75th Anniversary: 5) Sociology as Sociography

“Korenveld” by Lianne Koster – licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

When Evert Willem (E.W.) Hofstee, founding father of rural sociology in the Netherlands, started his academic career as lecturer at Groningen University in 1938, he defined his work as ‘sociography’ (Hofstee 1938). In this, he was clearly following in the footsteps of his teacher and tutor, Sebald Rudolf Steinmetz (1862- 1940), who had created the new discipline from a fusion of sociology and geography (Karel 2002: 2-3). Only later would Hofstee add the word “sociology” to the domain of his work. Thus, the department (“vakgroep”) he established and headed at the Agricultural University in Wageningen from 1954 onwards was named “sociography and sociology” before being renamed as “sociology”, and then, more precisely, “rural sociology”. Nevertheless, until the end of his life, he remained committed to the agenda of “sociography”: a grounded theoretical approach with low levels of abstraction and high probability of practical application (Hofstee 1938, Hofstee 1982; Karel 2002).


In the year after he obtained his PhD in 1937, a “sociography” of Het Oldambt, a region in the eastern part of Groningen province in the north of the Netherlands, Hofstee was appointed as an unsalaried university lecturer in sociography embedded within Groningen University’s Faculty of Law. In the public lecture preceding the start of his teaching there, he gave an overview of the development and meaning of sociography, the discipline in which he firmly positioned himself, and which had produced an impressive number of studies in the first decade after its establishment. Hofstee’s overview was imbued with the ideas of Steinmetz, the founder of this relatively new discipline. In brief, Hofstee argued that the sociography developed by Steinmetz and adopted by himself can be characterized as a field of study interested in the social life of people and the diversity emerging from this social life, following inductive methods (Hofstee 1938).

For Hoftee, Steinmetz’s and sociography’s primary objects of study are people’s social lives and their particularities. This interest is rooted in a concern for human beings, not what he refers to as an “abstract,” “systematized,” “schematized,” or “idealized” human being, but the “concrete, living” human beings; human beings in their diversity, with “their lows and heights” (Hofstee 1938: 5 ). While Hofstee identified the abstract and generalized with sociology, he considered the concrete and particular the domain of sociography. Hofstee’s peer and colleague, Sjoerd Groenman, had argued in a similar vein that sociology generalizes, while sociography studies the particular (Groenman 1948: 4). As an “individualizing sociology”, sociography focuses on “concrete situations” and “groups” (ibid.  7).  

Hofstee’s interest in the concrete, the lived and the particular, marked his inclination towards “inductive” research methodology, making in-depth descriptions of the social groups (Hofstee 1938: 7-8). He combined this with a comparative approach. In his own research, conceptualization from in-depth and comparative descriptions yielded the concept of “farming styles” in agricultural production (Groenman 1948: 11). In today’s language, we would refer to this inductive approach with its conceptualization from in-depth description as ‘grounded theory’.

Hofstee distinguished sociology and sociography as separate but related sciences, the one developing abstract theories beyond time and place and the other developing an analytical understanding of the particular. This distinction between the general and the particular (Hofstee 1938: 11) was rooted in the apparent distinction between theory and research as it existed in the 1920s and 30s, a distinction that formed the background for the separation of sociology and sociography (Doorn and Lammers: 53). Sociology’s tendency to abstraction, influenced by the philosophy-oriented German sociology, left the empirical field unexplored, now to be claimed by sociography. Yet Hofstee did not see sociography as an independent academic discipline but rather as providing the data for the sociologist, who would be able to develop fact based instead of speculative theory. The sociographer, collecting data – without theoretical assumptions or perspective (Karel 2002: 2-3) – does the ‘field work’ for the sociologist, making sociography the “auxiliary science” of sociology (Hofstee 1938 1105: 11, 15).

