75th Anniversary: 16) Meaningful Diversity: Origins of the Farming Style Concept

Part of the front cover of Hofstee’s inaugural lecture “On the causes of diversity in agricultural areas in the Netherlands” (1946)

E.W. Hofstee’s interest in the concrete, the lived, and the particular marked his inclination towards an “inductive” research methodology. He combined in-depth descriptions of social groups with a comparative approach (Hofstee 1938: 7-8). This grounded theoretical approach yielded the concept of farming styles in agricultural production. A farming style can be defined as shared normative and strategic ideas about how farming should be done (see also Blog 10). Hofstee’s concept of farming  style implied an important analytical inversion: one should not try to understand the practice of farming from the structural conditions to which the farmers responds but rather move to the center of our analysis the agency of farmers as creative actors. Hofstee thought that rural sociology should emancipate itself from structuralist and functionalist “adjustment sociology,” as the understanding of rural life in terms of an adaptation to “order” was not only narrow and incomplete but also wrong: it erased the agency of people in the creation of the world they inhabit (see also Blog 14). Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 15) Marquetalia: Tegen de stroom in, maar met de beweging mee

 

In 1979 verscheen het eerste nummer van Marquetalia, een tijdschrift over landbouw en politiek. Tot de oprichters van het tijdschrift behoorden Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, de latere hoogleraar en hoofd van de vakgroep Rurale Sociologie RSO, maar ook anderen die de rurale sociologie in de jaren tachtig en negentig weer op de kaart zetten, zoals de agrarische socioloog en voormalig RSO collega Jaap Frouws, die later een spraakmakende politiek-sociologische studie over mest en macht schreef (waarover later meer in een blog), en Jan Schakel, de latere onderwijscoördinator van RSO. Na zes nummers hield het tijdschrift op te bestaan. Het redaktiekollektief sprankelde nog van nieuwe ideeën, maar men woonde en werkte te ver van elkaar – verspreidt over drie continenten – en nieuwe carrières boden nieuwe netwerken en kansen. Een deel van het kollektief ging de kern vormen van RSO. Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 14) Is the Future of Rural Sociology Urban? Is the Veluwe City?

“Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe” by F.d.W. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The functions and meaning attributed to the rural are manifold (Woods 2011: 1). Primarily, it operates as the intersection of “man and nature” (Ploeg 1997: 41), where for centuries most of our food, fiber, and fuel have been produced (Woods 2011: 1) but which now also provides the landscapes and scenery where visitors ‘slow-down’ or search for adventure and sensation (Buscher and Fletcher 2017) while comprising spaces of identification and belonging (Jongerden 2018). Further, the rural acquires meaning in relation to its complement: the urban. Often defined as opposites in terms of land use, population density, or social bonds, among others (Cloke 2006), these “constitute the complex unity of society viewed from a spatial angle” (Gilbert 1982: 609). This variety of functions and meanings has made the rural not only an epistemologically uncertain concept, but also a normative one.This normativity and uncertainty is part of the heritage of rural sociology. Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 13) Reflections: From Rural Sociology to a Sociology of Place?

Place has figured central in the work of the Rural Sociology Group. In a way this is, of course, already implicated by the adjective “rural” which adds a spatial identity to the sociology we do. Taking this identity as a social practice and the production of meaningful differences as points of departure (Hofstee 1946, Ploeg 1993, Wiskerke 2007), my own research gradually started to crystalize around the emergence of new spatial realities beyond ‘rural’  and ‘urban’.  At the background of this interest is the will to understand how people address inequality and uncertainty, and how they sustain themselves individually and collectively, socially and spatially. Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 12) Engaging in Agri-Environmental Cooperativism

The Netherlands witnessed in the 1990s the emergence of novel expressions of collective action among farmers. Building upon a rich tradition of agricultural cooperativism as well as outcomes of regional farming style research (see blog 10), these novel forms of collective action aimed initially especially for more farmer-friendly agri-environmental and nature policy measures. Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 11) Notes from the field: Agricultural Development in Rojava and Resistance of the Third Kind

