75th anniversary: 29) Watch or re-watch the recorded lectures in our RSO 75 Years Anniversary Seminar Series

We kicked-off our seminar series ‘Looking back, Looking Forward: Setting a future agenda for rural sociology’ as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Rural Sociology. The seminars lead-up to our grand anniversary celebration on May 13, 2022. For this anniversary seminar series we have invited a range of highly interesting scholars active in diverse fields closely linked to rural sociology and engaging with research themes, questions, approaches, and concepts relevant for the research agenda of rural sociology. The seminars engage with current work of the speaker as well as the context of past debates and future issues for rural sociology. You can watch the past two seminars on our YouTube channel. See here the announcement for our next seminar (May 19) on migrant labour in agriculture. Webinar: Migrant labour in agriculture | Rural Sociology Wageningen University

Lecture 1: ‘Farming Inside Invisible Worlds: Political ontologies of modernist agriculture’:         

Hugh Campbell, University of Otago, New Zealand

Date: 3d February 2021

This talk examines the way in which an explicit focus on colonisation can open up new ways to understand the power of modernist farms. Using the example of colonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand, farms are revealed as agents of ontological politics: both being created by the colonisation of indigenous worlds in many parts of the globe, but then also becoming agents that enacted a new, ‘scientific’, pacified, and highly ontologically-bounded modernist world. The outcome is a very specific kind of highly-empowered modernist/capitalist farming, locked into ‘farming inside invisible worlds’. The story of farming in Aotearoa New Zealand from colonisation to the present day reveals both the enormous colonising powers of modernist/capitalist farming, but also the inevitable fractures, overflows and contests that signal its inevitable demise.

Lecture 2: ‘Towards a Gaian agriculture’

Anna Krzywoszynska, University of Sheffield, UK

Date: 28th April 2021

This talk is concerned with the role for agri environmental social sciences in understanding the new human condition called by some “the Anthropocene”, and what I increasingly think of as the challenge of living with Gaia How have we become so lost that our most fundamental relationship with the environment, food getting, has come to undermine both our futures and those of our environments? And what is needed to build a new pact between humans and living ecosystems? I have been exploring these questions specifically in relation to soil as an existentially and conceptually crucial matter In this paper, I examine modern farming as built on multiple alienations, and propose the conditions under which re connection and a building agricultures which work with Gaia may become possible.

Webinar: Migrant labour in agriculture

In the Webinar 3 of our 75th Anniversary Rural Sociology Series we are pleased to present two presentations addressing the research theme ‘migrant labour in agriculture’.

Deniz Duruiz, Northwestern University:
Kurdishness, Race-Making, and Political Subjectivity on Turkish Farms

Seth Holmes, UC Berkeley:
The Extended Time and Space of Migrant Farmworker Injury: Indigenous Mexican Farmworkers in the USA

Date: Wednesday 19th May 2021 – Time: 15:00-17:00 (CET)

Register online via this link
Or check out the YouTube streaming link

YouTube streaming:

Reply of the European Commission to the Open letter on the EU’s ‘Farmers for the Future’ Report and the Farm to Fork Strategy

On March 11, we published an open letter to Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture, and Norbert Lins, President of COMAGRI of the European Parliament  about the ‘Farmers for the Future’ (EUR 30464 EN) policy report. Signed by many academics from different countries in Europe, the letter wrote: “[W]e observe that ‘Farmers for the Future’ critically fails to make use of, or build upon, Europe’s rich academic tradition of exploring and extrapolating the wide and richly-chequered heterogeneity of its agriculture. We also observe that the report does not offer evidence-based, scientific, support that can contribute to the process of European policy making. Instead, ‘Farmers for the Future’  contains and introduces dangerous biases into the discussions and debates.” See the post: Open letter on the EU’s ‘Farmers for the Future’ Report and the Farm to Fork Strategy | Rural Sociology Wageningen University

In his response to the letter, European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski writes “I welcome your comments, as this study precisely aims at triggering a debate about the future of EU farmers, in order to raise relevant policy questions”.