However, Hofstee did not only see the research oriented sociography as supportive towards theoretical sociology, he also considered sociography important for policy (Hofstee 1938 1105: 18). As the state increasingly intervened in people’s economic and social life, so too did its need to acquire knowledge about diverse groups in society so that policy could be better assessed: “Without study, study and more study,” the state is unable to properly fulfill its task (Hofstee 1938 1105: 20), and it is the sociographers who can supply the knowledge required (Hofstee 1938 1105: 19). For Hofstee, sociography was an applied science (Karel 2002). Social scientific research in support of ordering interventions in Dutch society (Winkels,1982: 79).

Between unripe sociology and over-ripe geography

Only ten years after Hofstee’s public lecture at the University of Groningen, Hofstee’s close colleague, Sjoerd Groenman, had concluded in his inaugural lecture at Utrecht University that sociography in the Netherlands had not delivered on its promise to become a powerful support for sociology. The material it inductively obtained had been of very little use in making generalizations (Groenman 1948 1103: 4). In fact, as the product of an unripe sociology and an over-ripe geography (Doorn and Lammers), it had remained more like a chorography, the description of regions, than a description of forms of social living (Groenman 1948 1103: 4-5). Rather than taking social groups as its object of study, Dutch sociography had produced what were essentially geographically-based descriptions of regions (Groenman 1948 1103: 6), yet in a way it had provided hardly anything more than uneven, incidental data of an unequal kind and therefore not useful to the sociologist (Groenman 1948 1103: 6, 15). In short, sociography had fallen short of its self-assigned duty to sociology (Groenman 1948 1103: 16). Hofstee himself came to a similar conclusion at a conference on sociography he hosted at the Institute for Social Research of the Dutch People in 1953 (Hofstee 1953).

Sociography had not only failed to deliver, the distinction the practitioners of sociography had made between theory and research became less pronounced too. In the 1950s, the contradiction between theory and research, which had been the basis of the sociology-sociography distinction, had become less pronounced with the influence of American empirical sociology on the social sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, several universities in the Netherlands started to offer masters in sociology – Utrecht 1951, Nijmegen 1953, Groningen 1955, the Free University (VU) of Amsterdam 1959, Wageningen 1962, and Rotterdam 1968 (Haan and Leeuw 1995). In short, the failure to deliver and to distinguish itself from geography as well as the empirical turn and institutionalization of sociology marked the end of sociography. In Utrecht, sociography  became part of social geography and in Amsterdam part of sociology (Doorn and Lammers 1958). In Wageningen sociography becomes rural sociology, the study of social groups and phenomena within a rural configuration. So in a period of only a few decades sociography became reduced to a specialization within geography or dissolved into sociology.

Sociography’s new cloths: Differential sociology

At the beginning of the 1980s, at the end of his academic career, Hofstee defined his approach as a “differential sociology”:

‘Differential’ sociological theory will in many respects be different from the currently existing sociological theories. First of all, as is already implied in the foregoing, ‘differential’ sociology does not aim at generalizations with a high level of universality. On the contrary, their validity will almost always be limited by time and place. Generalizations arrived at by ‘differential’ sociology will mostly not even function at ‘middle’ level but only at ‘lower’ levels of abstraction, since they have to remain directly applicable to the factual social reality. Otherwise, they will lose their capacity to explain the characteristics of a particular group. In other words, in comparison with general sociological theories, ‘differential’ sociology is much more concerned with social phenomena of greater complexity. ‘Differential’ sociology means a comparative study of more or less similar single groups. It is interested in groups as such, and not in abstracted and isolated social traits. Even if it is interested in specific group characteristics, it will try to interpret them against the characteristics of the group as a whole. (Hofstee 1982: 54)

Hofstee’s differential sociology, as he emphasized time and again, did not aim at high levels of abstraction, referred to as generalization, therefore, but at explanations of the social reality of a particular group in time and space. This low-level abstraction was supposed to contribute to an understanding of the social worlds of identified groups, in all their complexity. Hofstee’s concept of “farming styles”, a shared understanding about how to farm shared by a group of farmers and the way this materializes, was one such low-level abstraction, one that has proved useful to understand diversity in farming practices. With his description of differential sociology, therefore, Hofstee could not have given a better definition of sociography.


