A year in the life of an Assistant Professor at RSO

At the one year anniversary of starting my position as Assistant Professor in Food Sociology, I thought I should get around to writing a blog and reflecting on this wild year of getting to know RSO, WUR, and the Netherlands.

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Oona Morrow; Photo taken by Jantine Messing, in Devon 2018

At the end of February last year I boarded a plane with my partner and our cat bound for Amsterdam. We were excited, but also had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. A few weeks later I began teaching Origin Food, a required course in the MFT Gastronomy specialization. And Dirk Roep and my patient students put up with me as I bumbled my way through EU food policies on GI protection, and lectured in a brand new course. We visited local cheese makers and gastronomic ventures, and my students helped me wrap my head around the many ways one could enjoy the humble cheese sandwich – with mustard, ketchup, or just plain (my personal favourite is now with Appel Stroop). Somehow we all survived, and now I am happy to be supervising some of these students on their thesis research on the diverse economies of Sago in Indonesia and food tourism and shellfish livelihoods in Portugal.

I gave guest lectures here and there, one as part of a seminar on co-creation at CSPS. And afterwards my colleague Anke approached me to discuss how we could incorporate co-creation more intentionally into our research practices. We decided to try out an approach that I had learned from the community economies research network in the CSPS Foodscapes cluster. The cluster now meets monthly to read papers, workshop research in progress, and offers a convivial environment for reflection, support, and co-creation. It has been such a great place for me to connect with colleagues from across the CSPS section who are interested in critical food studies, foodscapes, diverse food economies, and urban agriculture. Whenever I’m stressed or lost I can always count on this group for an outside perspective or a good laugh. We also organize the Critical Food Studies Speaker series. Several of us are also organizing a session on Cultivating Hope while Getting into Trouble with Community Food Initiatives at the RGS-IBG Conference in London this coming August.

Then in what feels like the blink of an eye, I found myself in the picturesque seaside and rolling hills of Devon, UK. Where I stayed with three other instructors and supervised a group international development students completing their first field work assignment, as part of Elisabet Rasch’s Field Research practical. I remembered how to drive, even on the wrong side, and visited students living with host families and researching everyday life in small towns, villages, and hamlets up and down the coast. I went on some gorgeous hikes and walks, and visited Cardiff for a workshop that Ana Moragues Faus organized on the role of cities in delivering food security and sustainability outcomes. I also spent some time hiding out in my bed/office finishing data analysis and preparing a conference paper for SCORAI. On my walks and drives through the region I couldn’t help feeling home sick, in this little piece of island that so resembled the coastal villages and mill towns I knew from my life in New England – and even with the same place names. Many people who settled New England emigrated from the South of England. The field research experience made a huge impact on my students, who researched everything from the trauma of hoof and mouth disease, to the Brexit feelings of farmers,  to the livelihood strategies of fishermen, to the meaning and experience of sustainability in a Transition Town. I enjoyed watching them move out of their comfort zone and connect with strange new humans, while further developing their research skills.

I also found time to write a few papers, including an article entitled Sharing Food and Risk in Berlin’s Urban Food Commons, for a special issue of Geoforum on urban food sharing economies. The paper brings together current thinking on food commons and urban commons to examine the challenges of managing public fridges in Berlin as commons. The research that the paper is based on was completed with foodsharing.de as part of the ERC Horizon 2020 funded SHARECITY project, led by PI Anna Davies. The special issue is edited by Anna Davies and David Evans and profiles many of the ethnographic findings from the SHARECITY project, as well as research on solidarity food economies, foraging, and food waste presented in an AAG session in Boston that we organized on food sharing. I encourage you to check it out, and many of the papers are open-access.

Over the summer and fall I began supervising a growing cohort of thesis students who were developing research proposals on everything from food policy in Berlin, to urban agriculture in Almere, to vegan instagram influencers in the UK. While they all had me in common as a supervisor, they also shared an interest in understanding agri-food practices from a critical sociological perspective. So, we committed ourselves to organizing as a cohort, sharing tips and resources along the way, enjoying thesis potlucks, and meeting up to celebrate important milestones like finishing proposals, going off to the field, and writing. The 2019 “Foodies” cohort and thesis ring is going strong, and I look forward to continuing the tradition with the next batch of thesis students.

