Theoretical approaches to the ecologisation of agrifood systems – European Society of Rural Sociology 2014 Summerschool

Transitions towards more sustainable agrifood systems and rural landscapes are at the core of societal demands, technological but also social innovations and renewed public policies at various scales. In rural sociology they are addressed through different theoretical frameworks and the main objective of the ESRS PhD Summer School this year, is to discuss these competing and sometimes articulated frameworks and thereby to help the PhD students to clarify their own theoretical choices and to position them in relation to other theoretical frameworks that are used in rural sociology. For students who are rather at the beginning of their PhD, the aim will be to help them organize their state of the art and clarify their problematisation, while for students who are more advanced, it would rather be a discussion of their results in the light of existing literature and/or possibly the preparation of a future article. All the participants should have an interest in the theoretical frameworks that will be structuring the discussion, i.e. mainly Socio-Ecological Systems/Resilience theories, Food Regime Theory, Transition Theories, Actor Network Theory, and Social Studies of Science and Knowledge.

Besides plenary lectures on these different theories, other lectures will also address transversal themes such as the role of civil society in these transitions and the production and circulation of knowledge.

The emergence of new forms of social innovation and civic food networks in the agrifood sector also raises new research questions. Does the increasing involvement of civil society in agricultural and food issues allow framing differently the issue of ecologisation? Does it allow reconnecting agriculture and food which have historically been addressed separately by public policies?

In terms of production and circulation of knowledge, the ecologisation of agricultural practices and agrifood systems implies many different kinds of knowledge, which raises the transversal issue of the production and the circulation of these different kinds of knowledge (scientific, lay, empirical, etc.) between and among the social actors involved in the situations analysed by the PhD students. In a period characterized by a certain criticism and skepticism against science and scientists, what role does play scientific knowledge (agronomical, zootechnical, ecological, etc.) in the ecologisation of the agrifood systems? What kind of circulation and exchanges of knowledge between the different kinds of collective and individual actors can be observed within these processes of ecologisation?

This 2014 ESRS PhD Summerschool will take place near Avignon (Southern France, accessible from Marseille Provence international airport and/or by train) from 8th to 12th of September (participants are to arrive on the 7th).

The Summerschool will be structured around different moments, in order to favor interactions between students and with the senior researchers in a constructive and friendly atmosphere:

  • a plenary workshop based on students’ short presentations of their own work and theoretical frameworks1 or 2 senior researchers’ conferences everyday (on the theoretical frameworks mentioned above and their specificities and complementarities as well as on 2 or 3 key transversal themes),
  • parallel workshops with 3 or 4 students and one senior researcher in order to work more thoroughly on these theoretical frameworks and their difficulties in applying/discussing them,
  • 2 slots of 1.5 hours for each student for individualized work with her/his “tutor”
  • 2 or 3 half-day field visits in the region, focused on civil food networks, organic agriculture, urban agriculture, urban-rural relationships

Several senior researchers (5 or 6) will accompany the students during the whole week.

Students’ presentations will be commented and discussed in the workshops, and each student will also be separately supervised by a tutor (one tutor for 2 to 3 students).

The applying students are expected to prepare a working paper (a future article or a chapter of their thesis, 15 to 30 pages) and send it to their tutor before the Summerschool in order to better prepare the interactions and the supervising work.

Senior researchers’ tutors for students’ work (who will stay the whole duration): Henry Buller, David Goodman, Henk Renting, Christian Deverre plus Claire Lamine and Elsa Faugère as local organizers.

Plenary senior researchers’ conferences:

Henk Renting – The role of civil society as driving force for transition processes in agri-food systems

Henry Buller – The shifting nature of agricultural ethics

David Goodman – Food Regime Theory Revisited

Christian Deverre – The greening of European agri-food systems: promise and facts

Yuna Chiffoleau – Actor-network theory and social network analysis applied to short food chains

Gianluca Brunori – European food systems facing scarcity: new battlefields for food wars.Charalambos Kasimis – Rural resilience to crisis in Greece connected to the internal and external mobilities to rural areas

Florence Millerand (to be confirmed) –  Social studies of science and knowledge

In order to apply…

PhD students have to submit an abstract (Thesis’ title, 1st/2nd/3rd year, main research questions, theoretical framework, methodology, type of empirical data, first results and elements of discussion) – maximum 800 words, by the 31st of May

Selection will be done by the 15th of June

The students who are selected (12 to 15) will have to send their working paper (a future article or a chapter of their thesis, 15 to 30 pages) by the 15th of August

There is no registration fee and the accommodation and food is taken in charge for the whole duration of the summerschool.

Options will also be suggested for those who want to visit the region after the summerschool.

local organizers: Claire Lamine and Elsa Faugère, contact

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