Read the letter here.

75th anniversary: 28) RSO Education: on the value of lectures

Still diving into the archives of Wageningen University Library, I found a pamphlet by Hofstee on the value of lectures written in 1965.  It includes a short argumentation about the value of live lectures and contrast sharply with the current shift to online education. This is the second blog on RSO Education.

In 1965, Hofstee published a pamphlet called Heeft College Lopen Zin? (Is it useful to attend lectures?) in which he discusses the value of old-fashioned lecturing. He starts with the following sentences:

 “Attending lectures is an issue of which its usefulness is doubted upon by students – judging from the many absentees. They are probably not alone in this. It is likely that, from time to time, many academic lecturers too get the feeling that their monologues and discussions with students are of limited value and that it might be wise to let students independently study the syllabus instead” (translated from Hofstee, 1965).

Hofstee wanted to demonstrate the value of lectures by executing a small research on students from the course Introduction to Social Sciences followed by 61 students. This course includes a complete syllabus for students to study. The exam will test their knowledge on the syllabus. In principle, students should thus be able to pass the exam by only studying the syllabus. Consequently, the lectures are to aid the study progress and are not vital to the assessment outcome. But by looking at the relationship between the lecture attendance and the grade, Hofstee concludes that attending lectures is likely to have a positive effect on the grade.

That was 1965. Fast forward to now.

At Wageningen University, the printed out thick syllabi are replaced by digital articles. A course is constructed out of various teaching methods including not only lectures but also group discussions, tutorials, excursion and so on. Academic lecturers, as Hofstee called them, deploy a range of teaching skills and learning styles to capture the attention of students. Each course is evaluated after completion and each year teachers are asked to modify their teaching as they see fit. Yearly innovation funds stimulate teachers to think about new forms of teaching, always seeking to improve the quality of teaching.

Yet, lectures remain an important ingredient in the courses and so are the issues with lecture attendance. Lecture attendance is not just a discussion at the Wageningen University but very much a wider phenomenon. In 2014, Harvard University even went as far as secretly photographing students in lecture halls to study the attendance[1]. Besides this highly criticised experiment, more research has been done on lecture attendance, its presumed benefits and the reasons for not attending (see for example Doggrell, 2020; Fernandez et al, 2008; Horton et al, 2012; Meehan and McCallig, 2019; Poirier, 2017). Interestingly, the academics writing on this issue are not unanimously in favour of Hofstee’s conclusions. On one hand, Horton et al (2012) conclude that the correlation between assessment outcome and lecture attendance is “surprisingly weak”. Lectures can even lead to students’ boredom and decreased motivation (Blouin at al, 2008; Short and Martin, 2011).

On the other hand, academics indicate that lectures have great value. The interpersonal relation between students and lecturer, a demonstrated interest of the lecturer in the subject and the critical dialogue are factors that can make any lecture an inspiration and lecturing transformative. A good lecture makes student think (Poirier, 2017). On top of that, we are now experiencing a period without live lectures. The current COVID-19 pandemic pushed academics towards digital education. The shift to online education made us aware of the value of lecturing, the teaching in front of a classroom, the social element, the chats in the hallway, or the student that lingers after class as she has a few questions left. After a year of online education, students complain about the lack of interaction, the high amounts of screen time and declining motivation. They miss the classroom and probably also miss the lectures. These very current insights can lead to a revival of the live lectures on campus and, as Hofstee states:

…reinforce the feeling of usefulness among lecturers and stimulate students to honour us with their presence.” (translated from Hofstee, 1965)

References

Doggrell, S. A. (2020). No apparent association between lecture attendance or accessing lecture recordings and academic outcomes in a medical laboratory science course. BMC medical education, 20(1), 1-12.

