75th Anniversary: 7) Rural Sociology and Resistance of the Third Kind

Women farmers in Rojava (2015)


When it comes to the agrarian question, academia has been deeply divided. At the risk of caricature, there is one school of thought that considers the process of capitalist development a force that moves history progressively forward and another that takes the creative agency of people as the primary force of development. Historically, the Rural Sociology Group belongs to the latter school. The work on farming styles, meaningful diversity, new peasantries and foodscapes gave expression to the idea of this creative agency (Hofstee 1982, Ploeg 2008, Wiskerke 2009). In this blog, I will explore the importance of the agency concept through Van der Ploeg’s concept of resistance. Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 6) The Cartophoot: Hofstee’s geographic mapping of difference

Picture 1. The cartophoot

In 1949, three years after his appointment as professor in social and economic geography, the ‘trojan horse’ through which rural sociology entered Wageningen, Evert Willem (E.W.) Hofstee became the chair of a commission to study the development of fertility in the Netherlands.[1] This Commission for Birth Research (Commissie voor het Geboorte-Onderzoek)[2] was part of the Institute for Social Research of the Dutch People (Instituut voor Sociaal Onderzoek van het Nederlandse Volk [ISONOVO]). Continue reading

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 a 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). Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 4) Some thoughts on the overhead projector

This is a picture of Professor Hofstee. It is clearly an old picture: it is black and white (no filter!), and the clothing looks rather outdated and overly formal. But what also stands out is the phone. I wonder whether he was really making a phone call here, or whether this was staged for the picture. In any case, this bakelite phone (‘bakeliet’, have you ever used the word for something else than a phone?) made me wonder how technology has changed over the last 75 years. How differently we must be writing, teaching, researching, reading, searching for literature than the generations before us! Many of us will have cursed our computers or have been annoyed with having to use yet another digital tool, but for sure technology has made our lives easier in several ways. I can’t imagine having to do my work without email, or having had to type or even handwrite (!) my PhD thesis. Continue reading

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). Continue reading

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).

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75th Anniversary: 1) an introduction to a year of celebration events and activities

In September 1946 Evert Willem Hofstee, the founding father of Rural Sociology at Wageningen University, started as Professor and Chair of Social and Economic Geography and Social Statistics.

In the years that followed, the department was reorganized and renamed (e.g. Agrarian Sociology of Western Areas; Sociology) several times, with Rural Sociology being the official name since the late 1990s. Hofstee was also one of the founders and the first President of the European Society for Rural Sociology.

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