Doorn, J. A. A. v. and C. J. Lammers (1958). “Sociologie en Sociografie.” De Gids 5(2): pp. 49-78.

Groenman, S. (1948). Kanttekeningen bij de Voortgang van het Sociale Onderzoek in Nederland, rede uitgesproken bij de aanvaarding van het ambt van buitengewoon hoogleraar in de socilogie aan de Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht op Maandag 1 november 1948 Meppel, Fa. Stenvert & Zoon.

Haan, J. d. and F. d. Leeuw (1995). “Sociology in the Netherlands ” The American Sociologist, Winter 1995: pp. 70-87.

Hofstee, E. W. (1938). De Sociografie, haar ontwikkeling en haar betekenis, Openbare les gegeven bij de aanvang zijner colleges en de opening van het sociologisch instituut gevestigd aan de Rijksuniversiteit te Groningen op 18 october 1938 Groningen, J.B. Wolters Uitgevers Maatschappij.

Hofstee, E. W. (1953). Sociografie in de Practijk. Sociografie in de Practijk. S. Groenman, W. R. Heere, E. W. Hofstee et al. Assen, Van Gorcum & Comp. N.V.: pp. 1-6.

Hofstee, E. W. (1982). Differentiële Sociologie in Kort Bestek: Schets van de differentiële sociologie en haar functie in het concrete sociaal-wetenschappelijk onderzoek. Wageningen, Mededelingen van de Vakgroepen Sociologie van de Landbouwhogeschool.

Karel, E. (2002). “Rural sociologists and their theories on the Dutch agricultural development after the Second World War.” Paper presented at the European Economic and Social History Conference in The Hague. February 26th – March 2nd, 2002.

Winkels, J. (1982). ISONEVO: Het Instituut voor Sociaal Onderzoek van het Nederlandse Volk. Amsterdam, SISWO.

75th Anniversary: 3) In the beginning there was E.W. Hofstee or the birth of Rural Sociology in Wageningen

Photo: E.W. Hofstee on the shoulders of the sociologists Ad Nooij and Rien Munters at the occasion of the 25th anniversary

The history of rural sociology in Wageningen goes back to the appointment of Evert Willem (E.W.) Hofstee as professor in economic geography. His appointment by Royal Decree took place on May 9, 1946. He started to work at the university on September 15, 1946, though his formal employment did not start until October 1, 1946. Hofstee gave his inaugural lecture “On the causes of diversity in agricultural regions in the Netherlands” on October 30, 1946.

The appointment of E.W. Hofstee not only marked the beginning of  rural sociology in Wageningen, his work also laid the foundations for the social sciences department at this university. Moreover, Hofstee played an important role in the development of rural sociology in Europe. He was the co-founder and first president of the ‘European Society for Rural Sociology’ (1957) and co-founder of the journal ‘Sociologia Ruralis’ (1960).

Hofstee’s original teaching assignment was ‘Economic and Social Geography and Social Statistics’. The position for an economic geographer, who would also do social statistics, went back to a pre-advice of a committee led by professor Edelman to the Senate of the Wageningen Agricultural University on September 21, 1945. The committee recommended the appointment of a professor in economic geography.  A few days later, on September 27, 1945, the rector requested the ‘Committee for the Restoration of the Agricultural University’ (‘College van Herstel van de Landbouwhogeschool), responsible for the post-World War II re-establishment of the university, to open a vacancy for a professor in economic geography.

With regard to the necessity of such a position, the appointment advisory committee stated on January 26, 1946 that together with the increasing role of the state in the economy, “there is a growing need for agricultural engineers who have received economic and socio-geographical training. Knowledge of the structure of countries and peoples that compete with Dutch agricultural, horticultural and forestry products as well as knowledge of the structure of agricultural society in our own country and the Dutch-Indies is necessary.”

