About Dirk Roep

I'm Assistant professor at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University. Besides teaching and supervising thesis students, I'm involved in research on regenerative agriculture, food provisioning and place-based development with a particular focus on the transformative practices, joint learning and innovation and institutional reform.

(De)coding a technopolity: Tethering the civic blockchain to political transformation – PhD-thesis by Syed Omer Husain

May 14 2020, at 11.00 am (CET) Syed Omer Husain will defend his PhD-thesis ‘(De)coding a technopolity: Tethering the civic blockchain to political transformation‘. See the Abstract below. The full thesis can be downloaded (click title) from WUR Library after the defence ceremony.

The ceremony will be live-streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but is recorded and can be viewed later as well. Syed Omer Husain is affiliated as PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University. He was employed at the EU-funded MSCA ITN project SUSPLACE.

 

Abstract

This study rests at the intersection of technopolitics, translocal networks and political change. The overall aim of the thesis is to understand, and in turn, influence, the way technology interacts with political transformation. It responds to the fact that social science has thus far neglected to adequately account for and analyze how emerging technologies like blockchain and civic tech influence the way politics is practiced. The main research question guiding the study is how does the design, implementation and use of technopolitical innovations influence the practice of politics. The thesis foregrounds the idea that technopolitical experiments personify a ‘prefigurative politics by design’ i.e. they embody the politics and power structures they want to enable in society.

Conducted as part of the EU-funded SUSPLACE project that explores the transformative capacity of sustainable place-shaping practices, the research was predominantly inspired by a hybrid digital ethnography methodology. The thesis confines its focus to three empirical clusters: technopolitical blockchain projects, government-led blockchain projects and place-based civic engagement technologies. The study delineates how differing politico-social imaginaries play a role in the design and implementation of technopolitical projects; addresses contemporary post-political phenomena such as the depoliticization of agency; and identifies the activation of a place-based geography of political action through digitally-mediated municipal networks. It articulates the language and frameworks necessary to analyze these present-day challenges, while simultaneously developing approaches that can be exported to different domains of political activism.

Technology is not neutral; but neither are its designers and users. The thesis finds that it is through considerable, deliberate efforts, in conjunction with individual and collective choices, that technopolitical innovations can reframe our socio-economic and political realities. The study demonstrates the emphatic and urgent need for researchers, practitioners, politicians and citizens to collaboratively work on redrawing boundaries of access, empowering the citizenry, creating new forms of organization and re-politicizing the economy. It outlines a transdisciplinary research and practice agenda that aims at not only (de)coding the existing technopolitical innovations, but also (re)coding them to create a more equitable system of politics. The thesis concludes that since coding affordances and constraints in a technopolitical system is shown to regulate political agency and even influence the behavior of citizens, we must devise value-driven technology that incentivizes creating a more equitable political system.

Special @SUSPLACE_ITN Feature: Exploring the Transformative Capacity of Place-Shaping Practices

Figure 2: Sustainable place-shaping. Source: Horlings et al. (2020) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-020-00787-w

The SUSPLACE Special Feature ‘Exploring the transformative capacity of place-shaping practices‘ is published open access in Sustainability Sciences. It comprises nine articles: eight original research articles and an Introduction article by Lummina Horlings, Dirk Roep, Erik Mathijs and Terry Marsden. From the introduction:

The eight papers in this Special Feature result from the EU funded SUSPLACE collaborative programme that aimed to explore the transformative capacity of sustainable place-shaping practices, and if and how these practices can support a sustainable, place-based development. The programme encompassed 15 research projects investigating a wide range of place-shaping practices embedded in specific settings. From a common framework on sustainable place-shaping, each research project has developed its own theoretical and methodological approach. This editorial explains the overall approach to sustainable place-based development and more specifically the three analytical dimensions of transformative practices, that together propel sustainable place-shaping: re-appreciationre-grounding and re-positioning. After an overview of the eight articles, the contribution to sustainability sciences is discussed. The research programme has provided insight into the transformative agency of practitioners and policymakers engaged in shaping sustainable places, as well as the transformative role of researchers. 

