75th Anniversary: 33) “Together” and a rural sociology research agenda

“And we will, together, be.”

No, this is not a mantra from a self-help book for success or therapeutic healing but rather the final sentence in Ece Temelkuran’s new book Together, 10 choices for a better now. The book is a collection of ideas woven into stories that help to think new ways of relating to each other. The book invites the reader to think beyond the individualizing millstones of neoliberalism, which divides by reducing us to a-social transactional entities, and beyond those of the populist right, whose parochial cultural pride separates us into belligerent communities. Spinning and weaving moments and experiences of many kinds, novelist and commentator Ece Temelkuran presents 10 threads through which we can start doing and thinking another future in the here and now. Food for thought for rural sociologists.  

The opening of the book recalls the phrase attributed to Frederic James, that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine a political alternative for the economic and political system causing the world to end. This is what Temelkuran refers to as the magical ability of a status quo to make people believe that if the political and economic system we live in collapses, everything else will collapse with it. Around us we find mesmerizing experts who warn us like fearful ancient sailors that if we dare to sail into uncharted waters, we will fall off the edge of the world, notes Temelkuran. The “build back better” calls for post-pandemic times seem to confirm this atrophied imagination, that there is simply no alternative to the current economic and political system.  

Fast backward. When, in 2001, George W. Bush called Americans to get over the 9/11 trauma, he found no better words than ‘go back shopping’, as Zygmunt Bauman reminded us. Consumption is the medicine. Today, no one has to tell us to go shopping, as the smart and less smart lock-downs are experienced first and foremost as a restriction of our ability to consume, now defined as the primary, sometimes only pillar of ‘freedom’. As the fullness of life has morphed into taking our fill of enjoyment and entertainment we queue to be allowed into Zara, Primark, or Footlocker, performing the entry rituals at disinfection stations. We do not even have to feel the guilt of collaboration with the dictates of consumerism since it has now become our very duty to consume with a larger mission: to save the economy through our marketplace activities and, in so doing, bail out the sinking ship of capitalism.

Ece Temelkuran’s sharp contextual sketch forms the starting point for series of key questions. Can we reshape our existence to survive a world that has transformed itself into a corporation? Can we imagine an economic policy beyond private property, one that renders the accumulation of capital both illegal and immoral? Can we learn to see the world again from an ethical perspective instead of a consumerist one? Yes, we can, she argues; we can reinvent ourselves and the world through even the smallest things, and not just to tranquilize our discomfort. All the small things we are actually already doing in which we address precarity and vulnerability can determine our future. Yet, the reader of this book should expect no recipes or prescriptions. Together offers leads, ideas from which we can start to further explore and give words to new possibilities and other futures.

One such lead is dignity, something our economic and political system not only does not value but also cannot come to terms with since, Temelkuran explains, it has no idea of the good. Another lead is enough, a term that she borrows from the novelist Kurt Vonnegut and which invalidates the contemporary ‘consumer’ identity through which we have learned to conceive ourselves. Yet another lead is faith, which Temelkuran contrasts with hope, or better, I would say, with messianic hope, which i) pacifies (as it puts the expectation of salvation onto others outside ourselves and submits to some higher power), ii) subjugates (since the hope that justice will be done keeps people obedient), and iii) procrastinates (since while hope remains unfulfilled, we are condemned to waiting). What Ece Temelkuran refers to as ‘faith’ could also be characterized as a ‘critical hope’, which is based on doing, questioning, and learning, a hope grounded in (daily) social practices and struggles.

In Together, economic and political morality emerge through the “10 choices” in addressing what Ece Temelkuran refers to as a “housing problem”: the national and international institutions through which we inhabit the world. These are worn out and offer no solutions. The question she raises is that of how to reinvent new ways to inhabit the world, together, to create new institutions based on a moral, political, and economic triangulation. The end of the book, however, also carries a warning: those who work with words have a responsibility to be careful in what they write and say. Mismanaged words have a habit of destroying lives – as the crushing weight of ‘modernization’ narratives in our own field of rural sociology has shown.

For a rural sociology celebrating its 75th anniversary, Together is a timely work. It raises questions about the world, this world, and the relentless economic and political foundations on which its rests. Importantly, this book also opens up an imaginative of possible futures in the now that develop the principles from which they are made in our daily living and social struggles. Thus, Ece Temelkuran has taken her writer’s responsibility seriously, presenting us with carefully selected words that have something important to say, also for the research agendas of our own discipline. 

Ece Temelkuran, 2021. Together, 10 choices for a better now, 4th Estate: London, ISBN 978-0-00-839380-9, 199 pages.

75th Anniversary: 32) 100 PhD graduates

The 75th anniversary of the Rural Sociology Group also marks another milestone: 100 completed and successfully defended PhD theses. The first PhD graduate was Jan Doorenbos, who successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled ‘Opheusden als boomteeltcentrum‘ (Opheusden as tree-growing centre) on 14 June 1950. His PhD study was supervised by Prof. E.W. Hofstee. The 100th PhD graduate was Lucie Sovová, who successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled ‘Grow, share or buy? Understanding the diverse economies of urban gardeners‘ on 13 October 2020. Her PhD study was supervised by Dr. Esther Veen, Dr. Petr Jehlicka and myself. Below the covers of the 1st and 100th PhD thesis.

In this blog about 100 PhD graduates in 75 years Rural Sociology at Wageningen University, I want to present and reflect on some trends related to these 100 PhD graduates. In another forthcoming blog I will present and reflect on some trends related to the content and focus of these 100 PhD theses.

