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:
In addition all presentations and talks are available online in order of the program of the day:
Opening by Arthur Mol (Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University)
Keynote by Han Wiskerke: Meaningful diversity: Past, present and future of rural sociology
Keynote by Haroon Akram-Lodhi: From peasant studies to critical agrarian studies
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
Keynote by Hannah Wittman: Bridging rural and urban through agroecological networks: cultivating agrarian citizenship in a climate crisis
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:
2021 was a very special year for the Rural Sociology Group: as the chair group turned 75 years old, more than 100 people from all over the world have successfully completed their PhD with this group. PhDs have contributed to our understanding of the three main themes that characterize the research lines of RSO: agriculture, food, and place. They have developed a diverse range of theoretical frameworks. Former PhDs of RSO have continued their professional careers in farming, research, and project implementation in academia, the government, international organizations, and NGOs. Throughout the 75 years of RSO, we have seen a considerable increase of female and non-Dutch PhD candidates, and increasingly research sites outside of the Netherlands and Europe are studied. The trajectory of a PhD and funding structures have transformed as well.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of RSO, we developed a RSO PhD magazine as a tribute to PhD research and education at RSO. In the magazine we share stories of a selection of former and current PhD candidates. You will find a tribute to Bruno Benvenuti, former PhD candidate and professor at RSO, written by Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. We trace the trajectory of several PhD alumni. These stories provide insight in their research topics as a PhD at RSO, the rewards and challenges they faced to complete their projects, the influence of their research on their current professional jobs and vice versa the influence of previous (work) experiences on their PhD research.
Other sections of the magazine highlight the life of PhDs that graduated and continued their academic career at RSO. For this, current staff wrote a letter to their “younger-selves” to reflect on the time when they were PhD candidates. Besides these retrospectives, the magazine also contains a section with stories from the field from current PhDs. In the end, the magazine offers a rich conversation between the chair holder of RSO, Han Wiskerke, Professor Bettina Bock, and Emeritus Professor Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. They reflect on their experience of supervising PhDs candidates, candidates who have inspired them, and the lessons they carry forward from their own PhD journey. In between these stories, the magazine documents a variety of interesting developments and trends among the PhD candidates and their research. Do you know when the first woman completed her PhD at RSO? Which nationality is represented most among candidates after the Dutch nationality?
This magazine was borne out of curiosity. Curiosity about former PhDs, their research and trajectories, and how PhD trajectories have changed over 75 years. The magazine was designed and edited by us as current and former PhD candidates. We are grateful to all the people who contributed to the magazine and made the production of this magazine possible. The process of creating this magazine and the end-result made us even more proud of the inspiring, warm chair group RSO is and was over the last 75 years. We want to invite you to get inspired as well, as you can now find the digital version of our magazine via de following link: https://edepot.wur.nl/568431
Op maandag 31 januari om 20.00 uur organiseert Pakhuis De Zwijger in samenwerking met Trouw De Duurzame 100 onder de titel ‘Grond van Ons’ een gesprek over de waarde van een gezonde bodem voor burgers.
Zonder gezonde grond, geen gezond voedsel. Op steeds meer plekken staan burgers op om samen grond te kopen en duurzame productie van voedsel door boeren mogelijk te maken. Verschillende initiatieven hebben letterlijk het heft in eigen handen genomen, want de betrokken burgers werken soms mee en brengen de producten rechtstreeks van het erf naar de keuken. In overleg met lokale bewoners en boeren ontstaat een nieuwe sociale gemeenschap. Deze ontwikkeling legt de basis voor de democratisering van de landbouw. De stad en het platteland, de burger en de boer raken weer met elkaar verbonden. De volgende vragen staan centraal in deze bijeenkomst. Zijn deze initiatieven dé oplossing voor verduurzaming onze bodem? Hoe gaan deze initiatieven te werk? Waar komt de toegevoegde waarde van deze initiatieven terecht?
At the event we will reflect upon the history of rural sociology and discuss future challenges in a lively and interactive setting.