Keywords: Sustainable place-shaping · Transformative capacity · Sustainability sciences · Place-based development

Horlings, L.G., Roep, D., Mathijs, E., Marsden, T. (2020) Exploring the transformative capacity of place-shaping practices, 15(2):353–362 Sustainability Sciences,  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-020-00787-w

Thesis opportunity: developing a framework for business models that enhance soil quality

The Rural Sociology Group and Business Economics Group jointly offer thesis opportunities on developing business models that enhance soil quality.

Developing a theoretical framework for business models that enhance soil quality in crop and dairy production.

Soil quality is (rapidly) decreasing in The Netherlands, and thereby endangering future income perspectives of farmers. Moreover, reduced soil quality provokes all kind of negative externalities, such as reduced biodiversity, increased climate-change related risks, etc.. Hence, increasing and maintaining soil quality is a prerequisite for sustainable soil use.

This issue affects a multitude of stakeholders, each with different positions and preferences.

Business models, including various stakeholders and aimed at increasing and maintaining soil quality, are essential to enable farmers taking appropriate measures focused on these aims.

Currently, various initiatives have been taken to develop business models, mostly at a smaller scale. However, for mainstream agriculture to getting involved in improved soil management, a thorough theoretical framework, based on scientific analysis and rooted in (at least) economic and sociological theory, is essential. Only then, essentials of balanced business models can be developed which have the pursuit for larger-scale adoption in practice.

Being a pilot study, the aims of this MSc Thesis research are:

  • Qualitative analysis of real costs of soil management (i.e. monetary and non-monetary costs, such as costs for society) through the application of basic economic (cost) concepts;
  • Qualitative analysis of the stakeholder structure;
  • Definition of business cases and performance of a qualitative SWOT-analysis;
  • Evaluation of several existing business cases against the developed framework.

We are looking for a MSc-thesis student with an interest in the topic and a background in (business-)economics and/or rural/agrarian sociology.

Postdoc vacancy – Developing An Integrative Approach to Regenerative Agriculture, Circular Agri-Food Systems, and Convivial Conservation

We are recruiting a postdoc for the three-year research project ‘Tackling Crises in the Countryside: An Integrative Approach to Regenerative Agriculture, Circular Agri-Food Systems, and Convivial Conservation‘. Apply before January 20, 2020.

Food, farming, and conservation face major, interrelated challenges in the countryside, yet are treated as largely independent in research and policy. This postdoc will explore regenerative agriculture and convivial conservation as two paradigms that aim to address these challenges. The key questions are (1) how can the two paradigms be integrated into a holistic approach, and (2) how can this integrative approach help sustain biodiversity, livelihoods, social equity? Next to developing an integrated approach and assessing the impacts of its application at different integrative levels, the postdoc is expected to disseminate findings and develop an acquisition portfolio.

The postdoc will be positioned at the chair groups of Rural Sociology and Sociology of Development and Change under supervision by Dr Dirk Roep (Rural Sociology) dirk.roep@wur.nl and Mindi Schneider (Sociology of Development and Change): mindi.schneider@wur.nl

This is one of the 15 vacant postdoc positions at the Social Sciences Department of Wageningen University. For more information on requirements and selection procedure see: We-are-looking-for-15-Postdocs-in-social-sciences

Energy and labour use on farms: case studies from the Netherlands and China – PhD-thesis Tian Yu

November 20, 2019 at 4.00 pm Tian Yu will defend his PhD-thesis ‘Energy and Labour use on farms: case studies from the Netherlands and China‘. See the Abstract below.

The full thesis will be available after the defence ceremony. The ceremony will be live-streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but can be viewed later as well. Tian Yu is affiliated as PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University.