Hofstee was one of the 13 candidates who applied for the new position and became the appointment advisory committee’s first choice. The committee argued that Hofstee was a good speaker, had didactic skills, did important research and had strong letters of recommendation. Moreover, the committee was looking for someone who would be able to develop his research agenda with determination and perseverance and thought Hofstee was the right person for this.

Hofstee had clearly explained his ambition in his application letter and the job interview. He told the committee that the task of the professor should not remain limited to doing what most economic geographers did – making a ‘product topography’  – or ‘bringing together existing knowledge’. His ambition was higher. The agricultural engineer of the future, Hofstee argued, needs to understand the factors that determine the nature and scale of production. He considered it important that students learn how economic questions relate to social phenomena of a non-economic nature.  Another important task, Hofstee argued, was to train agricultural engineers to become independent researchers of ‘concrete issues’ . Hofstee’s ultimate ambition was to develop the university into a center of research on rural regions and agriculture. He considered the terms economic and social geography outdated, but had to wait until 1954 until his teaching assignment was given the name he preferred: sociography.

Following his appointment in 1946, Hofstee not only developed rural sociology in Wageningen, but also made important contributions in the fields of demography and household studies, history, planning, and GIS.  He was a board member of the Agricultural Economic Institute LEI, today’s Wageningen Economic Research (WEcR). Although he did not like the designation  ‘Wageningen School’, he laid the foundations for a specific approach that was characterized by an interest in agency, meaning and diversity – an approach which continues to characterize rural sociology in Wageningen.

(A Dutch version of this text was published last week)

75th Anniversary: 2) In den beginne was er E.W. Hofstee – het ontstaan van Rurale Sociologie in Wageningen