08.30 – Registration and coffee/thee
09.00 – Opening by Arthur Mol (Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University)
09.30 – Keynote Han Wiskerke Meaningful diversity: Past, present and future of rural sociology
10.00 – Keynote Haroon Akram-Lodhi From peasant studies to critical agrarian studies
10.45 – Break
11.00 – Rural Talk Show – Interactive session including invited guests and audience participation. The Talk Show is chaired by Matt Reed, with Jan Douwe van der Ploeg as a permanent table guest, and changing table guests around the following three themes: – Societal engagement or academic distance; with Jessica Duncan, Aya Kimura, Han Wiskerke – Discussing the rural-urban dichotomy; with Henk Oostindie, Sally Shortall, Esther Veen – A continuing debate: agency and structure; with Bettina Bock, Bram Büscher, and Mark Vicol
12.15 – Closure morning session
12.30 – Lunch
14.00 – Workshops
15.30 – Keynote Hannah Wittman Bridging rural and urban through agroecological networks: cultivating agrarian citizenship in a climate crisis
16.30 – Imagining the next 25 years of rural sociology. Interactive session around three research agenda’s, briefly pitched by RSO staff, followed by an open floor exchange of ideas and discussion: – Agriculture – introduction Kees Jansen – Place – introduction Joost Jongerden – Food – introduction Jessica Duncan
18.00 – Closure, drinks and conference diner
Haroon Akram-Lodhi – ‘From peasant studies to critical agrarian studies‘ Haroon Akram Lodhi is Professor of Economics and International Development Studies at Trent University, Canada. His research interest is in the political economy of agrarian change, the future of smallholder peasant communities in the world food system, on the sustainability of rural social structures, relations and institutions, and gender and rights based economics. https://sites.google.com/site/aharoonakramlodhi/home
Arthur Mol– Opening Arthur Mol was trained in environmental sciences (MSc) and environmental social sciences (PhD). Besides being Chair and Professor of Environmental Policy at Wageningen University he was also Professor of Environmental Policy at Renmin University, China, at Tsinghua University, China, and at the National University of Malaysia UKM. He was joint editor of the journal Environmental Politics, and is book series editor of New Horizons in Environmental Politics. His main fields of interest and publications are in environmental studies, globalization, social theory and the environment, informational governance, ecological modernization, China, sustainable (food) production and consumption and urban environmental governance. Currently, he is Rector Magnificus and Vice-President of the Executive Board of Wageningen University & Research and president of the Association of European Life Science Universities (ICA). https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Arthur-prof.dr.ir.-APJ-Arthur-Mol.htm
Hannah Wittman – ‘Bridging rural and urban through agroecological networks: cultivating agrarian citizenship in a climate crisis‘ Hannah Wittman is Professor Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Her research examines the ways that the rights to produce and consume food are contested and transformed through struggles for agrarian reform, food sovereignty, and agrarian citizenship. Her projects include community-based research on farmland access, transition to organic agriculture, and seed sovereignty in British Columbia, agroecological transition and the role of institutional procurement in the transition to food sovereignty in Ecuador and Brazil, and the role that urban agriculture and farm-to-school nutrition initiatives play in food literacy education. http://ires.ubc.ca/person/hannah-wittman/
Han Wiskerke – ‘Meaningful diversity: past, present and future of rural sociology’ Han Wiskerke is Professor of Rural Sociology and Chair of the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University since 2004. From January 2013 until June 2016 he was also Professor of Foodscape Studies and Design at the Academy of Architecture (Amsterdam University of the Arts). His main research themes during the past 15 years have been a) agrarian and rural development, b) city-region food systems and c) urban-rural relations. He was founding editor-in-chief of Urban Agriculture and Regional Food Systems from 2014 – 2018 and (co-)editor of books on agrarian & rural transitions, food planning, foodscape studies & design, urban agriculture, and sustainable & regenerative food systems. https://www.wur.nl/nl/personen/han-prof.dr.ir.-jsc-han-wiskerke.htm
Participants in the Rural Talk Show session and the Imagining the next 25 years of rural sociology session:
Bettina Bock is Professor for Inclusive Rural Development at the Rural Sociology Chairgroup at Wageningen University and Professor for Population Decline and Quality of Life at Groningen University. Her areas of research include inclusive rural development and social innovation, with a particular focus on remote and depopulating rural areas, governance, migration and rural gender relations. From 2013-2019 she was the editor-in-chief of Sociologia Ruralis. In addition, she is a board members of the European Society for Rural Sociology and the International Rural Sociology Association. She has been invited as guest professor at the Università di Gastronomia in Pollenza in 2020), Cornell University in the United States (2019), Kyoto University (2018) and Newcastle University (2017). https://www.wur.nl/nl/personen/bettina-prof.dr.ir.-bb-bettina-bock.htm
Bram Büscher is Professor and Chair of the Sociology of Development and Change group at Wageningen University. He holds visiting positions at the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies of the University of Johannesburg and the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology of Stellenbosch University, in South Africa. His research interests revolve around the political economy of conservation and development, the politics of energy and extraction, ecotourism, new media and social theory. More info at www.brambuscher.com
Jessica Duncan is Associate Professor in the Politics of Sustainable Food Systems in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University, is a researcher and educator committed to social justice. Jessica is widely recognised for her expertise on the politics of sustainable food system transition. She is a founding member of the Centre for Unusual Collaborations (CUCo) and sits on the editorial board of Sociologia Ruralis. https://www.wur.nl/nl/personen/jessica-dr.-jab-jessica-duncan.htm
