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
Recently a Horizon 2020 grant of € 6 million was awarded for a project entitled ‘Rural-Urban Outlooks: Unlocking Synergies’ (ROBUST). ROBUST has started on the 1st of June 2017 and is coordinated by Han Wiskerke of the Rural Sociology Group.
The overall goal of ROBUST is to a) advance our understanding of the interactions and dependencies between rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and b) identify and promote policies, governance models and practices that foster mutually beneficial relations.
The project focusses on five domains of urban-rural relations & interdependencies: 1) New businesses and labour markets; 2) Public infrastructures and social services; 3) Sustainable food systems, 4) Cultural connections, and 5) Ecosystem services. These domains will be studied in 11 place-based living labs: Ede (Netherlands), Tukums (Latvia), Helsinki (Finland), Mid-Wales (UK), Gloucestershire (UK), Frankfurt-Rhein-Main metropole (Germany), Ljubljana Urban Region (Slovenia), Styria (Austria), Valencia (Spain), Province of Lucca (Italy) and Lisbon and Tagus Valley Region (Portugal). Each Living Labs will focus on three domains of urban-rural relations. Domain-specific lessons and experiences will be shared across Living Labs in thematic Communities of Practice (five in total, each covering one of the aforementioned domains of urban-rural relations).
In each Living Lab a research organisation (university, research institute or consultancy firm) will collaborate with a local or regional authority. For the Dutch case the Rural Sociology Group will collaborate with Ede Municipality. In total the ROBUST consortium consists of 24 partners: 11 research organisations, 11 local or regional authorities and two umbrella organisations: the Peri-Urban Regions Platform Europe (PURPLE) and the European Secretariat of the International Network of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI Europe).
The kick-off meeting will take place on 7, 8 and 9 June in the Akoesticum in Ede. The website of the project is expected to be ready by September 2017. For more information about ROBUST, please contact one of the members of the RSO ROBUST team: Han Wiskerke, Henk Oostindie, Rudolf van Broekhuizen, Jessica Duncan and Bettina Bock.
Acknowledgement of the enormity of the many socio-environmental, agricultural, food, health and related ‘planetary emergencies’ confronting us today has provoked a growing chorus of calls for urgent action. In the face of such urgency, it seems that there is less and less (obvious) time for pause and reflection. Moreover, both from within and directed at the social sciences, there are many who argue that it is time to dispense with or move beyond critique. From Latour’s 2004 question ‘has critique run out of steam?’ to more recent commentary, it may seem that the value of critique and critical thinking is no longer obvious, even in many social sciences. Instead, we are told, we must focus our attention on identifying and formulating constructive alternatives and/or solutions to the planetary emergencies currently haunting us.
The SUSPLACE consortium bids you a hearty welcome to our newly launched website http://www.sustainableplaceshaping.net. SUSPLACE is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Commission that explores the full potential of place-shaping practices for sustainable development. SUSPLACE officially kicked-off on October 1, 2015 in Wageningen, The Netherlands and will last till September 30, 2019. The overall aim of the project…
The course RSO-55306 A Global Sense of Place starts soon, so please register if you are interested to follow this. It is an optional interdisciplinary course on sustainable place-based development for students from various master programmes (e.g. MDR, MES, MID, MLP, MUE, MOA, MFN). The course builds on the BSc course RSO-56806 Sociology and Anthropology of Place-shaping providing an introduction to place-based approaches in development. Knowledge of this introductory course is an advantage, but is not assumed. The course aims to make students acquainted with an interdisciplinary and place-based approach to development.
A relational place-based approach is seen as key to the understanding of interrelated rural and urban transformation processes and ergo sustainable development. In a relational approach places are considered as contingent but in time and space differentiated outcomes of three interrelated interdependent and unbounded transformative processes: political-economic, ecological and social-cultural. Places are time and space specific constructs, like their boundaries and connections.
By means of this course students will achieve profound understanding in key-concepts and methods on place-based sustainable development. Work from key thinkers in sustainable place-making will be critically discussed and examined on the basis of various cases. Guest speakers are invited to reflect on place-based approaches to sustainable development and illustrate these through case studies. Ultimately students will acquire a place-based perspective on development.