Trend 1: from less than 1 to close to 4 PhD graduates per year

The 100 PhD theses that were completed in the last 75 years are not evenly distributed over the years, as the figure below shows. In the first 50 years 23 PhD theses were completed, meaning that the average number of PhD graduations was below 1 per year (with no PhD graduations at all in the years 1966-1970 and 1986-1990). This increased to approximately 2 per year in the 1996-2005 period and to almost 4 per year in the last 15 years. There are multiple reasons for this. First, until the 1980s having a PhD degree was not that important for an academic career as it is now. When I did my Masters in Wageningen in the late 1980s and early 1990s a large part of the courses I took were taught by assistant, associate and even full professors without a PhD degree. Nowadays, having a PhD degree is a prerequisite for an academic career. Second, in the early 1980s the Dutch government introduced the so-called ‘Two-phase structure’ for university education, with the second phase referring to a 4 year PhD program. The ambition was that 20% of the MSc graduates would continue with a PhD, and as a result universities created more PhD positions (which were then called assistant-in-training or researcher-in-training positions). Alongside, tenured staff without a PhD degree was also encouraged to write a PhD thesis. While these two reasons may explain the increase from the early 1990s onwards, they do not explain the relative high numbers in the last 15 years, with an average of 3 to 4 PhD graduations per year. These figures are a result of: a) the growth of externally funded research projects in which (part of) the research was/is carried out by PhD students; b) the acquisition of specific PhD programs with multiple PhD projects (NWO-WOTRO, INREF, and EU Marie Curie Training Networks); c) the internationalization of our PhD community (more about this below) with a growing number of PhD scholarships funded by NUFFIC and national governments in Asia (mainly China) and Latin-America. In addition, there has been an internal push for more PhD students due to PhD supervision criteria for RSO staff in Tenure Track. And last but not least, the PhD graduation allowance that we get from the national government (currently approximately € 60,000 per PhD graduate) also implies that there is a financial incentive to have a steady and preferable high inflow of PhD students and outflow of PhD graduates.

Trend 2: The average age at which a PhD degree is obtained remains the same (but becomes more diverse)

The average age at which a PhD degree is obtained has remained fairly stable over the past 75 years (just below 40 in 1950 and just above 40 in 2020), but has become more diverse in recent decades (ranging from 27 to 76 years). When making this overview I had actually expected that the average age at PhD graduation would have shown a downward trend as I assumed that the role of the PhD thesis had changed from someone’s life’s work (a middle- to end-career achievement) to a first stepping stone (an early-career achievement) in an academic career. The latter certainly holds true for a large group that obtained their PhD degree at the age of 35 or younger. However, among the PhD graduates of the last 20 years, the PhD degree has also been an important mid-career stepping stone. Many, in particular international, PhD graduates, who got their PhD degree at the age of 40 to 50, have moved up to senior academic or management positions. And throughout the years we’ve had PhD candidates that embarked on their PhD study more towards the end of their career or even after retirement (with two obtaining their PhD degree at the age of 76). For this relatively small group the PhD thesis has remained a life’s work.

Trend 3: From men only to more gender balance

One aspect that has really changed over the past 75 years is the male/female ratio of PhD graduates. In the past 75 years we’ve had twice as many male graduates as female graduates, as the figure below shows.

However, this 2:1 male-female ratio has not been like that over the past 75 years. In the first 55 years the vast majority of PhD graduates were men (32 men versus 2 women), and this changed considerably in the last 20 years (34 men versus 32 women), as the figure below shows. It clearly reflects the changing male-female ratio of BSc and MSc students at Wageningen University (and most likely also at many other universities in and outside the Netherlands). And this also has had an impact on the gender balance within the current academic staff at the Rural Sociology Group.

Trend 4: From mainly Dutch to ‘all over the world’

Over the past 75 years the PhD community at the Rural Sociology Group has really become international. Although there were a few non-Dutch PhD graduates in the early years, in recent years PhD students come from all over the world: other European countries, Latin America, Africa and Asia (see figures below: Europe refers to all European countries excluding the Netherlands). A large number of the PhD projects of these international PhD students are projects jointly supervised with staff members of the Sociology of Development and Change group, which traditionally has a strong network in Latin America and Africa. The former chair of Rural Sociology, Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, also has a large international network, in particular in Italy, several Latin American countries and China, and this has clearly contributed to the inflow of PhD students from these parts of the world. The aforementioned growing importance of external research funding and international PhD scholarships has also contributed to the internationalization of our PhD community. I also assumed that the international focus and status of Wageningen University, with all its MSc and part of its BSc programs taught in English, would have contributed to the internationalization of our PhD community. However, hardly any of our international PhD students has an MSc degree from Wageningen University.

In addition to looking at the countries/regions where our PhD graduates come from, I have also made a figure of where they are currently residing/working or where they were residing when they retired. This basically shows that the vast majority of PhD graduates is residing/working in the country/region where they originate from. Some have moved to other countries and a few of the international PhD graduates have stayed in the Netherlands.

Trend 5: From government official to academic/researcher

A last topic related to 100 Rural Sociology PhD graduates I want to present is their current or last (in case of retirement) sector of employment. Is a PhD degree really a stepping stone for an academic or research career or does it result in careers in a variety of sectors? This has been summarized in the figure below, which shows that many of the PhD graduates in the early years continued their career in government. To be fair, many of those PhD graduates actually had a government job and were given the time and space to do their PhD research while keeping their job as government official and continued as a government official after obtaining their PhD degree. Since the 1990s the PhD degree seems to have been favorable for a career in academia/higher education or at a research institute. Many of our international PhD graduates now have tenured positions at foreign universities as assistant, associate or full professor or as senior scientist or senior manager at a research institute. Some are self-employed as advisors/consultants and a few ended up working for a NGO or in the private sector (in or related to agriculture or elsewhere). But as the primary aim of our PhD program is to train PhD students to become independent researchers/academics, it is great to see that so many do indeed succeed in building a career in (academic) research (and higher education).

