REMINDER: Assistant Professor Rural Sociology vacancy (Tenure Track) – application deadline 12 September 2022

A month ago we posted a job opening for an Assistant Professor in Rural Sociology (Tenure Track position). If you are interested to apply or know of potential candidates, please be aware that the deadline for submitting applications is approaching. Applications can be submitted up to and including September 12th 2022 via the apply button on the vacancy page.

Job opening: Assistant Professor Rural Sociology (tenure track position)

The Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University invites applicants for a tenure Track position (assistant professor, 0.8 – 1.0 fte) in rural sociology, with a focus on critical agrarian and rural studies and international development studies.

In this challenging career trajectory:

  • You will undertake independent research and participate in (international) research projects, focusing on topics such as inclusive agrarian and rural development,  agri-food system dynamics, international comparison of agrarian change, and the politics of agrarian and rural development.
  • You will teach and coordinate one or more courses for the Bachelor and Master programs International Development Studies (BIN/MID) and the Master programs Organic Agriculture (MOA) and Rural Development and Innovation (MDR). On our website you find all courses, and they are clearly connected with our research
  • You will also  supervise Bachelor and Master thesis students for these programs.

Other aspects of the job include project acquisition, training and supervision of PhD students and participation in research or education committees. Approximately 40-45% of your time will be spent on research, 40- 45% on education and 10-20% on management and academic service activities.

We ask

We are looking for candidates with

  • A PhD degree in agrarian or rural sociology, human geography, anthropology, or related social science discipline;
  • An inspiring vision on rural sociology and the future challenges and priorities of agriculture and rural development from a critical perspective;
  • Evidence of high quality research in rural studies, preferably proven by the ability to publish in leading scientific journals and/or with top academic publishers;
  • A relevant international academic network, combined with good connections with grassroots networks and policymakers (at different levels);
  • Ample empirical research experience in different geographical settings (preferably Europe as well as the global South), allowing for a comparative perspective;
  • Ability to develop high-quality research proposals and to be(come) successful in the acquisition of externally funded research grants;
  • Ability to work in interdisciplinary and international teams;
  • Good didactic qualities and the capacity to motivate and inspire students;
  • Teaching competences that comply with the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Program (LTHEP, in Dutch referred to as BKO, a system adopted by all Dutch universities) or willingness to follow the LTHEP;
  • Strong communicative and interpersonal skills and a flexible and collaborative attitude.
  • Fluency in English and, if appropriate, commitment to learn Dutch within 2 years of appointment.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will be offered a fixed-term, 7 year contract which, upon positive evaluation based on criteria elaborated in the University’s Tenure Track policy, can lead to a permanent employment contract as professor. Depending on your experience, we offer a competitive gross salary of between €3.974,- and €6.181,-  for a full-time working week of 38 hours in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale 11 or 12).

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 17th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research’s International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

More information
Additional enquiries should be addressed to the chair of the Rural Sociology group, Prof. dr. Han Wiskerke (E-mail address: han.wiskerke@wur.nl). A more detailed profile of the Rural Sociology Group can be found in its 75th Anniversary book ‘On meaningful diversity: past, present and future of Wageningen rural sociology’.
 
Tenure Track is a career path for hardworking scientists who pursue to excel in education and research. We seek to attract scientific talent and to stimulate and support their development.

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on the WUR website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.

To apply, please upload the following:

  • Letter of motivation
  • A current Curriculum Vitae, including a list of publications
  • Names and contact details of two referees
  • One selected publication
  • A teaching dossier or statement of teaching interests and experience (including teaching outlines and evaluations if available)

Please note that only applications sent through the online application button can be taken into consideration.