Kees Jansen is an Associate Professor in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. His work connects the fields of political ecology, critical agrarian studies and international development. His current research focusses on pesticide risk governance and social movements concerned about pesticides. More info at www.keesjansen.eu
Joost Jongerden is an Associate Professor in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. His research on ‘Do-It-Yourself Development’ aims to identify the possibilities of alternative futures grounded in peoples’ daily practices and present struggles. His geographical focus is Kurdistan and Turkey. He holds a position as professor at the Asian Platform for Global Sustainability and Transcultural Studies, Kyoto University, Japan, and has been a visiting professor at Toronto University in 2018. In 2012 he was a founding member of the journal Kurdish Studies, of which he was an editor until 2020. In 2021 he founded the journal Commentaries. He is a board member of the European Union Turkey Civic Commission. https://wur.academia.edu/JoostJongerden
Aya H. Kimura – professor of sociology at the University of Hawai`i-Manoa. Her research analyzes the intersections of technoscience, gender, and sustainability. She has had research projects in Indonesia, Japan, and Hawai`i, and has written on agrobiodiversity, fermentation, food safety, nutrition science and the idea of “smart food.” Among others, she examines diverse practical experiences with citizen science on a range of food and farming issues, from seed development to toxicants to biodiversity. https://ayakimura.weebly.com/
Henk Oostindie – Senior Researcher in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. He has a longstanding experience in researching the socio-economic aspects of rural development, including topics as farming styles, multifunctional agrarian pathways, food chain dynamics, multi-level rural governance and rural-urban interdepencies. A significant part of his empirically grounded research interests took place within comparative analysis and policy oriented European projects.
Jan Douwe van der Ploeg – Emeritus Professor and the former Chair of the Rural Sociology Group in Wageningen. In his position as Professor of Rural Sociology, he elaborated the inquiry into the expressions, implications and underlying mechanisms of heterogeneity in agriculture. He was also closely involved in some of the grass root initiatives that aimed at developing (practical) new alternatives to the reigning model of ongoing scale-increase and further industrialization of agriculture and rural development. http://www.jandouwevanderploeg.com/EN/
Matt Reed – Associate Professor in Food Citizenship and director of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucestershire (UK). He is a sociologist with research interests in how and why social change takes place around food. His research rests upon the intersections of political sociology, cultural studies and rural geography. http://www.ccri.ac.uk/reed/
Sally Shortall – Duke of Northumberland Professor of Rural Economy at the Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle University (UK). Her research interest is in rural sociology, community studies, rural development and rural proofing, agriculture, farm families. She is specifically known for her work on gender and agriculture. https://www.ncl.ac.uk/cre/about/staff/profile/sallyshortall.html#background
Esther Veen worked as an Assistant Professor at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University until 2021. She taught courses on urban food, food and identity, foodscapes and alternative food networks, and studied urban food initiatives, urban food growing and the effects of green on health and wellbeing. She is currently lector (reader) Urban Food Issues at Aeres University of Applied Sciences Almere, working closely with research institute Flevo Campus. She studies how food routines change and normalise, and how the urban environment can stimulate healthier and more sustainable food patterns. She is specifically interested in the interplay between the food environment and everyday routines around shopping, cooking and eating. She also focuses on the role of urban agriculture in the urban food system. https://www.aereshogeschool.nl/onderzoek/lectoren-en-onderzoekers/esther-veen
Mark Vicol is Assistant Professor of Agrarian Sociology in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. My research focuses on the intersections between rural livelihoods, agricultural development and agrarian change in South and Southeast Asia. I explore integrative approaches to understanding patterns of change at the intersections of micro-scale rural livelihoods and the macro-scale political-economic structures and social relations that underpin global capitalism. Specifically, I am interested in the changing relationships between land, agriculture, rural livelihoods and inequality; the livelihood implications for rural households of modern agricultural global value chains, and the politics of value chain development; and broader political economy questions about patterns of agrarian accumulation and differentiation and the future of small farmers and agriculture in the region. https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Mark-dr.-MR-Mark-Vicol.htm
Venue: Akoesticum, Nieuwe Kazernelaan 2D42, 6711 JC Ede, The Netherlands.
In one of our previous blogs we discussed Van der Ploeg’s concept resistance of the Third Kind (see Anniversary Blog 7). This was defined as a resistance which resides in working practices and farmers’ fields and is expressed in the way that cows are bred, how manure is made, products are delivered. In short, it is a resistance which intervenes in and reorganizes production, reproduction and markets (Van der Ploeg 2007). In this blog, the reconstruction of Kobanî is discussed a resistance of the third kind. Continue reading →
The full thesis will be available after the defence ceremony. The ceremony will be live-streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but can be viewed later as well. Tian Yu is affiliated as PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University.