A People’s Green New Deal

The idea of a Green New Deal, a set of proposal to address climate change and its effects, was launched into popular consciousness by US Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018. Evocative of the far-reaching ambitions of its namesake, it has become a watchword in the current era of global climate crisis. But what – and for whom – is the Green New Deal?

In this concise and urgent book, A People’s Green New Deal, RSO postdoc Max Ajl provides an overview of the various mainstream Green New Deals. Critically engaging with their proponents, ideological underpinnings and limitations, he goes on to sketch out a radical alternative: a ‘People’s Green New Deal’ committed to the decommodification of social reproduction, anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism and agro-ecology.

Ajl diagnoses the roots of the current socio-ecological crisis as emerging from a world-system dominated by the logics of capitalism and imperialism. Resolving this crisis, he argues, requires nothing less than an infrastructural and agricultural transformation in the Global North, and the industrial convergence between North and South. As the climate crisis deepens and the literature on the subject grows, A People’s Green New Deal contributes a distinctive perspective to the debate.

Order now: A People’s Green New Deal (plutobooks.com)

75th anniversary: 31) A Short History of Wageningen Sociology Book Series

Once upon a time, the Impact Factor was not sovereign in the field of rural sociology, and the inhabitants of the discipline had control over their own means of production. It was a time when the Wageningen sociologists published their “Bulletin”, followed by “Occasional Papers of the Departments of Sociology[i]” and then the “Wageningen Studies in Sociology[ii]”. These book series were an important means for the communication and dissemination of research findings.

The first series, the Bulletin book series, published 40 titles between 1955 and 1980, 36 of which appeared within the first 15 years. The “Occasional Papers” series published 23 titles between 1982 and 1988, followed by 14 titles in the “Wageningen Studies in Sociology” series between 1989 and 1994. This makes a total of 77 book publications over a period of 40 years, covering a range of topics in the field of agrarian and rural studies, planning, recreation studies, and demography. 

The purpose of these book series was to inform professionals and scholars about the research of the Wageningen sociologists. Over time, the audience changed from a Dutch to an English-speaking public. During the period of the first two series, most publications were in Dutch, with rather few in English. In the Bulletin series, just seven of the 40 books were published in English, with most of the English titles published towards the end of the series in the 1970s, while in the Occasional Papers series, five of 23 the books were in English; in the Wageningen Studies series, however, 10 of the 14 were English language publications.

Most of the books were single-authored publications: 30 out of 40 in the Bulletin series and 24 from 37 in the combined Occasional Papers and Wageningen Studies series. Almost all the books were written or edited by Wageningen sociologists. Most were staff publications, though the series included a few Ph.D. theses. The final publication of the three series comprised the proceedings of the 16th European Congress of Rural Sociology, which was held in Wageningen in the early days of August 1993 under the title “Agricultural Change, Rural Society, and the State.”

Although the book series ended in 1994, the Wageningen sociologists did not rest. Between 2007 and 2020, Wageningen rural sociologists published a total of 2,641 articles, book chapters, reports, and dissertations, predominantly with international scientific publishers. Among the most used English language journals were Sociologia Ruralis (which Wageningen sociologists co-founded), the Journal of Rural Studies and the Journal of Peasant Studies. Wageningen sociologists continued to publish in Dutch too, among others in the critical agrarian studies journal Spil (1978–2012) and Landbouwkundig Tijdschrift, the journal of the Royal Society for Agricultural Sciences. Ideas to (re-)establish again our own vehicle for scientific publications are occasionally discussed but not (yet) followed up.   

Books published in the Bulletin series

1.Sociologische aspecten van de landbouwvoorlichting

E.W. Hofstee, 1953

2.Boer en standsorganisatie, een regionaal-quantitatieve analyse

E. Abma 1955

3.De beoefening van de bloemsiterij en groenteteelt te Beesd

A.J. Wichers, 1956

4. Boer en coöperatie in Nederland, deel 1, de coöperatieve gezindheid 

E. Abma 1956

5. Enkele kenmerken en eigenschappen van de vooruitstrevende boeren I

A.W. van den Ban, 1956

6. Boeren en landbouwonderwijs, de landbouwkundige ontwikkelingen van de Nederlandse boeren

A.W. van den Ban, 1957

7. Onderzoek naar de activiteiten van de leden van de Gelderse Maatschappij van Landbouw

J.D. Dorgelo 1975

8. Verdwijnende dorpen op het Groninger Hogeland

N.A. Tonckens en E. Abma, 1957

9. Regionale verschillende in de toepassing van enkele landbouwmethoden

A.W. van den Ban, 1958

10. Enkele kenmerken en eigenschappen van de vooruitstrevende boeren II

A.W. van den Ban, 1958

11. De evaluatie van een voorlichtingsmethode in de Betuwe

A.J. Wichers 1958

12. . Boer en coöperatie in Nederland, deel 2, coöperatieve en niet coöperatieve boeren