Fernandes, L., Maley, M., & Cruickshank, C. (2008). The impact of online lecture recordings on learning outcomes in pharmacology. J Int Assoc Med Sci Educ18(2), 62-70.

Hofstee, E. W. (1965). Heeft college-lopen zin?.

Horton, D. M., Wiederman, S. D., & Saint, D. A. (2012). Assessment outcome is weakly correlated with lecture attendance: influence of learning style and use of alternative materials. Advances in physiology education36(2), 108-115.

Meehan, M., & McCallig, J. (2019). Effects on learning of time spent by university students attending lectures and/or watching online videos. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning35(2), 283-293.

Poirier, T. I. (2017). Is lecturing obsolete? Advocating for high value transformative lecturing. American journal of pharmaceutical education81(5).


Foodscapes in times of uncertainty – blog 3

Food related initiatives that started during the COVID-19 pandemic. By Fenne Oppers and Thirza Andriessen

Due to the pandemic and its associated measures, a number of food needs are challenged. Access to sufficient food has become more difficult for certain groups in several ways; e.g. due to the risk of getting infected when going to a supermarket (especially for elderly people), because of stockpiling behavior which made it difficult for care workers to get sufficient products in supermarkets at the end of the day, and because of financial shortcomings due to income drops as a consequence of the economic impacts of the pandemic (CBS, n.d.). But also food related needs, such as the social aspect of eating together in elderly homes, have become restricted due to the pandemic. So, in several ways people are challenged to fulfil their food (related) needs. This has partly been reflected in an increased number of households experiencing food insecurity in the Netherlands since the corona pandemic. People who experience food insecurity are often supported by food banks. However, the food distribution by food banks has also been challenged due to consequences of the pandemic, for example by means of an increased number of clients, reduced food supplies, and a drop of volunteers.

In response to both these difficulties to fulfill food (related) needs and a challenged food aid system, several (bottom-up) initiatives originated in the beginning of COVID-19 to help people who struggle to get sufficient food on the table. But what exactly triggered the origin of these initiatives? What are their aims? How do they interact with recipients? And what do these initiatives show us about food (related) needs of citizens during this crisis?

To create a better understanding of food related initiatives that arose in times of COVID-19, I used Social Innovation Theory – a theory that looks at new solutions to social problems, with the benefits of these solutions shared beyond the confines of the innovators (Tracey & Stott, 2007). Social innovation is about an idea or initiative, driven and organized by citizens, that is different than the contemporary way to handle a social problem (Anheier, Krlev & Mildenberger, 2018; Cativelli & Rusciano, 2020; Moulaert et al, 2013), in this case food insecurity and other food (related) needs that arose during the corona pandemic. This made me formulate my research question as: What characterizes local food related initiatives that originated during the corona pandemic as social innovations?

In order to grasp innovative food related initiatives originated during the pandemic, I conducted both online research and interviews with initiators of several initiatives. The online research consisted of analyzing websites of initiatives, websites of newspapers and social media platforms, which enabled me to map out initiatives and to acquire a first understanding of the motives and way of working behind them. Semi-structured interviews with initiators helped me to acquire more detailed information about four initiatives.

This research has shown that food related initiatives in the Netherlands during the corona pandemic originated in response to new or increased food (related) needs. The initiatives studied in this research vary in the societal issue they mainly focus on, reflected by four categories:

  1. Some maintain a predominant focus on poverty relief – e.g. “give a meal for free to someone who does not have the money”;
  2. Others on reducing social isolation – e.g. “The idea that the outside world is still there for you and that you can call for help or for a listening ear makes you feel less alone.’’;
  3. Supporting safety – e.g. ‘’How can I help the older generation who can’t have young people do shopping for them, come into their house, you know, pick up things for them, give it to them. What can be like the most… the safest way for, to help them.’’;
  4. Or limiting food waste – e.g. ‘’The initiative is truly meant to help out producers and suppliers in the food service”.