As one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emission, agricultural production is responsible for climate change. In the most industrial countries, agricultural production has built a great dependency on fossil energy consumption by replacing most human labour with agro-technologies on the farm. This is unsustainable in the context of climate change and resource depletion. Therefore, in order to mitigate climate change, the transition to sustainable food production is necessary and urgent. Rising in the 1970s, organic agriculture is believed to be a sustainable approach for agricultural production. It has been proved to use less fossil energy due to a commitment not to use any synthetic substances, but at the same time it uses more labour. When labour and fossil energy are regarded as two basic resource inputs on a farm, it seems that organic farms use more labour to compensate for the reduced fossil energy consumption. However, it is still unknown how the input balance of fossil energy and labour on organic farms is different from that on conventional farms, and how the different input balance would influence the sustainability of agricultural production. It is valuable to explore these questions against the backdrop of climate change. As the issue of fossil energy and labour input balance on farms has not been studied thoroughly, this thesis is written based on an exploratory research. The main objective is to explore the balance of fossil energy and labour input at farm level by comparing conventional and organic farming systems, and to explore the possibility to optimise sustainability of resource use in agricultural production.
By conducting comparative case studies in both the Netherlands and China, this thesis first calculated the energy and labour input balance separately in the two countries, and it concluded organic farming uses less energy and more labour compared with conventional farming in both countries, but there is great variation among all the farms in the size and farming activity of this gap. When comparing the results from the two countries, the thesis concluded that Dutch farms use more energy while Chinese farms use more labour due to their different resource endowments. However, the situation is changing in both countries, and the changes show that the so-called industrial agriculture – which consumes much more energy – is not the only nor the best trajectory for agricultural development. Requiring more labour use on-farm, how organic farming can deal with the labour constrains is then answered: organic farmers should be encouraged to explore their diverse local solutions to increase the resilience of their farm when dealing with the constraints. In further, using the theory of farming mode and farming style, this thesis discussed farmers’ input strategies by clarifying the heterogeneity within organic farms, and highlighting the trend of conventionalisation in the development of organic agriculture, and it supports the hypothesis that organic agriculture with peasant qualities shows better potential in applying organic principles to optimise the sustainability of an organic farm. At last, the thesis discussed the theoretical concept of organic peasant agriculture and tries to distinguish it from conventional agriculture and conventionalised organic agriculture. It concludes that organic peasant agriculture is valuable in the transition to sustainable food production.
On Monday 26 June 2017 at 13.30 hrs Georgina Villarreal Herrera will defend her PhD thesis entitled ‘Sustaining Dairy’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.
The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.
Summary of the PhD thesis
Dairy in Europe has undergone many changes in the last few years—the abolition of milk production quotas being a fundamental one. This study explores these changes in relation to the sustained social and environmental viability of the sector and how dairy processors’ sustainability programs are a part of that.
This study traces the evolution of the dairy sectors in the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom since the post-war era, outlining the dominant logic that has guided their development. The analysis shows that the post-war logic based on the increase of scale and intensification of dairying has continued to shape the development of the sector through today. While the visible impacts of intensive dairy have led to adaptations to the dominant rules and practices, these changes have not been fundamental in nature. The analysis of dairy processors and their sustainability programs revealed that these programs can be an additional tool for compliance to legal standards and the alleviation of pressing societal concerns. However, processors address social and environmentally relevant dairy-related challenges when an effective link to profit can be established. These programs have been unable to ensure that the dairy sector operates within established environmental limits and societal expectations, while providing a stable livelihood for farmers.
On Thursday 22 June 2017 at 11.00 hrs Marc Wegerif will defend his PhD thesis entitled ‘Feeding Dar es Salaam: a Symbiotic Food System Perspective’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.
The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.
Marc is currently Land Rights Policy Lead for Oxfam and based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Before that he was in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) as Food and Land Rights Advisor for Oxfam with a focus on Horn, East and Central Africa. During that time he also undertook the fieldwork for his PhD thesis.
His thesis is based on qualitative research that explored the food system which feeds most of the over 4.6 million residents of the fast-growing city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Marc followed key foods (maize, rice, potatoes, green vegetables, eggs and milk) from the urban eaters to the retailers, processors and primary producers.
What has been found is a “symbiotic food system” made up of multitudes of small-scale and interdependent actors that together produce the food and get it to urban eaters at a city feeding scale. They do this without any vertically – or horizontally – integrated corporate structures.
The symbiotic food system that feeds Dar es Salaam is not perfect, but it is working and worthy of further research and interventions to create a more enabling environment for such foods systems to flourish in Tanzania and elsewhere.
Following his official retirement as Professor of Wageningen University, Jan Douwe van der Ploeg will give on January 26, 2017 his farewell address entitled ‘The importance of peasant agriculture‘. The ceremony will be in the Auditorium of Wageningen University from 16.00-17.00 CET and will be live streamed at WURTV. The ceremony is followed by a reception with the opportunity to congratulate Jan Douwe. Continue reading →