Main themes of the course
Central to a place-based approach is the conceptions of place as: 1) Arenas for negotiation, conflicting interests and power struggles; 2) Endowed with meaning and the constitution of identities, subjectivities and difference.
Different interdisciplinary themes will be addressed such as:
a relational approach of place and space;
key thinkers on place and space;
politics of place;
cultural approaches of place-based development
‘the human dimension’, encompassing collaboration and leadership
SUSPLACE is a Marie Curie Actions Initial Training Network funded by the European Commission that will kick-off October 1, 2015. SUSPLACE aims to train 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESR) in innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to study sustainable place-shaping practices. These 15 ESR positions at six universities are now open for application till midnight October 7, 2015 (opening has been extended). See the list of the 15 individual research projects and host universities below.
The SUSPLACE approach will provide insight into how to utilize the full potential of places and communities for development and help to build capacities of people to engage in place-shaping processes and thus strengthen connectivity between policy-makers, academics, businesses and civil society.
In 2014 the International Social Science Council launched a call for pre-proposals to apply for a ‘seed grant’ on the topic Transformations to Sustainability. Wageningen UR (Ina Horlings from RSO and Paul Hebinck from SDC), the Rhodes University and the University of Viçosa wrote a proposal together and received funding. The seed grant was used to build a knowledge network around this topic, locally in sites in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, the Minais Gerais in Brazil and in three different sites in the Netherlands. Furthermore the research partners met in South Africa in December 2014 to visit some sites and write a full proposal together. In the beginning of 2015 the organisation ILEIA, centre for learning on sustainable agriculture, joined the research consortium and in April 2015 a final proposal was submitted.
TRANSPLACE addresses concrete problems and sustainability issues across several linked areas of global environmental change in 9 specific social-ecological settings in South-Africa, Brazil and the Netherlands. Sustainability problems emerge from complex interactions between people’s livelihoods, the persistent poverty in the southern countries, growing inequalities between people, social discontent and health.
The integrative sustainability challenge is to support sustainable place-shaping as an empowering force of transformation – encompassing people, practices and policies – contributing to new forms of connectivity and co-creation between people and place. This occurs via, and helps us to understand, re-localization, transformative agency and the re-embedding of daily lived practices in social-ecological systems and place-based assets. This is considered as an empowering perspective and an effective starting point for sustainable place-based development.The central question is: How does place-shaping – understood as processes of connectivity- lead to new seeds of change contributing to transformation to sustainability?
TRANSPLACE aims to:
address the temporal, historical, spatial, value-led and multi-scale aspects of sustainability in places and to connect people to place (landscape, nature, soil, people’s capacities) by identifying, supporting and replanting ‘seeds of change’ (innovative practices)
establish (long-term) knowledge networks on different scales, facilitate transnational research collaboration and social learning and support early career scientists.
co-create new knowledge, tools and policy-recommendations on processes of place-shaping as innovative transformative pathways to sustainability.
On the 16th of March 2015 the MSc course ‘Sociology of Food Provisioning and Place-based Development’ (RSO-31806) starts. Students that want to participate in this course can contact the course coordinator Han Wiskerke (firstname.lastname@example.org) as the deadline for online registration has passed.
The course aims to provide a theoretical, empirical and methodological understanding of place-based development processes, with an emphasis on food provisioning and rural and territorial dynamics in urbanizing societies. The course is based upon recently completed and ongoing research activities within two of the main research domains of the Rural Sociology Group:
The sociology of food provisioning;
The sociology of place-based development.
Being based on recently completed and ongoing research projects implies that this course provides an up-to-date insight into current theoretical debates and research findings. These are mainly derived from international collaborative research programmes (see ‘our projects’), carried out by multi-disciplinary research teams in different countries inside and outside Europe. Within and linked to these programmes the Rural Sociology Group has approximately 30 ongoing PhD projects. Some of these projects will also feature during this course.