Abstract

As one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emission, agricultural production is responsible for climate change. In the most industrial countries, agricultural production has built a great dependency on fossil energy consumption by replacing most human labour with agro-technologies on the farm. This is unsustainable in the context of climate change and resource depletion. Therefore, in order to mitigate climate change, the transition to sustainable food production is necessary and urgent. Rising in the 1970s, organic agriculture is believed to be a sustainable approach for agricultural production. It has been proved to use less fossil energy due to a commitment not to use any synthetic substances, but at the same time it uses more labour. When labour and fossil energy are regarded as two basic resource inputs on a farm, it seems that organic farms use more labour to compensate for the reduced fossil energy consumption. However, it is still unknown how the input balance of fossil energy and labour on organic farms is different from that on conventional farms, and how the different input balance would influence the sustainability of agricultural production. It is valuable to explore these questions against the backdrop of climate change. As the issue of fossil energy and labour input balance on farms has not been studied thoroughly, this thesis is written based on an exploratory research. The main objective is to explore the balance of fossil energy and labour input at farm level by comparing conventional and organic farming systems, and to explore the possibility to optimise sustainability of resource use in agricultural production.

By conducting comparative case studies in both the Netherlands and China, this thesis first calculated the energy and labour input balance separately in the two countries, and it concluded organic farming uses less energy and more labour compared with conventional farming in both countries, but there is great variation among all the farms in the size and farming activity of this gap. When comparing the results from the two countries, the thesis concluded that Dutch farms use more energy while Chinese farms use more labour due to their different resource endowments. However, the situation is changing in both countries, and the changes show that the so-called industrial agriculture – which consumes much more energy – is not the only nor the best trajectory for agricultural development. Requiring more labour use on-farm, how organic farming can deal with the labour constrains is then answered: organic farmers should be encouraged to explore their diverse local solutions to increase the resilience of their farm when dealing with the constraints. In further, using the theory of farming mode and farming style, this thesis discussed farmers’ input strategies by clarifying the heterogeneity within organic farms, and highlighting the trend of conventionalisation in the development of organic agriculture, and it supports the hypothesis that organic agriculture with peasant qualities shows better potential in applying organic principles to optimise the sustainability of an organic farm. At last, the thesis discussed the theoretical concept of organic peasant agriculture and tries to distinguish it from conventional agriculture and conventionalised organic agriculture. It concludes that organic peasant agriculture is valuable in the transition to sustainable food production.

Third @voedselanders (Food Otherwise) Conference 2020 – call for participation

The third national Voedsel Anders (Food Otherwise) conference in Wageningen will take place in February 2020. The conference organization team calls all those interested to participate and make the third edition again successful. Some general information below. See Voedsel Anders conference 2020 for more detailed information.

Voedsel Anders is a movement of people in the Netherlands and Belgium working towards just and sustainable food systems. A lot has happened since the first conference and the drafting of our manifesto. Political as well as societal attention for the challenges and opportunities of the agri-food system have grown significantly and the urgency to ignite a transition is bigger than ever.

During the Voedsel Anders Conference 2020, we will identify and reflect on wins, barriers and solutions in our joined quest to an alternative food system. We will touch upon questions such as: What have we already achieved and what were the factors of success? How can we identify and deal with barriers? What possibilities and opportunities lie ahead? Can we strengthen the food movement whilst making it more inclusive and diverse?

If you have further question, want to organize a workshop or sponsor the conference, you can send an email to info@voedselanders.nl

De weg naar duurzame pachtafspraken tussen boer en gemeente: uitkomst ACT-opdracht

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Door Amarins Bouman, Jurrian Veldhuizen, Henry Abbink, Robin Kampert, Ester Klein Hesselink en Floor Sluijter. Studenten van Wageningen Universiteit die als onderdeel van hun Master opleiding een Academic Consultancy Training (ACT) opdracht hebben uitgevoerd.