E. Abma 1958

13. Voorkeuren voor voorlichting

A.J. Wichers 1959

14. Omvang van de agrarische beroepsbevolking in de 20ste eeuw

J.H.W. Lijfering

15. Het gardeniersprobleem in de kleibouwstreek van Friesland

S. van Veen en A.J. Wichers, 1959

16. Woning, dorp en dorpsgemeenschap in de Noordoostpolder

E. Abma en J.E. Montgomery, 1959

17. De leesbaarheid van landbouwbladen

W.H. Douma 1960

18. Fundamenteel sociologisch speurwerk in het kader van het landbouwwetenschappelijk onderzoek

E.W. Hofstee, 1960

19. De vormgeving van voorlichtingsdrukwerk

J.W. Schellekens en A.J. Wichers, 1960

20. Het gezinsleven op een verstedelijkend platteland

W.H. Douma, 1961

21. De echtscheiding in het agrarisch milieu

G.A. Kooy en J.H.H. Hasenack, 1961

22. De houding tegenover ruilverkaveling in het land van Heusden en Altena en de Tielerwaard-West 

J.P. Groot, F.C. Prillevitz, Th. J. Rinsma, G.A. Sparenburg, 1962

23. De vrije tuinbouwvestiging op nieuwe gronden in het Westland en De Kring

U. Geling en J.P. Groot

24. Boeren en toekomstbeeld, enkele beschouwingen naar aanleiding van een terreinverkenning in de Noordoostpolder

A.K. Constandse, 1964

25. De houding van de boeren in Bergeyk tegenover de landbouwvoorlichting

J.G.M. Helder, 1964

26. Economic knowledge and comprehension in a Netherlands farming community

H.H. Felstehausen, 1965

27. Wageningse eerstejaars studenten deel 1, enkele achtergronden van de studiekeuze

E. Abma, 1967

28. Enforced marriage in the Netherlands, a statistical analysis in order to test some hypotheses

G.A. Kooy and M. Keuls, 1968

29. Wageningse eerstejaars studenten deel 2, slagen of zakken voor het propedeutisch examen

E. Abma, 1968

30. De sociale gevolgen van de mechanisatie van de landbouw

A.J. Jansen, 1968

31. De sociale betekenis van het kamperen

A.P.C. Kersten, 1968

32. De leefbaarheid van de dorpen in de gemeente Borger

J.P. Groot, 1969

33. Het gezinsbeeld bijde Nederlandse politieke partijen

S.I, Zwart, 1969

34. Evaluatie van de tuinbouwvoorlichting in het Westland en De Kring

J. Visser, 1969

35. Sociaal-economische differentiatie in de landbouw

L.J.M. Weerdenburg, 1970

36. The guiding image and rural physical planning

J.P. Groot and D.B.W.M. van Dusseldorp, 1970

37. Extension and the forgotten farmer

J. Ascroft, N. Röling, J. Kariuki, F. Chege, 1973

38. Constructing tomorrow’s agriculture

A.J. Jansen, 1975

39. Original and derived creativity in scientific thinking

B. van Norren, 1976

40. De role of farmers’ organizations in two paddy farming areas in West-Malaysia

J.R.V Daana, 1980

Books published in the series Occasional Papers of the Departments of Sociology (1982-1988 ) and Wageningen Studies in Sociology (1989-1994). Editors: Anton Jansen, Berry Lekanne dit Deprez en Rien Munters.

1.Differentiële sociologie in kort bestek. Schets van de differentiële sociologie en haar functie in het concrete sociaal-wetenschappelijk onderzoek   

E. W. Hofstee. 1982, 54 biz., ing., (nr. I)

2.Migratie uit de steden. Een literatuurstudie   

Lily Harm. 1982, 82 biz., ing. (nr. 2)

3.Man and manihot. Vol. I: Case studies on cassava cultivators   

L. Box and F. Doorman. 1982, 185 biz., ing., (nr. 3)

4.Over vriendschap. Verslag van een hypothesenvormend sociologisch onderzoek naar een bijzondere betrekking tussen mensen   

G. A. Kooy. 1982, 130 biz., ing., (nr. 4)

5.Man and manihot. Vol. II: An annotated bibliography on cassava cultivation and processing among

Amerindians   

B. de la Rive Box-Lasocki. 1982, 170 biz., ing., (nr. 5)

6.Van huwelijk tot echtscheiding; een regenboog van ervaringen   

Iteke Weeda. 1983, 502 biz., ing. (nr. 6)

7.Rekreatiegedrag en ekonomische crisis   

Henk de Jong. 1983, 154 biz., ing. (nr. 7)

8.Planning voor vrijheid. Een historisch-sociologische studie van de overheidsinterventie in rekreatie en vrije tijd   

Theo Beckers. 1983, 456 biz., ing., (nr. 8)

9.Volksonderwijs in de Welingerigte Maatschappij. Een inhoudsanalyse van prijsverhandelingen van de Maatschappij tot Nut van ‘t Algemeen   

Dick van der Wouw en Jo Louvenberg. 1982, I 35 biz., ing., (nr. 9)

10.Over de welzijnstaal. Een onderzoek naar de psy-normering   

Ernst Meijer. 1983, 95 biz., ing., (nr. 10)

11.Paddy farmers, irrigation and agricultural services in Malaysia. A case study in the Kemubu Scheme

G. Kalshoven, J. R. V. Daane, L. J. Fredericks, F. van der Steen van Ommeren and A. van Tilburg. 1984,

205 pp., paperback, (nr. I I), ISBN 90-6754-055-2

12.De woongroep verlaten. Een verkennend sociologisch onderzoek naar uittreding uit woongroepen na conflicten   

Adri Bolt. 1984, 111 pp., paperback, (nr. 12), ISBN 90-6754-056-0

13.Huwelijkswelslagen in Nederland. Een vergelijking tussen 1967 en 1983   

G. A. Kooy. 1984, 164 pp., paperback, (nr. 13), ISBN 90-6754-057-9

14.Anthony Giddens. Een kennismaking met de structuratietheorie

Q. J. Munters, Ernst Meijer, Hans Mommaas, Hugo van der Poel, René Rosendal en Gert Spaargaren.

1985, 137 pp., paperback, (nr. 14), ISBN 90-6754-061-7

15.Handelen, Handelingscontext en Planning. Een theoretisch-sociologische verkenning