De geschiedenis van rurale sociologie in Wageningen gaat terug tot de benoeming tot hoogleraar van Evert Willem (E.W.) Hofstee per Koninklijk Besluit van 9 mei 1946. Volgens eigen zeggen begon hij zijn werkzaamheden op 15 september 1946, maar zijn formele indiensttreding was op 1 oktober 1946 en het einde van die maand, op 30 oktober 1946, hield Hofstee zijn inaugurele rede met de titel “Over de oorzaken van de verscheidenheid in de Nederlandsche landbouwgebieden”. Hofstee kan met recht beschouwd worden als de grondlegger van de rurale sociologie in Wageningen, maar misschien ook wel van het departement maatschappijwetenschappen aan deze universiteit. Ook speelde Hofstee een sleutelrol in rurale sociologie in Europa. Hofstee was medeoprichter en eerste president van de European Society for Rural Sociology (1957) en medeoprichter van het tijdschrift Sociologia Ruralis (1960).
Hofstee zijn oorspronkelijke leeropdracht was de ”Economische en Sociale Geografie en de Sociale Statistiek”. De positie voor een economisch geograaf, die de sociale statistiek erbij zou doen, ging terug tot een preadvies van een commissie onder leiding van de Wageningse Hoogleraar Edelman aan de senaat van de Landbouwhogeschool op 21 september 1945 om een professor economische geografie aan te stellen. Nog geen week later, op 27 september 1945, verzocht de rector het naoorlogse ‘College van Herstel van de Landbouwhogeschool’ een positie te creëren voor een professor economische geografie. Over de noodzaak en invulling van een dergelijke positie, schreef de benoemingsadviescommissie 26 januari 1946 het volgende:
“Naarmate de volkshuishoudingen meer door de overheid worden geleid ontstaat er meer behoefte aan landbouwkundigen met economische en sociaalgeografische scholing. Kennis van de structuur van landen en volken welke me onze land-, tuin- en bosbouwproducten concurreren als wel kennis van de structuur van de agrarische samenleving in ons eigen land en Indië is noodzakelijk”. 
Hofstee is een van de 13 kandidaten die op de functie solliciteert. De commissie acht twee kandidaten voor de functie geschikt, maar Hofstee is de eerste keus. Hofstee, zo motiveert de commissie haar besluit, is een goed spreker, hij heeft didactische vaardigheden, heeft belangrijke onderzoek gedaan en sterke geloofsbrieven. De commissie denkt verder dat de andere kandidaat
“zich vermoedelijk gemakkelijker dan Hofstee [zal] richten naar de wensen van zijn collega’s; Hofstee zal meer zijn eigen weg gaan; hij ziet die reeds vrij scherp voor zich en beschikt vermoedelijk over het nodige doorzettingsvermogen om zijn doel te verwezenlijken”.
De commissie zoekt iemand die zijn leeropdracht op eigen wijze weet in te vullen en denkt hiermee in Hofstee de juiste persoon te hebben gevonden.
Hofstee had in zijn sollicitatiebrief op de functie en in het daaropvolgend gesprek zijn visie helder uiteen gezet. Zo maakte hij duidelijk dat de taak van de professor zich niet zou moeten beperken tot een “productentopografie” waartoe de economische geografie maar al te vaak aanleiding geeft. De taak zou ook niet beperkt moeten blijven tot het bij elkaar brengen van kennis. Hofstee meende dat gezien de toekomstige functie van de landbouwingenieur, het van groot belang was dat deze inzicht krijgt in de factoren welke aard en omvang van de productie bepalen. “Economische verschijnselen”, zo stelt Hofstee, “moeten gezien worden in samenhang met de maatschappelijke verschijnselen van niet-economische aard”.  Een andere belangrijke taak, schrijft Hofstee, is studenten op te leiden tot zelfstandige onderzoekers van concrete vraagstukken. Hofstee gaf verder aan de Landbouwhogeschool zoveel mogelijk te willen maken tot een centrum van het onderzoek van het platteland en de landbouw. Hij vindt de termen economische en sociale geografie verouderd, en stelt de naam sociografie voor, maar hij moet tot 1954 wachten tot zijn leeropdracht deze naam krijgt.
In de jaren die volgden op zijn benoeming in 1946 zette Hofstee de rurale sociologie op de kaart, als wel de demografie en gezinssociologie, geschiedenis, planologie, en GIS. Ook was hij bestuurslid van het landbouweconomisch Instituut LEI, het huidige WECR (Wageningen Economisch Research).  Hoewel hij niet gecharmeerd was van de benaming ‘Wageningse School’, legde hij de basis voor een specifieke benadering die zich liet kenmerken door de aandacht voor agency, betekenisgeving en diversiteit. 
Foto: Hofstee op de schouders van de sociologen Ad Nooij en Rien Munters ter gelegenheid van het 25 jarig jubileum in 1971. 



Unpacking legitimacy in regional development

In 2018, Yasmine Willy came as a visiting fellow to the Center of Space, Place and Society at WUR. Two years later, the fruits of this visit have been published in the journal Territory, Politics and Governance. The article focuses on an issue widely discussed in academic literature: the lack of legitimacy of regional development agencies.  Following Hannah Arendt’s distinction between legitimization and justification, the article argues that the main problem regional development agencies struggle with is not procedural rightfulness (legitimization) but means–end coordination (justification). The abstract of the article writes: “In recent years, policy-makers and researchers have identified regional development agencies as the most suitable actors to carry out public tasks. One of these tasks has been the coordination of regional development processes. Both practitioners and researchers argue that legitimacy is a prerequisite for these regional actors to function properly. Although legitimacy is a key issue, little is known about the challenges that arise while producing it. Selecting six regional development agencies in Switzerland and applying an interview-based research method, this explorative study analyses how regional development agencies deal with legitimacy issues. The findings indicate that the main problem with which regional development agencies struggle is not procedural rightfulness but means–end coordination. By proposing a clear distinction between legitimacy and justification, we aim to stimulate the debate on how to operationalize legitimacy and further the discussion of the functioning of regional development agencies. Consequently, we introduce the concept of ‘asymmetric justification’ to the debate on regional development processes in order to shed a light on the functioning of regional development agencies.”

