Interested in Food and Place?

Are you interested in the sociological aspects of food provisioning and place-based development and want to know more about topics like place-based food systems, food citizenship, civic food networks, sustainable place-shaping, diverse economies, place branding and social movements? Then it may be a relevant for you to attend the MSc course ‘Sociology of Food Provisioning and Place-based Development’ that starts on Monday 17 March 2014. Lectures and workshops are held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for a period of 6 weeks. Included in the program is also a gastronomic excursion to rural estate Rhederoord, to experience the practice of place-making and enjoy the taste of place-based food products. Although registration for the course has formally closed you can still register for the course by sending an email to the course coordinator  ( For more information about the content of the course, the program and the literature, have a look at the Course Guide.

Master thesis experience in the US

A post by Max van Tilburg (MSc student International Development)


The nature of urban agriculture; initiatives in Lansing and Detroit, Michigan, United States

Urban agriculture over the past decennium has become very popular in the Western World, this brings up questions about the commonality between all these different initiatives. This question stood at the basis of my master thesis, and was translated to whether urban agriculture initiatives in Lansing and Detroit (Michigan, USA) could be seen as (being part of) a social movement.

Although the history and (organizational) background of the urban agriculture initiatives in Lansing and Detroit are very diverse, the similarity in practices, ideas and ideologies (both displayed in shared discourses and themes) was remarkably high. It turned out that community building with all its aspects is a first order concern for the initiatives, neighborhood organizations, a soup kitchen, private farmers, all practiced and expressed a major concern about working on the community.

On the overall I arrived at a point were I more or less hypothesize the same as Touraine (1998) did in his research on social movements; “that their ‘real’ purpose was a broad-based effort to oppose the corporate and government technocrats who initiated and directed most social change”.

Read more in my thesis!

Trendy food and food regime change?

Picture1During the nineties, we, urbanites, discovered the countryside anew. Farmers opened their stables and greenhouses for excursions, recreational activities such as ‘farm golf’ and camping at the farm became popular. That these farmers also produced food and where that food went to, was not so much considered. Often also not by the farmers themselves. The onion in bulk to the wholesale markets, the milk to the factory, the consumer at the farm gate for recreational activities; multifunctional farming. However, more and more the connection to the consumer happened through food too. Veggie boxes, fresh dairy directly from the farm. In small, it was always there already, but it has grown in public awareness ever since. Local food is now celebrated in magazines, in the supermarket, at the market, at fairs, in the newspaper, in policies. Continue reading

Convergence of food social movements, IRSA reflection 1

In Lisbon, Portugal, the World Congress of Rural Sociology is currently on. It is a stimulating week with researchers from all over the world in plenary sessions as well as smaller parallel groups where results and concepts are presented and discussed. While listening to some presentations, I had to think of the book “Food Movements Unite!” edited by Eric Holt-Giménez. Leaders of the food sovereignty movement talk about the future of the movement and about the need to unite. From the academic work currently presented, there seems to be hopeful news that this is happening. Patricia Allen explained how there is “basket of social movements in convergence” around food and agriculture in the US currently. Whereas the Sustainable Agriculture coalition would talk about environmental degradation and profitability of farm enterprises and certainly not about food security and social justice in a wider sense, this move is now being made. This makes linkages possible with the Community Food Security Movement. To describe this development, Patricia used the metaphor of a tree trunk with a non-negotiable core and branches with leaves of slightly different colour. Continue reading

IFSA 2012 workshop ‘The meaning of semi-subsistence farming in different cultural contexts’

Together with Imre Kovach and Catherine Darrot,  I will be hosting a workshop at the IFSA symposium in Aarhus, Denmark from the 1st of July until the 4th of July 2012.

The workshop is aimed at exploring the multiple meanings of semi-subsistent food production strategies in different cultural context. Two questions are at the centre of attention: 1) How has the meaning of semi-subsistent food production changed over time for producers, society and institutions? and 2) What recommendations can be derived from the research for policy makers of multi-state institutions (e.g. EU?). We invite researchers from diverse countries to present their empirical research in order to stimulate a fruitful discussion and knowledge exchange.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is the 31st of December 2011.  More information and a link to submitting your abstract can be found here. I hope to see you there!

Urban Ag and Revolution

They claim to be the only example of rooftop farming in Porto Alegre. Hence, a revolutionary example in many ways. A student of last week’s class kindly offered to showed me around in Porto Alegre including unusual places such as the movement-community-cooperative COOPSUL. Right in the middle of the centre a building was squatted in 2005 related to the World Social Forum marches. The building was long-term abandoned and the movement of (somehow translated) ‘roofless’ people, the urban counterpart of the MST, asked with the squatting for the right to good housing. Their slogan; ‘Utopia e Luta’ which means Utopia and Struggle/Fight.

