New to the Rural Sociology Group: Introducing myself

I have been here in Wageningen and at the Rural Sociology Group for two weeks now so it only seems appropriate that I introduce myself.  I’m Jessica Duncan and I have been hired to teach courses in food cultures and food policy.

Conducting field work with women pastoralists in Gujarat, India (Summer 2012)

Conducting field work with women pastoralists in Gujarat, India (Summer 2012)

My teaching philosophy is based on the awareness of the central role food plays in socio-cultural and economic issues and across political discourse at all levels. Using food – with its physical, emotional and symbolic resonance – as a lens, allows us to approach complex problems and search for solutions that can impact our lives and the lives of others. I work hard to create a space where students feel encouraged to test ideas and tackle difficult questions with new concepts. Above all, I teach because I love to learn.

From 2008 to 2013 I worked in the Department of Food Systems, Culture and Society at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) in Barcelona. Here I developed and taught courses on research methods, food governance, and contemporary issues in food studies. I also supervised a broad range of post-graduate research students on topics related to food cultures and food security. The international nature of the programme gave me the chance to interact with students from around the world on key issues related to the study of food.

In terms of research, areas of empirical focus include: multilateral food security forums, notably the Committee on World Food Security; interactions between states, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and civil society organizations; relationship between food security, food sovereignty and the Right to Food; strategies of civil society engagement in global food security policy processes; land tenure; pastoralist land uses; pastoralist tenure systems.

These focal areas make up two research streams. First, I examine the changing architecture of global food security governance with particular focus on the discourse, roles and rhetoric of actors therein to understand: a) how food security policy is enacted at the global level; and, b) what the implications of this are at the community level.  This is the focus of my PhD research. I am in the final stages of completing a PhD in Food Policy from the Centre for Food Policy, Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, City University London where I have been very lucky to work with David Barling and Tim Lang. I have been looking at the reformed UN Committee on World Food Security; assessing its capacity to achieve a renewed mandate in the context of a shifting architecture of global food security governance.

Alongside this research, and in part because of it, I started working with pastoralists (migratory livestock herders). This work brought me to India to do research with pastoralists in the Indian state of Gujarat. These communities face increasing threats to their livelihoods due to land grab, climate change, urban encroachment, and inappropriate policy initiatives. For this research have been looking specifically at the impacts of these threats on the culture and food security of specific pastoralist communities. I am currently involved in a project to develop a telephone helpline for pastoralists in the region. The helpline will provide information on land rights and animal health.

A bit of personal information: I am Canadian but have been living in Europe since 2007, first in France, then Spain, then the UK and now the Netherlands. Outside of my work and research (but often in conjunction with it), I love to travel and explore new places. I practice yoga and am happiest when I am walking or climbing up mountains. When I get the time, I blog at and tweet @foodgovernance.

I am around the Leeuwenborch (which I cannot yet pronounce) practically every day. If you fancy a chat about the governance of food security, land tenure or food cultures, please come on over and say hi!

Contact: or 3024 Leeuwenborch


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About foodgovernance

Jessica Duncan is Assistant Professor in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. Originally from Canada, she lived in France, Spain and the UK before coming to the Netherlands. She holds a PhD in Food Policy from City University London and is the author of the book Global Food Security Governance: Civil society engagement in the reformed Committee on World Food Security (Routledge, 2015, ). Her research areas include: food policy; food security; global governance; environmental policy; participation; rural sociology. She is particularly interested in transitions towards environmentally sustainable food security governance.