If you are curious, you can access the article under this link

Rural Uproar: Corona Proof Thesis Opportunity

So you want to do your thesis, but as corona-proof as possible. Than read the this call for a student interested in making a sociological analysis of rural uproar.

Unrest has brought tractor blockades to The Hague, Berlin, Paris and many other cities as a cocktail of grievances boil over. Yet rural uproar is not new. In his Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century, Eric Wolf examined the histories of peasant involvement in rebellions and revolutions in the twentieth century. Eric Hobsbawm and George Rude examined the rebellion and arson attacks by a rural population at a time capitalism swept from the cities to the countryside in England.

In this thesis opportunity you will be asked to study rural uproar, identify characteristics and grievances of protests and revolts, and its economic and political causes. For this thesis, you will do a systematic literature review in combination with archival work. When more recent uproar is taken into consideration, interviews are possible.

More info: joost.jongerden@wur.nl

Picture: Captain Swing, mythical figure whose name appeared on series of threatening letters during the rural Swing-Riots in the UK now 190 years ago.

MSc thesis opportunity: Environmental versus/and political ecology explanations of civil war

There is a fierce debate about the origins of the civil war in Syria.

Some argue that the civil war was caused by environmental induced scarcity (climate change). Key environmental factors identified are water-scarcity and climate variability. Drought is said to have contributed to the displacement of rural populations to urban centers, unemployment and the occurrence of food insecurity with subsequent effects on political stability (Gleick 2014).

Others have argued that the relation between drought, migration and conflict is not so clear-cut (Eklund & Thompson 2017). They content that the central causes of the war were the Syrian regime’s agrarian policy and the rural poverty it produced (political ecology). The regime’s social and economic reforms cut the peasantry from subsidies, resulted in a loss of livelihood and brought large parts of the population out of the social reach of the state (Daoudy 2020).  

For this thesis you will evaluate and assess climate change and political ecology centered explanation of the causes of the civil war in Syria. Based on this reading, you are challenged to 1) develop an approach beyond the climate change – political ecology controversy or 2) assess the policy implications of both approaches. For this study, you will analyze scientific articles, reports by international organizations and NGOs, but also consider datasets of FAO and WB.

More info: joost.jongerden@wur.nl


The EU Protein Plan: shifting to sustainable supply-chains or more of the same?

Chris Chancellor, WU Graduate

The impact that our industrialised global food supply-chain has on diverse ecosystems and communities around the world is receiving greater attention than ever before. Scholars and activists have for decades emphasised how European agricultural demand has driven deforestation and environmental destruction in species-rich biomes such as the Amazon and Cerrado regions in Latin America.  Now it is becoming clear that the consequences extend far beyond the environmental harm generated by the production stage itself. When looking at the wider chain, the implications of industrial food systems for issues such as food and nutritional security, human health, social justice, rural vitality, employment, and the concentration of market control, become apparent.

Having found its way onto the political agenda, the European Union (EU) has come up with the idea of a European Protein Plan. The EU is currently heavily reliant on imports of protein crops, primarily soybean from Latin America’s Southern Cone region. As well as being linked with major environmental and human rights concerns, the reliance on imports also makes the EU agricultural industry vulnerable to shocks in international commodity prices. Soybean is the favoured ingredient in animal feed for the EUs powerful livestock industry, and therefore a price shock would have major socio-economic consequences.

The Protein Plan essentially proposes increasing the amount of domestic protein crop production. The idea is that this would lift the burden on Latin American ecosystems whilst at the same time providing the EU with greater ‘protein independence’. This has been presented as a win-win situation, and yet the manner in which this production would take place has received little or no critical attention.