De afgelopen twee maanden hebben wij onderzoek gedaan in het kader van het Wetenschapswinkel project ‘Boeren zonder land: hoe is dat mogelijk?’ in opdracht van Vereniging Toekomstboeren. Met 6 studenten van verschillende achtergronden (consumentenwetenschappen, bos-en natuurbeheer, international development & biologische landbouw) zijn wij aan de slag gegaan met het onderzoeken van alternatieve pachtconstructies. Binnen dit onderzoek is er gekozen voor de gemeente als landeigenaar, waarna er 3 verschillende boeren & gemeenten zijn geïnterviewd. Het onderzoek richtte zich op de sterke en zwakke punten van de pacht- en huurovereenkomsten en hoe deze de (on)zekerheid van duurzame boeren beïnvloeden. Dit is visueel weergegeven in bovenstaande figuur.

Boeren worden in de overeenkomsten met de gemeente vaak geconfronteerd met onzekerheden die verband houden met de duur van hun overeenkomsten en de duurzaamheidsaspecten. Er is vaak geen visie en/of beleid vanuit de gemeente op het gebied van het faciliteren van (duurzame) landbouw. Dit leidt tot de onzekerheidsproblematiek zoals korte contracten en beperkte mogelijkheden tot investeringen voor de lange termijn, zoals die in een goede bodem. Echter blijken de gemeenten en duurzame boeren elkaar te vinden in de waarde die de onderlinge afspraken kunnen hebben voor de lokale gemeenschap. Naast de agrarische functie kan een boerderij in de stad ook van grote maatschappelijke waarde zijn.

Op basis van onze bevindingen moedigen we boeren en gemeenten aan om meer te weten te komen over elkaars behoeften en hoe de pachtovereenkomst in ieders voordeel kan werken. Zie de Infosheet hieronder. In ons rapport kunt u hier meer over lezen.

Infosheet: ‘De weg naar een duurzame pachtovereenkomst tussen boer en gemeente’.

 

 

 

Food Self Sufficiency in a Community: Dream or Reality? A documentary by MSc-student László Bartha

Food Self Sufficiency in a Community: Dream or Reality? a documentary by László Bartha, MSc-student Organic Agriculture of Wageningen University.

During his internship at the Wageningen student organization Otherwise, László Bartha made a documentary of his MSC thesis research for the ecovillage The Vlierhof. It has been hard work, but it has become a very nice, and respectful documentary of a decision-making process regarding the future development of the ecovillage. “The Vlierhof” approved the creation and online publication of the documentary. Below a brief introduction to the documentary. 

Intentional communities and ecovillages are present in almost every country in the world. People decide to live in these places because they want to explore and experiment with new organizational forms and alternative livelihoods. “The Vlierhof” is one of these communities with the vision “to promote awareness and peace on earth. We want to make a contribution to the social and environmental problems faced by society today, living as self-sufficiently as possible.” According to this vision, they also grow part of their food. But is the amount of food that they produce enough to sustain themselves? In this short documentary, we can learn about the community, its members and find answers to this question. The film has been created from the recorded materials of an action research project. Among the audio-visual research methods interviewing was the main data collection method. The purpose of the research was to explore social dynamics in the community and follow a decision-making process regarding the future of the community garden.

Understanding food systems’ change: the making and the practicing of the school food reform in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil – PhD-thesis Camilo Lozano

Wednesday, March 13 2019, at 1.30 pm CET Camilo Lozano will defend his PhD-thesis ‘Understanding food systems’ change: the making and the practicing of the school food reform in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil’.

The ceremony will be live streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but can be viewed later as well. The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.

 

Rural Futures – Inauguration Bettina Bock as Personel Professor of Inclusive Rural Development

BB Rural Futures

Thursday October 25 2018 at 16.00 Prof. dr Bettina Bock will give her inaugural address as Personel Professor of Inclusive Rural Development titled Rural Futures.

The inauguration will be broadcasted live by weblectures.wur.nl and can be viewed later as well.