This vacancy will be listed up to and including September 12th 2022. The first job interviews will be scheduled on 28-30 September 2022. A second interview including a (public) lecture will be held on 13 or 14 October 2022. Candidates invited for a second interview will also be asked to submit  a written statement on their research vision of the advertised position.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

Wageningen University and Research
The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialized research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 7.200 employees and 13.200 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

The Rural Sociology Group (RSO)
Central to the research program of the Rural Sociology is a relational approach to transformation processes, explored from the perspective of the everyday life of people, and with a focus on agrarian and rural change, food provisioning, and place-based development. These processes are studied from an range of critical perspectives (e.g. interpretative and micro-sociological perspective, cultural political economy, or governmentality studies). We actively engage in interdisciplinary (including collaborations with natural scientists), multi-method and multi-stakeholder approaches. A common denominator in our research is the focus on actors, agency, institutionalization of practices, differential development paths, and political organization.
Our mission is to contribute to the development of sustainable and socially acceptable modes of farming, food provisioning, and rural development, which foster social and spatial justice. Through our research we attempt to un-familiarize the familiar and undertake critical analyses, but, importantly, also be transformative by engaging in the exploration of new practices and by showing a diversity of credible options beyond dominant understandings and constellations. A key characteristic of our research program is its threefold relevance: it should contribute to the scientific development of our field and scientific discipline(s), inform policymaking and provide support for practitioners.

The Rural Sociology Group is embedded in the sub-department Space, Place & Society (SPS)  together with two other chair groups: Health & Society (HSO) and Sociology of Development and Change (SDC). Within SPS the groups share administrative support and collaborate in education. Together with the Cultural Geography group the sub-department Space, Place and Society has founded the Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS), which aims to advance critical-constructive scholarship within the social sciences with a particular focus on issues of socio-spatial inequalities and social and environmental justice. Within the CSPS the chair groups participate in research and PhD supervision and training.

More information about Wageningen University, the Rural Sociology Group, the sub-department SPS and CSPS can be obtained through one of the following links.

In memoriam Dr Paul Hebinck

It is with a very heavy heart that we have to announce that our beloved, recently retired colleague Dr Paul Hebinck has suddenly passed away, while on holidays in France. Paul was a colorful, committed and extremely collegial development sociologist who worked at Wageningen University from 1989 until his retirement in 2019. Specialized in rural development, land and agrarian reform, resource management and agricultural livelihoods, Paul was happiest doing long-term research in what he referred to as his ‘dorpies’ (local villages) in Kenya, Namibia and South Africa. His commitment to the people that he worked with, studied and supported was unwavering, akin to his commitment to his many students, colleagues and academic friends all over the world. Transformation, Paul consistently taught us, needs to be studied and supported ‘from below’, and must be inspired by and rooted in the people that work the land. This is a lesson we hold dear at the Sociology of Development and Change and Rural Sociology groups, and that we will continue to spread and teach. Paul did not want to retire and was indeed still very active with publications and projects. Those who knew Paul understand that the world truly is a lot quieter without him. We will miss Paul dearly and think of his wife, children, family and friends.

On behalf of the Sociology of Development and Change Group and the Rural Sociology Group, prof. Bram Büscher, prof. Han Wiskerke

The joy of fermentation

written by Noortje Giesbers based on her MSc thesis

Fermentation is a practice that has been around for ages, with the earliest archaeological finds dating back to 13.000 BC (Liu et al., 2018). It is a natural process provided by the microorganisms present on the food, they ferment the food through their metabolism (Katz, 2012). In the past, but also in the present does fermentation of food contribute to food security all over the world by enabling people to preserve food (Hesseltine & Wang, 1980; Quave & Pieroni, 2014). Many well-known and daily products incorporate a fermentation process, such as bread and beer. But also coffee, yoghurt, chocolate, wine, cheese and soy sauce, to name a few.

In the recent years, I got interested in fermentation, in the process and making my own foods. I shared this interest with a growing number of people. It got me my thesis topic: Motivations for home-fermentation in the Netherlands. From January till August 2021 and with the help of five experts and ten home-fermenters, I conducted this study. My fermentation knowledge and food technology background, as well as Satters’ hierarchy of food needs and the social practice theory helped me to understand the workings at play in the fermentation trend.

Fermentation might seem old-fashioned, but is more intertwined with modern day life than one would expect: it draws attention to craft food-making, taste, identity, and to traditional ecological knowledge put into practice to sustain microbiological ecologies (Flachs & Orkin, 2019). As Tamang et al. (2020) note: “The nutritional and cultural importance of these ancient foods continue in the present era.”. Lee & Kim (2013) state that fermented food is deeply rooted in the ways of life, the local environment, eating habits and deeply related to the produce, in different regions. So, when studying fermented foods, one is studying the close relationships between people, organisms, and food, since the practice of fermentation involves both biological and cultural phenomena, which simultaneously progress (Steinkraus, 1996). This can be showcased by kimchi, which is a part of culture and identity for Koreans, or fermenting fish is for the islanders of the Faroe Islands (Jang, Chung, Yang, Kim, & Kwon, 2015; Svanberg, 2015; Tamang et al., 2020). Yet, by some Dutch consumers, it has also become a part of their food identity, creating ways to lower their food waste, increasing flavour profiles, increasing their gut health.

