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.
Abstract Regenerative agriculture is a diverse, highly contested, and rapidly developing sustainable agriculture movement. It has been lauded for its transformative potential, and criticized for its incoherence and susceptibility for corporate co-option. At the heart of regenerative agriculture is an effort to engage with soil life rather than bypass it; this ethos and the messiness of the movement indicate that a range of novel human-soil relations may emerge within this space. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with members of intermediary organizations – research institutes, consultants, and NGOs, among others– that are active in promotion and advocacy for adoption of regenerative practices in order to explore these changing human-soil relations. Interviews focused on conceptualizations of soil (life), forms of analysis and knowledge production around soils, regenerative soil management, and the larger goals of regenerative agriculture, including addressing climate change and improving the economic situation of farmers. Results were subject to narrative analysis, which indicated that respondents acknowledged the fact that soils are living, rather than inert substrates reducible to chemical and physical criteria. Soil biology was understood and engaged with to different extents, and a wide range of analytical tools were used to scrutinize soil, including microscopy, genetic testing, measurement of soil organic carbon, among others. Overall, narratives indicate that a wide range of human-soil relations can be identified within regenerative agriculture, including care, exploitation, and relatively novel mechanisms of commodification and financialization of soil life through the development of soil carbon credits. Further, results indicate that this variation is produced by differences in human approaches to understanding, analyzing, and managing soil life; different approaches to producing knowledge about soils facilitates the creation of different kinds of relations. Building on the narratives, it is argued that the human should be theoretically (re)centered in the social science study of regenerative agriculture and human-soil relations, in order to maintain a uniquely human sense of responsibility to address, among other challenges, climate change. Similarly, the role of alternative ontological outlooks on soils and nature in food system transformation is discussed.
A MSc student interested in an academic career can opt for a research practice in stead of an regular internship and thus gain relevant work experience at an academic level. Below the Abstract. The report also includes a Summary in both English and Dutch.
Abstract After 140 years of absence, the Netherlands is once again housing one of Europe its largest predators, the wolf. This has caused human-wolf conflict to reemerge, of which the main cause is the depredation on livestock. To mitigate this conflict between farmers and wolves, the Dutch government has implemented a compensation scheme. Compensation schemes are one of the most common ways through which policy-makers try to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, but remain controversial. This research aims to create a deeper understanding of the perspectives, experiences and attitudes of Dutch farmers towards wolf damage compensation payments and thereby, wolf management more broadly by studying this tool through the Environmental Justice framework. A case study has been adopted on the South-Eastern provinces of the Netherlands, for which 15 semi-structured interviews have been conducted with the organization handling compensation payments, farmers organizations, an ecologist and livestock owners from this region. The findings suggest that the arrival of the wolf to the Netherlands has created new insecurities for farmers’ livelihoods, which are caused by wolf presence itself and the system that has been set up to manage this presence and its impact. By analyzing farmers’ experiences with compensation payments in a framework of environmental justice, this research demonstrates that only focusing on compensation is insufficient to create a sense of environmental justice among farmers, and thereby mitigate human-wolf conflict, since compensation payments alone are unable to address all challenges that cause insecurity among farmers. This study concludes that while compensation payments continue to be an important focus point of wolf policy, it can be understood as only a last step in building a supportive base for wolf presence in the Netherlands. Instead, more emphasis should be given to improvements at the beginning of the process, before damage has occurred.
A Just Future for the Global Countryside? by prof. Michael Woods, Aberystwyth University, Thursday March 31, 2022, 12.00-13.30 (CET).
The talk is part of the Rural Sociology 75th Anniversary webinar series ‘Looking back, Looking Forward: Setting a future agenda for rural sociology’. Watch recordings of the webinars series at Rural Sociology Youtube channel.
The event will be streamed by Teams. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org to register yourself.
Join us to explore predicaments of agriculture, biodiversity, and conservation with a focus on CONVIVIALITY –where plants, animals, and humans attempt to live and thrive together.
The all-virtual, open-access, asynchronous conference will take place the week of October 4-10, 2021, featuring 6 keynote interventions, research presentations, and commentary from scholars, indigenous practitioners, and farmers from around the world.
In a time of pandemic, climate change, and unprecedented demands on our time and attention, the asynchronous, virtual format means that your engagement can be as flexible and intense as you can accommodate at this time. Attendees are asked to watch presentations on demand, and engage with written comments — although audio and visual interventions are possible as well.
Mundane normativity and the everyday handling of contested food consumption by prof. Bente Halkier, University of Copenhagen, August 30, 16.00-17.30 (CET):
“Food in everyday life is contested from multiple kinds of public debates in present societies such as climate, health, risk, environment and quality, which point to food consumption in everyday life as a site of normative action In the various strands of sociological research on consumption, contested consumption has typically been studied in two strands One strand tends to focus on the mundane routines in consumption that are reproduced, thus to some degree avoiding the normative dimension in the consumption activities themselves Another strand tends to focus directly on political and ethical consumption, thus to some degree ignoring the more mundane dealings with the normative dimension. My contention is that there is some middle ground to cover between each of the two otherwise valuable strands of consumption research if consumption research is to understand the normative dimension of consumption more fully In order to conceptualize such middle ground, an unfolding of the category of mundane normativity and its conditions is useful, and food consumption in everyday life is a clear example with which to think.“
The talk is part of the Rural Sociology 75th Anniverary webinar series ‘Looking back, Looking Forward: Setting a future agenda for rural sociology’.