Fer Kleefmann. 1985, 371 pp., paperback, (nr. 15), ISBN 90-6754-062-5

16.Irrigation and social organization in West Malaysia

H. J. Hoogstraten. 1985, 148 pp., paperback, (nr. 16), ISBN 90-6754-067-6

17.The commoditization debate: labour process, strategy and social network

Norman Long, Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Chris Curtin and Louk Box. 1986, 123 pp., paperback,

(nr. 17), ISBN 90-6754-087-0

18.Rood en Zwart: Bedrijfsstrategieën en kennismodellen in de Nederlandse melkveehouderij

Benjo Maso. 1986, 135 pp., paperback, (nr. 18), ISBN 90-6754-094-3

19.Benaderingen van organisaties vergeleken. Een kritische bespreking van theorievorming over de relatie tussen strategie en structuur van organisaties

Henk ten Holt. 1987, I 15 pp., paperback, (nr. 19), ISBN 90-6754-098-6

20.Landbouw, landbouwwetenschap en samenleving. Filosofische opstellen

H. Koningsveld, J. Mertens, S. Lijmbach en J. Schakel. 1987, 200 pp., paperback, (nr. 20), ISBN 90-6754-1 15-X

21.De verwetenschappelijking van de landbouwbeoefening

Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. 1987, 344 pp., paperback, (nr. 21), ISBN 90-6754-120-6

22.Automatisering in land- en tuinbouw. Een agrarisch-sociologische analyse

Jaap Frouws en Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. 1988, xvii +110 pp., paperback, (nr. 22), ISBN 90-6754-123-0

23.Illegale recreatie. Nederlandse radiopiraten en hun publiek

J. H. W. Lijfering. 1988, 128 pp., paperback, (nr. 23), ISBN 90-6754-128-1

24.De boer als buitenstaander? Sociologische studies over marginalisering en integratie

A. T. J. Nooij, R. E. van Broekhuizen, H. J. de Haan, Q. J. Munters en K. Verrips. 1989, vi + 118 pp., paperback, (nr. 24), ISBN 90-6754-134-6

25.Organization and participation in Southeast Asian irrigation systems

Geert Kaishoven, Nenita E. Tapay and Aart Schrevel. 1989, vii + 118 pp., paperback, (nr. 25), ISBN 90-6754-136-2

26.Marginalization misunderstood. Different patterns of farm development in the West of Ireland

Chris Leeuwis, 1989. xiv + 131 pp., paperback, (nr. 26), ISBN 90-6754-146-X

27.Encounters at the interface. A perspective on social discontinuities in rural development

Norman Long, editor. 1989. viii + 276 pp., paperback, (nr. 27), ISBN 90-6754-148-6

28.From common ignorance to shared knowledge. Knowledge networks in the Atlantic Zone of Costa Rica

Louk Box, editor. 1990. viii + 80 pp., paperback, (nr. 28), ISBN 90-6754-178-8

29.Geschriften over landbouw, structuur en technologie.

Bruno Benvenuti; ingeleid, bewerkt en vertaald door Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. 1991, v + 140 pp., paperback, (nr. 29), ISBN 90-6754-188-5

30.Sociologists in agricultural research. Findings of two research projects in the Dominican Republic and the Philippines

Louk Box and Dirk van Dusseldorp. 1992, viii + 66 pp., paperback (nr. 30), ISBN 90-6754-215-6

31.Adept at adapting. Contributions of sociology to agricultural research for small farmers in developing countries: the case of rice in the Dominican Republic

Frans Doorman. 1991, xxiii + 198 pp., paperback, (nr. 31), ISBN 90-6754-189-3

32.Toegepaste filosofie in praktijk.

Bart Gremmen and Susanne Lijmbach (red.). 1991, xii + 202 pp., paperback (nr. 32), ISBN 90-6754-201-6

33.Law as a resource in agrarian struggles.

F. von Benda-Beckmann and M. van der Velde, Editors. 1992, viii + 319 pp., paperback, (nr. 33), ISBN 90-6754-202-4.

34.Negotiating agricultural development. Entanglements of bureaucrats and rural producers in Western Mexico.

Alberto Arce. 1993. xiv + 187 pp., paperback, (nr. 34), ISBN 90-6754-283-0.

35.Milieubeleid onder dak? Beleidsvoeringsprocessen in het Nederlandse milieubeleid in de periode 1970-1990; nader uitgewerkt voor de Gelderse Vallei (PhD thesis).

Jan van Tatenhove. 1993, 3 16 pp., paperback, (nr. 35), ISBN 90-6754-306-3.

36.Of computers, myths and modelling. The social construction of diversity, knowledge information and communication technologies in Dutch horticulture and agricultural extension (PhD thesis).

Cees Leeuwis. 1993, xii + 468 pp., paperback, (nr. 36), ISBN 90-6754-308-X

37.Agricultural restructuring and rural change in Europe

David Symes and Anton J. Jansen (eds.),236pp. (nr. 37), ISBN 90-6754-372-1


[i] In Dutch “Mededelingen van de vakgroepen voor sociologie”.

[ii] In Dutch “Wageningen Sociologische Studies”.

Green Care practices and place-based sustainability transformations: a participatory action-oriented study in Finland – PhD-thesis by Angela Moriggi

June 1 2021, at 11.00 am (CET) Angela Moriggi will defend her PhD-thesis ‘Green Care practices and place-based sustainability transformations: A participatory action-oriented study in Finland‘. See the Abstract below. The full thesis can be downloaded from the WUR Library after the defense ceremony, or by clicking its DOI.

The ceremony will be live-streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl, but is recorded and can be viewed later as well. Angela Moriggi was appointed as research fellow at the EU funded MSCA ITN project SUSPLACE, employed by the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (LUKE) and PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University. Since April 2021 she holds a position as research fellow at the Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture, and Forestry (TESAF) of the University of Padova.