While varying in their main focus, initiatives in this research often combine multiple aims. For example, an initiator of one initiative explained about his organization that it is intended to “give a meal for free to someone who does not have the money” – reflecting an aim for poverty relief on the short term – but also to use “a meal as a tool to come into contact with the target group that is hard to reach’’ – reflecting a focus on reducing social isolation.

Additionally, two recurring logics were noticed throughout their origin, aim and way of working: solidarity and charity. First, a logic of solidarity has been noticed in relation to aims as contributing to the common good, and ways of supporting social interaction and a sense of community. One initiator stated on the Instagram page of the initiative: “I believe in solidarity. In Amsterdam-Oost we take good care of each other.’’ Secondly, a logic of charity is reflected by origins of initiatives based on feelings of empathic concern responded by strong motivations to help vulnerable or disadvantaged people by means of a charitable gift. Accordingly, initiatives holding a charitable logic aim for offering direct relief on the short term.

This research has investigated the origin, aim and way of working of various food related initiatives that started in times of COVID-19, based on the perspectives of initiators. Yet, experiences of their recipients remain unknown. Further research could investigate these experiences and how these align with the aims behind the food related initiatives.

References

Anheier, H., Krlev G. & Mildenberger, G. (2018). Social Innovation: Comparative Perspectives. New York: Routledge. https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.wur.nl/10.4324/9781315158020

Cattivelli, V. & Rusciano, V. (2020). Social Innovation and Food Provisioning during Covid-19: The Case of Urban-Rural Initiatives in the Province of Napels. Sustainability (12-4444). https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114444

CBS. (n.d.). COVID-19 impact on labour and income. Retrieved from https://www.cbs.nl/engb/dossier/coronavirus-crisis-cbs-figures/covid-19-impact-on-labour-and-income

Moulaert, F., MacCallum, D. & Hillier, J. (2013). Social innovation: intuition, percept, concept, theory and practice. In Moulaert, F., MacCallum, D., Mehmood, A. & Hamdouch, A. The International Handbook on Social Innovation: Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research (1st ed., pp. 13-24). Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Tracey, P. & Stott, N. (2017). Social Innovation: A Window on Alternative Ways of Organizing and Innovating. Innovation, Organization & Management (19-1) 51-60.

75th Anniversary: 27) From farmers in the countryside to urban citizens keeping an apple tree

The blog series celebrating 75 years of Rural Sociology often discusses farming, professional food production or the countryside. Rural Sociology’s research interest is broader than that, however. Over the years attention for urban areas and their eaters – either or not involved in food production – has grown. Hence, staff members of our group have studied urban allotment gardening, urbanites sharing food and making yoghurt, and urban composting. In sum, the city has taken its place next to the countryside as an important research area, and our research is no longer limited to the professional food producer. 

My own research in Almere, conducted in 2019, serves as an illustration. With WUR-colleagues Jan Eelco Jansma, Hans Dagevos and Jan Willem van der Schans, I studied food prosumption in Almere. We defined a prosumer as someone who grows or collects (part of) his/her own food, for instance in a community garden, by growing it in the backyard or by wild foraging. Our goal was to understand the concept in theory and practice and to clarify who is involved in prosumption and what these activities entail. In order to do so we conducted a literature review, interviewed people involved in prosumption as well as experts, and sent out a questionnaire (n=835).

The concept of prosumption fits certain processes we witness in today’s society, including the motivation to take responsibility and to ‘do it yourself’, in order to be less dependent on larger companies. Although the word prosumption is hardly used in the literature, the phenomenon of citizens engaging in food production is studied and described, for instance with regards to the shifting and partly overlapping roles of producers and consumers in Alternative Food Networks.