Fast forward some months, in which I even managed to take vacation, and I began teaching the MFT Gastronomy course Food Culture and Custom. This is a course that has been thoughtfully designed and redesigned by RSO’s resident Teacher of the Year Dr. Jessica Duncan. The course covers similar topics and theoretical frameworks to those I had taught in the MLA Gastronomy program at Boston University, so I was pleasantly in my comfort zone. But I also got to dig into some fascinating new material on ethics, moral philosophy, and cultured meat with Professor Cor van der Weele. Jessica has gone to great lengths to make the course extremely well structured and as interactive as possible, so although we all work really hard – we also have a lot of fun. However, all of these interactive components take a lot of extra time and coordination, so I was very happy to have support from my two excellent teaching assistants – Adele Wilson and Jesse van de Sande. Thank you both!

During my time here, one constant sources of inspiration and belonging has been the Centre for Space, Place, and Society – and especially the CSPS Foodscapes cluster. When I go to a CSPS event or teach in the CSPS Social Theory Phd Seminar I feel that I’ve found my people at WUR. So when Martijn Duineveld suggested that we apply for the CSPS Scientific Director position together as a team – I thought, that sounds great! We’re looking forward to working together to organize an engaging and inclusive CSPS. See you at the next CSPS event and the CSPS Annual Day.

The days and months have flown by. But here I am again, drinking raw milk with my gastronomy students, preparing my lectures, and feeling much more at ease in my new role than this time last year.  I’ve contributed to a few funding bids. And together with Anke de Vrieze and Chizu Sato I was recenty awarded WASS excellence funds to organize a workshop with artists and academics on Arts-Based Methods and Diverse Economies. I have also been granted funds for a research visit to Hamburg University’s Center for Advanced study on the Futures of Sustainability, where I will be Visiting Professor next fall. But, what I’m most excited about right now – besides teaching Origin Food again (with a super engaged group of MFT Gastronomy students), is working together with our CSPS foodscapes colleague Hilje van de Horst to co-supervise my first PhD student Thirza Andriessen. Thirza has been awarded the prestigious and highly competitive WASS PhD fellowship for her research on dignity in alternative forms of food aid. We are so thrilled to be able to work together on this important project and support the development of a budding social scientist at WUR.

 

 

 

 

 

Thesis Opportunities: Diverse economies of food, agriculture, and nature in Galicia, Spain

In the field of diverse economies, researchers have paid particular attention to diverse forms of economic organisation and exchange that make up our food system, disrupting dominant development narratives that privilege capital, markets, wages, private property and mainstream financing (Gibson-Graham, 2006). Examples in the literature are multifunctional agriculture (Renting et al., 2009), communal land use (Soto, 2014; Caballero, 2015), ecosystem service provisioning (Bolund and Hunhammar, 1999; Braat and De Groot, 2012), and sharing food or skills to reduce waste, or foster greater food security (Davies et al., 2017). These manifestations of diverse economies are often captured and explained through the theoretical lens of the social economy, an umbrella term used to describe a variety of third sector, cooperative, voluntary, non-profit, and social enterprise initiatives that put social and environmental well-being before profit.

Problem definition / hypothesis 

In Galicia, a ‘green’ region in the northwest corner of Spain, industrialisation and urbanisation mainly takes part in the coastal area. The mountainous interior consists of forests and pastures for beef and dairy cattle, creating a strong divide between the urban and the rural, and their development pathways. Primary production, with relatively low added value, remains important to Galicia’s economic production. The daily fabric of life, in rural but also in industrial-urban environments, is anchored in what can be termed the social economy. Whilst formal collaborative and/or cooperative approaches to market access or income generation are often lacking, the question pops up – whether and how these everyday practices (can) build upon existing social economy dynamics. This research seeks to understand, how communities in these places negotiate social, economic, and environmental concerns by practicing diverse economies in urban and rural areas, and how these practices can contribute to realizing social economies

Communal forestry and mountain farming

Empirical studies in Galicia on the diverse economies of food, agriculture, and nature (i.e. the local resource base, e.g. ecosystems services, green infrastructure, or more theoretically: ecological capital) will contribute to the (yet often) unrecognised role of the social economy in bringing about economic development in relation to provisioning of ecosystem services and/or green infrastructure.

Depending on the preferences of individual students for empirical research subjects, and a possibly simultaneous implementation of MSc thesis projects,  research subjects can consist of communal (agro) forestry (in urban and/or rural contexts), mountain farming (in more remote rural areas), or a combination of these.