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75th anniversary: 29) Watch or re-watch the recorded lectures in our RSO 75 Years Anniversary Seminar Series

We kicked-off our seminar series ‘Looking back, Looking Forward: Setting a future agenda for rural sociology’ as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Rural Sociology. The seminars lead-up to our grand anniversary celebration on May 13, 2022. For this anniversary seminar series we have invited a range of highly interesting scholars active in diverse fields closely linked to rural sociology and engaging with research themes, questions, approaches, and concepts relevant for the research agenda of rural sociology. The seminars engage with current work of the speaker as well as the context of past debates and future issues for rural sociology. You can watch the past two seminars on our YouTube channel. See here the announcement for our next seminar (May 19) on migrant labour in agriculture. Webinar: Migrant labour in agriculture | Rural Sociology Wageningen University

Lecture 1: ‘Farming Inside Invisible Worlds: Political ontologies of modernist agriculture’:         

Hugh Campbell, University of Otago, New Zealand

Date: 3d February 2021

This talk examines the way in which an explicit focus on colonisation can open up new ways to understand the power of modernist farms. Using the example of colonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand, farms are revealed as agents of ontological politics: both being created by the colonisation of indigenous worlds in many parts of the globe, but then also becoming agents that enacted a new, ‘scientific’, pacified, and highly ontologically-bounded modernist world. The outcome is a very specific kind of highly-empowered modernist/capitalist farming, locked into ‘farming inside invisible worlds’. The story of farming in Aotearoa New Zealand from colonisation to the present day reveals both the enormous colonising powers of modernist/capitalist farming, but also the inevitable fractures, overflows and contests that signal its inevitable demise.

Lecture 2: ‘Towards a Gaian agriculture’

Anna Krzywoszynska, University of Sheffield, UK

Date: 28th April 2021

This talk is concerned with the role for agri environmental social sciences in understanding the new human condition called by some “the Anthropocene”, and what I increasingly think of as the challenge of living with Gaia How have we become so lost that our most fundamental relationship with the environment, food getting, has come to undermine both our futures and those of our environments? And what is needed to build a new pact between humans and living ecosystems? I have been exploring these questions specifically in relation to soil as an existentially and conceptually crucial matter In this paper, I examine modern farming as built on multiple alienations, and propose the conditions under which re connection and a building agricultures which work with Gaia may become possible.

75th Anniversary: 27) From farmers in the countryside to urban citizens keeping an apple tree

The blog series celebrating 75 years of Rural Sociology often discusses farming, professional food production or the countryside. Rural Sociology’s research interest is broader than that, however. Over the years attention for urban areas and their eaters – either or not involved in food production – has grown. Hence, staff members of our group have studied urban allotment gardening, urbanites sharing food and making yoghurt, and urban composting. In sum, the city has taken its place next to the countryside as an important research area, and our research is no longer limited to the professional food producer. 

My own research in Almere, conducted in 2019, serves as an illustration. With WUR-colleagues Jan Eelco Jansma, Hans Dagevos and Jan Willem van der Schans, I studied food prosumption in Almere. We defined a prosumer as someone who grows or collects (part of) his/her own food, for instance in a community garden, by growing it in the backyard or by wild foraging. Our goal was to understand the concept in theory and practice and to clarify who is involved in prosumption and what these activities entail. In order to do so we conducted a literature review, interviewed people involved in prosumption as well as experts, and sent out a questionnaire (n=835).

The concept of prosumption fits certain processes we witness in today’s society, including the motivation to take responsibility and to ‘do it yourself’, in order to be less dependent on larger companies. Although the word prosumption is hardly used in the literature, the phenomenon of citizens engaging in food production is studied and described, for instance with regards to the shifting and partly overlapping roles of producers and consumers in Alternative Food Networks.

We were surprised by the number of respondents who are involved in prosumption one way or the other. Two thirds of our questionnaire respondents grow basil in the window sill, harvest their own apples or pick blackberries in the woods. However, the scale in which they do so is only small: the acreage respondents use for prosumption activities is limited, and just a small part of people’s diets results from these activities. Hence, people are much less involved in time-consuming activities as community or allotment gardening than in small-scale activities like having a few plants in the backyard.

We found that motivations to be engaged in food production mainly relate to the fun of gardening. People enjoy being outside and to produce something that they can eat. A few people were motivated by a distrust in the supermarket, health, and sustainability, but these motivations were for most respondents subordinate to the pleasure of engaging in a hobby. We did find that people who are involved in prosumption more often take ethical considerations into account when shopping for groceries, but we couldn’t make any statements regarding causality. 

Despite the limited scale of food prosumption activities as found in our research, the conclusion that a large number of respondents participates at least to some degree in food production, shows that prosumption is something ‘normal’, suggesting that people may not be as far removed from food production as often thought. The next step is to better understand what needs to be done to interest people more for food and the food system, and to connect to their main motivations in order to change the food system to become more sustainable.

See our published paper here and the research report (in Dutch) here.

Why I support Alarm Day and the call for a 1.1 billion Euro structural investment in academic research and education

Today, Tuesday April 6 2021, is ‘Alarm Day’; a day on which the teaching and research staff, students, administrators and alumni of all 14 Dutch research universities will be congregating to call on the new government to structurally invest 1.1 billion euros in academic research and education. Since 2000 student numbers have doubled, while government funding per student has decreased by 25%. In addition research funding has not kept up with the growth in student numbers and increasingly has to be obtained via competitive research grant applications. Hence, there is a structural lack of time and financial means for high-quality research and high-quality teaching. As a result of underfunding, students no longer receive the education they deserve, while teaching and research staff are struggling to cope. So on Alarm Day we address this situation and propose to work towards a Normal Academic Standard. For more information, please check https://normaalacademischpeil.nl/ (or https://normaalacademischpeil.nl/english for the English version).