Fermentation fits well with a more sustainable way of living, with a hedonistic approach to food and a healthy lifestyle, all often reasons to ferment for Dutch consumers. One of the experts noticed three groups of fermenters: those who ferment for the experimentation and flavour; for the health benefits; or to relieve health problems. A fourth group was mentioned by another expert: those who ferment to be self-sufficient. This motivation can stem from the distrust in the global food system and/or the lower ecological impact of growing your own foods. Each home-fermenter included in this study could be linked to one or more groups, following their personal reasons for home-fermenting.

The main motivations for home-fermentations are established, but how is this practice recreated in society? The social practice theory states that for a social practice to be reproduced, one needs three things (Hargreaves, 2011; Reckwitz, 2002; Shove, Pantzar, & Watson, 2012; Vermeer, 2018):

  1. The actual “Things” that compose social practices;
  2. Meanings, that provide the practice with direction; and
  3. Competence, to carry out the practices.

I propose the idea that by making ferments, sharing them, sharing knowledge (competence), starters (“things”) and ideas (meanings), one socially reproduces the practice of home-fermentation, spreading the home-fermentation practice and inspiring more people to home-ferment. By fermenting home-fermenters have enjoyable foods, but also encounter a lot of joy. Statements included enjoying working with foods and sharing the outcomes, as well as the practice. The feeling of accomplishment and being proud of making something yourself, like with other hobbies, is true for home-fermentation as well, as seen by this and other studies (Click & Ridberg, 2010; Murray & O’Neill, 2015; Sofo, Galluzzi, & Zito, 2021; Yarbrough, 2017). Home-fermenters are proud of their ferments and proudly share them too. Which also brings joy to those that they share it with, as acknowledged by an expert.

This liking of sharing ferments, how it can positively influence relationships was also noticed by one of the experts. It was found that fermentation can (re-)connect people, just like foods and other hobbies can do. By having a hobby to talk about and ferments and starter cultures to share, home-fermenters made new friends, reconnected to old ones, or strengthened their current friendships.

It is not uncommon, as sharing food with others has been observed not only to be enjoyed, but can also express creativity and care (Clair, Hocking, Bunrayong, Vittayakorn, & Rattakorn, 2005). Similarly, home-fermenters would prepare a certain ferment for guests later that week. Others share their starters, recipes, and tips & tricks; teach others and make it a fun activity. You could say that next to sharing the actual product of their practices, home-fermenters also share some of the “things” and competence.

To conclude, next to adding to health, sustainability and specific personal feelings, fermentation brings joy, above all else. So dear reader, if you would like to know more, find the full thesis via the link below. If you would like a starter or learn, I am happy to share and teach!

Cheers, Noortje

References

Clair, V. W.-S., Hocking, C., Bunrayong, W., Vittayakorn, S., & Rattakorn, P. (2005). Older New Zealand Women Doing the Work of Christmas: A Recipe for Identity Formation. The Sociological Review, 53(2), 332–350. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2005.00517.x

Click, M. A., & Ridberg, R. (2010). Saving food: Food preservation as alternative food activism. Environmental Communication, 4(3), 301–317. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2010.500461

Flachs, A., & Orkin, J. D. (2019). Fermentation and the ethnobiology of microbial entanglement. Ethnobiology Letters, 10(1), 35–39. https://doi.org/10.14237/ebl.10.1.2019.1481

Hargreaves, T. (2011). Practice-ing behaviour change: Applying social practice theory to pro-environmental behaviour change. Journal of Consumer Culture, 11(1), 79–99. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469540510390500

Hesseltine, C. W., & Wang, H. L. (1980). The Importance of Traditional Fermented Foods. BioScience, 30(6), 402–404. https://doi.org/10.2307/1308003

Jang, D. J., Chung, K. R., Yang, H. J., Kim, K. S., & Kwon, D. Y. (2015). Discussion on the origin of kimchi, representative of Korean unique fermented vegetables. Journal of Ethnic Foods, 2(3), 126–136. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jef.2015.08.005

Katz, S. E. (2012). The Art Of Fermentation (M. Goodman & L. Jorstad, Eds.). White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Lee, J. O., & Kim, J. Y. (2013). Development of cultural context indicator of fermented food. International Journal of Bio-Science and Bio-Technology, 5(4), 45–52.