Research topics include but are not limited to:

  • Mapping diverse economies of food, agriculture, and nature: initiatives and projects (focus: forestry and farm activities), community and/or household configurations, collaboration (different aggregation levels), payments and income strategies (private and public goods), availability of regional policy support schemes, support structures for similar initiatives elsewhere
  • Developing strategies to enhance local business opportunities (forestry and farming activities, food and other ecosystem service provisioning in relation to e.g. gastronomy and tourism), identify and describe heterogeneity in best practices, report bottlenecks in relation to place-based development (taking into account spatial relationships)

Planning of an MSc thesis research project

The overall goal of these MSc thesis projects are to a) advance our understanding of the diverse and social economies in rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and b) identify and promote policies, governance models and practices that foster this type of social innovation, with the aim to also enhance more mainstream economic production: contribute to creating value added, market access, and additional farm income for primary producers.

An assignment will be drawn up together with the student: an initial research plan in advance to leaving to Galicia for the field research, and a more definitive plan at arrival, in collaboration with local stakeholders.

Research requires a stay of 3 months or longer at the University of Vigo / in Galicia.

Start date: Spring or Summer 2019

Qualifications:

  • You have training in qualitative methods and are able to conduct qualitative research in Spanish or Galician (Thesis is written in English)
  • You have an interest in engaging diverse stakeholders in participatory and collaborative research
  • You have one or more of the following skills and/or interests: able to use basic excel and mapping tools; interest in diverse economies and social innovation and/or spatial relationships; experience with assessment and evaluation
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or other relevant social science courses)
  • Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: RSO Oona Morrow oona.morrow@wur.nl & GEN Paul Swagemakers paul.swagemakers@uvigo.es (University of Vigo, Galicia, Spain)

Works cited & further reading:

Bolund, P., Hunhammar, S., 1999. Ecosystem services in urban areas. Ecological Economics 29, 293–301

Braat, L.C., De Groot, R., 2012. The ecosystem services agenda: bridging the worlds of natural science and economics, conservation and development, and public and private policy. Ecosystem Services, 1, 4–15.

Caballero, G.,2015. Community-based forest management institutions in the Galician communal forests: a new institutional approach. Forest Policy and Economics 50, 347–356

Davies, A.R., Edwards, F., Marovelli, B., Morrow, O., Rut, M., Weymes, M., 2017. Making visible: Interrogating the performance of food sharing across 100 urban areas. Geoforum 86, 136-149

Gibson-Graham, J.K., 2006. A Postcapitalist Politics. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis

Gibson-Graham, J. K., 2008. Diverse economies: performative practices for other worlds’. Progress in Human Geography, 32(5), 613-632

Jongerden, J.P., 2018. Living Structures : Methodological Considerations on People and Place. In: Methodological Approaches in Kurdish Studies. Baser, B., Toivanen, M., Zorlu, B., Duman, Y. (Eds.), Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield Publisher), Lanham, 21 – 33

Morrow, O., Dombroski, K., 2015. Enacting a Postcapitalist Politics through the Sites and Practices of Life’s Work. In: Precarious Worlds: Contested Geographies of Social Reproduction. Meehan, K., Stauss, K. (Eds.), University of Georgia Press, Georgia

Öztürk, M., Topaloğlu, B., Hilton, A., Jongerden, J., 2017. Rural‒Urban Mobilities in

Turkey: Socio-spatial Perspectives on Migration and Return Movements, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies 20(5), 513 – 530

Renting, H., Rossing, W.A.H., Groot, J.C.J., van der Ploeg, J.D., Laurent, C., Perraud, D., Stobbelaar, D.J., van Ittersum, M.K., 2009. Exploring multifunctional agriculture: a review of conceptual approaches and prospects for an integrative transitional framework. Journal of Environmental Management 90, 112–123

Soto, D., 2014. Community, institutions and environment in conflicts over commons in Galicia, northwest Spain (18th–20th centuries). International Journal on Strikes  and Social Conflicts 5, 58–76

Swagemakers, P., Domínguez García, M.D., Milone, P., Ventura, F., Wiskerke, J.S.C., in press. Exploring cooperative place-based approaches to restorative agriculture. Journal of Rural Studies. Online first, doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2018.12.003

Swagemakers, P., Dominguez Garcia, M.D., Wiskerke, J.S.C., 2018.  Socially-innovative development and value creation: how a composting project in Galicia (Spain) ‘hit the rocks’. Sustainability 10(6), 2040

Swagemakers, P., Dominguez Garcia, M.D., Onofa Torres, A., Oostindie, H., Groot, J.C.J., 2017. A values-based approach to exploring synergies between livestock farming and landscape conservation in Galicia (Spain). Sustainability 9(11), 1987