We were surprised by the number of respondents who are involved in prosumption one way or the other. Two thirds of our questionnaire respondents grow basil in the window sill, harvest their own apples or pick blackberries in the woods. However, the scale in which they do so is only small: the acreage respondents use for prosumption activities is limited, and just a small part of people’s diets results from these activities. Hence, people are much less involved in time-consuming activities as community or allotment gardening than in small-scale activities like having a few plants in the backyard.

We found that motivations to be engaged in food production mainly relate to the fun of gardening. People enjoy being outside and to produce something that they can eat. A few people were motivated by a distrust in the supermarket, health, and sustainability, but these motivations were for most respondents subordinate to the pleasure of engaging in a hobby. We did find that people who are involved in prosumption more often take ethical considerations into account when shopping for groceries, but we couldn’t make any statements regarding causality. 

Despite the limited scale of food prosumption activities as found in our research, the conclusion that a large number of respondents participates at least to some degree in food production, shows that prosumption is something ‘normal’, suggesting that people may not be as far removed from food production as often thought. The next step is to better understand what needs to be done to interest people more for food and the food system, and to connect to their main motivations in order to change the food system to become more sustainable.

See our published paper here and the research report (in Dutch) here.

Why I support Alarm Day and the call for a 1.1 billion Euro structural investment in academic research and education

Today, Tuesday April 6 2021, is ‘Alarm Day’; a day on which the teaching and research staff, students, administrators and alumni of all 14 Dutch research universities will be congregating to call on the new government to structurally invest 1.1 billion euros in academic research and education. Since 2000 student numbers have doubled, while government funding per student has decreased by 25%. In addition research funding has not kept up with the growth in student numbers and increasingly has to be obtained via competitive research grant applications. Hence, there is a structural lack of time and financial means for high-quality research and high-quality teaching. As a result of underfunding, students no longer receive the education they deserve, while teaching and research staff are struggling to cope. So on Alarm Day we address this situation and propose to work towards a Normal Academic Standard. For more information, please check https://normaalacademischpeil.nl/ (or https://normaalacademischpeil.nl/english for the English version).

One of the activities the organizers of the Alarm Day ask us to undertake is to share our personal stories. That is what I will do in this blog, thereby also expressing my support for today’s Alarm Day and the call for a structural investment in university research and education.

Why I support Alarm Day and the call for a 1.1 billion Euro structural investment

I was appointed as Chair and Professor of Rural Sociology at Wageningen University in November 2004. Within our university system, being chair means that you are responsible for the financial situation of your chair group. Due to the way the funding of education has been organized at Wageningen University, our education income does largely keep up with growing student numbers. However, the downside is that there is hardly any funding for research. Annually our chair group gets approximately k€ 330 basic university funding (formally labelled as research funding), yet our costs for accommodation, materials, travel and overheads are equal to or exceed that, hence there is no funding for research. So to make sure that the annual operating result of my group is not negative, there are basically two options: we only teach (and make sure that the revenues from teaching plus basic funding cover the salary costs and other costs) or we obtain external funding for research (including PhD projects). We have continuously focused on the latter option (also because the first option de facto means that the key characteristic of academic education, i.e. the link between research and teaching, ceases to exist) and have been quite successful at that, BUT:

  • Over the years grant schemes have become increasingly competitive, and thus our success rate has gradually declined from approximately 50% 10-15 years ago to less than 25% at present (while the quality, based on evaluation scores, has only improved). This means that an increasing share of our research time is spent on writing proposals that do not get funded.
  • A lot of the grant writing has to be done in the evenings, weekends and holidays, simply because a) a 40 hour working week is not enough to do everything I need or am expected to do, and b) most deadlines for submitting proposals are just after the Christmas and summer holidays.
  • Due to the continuous financial pressure of obtaining external research funding I am almost permanently busy with grant writing and actually do not have enough time for the projects I did manage to get funded. And the time I have available is largely spent on project coordination, not on research;
  • A lot of our research projects are funded by the European Commission. In the EC’s framework programs (e.g. Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe) we see a gradual shift in funding focus from understanding problems and challenges to developing and implementing solutions, in other words from research to innovation and (societal) impact. Funding for curiosity driven and risky research has to come from personal grants (ERC, VENI/VIDI/VICI) or grants for training networks (e.g. Marie Curie Training Networks), and these schemes are even more competitive (with success rates between 2 and 10%).
  • Until recently I was ‘promotor’ (main supervisor) of >25 PhD projects and it is simply impossible to be sufficiently involved in all. Most of the supervision is done by daily supervisors (assistant and associate professors), who all do a great job at this, but for me PhD supervision was way more interesting when I only had a few PhD students. Yet, for financial reasons it is important that within our group we have 4 to 5 PhD graduations per year. Therefore we still have 25 to 30 PhD students, but as a few colleagues have ius promovendi (the right to award a PhD) I no longer have to be the promotor of all. So this helps to reduce my workload a bit, but doesn’t change the perverse incentive that a steady inflow and outflow of PhD students is important for financial reasons.

Will 1.1 billion Euro of structural funding solve all problems?

Unfortunately the answer is ‘no’. It will certainly help to reduce the reliance on external research funding and reduce work pressure if we can appoint more staff members who can carry out their teaching and research tasks and activities within their work week. But we also need to address a few other issues:

  • In addition to this structural investment a large share of the research funding that is now distributed via competitive grant schemes (NWO and EU for example) should go directly to academic staff: so less time wasted on proposals that do not get funded, less work pressure and more funded time for curiosity driven research;
  • A new recognition and reward system that once and for all gets rid of the publish or perish culture (or generally speaking the output performance culture) that has dominated academia in the last 25 years. Especially the current publication and PhD supervision criteria that our Tenure Trackers need to comply with only contribute to more publications and more PhD students to be supervised.
  • The time and energy consuming bureaucracy that we need to work in and which is largely based on institutionalized distrust, as if endless procedures, evaluation rubrics, assessment forms, and checks and balances will help us to become better lecturers and researchers.
  • Related to that is the time that we are spending on writing self-evaluation reports (and to that we add mid-term self-evaluation reports) for peer review committees (peer reviews of our BSc and MSc programs or of our research program). Don’t get me wrong, I really value getting feedback from peers if we can also honestly and openly share our struggles and challenges and then get constructive feedback on how to do things better. However what we are actually asked to do is to write marketing brochures to boast about our excellence, so that university management can show to the outside world how many ‘top programs’ and ‘world leading’ research units it has. And this also means that a negative evaluation (which is basically anything below ‘excellent’) will haunt you until the next peer review.

What have I decided to do to reduce my work pressure?

In addition to keep on addressing the structural causes of work pressure I have decided to do the following:

  • I will not write any project proposal until the current Horizon 2020 project I am coordinating is finished and I have the time and energy to write a new proposal;
  • I will no longer write research grants for financial reasons, but only because I want to (for curiosity reasons, because it allows me to hire PhD candidates and/or postdocs, because it enables me to collaborate with colleagues in other countries, et cetera).
  • I will not accept new PhD students until the number I am responsible has dropped below 10 and that will remain the maximum number.
  • I will publish less and review no more than two papers per paper I have submitted as (co-)author (and review no more than 3 research proposals per proposal I have submitted for review).

I realize that I am in a privileged position (permanent contract, no Tenure Track criteria to comply with and chair of a group that does really well in teaching and research) to take these decisions, but hopefully it is seen as leading by example.

75th Anniversary: 26) History and Sociology

Chair excursion to the peat-area in Drenthe (beginning of the eighties). From left to right: Aart Snel (our secretary), Ad van der Woude, Willibrord Rutte, Jouke Wigboldus, Jaap Buis and Henk Roessingh. On his back with the Edelman-drill: Jan Bieleman. Next to him one of our students. The photo was taken by Anton Schuurman.