Women’s cooperative farm in Rojava (2015)

Introduction

In one of our previous blogs we discussed Van der Ploeg’s concept resistance of the Third Kind (see Anniversary Blog 7). This was defined as a resistance which resides in working practices and farmers’ fields and is expressed in the way that cows are bred, how manure is made, products are delivered. In short, it is a resistance which intervenes in and reorganizes production, reproduction and markets (Van der Ploeg 2007). In this blog, the reconstruction of Kobanî is discussed a resistance of the third kind. Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 10) Rediscovery of Farming Styles

Farming styles refer to a cultural repertoire, a composite of normative and strategic ideas about how farming should be done. The notion goes back to early work of Hofstee, the founding father of the Rural Sociology Group, initially by focussing on the cultural backgrounds of inter-regional differences in farmers’ uptake the agricultural modernisation logics. Late 1980s the notions re-appears, changing the focal point to intra-regional significance of differentiating farmers’ responses in relation to the various sustainability problems that characterize these same modernisation logics.

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

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
https://rsa.tandfonline.com/eprint/FVR9SKRQMMXG8GMVRZ5S/full?target=10.1080/21622671.2020.1805352


(De)coding a technopolity: Tethering the civic blockchain to political transformation – PhD-thesis by Syed Omer Husain

May 14 2020, at 11.00 am (CET) Syed Omer Husain will defend his PhD-thesis ‘(De)coding a technopolity: Tethering the civic blockchain to political transformation‘. See the Abstract below. The full thesis can be downloaded (click title) from WUR Library after the defence ceremony.

The ceremony will be live-streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but is recorded and can be viewed later as well. Syed Omer Husain is affiliated as PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University. He was employed at the EU-funded MSCA ITN project SUSPLACE.

 

Abstract

This study rests at the intersection of technopolitics, translocal networks and political change. The overall aim of the thesis is to understand, and in turn, influence, the way technology interacts with political transformation. It responds to the fact that social science has thus far neglected to adequately account for and analyze how emerging technologies like blockchain and civic tech influence the way politics is practiced. The main research question guiding the study is how does the design, implementation and use of technopolitical innovations influence the practice of politics. The thesis foregrounds the idea that technopolitical experiments personify a ‘prefigurative politics by design’ i.e. they embody the politics and power structures they want to enable in society.

Conducted as part of the EU-funded SUSPLACE project that explores the transformative capacity of sustainable place-shaping practices, the research was predominantly inspired by a hybrid digital ethnography methodology. The thesis confines its focus to three empirical clusters: technopolitical blockchain projects, government-led blockchain projects and place-based civic engagement technologies. The study delineates how differing politico-social imaginaries play a role in the design and implementation of technopolitical projects; addresses contemporary post-political phenomena such as the depoliticization of agency; and identifies the activation of a place-based geography of political action through digitally-mediated municipal networks. It articulates the language and frameworks necessary to analyze these present-day challenges, while simultaneously developing approaches that can be exported to different domains of political activism.

Technology is not neutral; but neither are its designers and users. The thesis finds that it is through considerable, deliberate efforts, in conjunction with individual and collective choices, that technopolitical innovations can reframe our socio-economic and political realities. The study demonstrates the emphatic and urgent need for researchers, practitioners, politicians and citizens to collaboratively work on redrawing boundaries of access, empowering the citizenry, creating new forms of organization and re-politicizing the economy. It outlines a transdisciplinary research and practice agenda that aims at not only (de)coding the existing technopolitical innovations, but also (re)coding them to create a more equitable system of politics. The thesis concludes that since coding affordances and constraints in a technopolitical system is shown to regulate political agency and even influence the behavior of citizens, we must devise value-driven technology that incentivizes creating a more equitable political system.