One of the activities the organizers of the Alarm Day ask us to undertake is to share our personal stories. That is what I will do in this blog, thereby also expressing my support for today’s Alarm Day and the call for a structural investment in university research and education.

Why I support Alarm Day and the call for a 1.1 billion Euro structural investment

I was appointed as Chair and Professor of Rural Sociology at Wageningen University in November 2004. Within our university system, being chair means that you are responsible for the financial situation of your chair group. Due to the way the funding of education has been organized at Wageningen University, our education income does largely keep up with growing student numbers. However, the downside is that there is hardly any funding for research. Annually our chair group gets approximately k€ 330 basic university funding (formally labelled as research funding), yet our costs for accommodation, materials, travel and overheads are equal to or exceed that, hence there is no funding for research. So to make sure that the annual operating result of my group is not negative, there are basically two options: we only teach (and make sure that the revenues from teaching plus basic funding cover the salary costs and other costs) or we obtain external funding for research (including PhD projects). We have continuously focused on the latter option (also because the first option de facto means that the key characteristic of academic education, i.e. the link between research and teaching, ceases to exist) and have been quite successful at that, BUT:

  • Over the years grant schemes have become increasingly competitive, and thus our success rate has gradually declined from approximately 50% 10-15 years ago to less than 25% at present (while the quality, based on evaluation scores, has only improved). This means that an increasing share of our research time is spent on writing proposals that do not get funded.
  • A lot of the grant writing has to be done in the evenings, weekends and holidays, simply because a) a 40 hour working week is not enough to do everything I need or am expected to do, and b) most deadlines for submitting proposals are just after the Christmas and summer holidays.
  • Due to the continuous financial pressure of obtaining external research funding I am almost permanently busy with grant writing and actually do not have enough time for the projects I did manage to get funded. And the time I have available is largely spent on project coordination, not on research;
  • A lot of our research projects are funded by the European Commission. In the EC’s framework programs (e.g. Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe) we see a gradual shift in funding focus from understanding problems and challenges to developing and implementing solutions, in other words from research to innovation and (societal) impact. Funding for curiosity driven and risky research has to come from personal grants (ERC, VENI/VIDI/VICI) or grants for training networks (e.g. Marie Curie Training Networks), and these schemes are even more competitive (with success rates between 2 and 10%).
  • Until recently I was ‘promotor’ (main supervisor) of >25 PhD projects and it is simply impossible to be sufficiently involved in all. Most of the supervision is done by daily supervisors (assistant and associate professors), who all do a great job at this, but for me PhD supervision was way more interesting when I only had a few PhD students. Yet, for financial reasons it is important that within our group we have 4 to 5 PhD graduations per year. Therefore we still have 25 to 30 PhD students, but as a few colleagues have ius promovendi (the right to award a PhD) I no longer have to be the promotor of all. So this helps to reduce my workload a bit, but doesn’t change the perverse incentive that a steady inflow and outflow of PhD students is important for financial reasons.

Will 1.1 billion Euro of structural funding solve all problems?

Unfortunately the answer is ‘no’. It will certainly help to reduce the reliance on external research funding and reduce work pressure if we can appoint more staff members who can carry out their teaching and research tasks and activities within their work week. But we also need to address a few other issues:

  • In addition to this structural investment a large share of the research funding that is now distributed via competitive grant schemes (NWO and EU for example) should go directly to academic staff: so less time wasted on proposals that do not get funded, less work pressure and more funded time for curiosity driven research;
  • A new recognition and reward system that once and for all gets rid of the publish or perish culture (or generally speaking the output performance culture) that has dominated academia in the last 25 years. Especially the current publication and PhD supervision criteria that our Tenure Trackers need to comply with only contribute to more publications and more PhD students to be supervised.
  • The time and energy consuming bureaucracy that we need to work in and which is largely based on institutionalized distrust, as if endless procedures, evaluation rubrics, assessment forms, and checks and balances will help us to become better lecturers and researchers.
  • Related to that is the time that we are spending on writing self-evaluation reports (and to that we add mid-term self-evaluation reports) for peer review committees (peer reviews of our BSc and MSc programs or of our research program). Don’t get me wrong, I really value getting feedback from peers if we can also honestly and openly share our struggles and challenges and then get constructive feedback on how to do things better. However what we are actually asked to do is to write marketing brochures to boast about our excellence, so that university management can show to the outside world how many ‘top programs’ and ‘world leading’ research units it has. And this also means that a negative evaluation (which is basically anything below ‘excellent’) will haunt you until the next peer review.

What have I decided to do to reduce my work pressure?

In addition to keep on addressing the structural causes of work pressure I have decided to do the following:

  • I will not write any project proposal until the current Horizon 2020 project I am coordinating is finished and I have the time and energy to write a new proposal;
  • I will no longer write research grants for financial reasons, but only because I want to (for curiosity reasons, because it allows me to hire PhD candidates and/or postdocs, because it enables me to collaborate with colleagues in other countries, et cetera).
  • I will not accept new PhD students until the number I am responsible has dropped below 10 and that will remain the maximum number.
  • I will publish less and review no more than two papers per paper I have submitted as (co-)author (and review no more than 3 research proposals per proposal I have submitted for review).

I realize that I am in a privileged position (permanent contract, no Tenure Track criteria to comply with and chair of a group that does really well in teaching and research) to take these decisions, but hopefully it is seen as leading by example.

75th Anniversary: 26) History and Sociology

Chair excursion to the peat-area in Drenthe (beginning of the eighties). From left to right: Aart Snel (our secretary), Ad van der Woude, Willibrord Rutte, Jouke Wigboldus, Jaap Buis and Henk Roessingh. On his back with the Edelman-drill: Jan Bieleman. Next to him one of our students. The photo was taken by Anton Schuurman.