Against the odds, their fight was productive and they were given the right to stay in the building in 2007 under the condition that it would be a community place, open for the public. The building was turned into 42 individual apartments and community spaces for 5 separate cooperative economic activities; baking, gardening, sewing, laundry services and t-shirt printing. With the years, reality hit utopia from the inside. Tensions around individual needs and collective organisation, around leadership and running the cooperative emerged. It was originally envisaged that the people who were selected for the individual apartments would also work in the cooperative activities. This turned out to be difficult for various reasons. As a result, the 5 activities are not all running in the way it was envisaged and the rooftop farm is still very much in construction and produces for the building only.

Despite internal difficulties, the successful access to living space by squatting is still charged with a lot of symbolic energy. The movement and the building became a symbol for other urban groups and movements and the organisation is asked to assist in demonstrations and other revolutionary activities. For example today, they went out to assist MST land occupation demonstration in the face of evacuation.

CS: Food crisis? Strategies to transform our food system: course outline

On the 16th of October it is World Food Day. The theme this year 2011 is ‘Food prices –from crisis to stability’. Price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. It is predicted that instability in the world food economy will continue during the decade to come. What can we do? How can we create resilient food systems? The World Food Day has inspired the NGO’s Otherwise, RUW and the Boerengroep, to jointly organise a series of activities and lectures: Food, Farmers and Forks: moving beyond the crisis in agriculture.

In collaboration with Petra Derkzen of the chairgroup Rural Sociology (RSO) the series can be followed as one of the learning activities in this Capita Selecta course under the code RSO 51303 ‘Agricultural and Rural Innovation Processes’. The Food Farmer Fork lecture series together with the book: Food movements Unite! Strategies to Transform Our Food System (ed. Eric Holt-Giménez; see and a written essay form the basis of the course.

So, listen to critical lectures on the role that social movements can play in rural development, the future for European farmers after the CAP, the contribution of urban agriculture to food security and consider your own Ecological Footprint in the Food Farmer Fork series! And, the course literature consists of a just released and super timely book which gives the necessary background and concepts to understand the relationships between food sovereignty, resilient food systems and social movements. We will read Part I. You will learn to formulate your own vision on these relationships through the course essay assignment. The full course outline will be available soon.

Credits: 3. See under this link the course outline: Capita Selecta RSO 51303 v2

Language: English

Start: Tuesday evening 1th of November. Lectures/activities; every tuesday evening until 13th of December. Deadline essay delivery 14 of December.

Subscribe to the course until 31 of October at Boerengroep

Working group at 24th ESRS congress in Chania, Greece 22-25 August 2011: Call for papers

Imre Kovách ( Institute for Political Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest), Petra Derkzen and I are organising a working group on “the governance of semi-subsistent food and farming strategies in the countryside and city- a compartive perspective” at the 24th ESRS congress in Chania (Greece) from 22-25 of August 2011. We would like to invite all interested researchers to submit their papers dealing with empirical or theoretical reflections on the driving forces, structure and mechanisms of semisubsistence food and farming strategies in the countryside and-or cities, both within developed and developing countries. Abstracts may be submitted  to Imre Kovach ( AND until the 30th of April 2011.  For a more detailed description of the workshop please read further…

Courtesy of European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism

Continue reading

Rural women in Europe: invest in the vitality of rural areas to improve their position

The report ‘Personal and social development of women in rural areas of Europe’, prepared for the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, provides an overview of the social situation of women in the rural areas of Europe. It looks into rural women’s work, political participation and their experience of the quality of life in rural areas. It points at the great diversity between and within Member States but also states that there is no evidence of a general rural disadvantage. Women experience specific problems only in the peripheral rural regions of Europe and in particular the Central-Eastern Member States. These areas are maladapted to women’s needs in terms of employment and services, as well as cultural norms and values. It is also in those areas that young rural women (and men) decide to leave and to search for a better life elsewhere.

Analysis of rural development policies reveals that women seldom participate in the formation of rural development plans or the decision making on the distribution of funds. There are some projects designed for women often focusing on self-employment. There are also some projects aimed at improving the supply of social services. Most projects are fragmented attempts to solve some problems for some women. A coherent plan on how to address gender equality is lacking. 

To improve the situation of rural women it is recommended to focus on the situation in the peripheral rural areas where the low quality of life and lack of work, income and services constraints women’s development and perpetuates unequal gender relations. It is important to invest in the vitality and quality of life of those areas and to improve their accessibility. Upgrading the local quality of life may convince rural women (and men) to stay. It may also help to mobilize individual and collective action for local development.