Liu, L., Wang, J., Rosenberg, D., Zhao, H., Lengyel, G., & Nadel, D. (2018). Fermented beverage and food storage in 13,000 y-old stone mortars at Raqefet Cave, Israel: Investigating Natufian ritual feasting. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 21(May), 783–793. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.08.008

Murray, D. W., & O’Neill, M. A. (2015). Home brewing and serious leisure: Exploring the motivation to engage and the resultant satisfaction derived through participation. World Leisure Journal, 57(4), 284–296. https://doi.org/10.1080/16078055.2015.1075899

Quave, C. L., & Pieroni, A. (2014). Fermented foods for food security and food sovereignty in the Balkans: A case study of the gorani people of Northeastern Albania. Journal of Ethnobiology, 34(1), 28–43. https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-34.1.28

Reckwitz, A. (2002). Toward a Theory of Social Practices. European Journal of Social Theory, 5(2), 243–263. https://doi.org/10.1177/13684310222225432

Shove, E., Pantzar, M., & Watson, M. (2012). The dynamics of social practice: Everyday life and how it changes. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Sofo, A., Galluzzi, A., & Zito, F. (2021). A Modest Suggestion: Baking Using Sourdough – a Sustainable, Slow-Paced, Traditional and Beneficial Remedy against Stress during the Covid-19 Lockdown. Human Ecology, 49(1), 99–105. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-021-00219-y

Svanberg, I. (2015). Ræstur fiskur: Air-dried fermented fish the Faroese way. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 11(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-015-0064-9

Tamang, J. P., Cotter, P. D., Endo, A., Han, N. S., Kort, R., Liu, S. Q., … Hutkins, R. (2020). Fermented foods in a global age: East meets West. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 19(1), 184–217. https://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12520

Vermeer, A. (2018). Enacting social practices of food: performing food and nutrition security (Wageningen University). Retrieved from https://edepot.wur.nl/450868

Yarbrough, E. (2017). Kombucha Culture: An ethnographic approach to understanding the practice of home-brew kombucha in San Marcos, Texas (Texs State University). Retrieved from https://digital.library.txstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10877/6756/YarbroughElizabeth.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Start Teaching them Young: Connecting Children to the Local Food Chain (thesis/internship)

This thesis/internship assignment will investigate the opportunities of educational programs for school pupils on the topic of local food and farming. It will draw from a literature review and work on a local case of the Tiny Restaurant, located in the municipality of Laarbeek in the Dutch province of North Brabant.  

The Tiny Restaurant is a grassroots, non-profit initiative aiming to bring producers and consumers together. It takes a form of a pop-up (mobile) restaurant that provides a meeting place for (in)formal exchange of knowledge. One of the projects of the Tiny Restaurant is educating children about the food chain through an experiential culinary program. The Tiny Restaurant wants to ensure its educational approach fits the schools’ learning goals and contributes to the ultimate purpose of creating a long-term connection between farmers and consumers. The goal of this assignment is to evaluate the current approach and advise on how the educational program can be improved. The following questions form a starting point:  

  • How can educational programs enhance awareness about local food production? 
  • How does the theme of local food chains fit schools’ curricula and learning goals? 
  • What is the optimal balance of head (conveying information), heart (shaping attitudes) and hands (learning by doing) in these educational programs?       

Depending on the student’s preference, the assignment can be more academic (e.g. using a literature review to learn about education for sustainability) or more applied (e.g. working on the Tiny Restaurant educational program, together with local farmers and teachers). The vacancy is part of a broader Science Shop project which, together with local stakeholders, explores possibilities of connecting producers to local inhabitants in Laarbeek. Starting dates are flexible, with results delivered by the end of May the latest. For more information contact Lucie Sovová lucie.sovova@wur.nl