By Anton Schuurman, Rural and Environmental History

The fame of the chair group Rural History brought me in 1978 to Wageningen. The Wageningen history group was at that time different from all the others history groups in the Netherlands – it was doing social science history, history as a social science with the methods of the social sciences with as its most characteristic feature the use of quantitative methods and statistics. It is still the message of our group: ‘We apply comparative historical methods to better understand long-term patterns of interdependence between people, institutions and environments. Our empirical work builds on a combination of qualitative sources and large statistical datasets, which we construct from historical archives across the globe.’ – it reads on our internet page. Although nowadays part of the section Economics of the Social Sciences Group – perhaps partly due to the fact that the heirs of Hofstee seem to have lost interest in doing quantitative work – , the chair group owned its existence to the tenacity of the same Hofstee (as so many of the social sciences chairs in Wageningen do) who succeeded finally in 1956 to lure Slicher van Bath away from Groningen to Wageningen.

Hofstee was a history-orientated sociologist (well, social geographer), as was explained earlier in these blogs, who later named his own way of doing sociology: encompassing sociology (differentiële sociologie – see  blog 5. In blog 5 the English translation is differential sociology. I prefer encompassing sociology – a term from Charles Tilly (Tilly, 1984; Schuurman, 1996), which in my view better captures Hofstee’s intention, although I suspect that Hofstee himself saw the title as  a reference to La vocation actuelle de la sociologie. Vers la sociologie différentielle (1957) by Georges Gurvitch).

Hofstee’s work played a large role in our work at RHi– he was our favourite scape goat. As all the sociologist he thought that the world had only changed in the 19th century – the famous process of modernisation, urbanisation and industrialisation. Before that – it were the Middle Ages, people working since time immemorial by the sweat of one’s brow. How wrong he was, how wrong the sociologist are. Slicher revealed the process of proto-industrialisation in Overijssel in the eighteenth century; Roessingh, using Chayanov far before Jan Douwe rediscovered him, demonstrated how the farmers on the Veluwe adapted their farming practices in their search for security; Van der Woude showed that the nuclear family was the default family in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Holland, Bieleman revealed the many changes in agriculture in Drenthe instead of the eternal rye cultivation  (“eeuwige roggebouw”). I could go on. The sociologists made us feel pretty smart.

I have to confess that my attitude to Hofstee was a bit different. Of course, he was a sociologist and prejudice-ridden, but for my work on the material culture of the Dutch countryside I was inspired by his encompassing sociology. I admired and admire his three-volume book Differentiële sociologie. It can still be used, maybe especially by global sociologists. Hofstee was my hero next to Elias, Bourdieu, Benjamin and Giedeon. But I was also influenced by other Wageningen sociologists – most of all by Rien Munters who had written his book Rising and declining cultural goods (Stijgende en dalende cultuurgoederen) (Munters, 1977). He claimed that in a real open society goods would diffuse in every social direction – but, in fact, even in the famous open society of the seventies he found just one rising good: rolling one’s own tobacco. In the nineteenth century countryside I also found just one: the sewing machine.

Later Munters had an even larger influence on me by letting me join the Giddens-circle, where I read together with Gert Spaargaren, Peter Oosterveer, Jan van Tatenhove, Tuur Mol, Frans von Benda-Beckmann and many others, contemporary sociologists from Giddens to Baumann, Urry  and Elden-Vass. The historian I became, I became because of Wageningen and of the Wageningen sociology group.

PS When I may do a public appeal: Sociology was so much more than Hofstee. I would like to read stories about or from his staff -members – Nooij, Kooy, De Ru, Benvenutti, Van der Ban, Munters, Wichers and many others – who wrote sometimes books that did become classics and who taught and influenced generations of sociologists. I remember Piet Holleman who not only made all the maps for the sociology group, but also for us; Corry Rothuizen who was at the department sociology when Hofstee worked there, and who is still working for Environmental Policy; Henk van Espelo who made the cartophoot-map that is still to see in the Leeuwenborch – there certainly will be other person who could write about them.  I personally have less knowledge of the non-Western sociology group, but I would love to hear, e.g., a story on Rudy van Lier, direct colleague of Hofstee, as non-Western sociologist, but so different from him.