By Anton Schuurman, Rural and Environmental History

The fame of the chair group Rural History brought me in 1978 to Wageningen. The Wageningen history group was at that time different from all the others history groups in the Netherlands – it was doing social science history, history as a social science with the methods of the social sciences with as its most characteristic feature the use of quantitative methods and statistics. It is still the message of our group: ‘We apply comparative historical methods to better understand long-term patterns of interdependence between people, institutions and environments. Our empirical work builds on a combination of qualitative sources and large statistical datasets, which we construct from historical archives across the globe.’ – it reads on our internet page. Although nowadays part of the section Economics of the Social Sciences Group – perhaps partly due to the fact that the heirs of Hofstee seem to have lost interest in doing quantitative work – , the chair group owned its existence to the tenacity of the same Hofstee (as so many of the social sciences chairs in Wageningen do) who succeeded finally in 1956 to lure Slicher van Bath away from Groningen to Wageningen.

Hofstee was a history-orientated sociologist (well, social geographer), as was explained earlier in these blogs, who later named his own way of doing sociology: encompassing sociology (differentiële sociologie – see  blog 5. In blog 5 the English translation is differential sociology. I prefer encompassing sociology – a term from Charles Tilly (Tilly, 1984; Schuurman, 1996), which in my view better captures Hofstee’s intention, although I suspect that Hofstee himself saw the title as  a reference to La vocation actuelle de la sociologie. Vers la sociologie différentielle (1957) by Georges Gurvitch).

Hofstee’s work played a large role in our work at RHi– he was our favourite scape goat. As all the sociologist he thought that the world had only changed in the 19th century – the famous process of modernisation, urbanisation and industrialisation. Before that – it were the Middle Ages, people working since time immemorial by the sweat of one’s brow. How wrong he was, how wrong the sociologist are. Slicher revealed the process of proto-industrialisation in Overijssel in the eighteenth century; Roessingh, using Chayanov far before Jan Douwe rediscovered him, demonstrated how the farmers on the Veluwe adapted their farming practices in their search for security; Van der Woude showed that the nuclear family was the default family in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Holland, Bieleman revealed the many changes in agriculture in Drenthe instead of the eternal rye cultivation  (“eeuwige roggebouw”). I could go on. The sociologists made us feel pretty smart.

I have to confess that my attitude to Hofstee was a bit different. Of course, he was a sociologist and prejudice-ridden, but for my work on the material culture of the Dutch countryside I was inspired by his encompassing sociology. I admired and admire his three-volume book Differentiële sociologie. It can still be used, maybe especially by global sociologists. Hofstee was my hero next to Elias, Bourdieu, Benjamin and Giedeon. But I was also influenced by other Wageningen sociologists – most of all by Rien Munters who had written his book Rising and declining cultural goods (Stijgende en dalende cultuurgoederen) (Munters, 1977). He claimed that in a real open society goods would diffuse in every social direction – but, in fact, even in the famous open society of the seventies he found just one rising good: rolling one’s own tobacco. In the nineteenth century countryside I also found just one: the sewing machine.

Later Munters had an even larger influence on me by letting me join the Giddens-circle, where I read together with Gert Spaargaren, Peter Oosterveer, Jan van Tatenhove, Tuur Mol, Frans von Benda-Beckmann and many others, contemporary sociologists from Giddens to Baumann, Urry  and Elden-Vass. The historian I became, I became because of Wageningen and of the Wageningen sociology group.

PS When I may do a public appeal: Sociology was so much more than Hofstee. I would like to read stories about or from his staff -members – Nooij, Kooy, De Ru, Benvenutti, Van der Ban, Munters, Wichers and many others – who wrote sometimes books that did become classics and who taught and influenced generations of sociologists. I remember Piet Holleman who not only made all the maps for the sociology group, but also for us; Corry Rothuizen who was at the department sociology when Hofstee worked there, and who is still working for Environmental Policy; Henk van Espelo who made the cartophoot-map that is still to see in the Leeuwenborch – there certainly will be other person who could write about them.  I personally have less knowledge of the non-Western sociology group, but I would love to hear, e.g., a story on Rudy van Lier, direct colleague of Hofstee, as non-Western sociologist, but so different from him.

  • Munters, Q. J. (1977). Stijgende en dalende cultuurgoederen. De “open” samenleving ter discussie. Alphen aan den Rijn 1977 Samsom.
  • Schuurman, Anton. (1996). Mensen maken verschil. Sociale theorie, historische sociologie en geschiedenis. Tijdschrift voor Sociale Geschiedenis, 22(2), 168-205.
  • Tilly, Charles. (1984). Big structures, large processes, huge comparisons. New York 1984 Russell sage foundation.

75th Anniversary: 25) De Stad-Platteland Tegenstelling

Door Henk Oostindie

In de jubileum publicatie rondom ons 25 jarig bestaan leverde Lijfering een bijdrage onder de titel ‘het rural-urban continuüm in het licht van sociale veranderingen’. In die bijdrage gaat Leifferink in op de zin en onzin van dichotomisch denken en de noodzaak om de begrippen stad-en platteland als ideaaltypen te beschouwen. Vertrekkende vanuit het centrale begrip menselijke nederzetting, verwijst Lijfering naar de volgende drie dominante onderscheidende kenmerken: het fysieke milieu, de sociale interactie en het cultuurpatroon. Naast deze in zijn ogen verhelderende invalshoeken om stad en platteland als anachronismen nader te duiden, komt Leifering met het voorstel om meer expliciet aandacht te besteden aan wat hij benoemt als ‘functionele stad-platteland patronen’. Continue reading