Thesis Opportunity: The TEDification of Food Activism

Increasingly TED talks are becoming trusted sources for food politics and policy making, and an important medium for food activists to communicate through. Yet, there are also limits to what can be communicated in a TED talk and how. These limitations affect the types of knowledge and activist performances that are deemed suitable. We would like to understand what TED talks are doing to and for food politics, by conducting a comprehensive analysis of recent TED talks on the theme of FOOD. We are interested in the celebrity, bodily, and visual performances that compose these talks. The effects of these talks on public opinion and policy. And the limitations and possibilities of TED talks as a mode of food activism.

Ted-Talk

Qualifications:           

  • You have some training in qualitative methods and critical social theory
  • You are an interested in digital media and food activism
  • You are willing to develop new methodologies and tools for analysing digital 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!

Supervisors: Oona Morrow (RSO) oona.morrow@wur.nl & Prof. Mike Goodman, University of Reading

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: 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

 

Book Launch – Flourishing Foodscapes: Designing City Region Food Systems

On Thursday 27 September 2018 Valiz and the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture will host a programme dedicated to the launch of the book entitled ‘Flourishing Foodscapes – Designing City Region Food Systems’.

About Flourishing Foodscapes

Flourishing Foodscapes is a book about the the social and spatial organization of networks and systems of food provisioning. It explores, highlights and discusses strategies and designs for creating future-proof city region food systems by addressing the social, economic, and ecological vulnerabilities and sustainabilities of current and future foodscapes, as well as how the spatial qualities of the rural and urban landscape and its use need to adapt and change. A key argument in the book is that food not only has to do with nutrition, but that it links up with and influences a multitude of domains; from health to (eating) culture and from employment to climate change. It has a major impact on the city (especially on consumption and distribution, and, to a lesser extent, on production) and on rural areas (mainly production), but also the relations between city and countryside, close by as well as far apart. Thinking about food-related problems and challenges is becoming increasingly important. These issues influence our planet and way of life, but also our everyday existence.

Flourishing Foodscapes transcends the field of bottom-up initiatives and private projects. If we really want to design more sustainable food systems, we will have to think more structurally about changing food provisioning at different levels of scale. Flourishing Foodscapes links research, case studies and spatial design and takes a step towards a more comprehensive approach to food issues, building on inspiring practices, projects and designs from all over the world.

Programme Book Launch

The book presentation will take place on Thursday 27 September 2018, from 17.00 to 19.30 at the Academy of Architecture (Waterlooplein 211-213, Amsterdam). The programme is as follows:

  • 17:00–17:05 Opening by moderator Saskia van Stein (director Bureau Europa)
  • 17:05–17:10 Welcome by Madeleine Maaskant (director Academy of Architecture)
  • 17:10–17:30 Introduction to the book by the editors and main authors Han Wiskerke (Professor of Rural Sociology, Wageningen University) and Saline Verhoeven (landscape architect and researcher)
  • 17:30–18:00 Reactions tot the book by Froukje Idema (Programme Manager Food, municipality Ede); Martin Woestenburg (rural sociologist and journalist); Arnold van der Valk (Professor emeritus of Spatial Planning and co-founder of the Food Council of the Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam)
  • 18:00–18:25 Discussion led by Saskia van Stein
  • 18:25–18:30 Presentation of the first copy to Hanneke Kijne (Head of Landscape Architecture at the Academy)
  • 18:30–19:30 Snacks and drinks

This programme is free of charge, but if you plan to attend please register via avb-webredactie@ahk.nl

 

 

 

 

Organic Times – first edition of the MOAgazine

 

Recently students of the Master programme Organic Agriculture (MOA) of Wageningen University launched the first edition of the MOAgazine entitled ‘Organic Times’. The magazine (Organic times online) is written and edited by MOA students and provides some insights into the programme, study and student activities and a variety of issues linked to MOA, including book reviews and organic recipes. As chair of the MOA study programme committee I have enjoyed reading the Organic Times and am proud of the time and energy the students invested in developing this magazine. It reflects the enthusiasm and commitment of this great and dedicated group of international students as well as the interdisciplinary character of the MOA programme.

Welcome Kees Jansen – Scholar in Critical Agrarian Studies

My name is Kees Jansen. A few weeks ago, I have started in my new job at the Rural Sociology Group. I am very honoured that I can contribute to the international development profile of the group and teach in the domain of critical agrarian studies. Rural Sociology is an exciting group with a long history of remarkable work on redesigning the agro-food system and developing a social justice perspective in agrarian and food policies.

My teaching activities will mainly focus on the courses Sociology of Farming and Rural Life, Globalization and Sustainability of Food Production and Consumption, and Advanced Social Theory.

Latin America is the region where I have done most of my own field work, but shorter stays in a number of Asian and African countries have been important for grasping the significance of comparative research. By working on an organic farm in France, by living with small potato producers high in Andes and with maize-bean producers in Honduras, through interviewing export crop producers in Costa Rica and Mexico, and by visiting farmer co-operatives in the Philippines, I have experienced the multiple pressures on different types of farmers in this globalizing world. In the Rural Sociology Group I will continue my research activities on agrarian political ecology (the greening of the agrarian question; nature-society issues), pesticide risk governance, and theoretical issues in agrarian studies.