  • Munters, Q. J. (1977). Stijgende en dalende cultuurgoederen. De “open” samenleving ter discussie. Alphen aan den Rijn 1977 Samsom.
  • Schuurman, Anton. (1996). Mensen maken verschil. Sociale theorie, historische sociologie en geschiedenis. Tijdschrift voor Sociale Geschiedenis, 22(2), 168-205.
  • Tilly, Charles. (1984). Big structures, large processes, huge comparisons. New York 1984 Russell sage foundation.

MSc thesis opportunity: A multi-method approach to assess the sustainability of the quinoa value chain in France

Duration: 6 months

Languages: English and French

Credits: 33-36 ECTS (programme dependent)

Start Date: As soon as possible

Quinoa is experiencing a global expansion of cultivation all around the world. France is one the most important producers of quinoa in Europe. Yet the sustainability of French quinoa production systems remains under-researched. This includes familiar debates of organic versus conventional production, as well as the viability of ‘farm to fork’ transportation and distribution systems.

The MSc candidate will assess the sustainability of the quinoa value chain in France. The candidate will conduct interviews with members of the cooperative “Quinoa d’Anjou” assessing the sustainability combining quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Following the current restrictions, the interviews will be conducted online.

Objectives:

  • Combining quantitative and qualitative data to assess the sustainability of quinoa value chain of the cooperative of Anjou in France.
  • Conduct a Life Cycle Assessment testing the MEANS program. Training will be provided.

Supervision team:

  • Mark Vicol, Assistant Professor in RSO
  • Federico Andreotti, PhD Candidate in GRS

Advisors:

  • Didier Bazile, researcher at CIRAD, France
  • Cécile Bessou, researcher at CIRAD, France

Relevant literature:

  • Alandia, G., Rodriguez, J. P., Jacobsen, S. E., Bazile, D., & Condori, B. (2020). Global expansion of quinoa and challenges for the Andean region. Global Food Security, 26, 100429.
  • Bazile, D., Jacobsen, S. E., & Verniau, A. (2016). The global expansion of quinoa: trends and limits. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, 622.
  • Jouini, M., Burte, J., Biard, Y., Benaissa, N., Amara, H., & Sinfort, C. (2019). A framework for coupling a participatory approach and life cycle assessment for public decision-making in rural territory management. Science of the Total Environment, 655, 1017-1027.

Requirements:

  • Interest in Agroecology studies, value chain studies and/or sustainable development
  • Interests and/or knowledge of food value chains: production, processing, distribution
  • Skills for conducting interviews remotely and data analysis
  • French language fluency is required.

If interested please contact federico.andreotti@wur.nl

75th Anniversary: 25) De Stad-Platteland Tegenstelling

Door Henk Oostindie

In de jubileum publicatie rondom ons 25 jarig bestaan leverde Lijfering een bijdrage onder de titel ‘het rural-urban continuüm in het licht van sociale veranderingen’. In die bijdrage gaat Leifferink in op de zin en onzin van dichotomisch denken en de noodzaak om de begrippen stad-en platteland als ideaaltypen te beschouwen. Vertrekkende vanuit het centrale begrip menselijke nederzetting, verwijst Lijfering naar de volgende drie dominante onderscheidende kenmerken: het fysieke milieu, de sociale interactie en het cultuurpatroon. Naast deze in zijn ogen verhelderende invalshoeken om stad en platteland als anachronismen nader te duiden, komt Leifering met het voorstel om meer expliciet aandacht te besteden aan wat hij benoemt als ‘functionele stad-platteland patronen’. Continue reading