Wiskerke, J.S.C., Verhoeven, S., 2018. Flourishing foodscapes: designing city-region food systems. Valiz, Amsterdam

Wiskerke, J.S.C., 2009. On places lost and places regained: reflections on the alternative food geography and sustainable regional development. International Planning Studies 14(4), 369-387

 

 

 

Thesis Opportunity: Queering Agri-Food Work in Digital Foodscapes

We are living in the age of the celebrity farmer, in which farmers can gain “rock-star” status for their sustainable farming techniques and gastronomic partnerships  – but also for their identity, self-branding, education, and marketing activities on social media (Phillpov and Goodman 2017). Social media platforms such as Instagram, and the companies that profit through them, have the potential to reinforce dominant identities and “brands.” At the same time they are also being used to make more marginalized identities, food knowledges, movements, and narratives visible (Wilson, forthcoming). The interplay between these food spaces, identities, and technologies is investigated through the concept of digital foodscapes (Goodman et al. 2017).

The digital foodscapes of agri-food work are changing the face of farming, and have the potential to upset and challenge existing stereotypes and perceptions of farm workers and rural spaces. In the U.S. for example, where 60% of farmers are foreign born (largely from Central and South America) and 30% are women, the image of farmers as white and male still dominates in mainstream media and food marketing. In a different vein, the current political landscape in the U.S. could give the (erroneous} impression of rural spaces as white, right wing and nationalist, and urban spaces as diverse, liberal and progressive. The visibility of other kinds of farmer identities in digital foodscapes may play an important role in interrupting, bringing to light, or challenging the “demographic fever dreams and fantasies” that shape perceptions of the rural and urban (Gokariskel et al.).

This research will develop comparative case studies in connection with social media accounts and hashtags that promote the activities (and identities) of women farmers (e.g. @Womenwhofarm) and queer farmers (e.g. @Queerswhofarm) on Instagram. The research will explore which identities are made visible, how, where, and for whom. While also applying feminist and queer theory to critically examine the kinds of identities and performances that gain traction and power in these digital foodscapes, and who might be excluded. The overall aim of this research is to develop a better understanding of the role that social media technologies can play in reimagining agri-food work, workers, and spaces.

Start date: Spring or Summer 2019

Qualifications:           

  • You have some training in qualitative methods and critical social theory
  • You are an interested in gender and sexuality and sustainable agri-food systems
  • You are willing to develop new methodologies and tools for analysing social media
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)

Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisor: Oona Morrow (RSO) oona.morrow@wur.nl

Works Cited & Further Reading:

Farm Aid: Immigration and the food system (2019)  https://www.farmaid.org/blog/fact-sheet/immigration-and-the-food-system/ (last accessed 3/8/19)

Gokariskel, B., Neubert, C., & Smith, S. (2019). Demographic Fever Dreams: Fragile Masculinity and Population Politics in the Rise of the Global Right. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 44(3), 561–587.

Gokariskel et al. (2017) CALL FOR PAPERS (AAG 2017): Demographic fantasies and fever dreams: taco trucks, lesbian farmers, burkini bans, and the basket of deplorables

Gold, M. and Thompson, B. (2019) U.S. Statistics on Women and Minorities on Farms and in Rural Areas. USDA, https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/us-statistics-women-and-minorities-farms-and-rural-areas

Goodman, M. K., Johnston, J., & Cairns, K. (2017). Food, media and space: The mediated biopolitics of eating. Geoforum84(Supplement C), 161-168.

Jarosz, L. (2011). Nourishing women: toward a feminist political ecology of community supported agriculture in the United States. Gender, Place, and Culture, 18(3), 307–326.

Leslie, I. S. (2017). Queer farmers: Sexuality and the transition to sustainable agriculture. Rural Sociology82(4), 747-771

Morrow, O., Hawkins, R., & Kern, L. (2015). Feminist research in online spaces. Gender, Place & Culture, 22(August), 526–543.

Phillipov, M., & Goodman, M. K. (2017). The celebrification of farmers: celebrity and the new politics of farming. Celebrity Studies8(2), 346-350.

Queerswhofarm (2019) https://www.instagram.com/queerswhofarm/ (last accessed 3/8/19)

Slocum, R., & Saldanha, A. (Eds.). (2016). Geographies of race and food: Fields, bodies, markets. Routledge..