The latest examples of my work have just been published in Global Environmental Politics: Business Conflict and Risk Regulations: Understanding the Influence of the Pesticide Industry  (sorry, not yet open access) and in the Journal of Agrarian Change with Jaye de la Cruz: Panama disease and contract farming in the Philippines: Towards a political ecology of risk – open access).

The interesting aspect of doing sociology in Wageningen is the unique opportunity to collaborate with natural scientists on analysing social-technical configurations. Besides my own more specific research topics, I am always interested in exploring new, creative and challenging ideas of prospective thesis students and PhD candidates within the broader domain where international development studies and agrarian studies intersect. Examples are labour conditions of a flexible (often migrant) labour force, the social conditions for agroecology, social responses to risks of agricultural technologies, counter-expertise and social movements, people’s adaptation to climate change, agribusiness strategies, the future of corporate social responsibility, hunger and food security, sociology and politics of knowledge (including interdisciplinarity), autonomy/dependence in agrarian change, and comparative analysis of food sovereignty actions in the Global South. You can read more about me and my work on my website: www.keesjansen.eu.

Do not hesitate to contact me at kees.jansen@wur.nl to talk about your ideas.

Reminder – Vacancy Assistant Professor in Food Sociology (tenure track)

At the Rural Sociology Group we have a job opening for an Assistant Professor (tenure track position) in Food Sociology. As assistant professor you will undertake independent research and participate in international research projects focusing on the dynamics of food provisioning practices and processes and on the relations between food provisioning and sustainable rural and urban development. You will also teach and coordinate Bachelor and Master courses for the Bachelor and Master program International Development Studies (specialization Sociology of Development), the Master program Food Technology (specialization Gastronomy), and the Master program Organic Agriculture and supervise Master thesis research for these programs. Other aspects of the job include project acquisition, training and supervision of PhD students and participation in various research and/or education committees. About 45% of your time will be spent on education, 45% on research and the remaining 10% on a variety of activities within and outside the university.

For more information about the position (and the Rural Sociology Group) go to the vacancy page of Wageningen University or contact Prof.dr. Han Wiskerke (han.wiskerke@wur.nl). Candidates can apply for this position onlineThe deadline for application is Thursday 14 September 2017.

Vacancy Assistant Professor in Food Sociology – Join us!

The Rural Sociology Group is looking for an Assistant Professor in Food Sociology. More information regarding this tenure track position is published at the WUR Vacancies website: Assistant Professor in Food Sociology. The vacancy is open for application. We most warmly welcome your application.

“Global Food Security Governance” at Kyoto University

By Joëlla van de Griend

lecture

In-class debate on trade and food security

 

Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Economics, as part of the Asian Platform for Global Sustainability & Transcultural Studies (AGST), aims to contribute to sustainable development in Asia and throughout the world. Wageningen University’s Rural Sociology Group is a key partner in this platform. As a part of this partnership, Dr. Jessica Duncan has come to Kyoto University to teach a course on Global Food Security Governance.

Taking a sociological approach, the course covers a variety of angles to think about global food security governance. The course is attended by graduate students, PhD candidates and faculty members, which has contributed to rich discussions. Furthermore, amongst the participants there is a large variety of backgrounds and fields of expertise such as law, economics, development studies, business management, political science, and agricultural science with attendants coming from Asia, Europe and Africa.

One of the students attending the class is Wurihan. She decided to follow the course because of a growing interest in policy regarding food security. Before attending Kyoto University as a research student, she went to an agricultural university in China where she studied geographical information systems:

“I used to think that to ensure food security we should increase efficiency in production. But after I did some fieldwork I found it was more about policy and how this can sometimes turn out differently than policy makers intend.”

That is why she wants to learn more about food governance in order to understand how we can contribute to solutions of problems like the distribution of food and obesity.

As one of the objectives of the course is to explore the complexity of the thinking about food security, many theories and approaches are discussed and explored in class while using “framing” as a method to understand the different (often competing) perspectives.

Continue reading

Muddy paddies and peace

By  Joëlla van de Griend

‘Mountains covered with woods’ is used to describe the green area of Keihoku, just outside of Kyoto City. As part of the AGST program, students and faculty members visited a farming event organized by the Shinfujin Kyoto (the new Japan Women’s Association) and the Nouminren Kyoto (Japan Family Farmers Movement).

Rice planting.jpg

Participants transplanting rice: Our academic hosts were not afraid to get their hands and feet dirty!

This event tries to make the connection between farmers and consumers and is visited by a lot of families. We can look at it as a celebration of what the earth has given to both farmers and consumers, illustrated by the waving flags showing the text: ‘Hug the Mother Earth’. For example, one of the farmers I met told me about how he grows his rice in the village at the foot of the mountain without making use of chemicals.

One of the organizations responsible for the event, Shinfujin, is a women’s organization that aims to promote environmental protection and emancipation but is also a movement to oppose the comeback of militarism in Japan. Many of the members of this organization are young mothers who are concerned with a variety of crises that could become a threat to their children’s future. This farming event however was more a celebration than a protest, with a vibrant temporary market with products and food stalls, activities, and the possibility to experience transplanting rice plants into the rice paddies. Continue reading