A report published by civil society organisation European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) highlights the dangers of simply transplanting the same corporate industrial supply-chain into Europe. Last year, an agreement called the European Soya Declaration was signed by 13 member states, highlighting the suitability of fertile and ‘underused’ lands in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) for expansion of European soybean production. The ECVC report details the recent emergence of agribusinesses and financial investors in the CEE region. Land here is cheaper and often more fertile than in Western Europe, and offers suitable agro-climatic conditions for commodity soybean cultivation. There is therefore an opportunity for large profits to be made if land is bought up now, cultivated with soybean or other commodity protein crops, and potentially sold later when land prices have reached western European levels. As one company puts it: ‘protein crops are the new gold bars’. However, this process is not a neutral one, and entails radical reformulations of arable land ownership and control, threatening the livelihoods of the region’s small-scale producers and rural communities.

Another report from the Land and Resource Lookout reaches a similar conclusion, pointing out that ‘a control-blind approach’ to sustainability is evident. Much attention is given to the fact that this soy would be non-GM, would be deforestation-free, and would help to fix nitrogen in crop rotations. These are undoubtedly positive, yet these traits in isolation don’t automatically equal sustainable supply-chains. The manner in which this soy is produced, distributed and consumed, as well as how and who controls these processes and relevant markets, are key for building a truly sustainable and inclusive food system. It argues that sustainable food system strategies must explicitly address the issue of corporate control if effective progress is to be made.

With the European Commission set to release a report on the EU Protein Plan before the end of the year, both reports advocate for the inclusion of agroecological principles and the concept of food sovereignty in any future EU protein strategies. An agroecological transition offers a potential pathway for a truly inclusive, interconnected and mutually beneficial food system to be built, but this must receive political backing in order for it to really take hold.

The fact that the sorts of headline issues emphasised in the European Soya Declaration are receiving genuine political attention is a positive step. It provides an opportune moment to address deep-seated systemic problems in our current industrially-based food system; policy-makers must now be brave enough to seize it!

Note: are you a WU master student and interested in doing a thesis research on this issue, please contact joost.jongerden@wur.nl

Opportunity for Wageningen students: Study at Kyoto University

wp_20160526_12_28_46_proThe Rural Sociology Group and the Graduate School of Economics at Kyoto University have a close collaboration for several years. As a result, Wageningen University and Kyoto University have signed a student exchange agreement, and now in the process of strengthening our collaborative partnership through the Platform for Global Sustainability & Transcultural Studies (see http://agst.jgp.kyoto-u.ac.jp/). For students who are interested in studying at Kyoto University in the academic year 2017/2018 (from April 2017 to March wp_20160527_15_06_26_pro2018) for a period of approximately 4 months, or who are interested in doing their internship or master thesis research at Kyoto University, we have secured funding. If you are interested in studying in Kyoto, the centre of Japanese culture and scholarship please contact Joost Jongerden at the Rural Sociology Group.  

PhD course on place

Coming April and May we organize a PhD course called “the politics of place”. With James Ferguson, Hannah Wittman and Scott Prudham we will  explore and discuss a range of issues related to place and politics, such as place and new understandings of citizenship, social movements, capital & ecology and redistribution. The course will be a mixture of lectures, discussion and tutorials. For more info see:




Satoyama Stories: A Glimpse on the Movement for Regeneration of Matsutake Forests in Kyoto

The Rural Sociology Group and Kyoto University maintain a close collaboration. Flora Sonkin, a MSc student at RSO, participates in a summer school and participated in field work near Kyoto this month. In this posts she shares her experiences.


I arrived in Kyoto, Japan a few days ago as a visitor for the FEAST project at RIHN (Research Institute for Humanity and Nature), and to join the Kyoto University Graduate Seminar on Sustainability Studies.

Being in Japan in autumn has a special effect on one’s senses. Feeling awakened by the warm yellow and red colors that paint the mountainous landscape, and by the fresh smell of fallen leaves and pine trees. On the first day of my visit, Mai Kobayashi (my host at the RIHN) took me to a Satoyama nearby RIHN, were a community-led forest management project is trying to regenerate a red pine forest – and hopefully matsutake mushrooms along with it. Continue reading