Wilson, A. (forthcoming) Vegan Instagram Influencers: A critical analysis of the discourses around food, consumerism, and responsibility. Msc Thesis: Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University

Womenwhofarm (2019)  https://www.instagram.com/womenwhofarm/?hl=en (last accessed 3/8/19)

 

Thesis Opportunities: Social Economies of food, agriculture, and nature in Gelderland.

Social economy is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of third sector, cooperative, voluntary, non-profit, and social enterprise initiatives that put social and environmental well-being before profit.  They operate in different sectors of the economy, and provide a number of important goods and services – that range from food to social services and care. The social economy is also an important part of the solidarity economy, a term used to describe diverse economic practices that seek to strengthen local economies and communities and create alternatives as a form of resistance to the social, economic, and environmental injustices associated with capitalism, colonialism, racism, and neoliberalism. The cities of Ede, Arnhem, and Nijmegen are home to a growing number of social economy initiatives, especially in the areas of agriculture, food, and nature (e.g. ecosystems services, green infrastructure). Here they play a vital, yet often unrecognized role. With these three thesis topics –  on (WP1) mapping, (WP2) diverse economies analysis, and (WP3) assessment –  we hope to change that.

Start date: January or February 2019

Qualifications:           

  • You are able to conduct qualitative research in Dutch.
  • You are able to engage diverse stakeholders in participatory and collaborative research
  • You can use basic excel and mapping tools (WP1)
  • You have an interest in diverse economies and social innovation (WP2).
  • You have some experience in assessment and evaluation (WP3)
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)

Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: Oona Morrow (RSO) oona.morrow@wur.nl and Jan Hassink (PRI) jan.hassink@wur.nl

  1. Mapping social economy in food-health valley

What/ Where is the social economy in food-health valley?

This MSc thesis will seek to inventory and categorize social enterprises in the greater Ede, Arnhem, and Nijmegen region. Through online research and field research you will construct a database and map of social economy initiatives in the agriculture, food and nature domains providing social services. You will work closely with a MSc student specializing in diverse economies to develop a typology for categorizing these initiatives in terms of their organizational model, funding, sector and services,  etc. The data you collect is important for measuring the size and scope of the social economy. And ultimately for making the social economy visible to itself, the general public and policymakers. You will organize several stakeholder events in each city to reflect on the reflect on your data, and also what is missing. You will use your research practice to strengthen existing social economy networks in the region by bringing stakeholders together. Your MSc thesis will thus also reflect on the role of mapping as a method for making networks visible.

  1. Diverse economies of social economy in food-health valley

What are the diverse economies of the social economy?

This MSc thesis will work closely with the Mapping the social economy thesis to adapt the diverse economies framework (Gibson-Graham 2008) to create a typology of social economy initiatives and practices. You will draw upon  the database and map created by MsC 1 to select case studies from several different sectors (e.g. food, agriculture, nature care, etc.) and analyse them for their diverse economic practices and business and funding models. You will examine the social and institutional relationships and policies that shape these practices – e.g. health policy, access to land from the city. And identify emerging social innovations and best practices to share within this network social economy initiatives.

  1. Co-designing Impact and Assessment tools for social economy initiatives in food-health valley

What are the impacts of the social economy, and how can we measure them?

Social economy initiatives have important goals. But how do they know they are achieving them? What metrics and indicators are meaningful? And what types of evaluation tools are actually useful and usable ? And how can they best communicate their impact (to funders, policy makers, and participants)? You will answer these questions, in collaboration with social economy initiatives working in different sectors of the region. Together you will co-design impact and assessment tools that are tailored to the unique needs of social economy initiatives yet also replicable and can be implemented by the initiatives. You will organize communities of practice around evaluation that are rooted in the concrete needs and practices of different sectors.

Further Reading:

Amin, A. (Ed.). (2013). The social economy: International perspectives on economic solidarity. Zed Books.

Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2008). Diverse economies: performative practices for other worlds’. Progress in Human Geography32(5), 613-632.

Gibson-Graham, J. K., Cameron, J., & Healy, S. (2013). Take back the economy: An ethical guide for transforming our communities. University of Minnesota Press.

Loh, P., & Agyeman, J. (2018). Urban food sharing and the emerging Boston food solidarity economy. Geoforum.

Miller, E. (2010). Solidarity Economy. In Eds. E. Kawano, T. Masterson, and J. Teller-Ellsberg. Solidarity Economy I: Building Alternatives for People and Planet. Amherst, MA: Center for Popular Economics. 2010