Joost for taking the time to share these memories and thank you to Yanick Bakker for her editing skills.

Professor Peter Oosterveer: Friends of RSO video series

Professor Peter Oosterveer, from the Environmental Policy Group, first became aware of the Sociology Group as a student in the 1970s. When he came back to work at the Environmental Policy Group, he maintained strong collaborations with the group through research and education.

In this interview, he mentioned the way in which RSO has stayed ahead of the debates over the last 30 years. He also reflects on the influence of Bruno Benvenuti as a teacher, but also for his critical look at more macro developments (e.g. technologies) and how farmers deal with these. Peter highlights the value of the RSO Group’s focus on rural development, especially at a time when much attention is turning towards a globalizing, and urbanizing world.

For the future of rural sociology, he notes the importance of continuing to understand the way rural regions are changing in relation to other regions.

Thank you to Peter for taking the time to share these memories and to Yanick Bakker for her editing skills.

Professor Gianluca Brunori: Friends of RSO video series

In this second interview in the Friends of RSO video Series, we speak with Gianluca Brunori, Professor of Food Policy at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, at Pisa University. In our interview, he reflects on the central role the RSO group has had on his career. He notes the impact of the group, based in part on the methodological approaches and a strong, critical view: the attempt to go beyond the common discourse to challenge situations, while also looking the alternatives.

He reflects on the blurring of disciplines and the challenges and opportunities this poses for Rural Sociology. He makes a plea for enhanced engagement with economies to enhance our understandings of alternatives, without losing the “hard core” of the discipline.

Professor Brunori shares an experience of a rainy group camping trip that led to the consolidation of professional relations that have spanned more than 30 years.

Many thanks to Gianluca for sharing his reflections and to Yanick Bakker for her editorial work.

Prof Myriam Paredes: Friends of RSO video series

Over the last 75 years, we have made a lot of friends from around the world. In this short series, we interview a few of these friends with strong roots in RSO and who have gone on to have internationally recognized scientific careers.

In this interview series, we ask them to reflect on their connection to the group, the legacy of the group, and the future of rural sociology more broadly.

In this first interview, Professor Myriam Paredes, of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, (FLACSO), in Ecuador, reflects on the novel approaches and contributions of the group to sociological debate, notably moving beyond traditional actor /structure dichotomies.

She also recalls fondly the deep conversations and good company she experiences while studying at RSO. She shares that students and staff would come together to debate the ageless question of what different realities mean, as a way to introduce non-sociological students into sociological debates.

She also shares her trajectory from MSc student to PhD candidate and reflects on the quality of the teachers, and ‘friends for life’ that supported her on her journey.

A special thank you to Myriam for sharing her memories and to Yanick Bakker for her editorial support.

Support to the Short Food Supply Chains in Ukraine: MSc Research Practice

This research practical is a project under the supervision of Dr Jessica Duncan, Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University. It has been set up  students who want to prepare for a career in science but who have a passion for applied research.

Because the practical is research based, the student will need to write a research proposal, carry out a research project and finish with a research practice report.

  • Starting immediately
  • 4-6 months
  • 24-39 ECTS (to be determined with student and study advisor)
  • Flexible in terms of location
  • Only available to students who have permission from their study advisor. The research practical replaces the internship.

The candidate must have:

  • Strong research and communication skills required (english and additional languages are considered an asset)
  • Understanding of short food supply chains
  • Interest working with interdisciplinary teams
  • Ambition to publish research results as part of a team of co-authors

Description:

We are looking for a MSc student to research the possibility of short food supply chains in Ukraine in the current crisis and post-crisis contexts. The project will be supervised by Dr Jessica Duncan who is facilitating a collboration the the topic.

The intern will support the project by desiging and conducting research related to the following 4 steps. It is expected that the results will be published in a book on urban agriculture and occupied territories.

Step 1: Analyse the needs and opportunities for supporting the food supply chains

A rapid assessment of the current situation in Ukraine regarding food chains with support from experts and local networks.

Step 2: Identify and analyse the participating Municipalities

The situation in Ukraine varies and is changing on daily basis, thus rather than working on general level it would be best to identify Municipalities that have interest and capacity to work on short food supply chains. With experts, the intern will coordinate with at least 5 municipalities. The network of contacts in Ukraine will support identification of municipalities. 

Step 3: Map the stakeholders

An analysis of the needs in the selected Municipalities, as well as their potential would be performed. Issues such as population and demographic trends, land availability, labour availability, current food sources, provision and demand, as well as logistics, including storage, supply and distribution should be included in the analysis. Land availability, skills and labour are factors which influence the possibility of various approaches, ranging from large-scale production to small-scale involvement (e.g. garden plots).

Mapping of the stakeholders would be done with the support of local authorities, CSOs and local contacts. Mapping would include not only food producers, food processing companies, retailers, cooperatives and authorities responsible for food quality control, but also small-scale businesses, CSOs, organisations dealing with IDPs and informal groups (e.g. local women initiatives). An important aspect is the potential to organise therapeutic activities for the traumatised as part of short food supply chains.

Step 4: Prepare evidence-based guidelines for supporting short food supply chains

Based on the analysis, guidelines will be prepared for organising and supporting food supply chains. In order to be used by a variety of actors, from municipal authorities to CSOs, the guidelines would include a range of issues and activities, such as organisation of local food markets and food distribution, integration of relocated businesses and people, agricultural advisory service and advice on food processing, as well as provision of therapeutic support and recreation. Preparation of the guidelines would require close collaboration of the international experts and the network of contacts in Ukraine and would nee to be useful in a range of contexts (urban / rural, cash-for-work programmes / contribution in kind), and include a range of practices (e.g. seeds sharing and distribution, food sharing, community cooking).

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of your MSc research practice, you are expected to be able to:

  1. Evaluate career interests and ambitions in relation to the research project and reflect on professional ambitions and capabilities.
  2. Develop a research plan, including: a description of the research topic in relation to the wider scientific context; an identification of the knowledge gap; formulation of research questions and/or a hypothesis, aims and objectives; an explanation of how you intend to conduct the research (e.g. in terms of a design for the project, data-collection and -analysis methods, research tools).
  3. Collect, select and process data, using the design for the project, methods and tools described in the research plan.
  4. Analyse and synthesise the data in order to answer the research questions and/or test the hypothesis.
  5. Formulate answers to the research questions that are supported by the research outcomes; pay attention to potential limitations;  critically discuss the outcomes in relation to the wider scientific and societal context.
  6. Report on the research, both in writing and in oral presentation.
  7. Work in compliance with academic codes of conduct and with proper management of time and resources.
  8. Make use of input and feedback for executing the research project and provide feedback to others.
  9. Define personal learning goals, which could include domain-specific skills, and reflect on development therein.

For more information please contact Jessica Duncan: jessica.duncan@wur.nl

SPS Thesis market 2022

Have you started thinking about your thesis, but are you not sure what topic to choose? Or do you have a lot of ideas, but are you not sure what chair group to join?

Come meet the chair groups at our Thesis Market 2022!

Learn more about our research domains, meet thesis supervisors, and get inspired!

Monday 9th May

16:00-18:00

Leeuwenborch, 3rd floor