Thesis opportunity: food banks as contested spaces for identity struggles

In general a person’s identity has cognitive-descriptive (C), normative-ethical (N) and affective-emotional qualities (A). Besides a person’s identity, a person can find him or herself to be in a certain position or have a certain status, and a person can have certain (un)officially assigned roles, tasks and functions. See the figure below. These three elements can ‘agree’, or be ‘in line’ with each other, but they can also diverge from each other, or be ‘in conflict’.

Plaatje fb identity

These distinctions are to a certain extent superficial: they are analytical distinctions. In that capacity they can help us discover different elements and qualities of peoples’ experiences. Moreover, a person’s identity is not once and for all a ‘given’. Identities develop and keep doing so in interaction with other people: first with primary caretakers and later with a host of significant others who also have an identity, certain roles and functions, a certain position or status, and corresponding expectations towards others.

In this MSc thesis proposal this interaction is taken to be located at the food bank where volunteers distribute food parcels among recipients. Volunteers and recipients have short or longer conversations about the food parcels and/or the reasons for being there at the food bank. In scientific literature on food banks it is an almost unquestioned assumption that the food bank is a charity organisation, very often inspired by religious ideas or values of love and kindness for fellow human beings in need, and an attitude of gratefulness and humility on the side of the recipient. A sociological understanding of charity would indeed point at these expected roles, functions and attitudes that the concept of charity implies. The general research question of this proposal is: To what extent is this general, unquestioned assumption supported by evidence?

Sub-questions are:

  • What are feelings and emotions towards, and what are normative opinions of volunteers and recipients about the existence of food banks and their activities?
  • To what extent do recipients experience discrepancies between the status in which they, (in)voluntarily, find themselves, and the way in which they see themselves or would like to see themselves? (In other words: to what extent do we see conflicts between the three elements in the figure above?)

Proposed research methods are participatory observations, interviews with volunteers and recipients, identity tests and conversation analysis. Starting literature is available.

The thesis will be supervised by Leon Pijnenburg (Philosophy) and Esther Veen (Rural Sociology). Interested? Contact Jessica de Koning: jessica.dekoning@wur.nl.

Drijfveren, waarden en praktijken van eerste generatie boeren – MSc thesis onderzoek Laura Genello

Laura Genello, student MSc Organic Agriculture van Wageningen University, doet een vergelijkend onderzoek naar eerste generatie boeren in Nederland en de staat Maryland in USA. Eerste generatieboeren zijn zij die geen familiebedrijf hebben overgenomen, maar toch op de een of andere manier zijn begonnen met boeren. Zie haar website Beginning farmers research voor meer informatie (in Engels). Daarop staat ook de online vragenlijst met een Nederlandse en Engelse versie.

Laura wil onderzoeken of deze instromers bepaalde ideeën en waarden over hoe goed te boeren met elkaar delen en in hoeverre ze die in praktijk weten te brengen. Laura heeft een online vragenlijst gemaakt die ingevuld kan worden door personen die in het profiel passen. Hier vindt u de Nederlandse versie van de online vragenlijst. Mocht u zelf een eerste generatie boer zijn dan kunt u de vragenlijst zelf invullen. Mocht u iemand kennen die hier aan voldoet, dan mag u de link doorsturen.

U kunt ook uiteraard ook contact opnemen met Laura Genello: laura.genello@wur.nl

Thesis option: food in suburbia

The CBS (Dutch Bureau for Statistics) has shown that many young families are leaving the city, looking for more space and more affordable housing. These families often want to stay close to the city and therefore move to neighbouring towns or suburban areas. What does this mean for their food provisioning strategies? Where do these people buy most of their food and to what extent are they constrained by what is on offer locally? To what extent to they (still) use the city for their food provisioning, such as going out to dinner or visiting specialty shops? To what extent is such ‘urban food’ available in suburban areas? And how does this relate to people’s lifestyles and identities?

The urban food landscape is in constant transition, but we do not clearly know how people engage with their everyday food planning – where do they go, what choices do they make, and what practical considerations do they take into account? Answering such questions will help us better understand people’s food provisioning practices, and how to make these practices more sustainable and healthy.

We are looking for a thesis student interested in these questions, and willing to do a thesis with the Rural Sociology Group, starting spring 2018. Interested? Send a short motivation to esther.veen@wur.nl and anke.devrieze@wur.nl.

Thesis option: exploring the gentrifying foodscape

The Amsterdamsestraatweg, a street in Utrecht, is known for its kebab take-away restaurants, hairdressers and massage salons. During the last years, however, businesses along the street are changing due to gentrification. ‘Hipster bars’ and vintage furniture shops are appearing. A similar process is happening at the Javastraat in Amsterdam.

The urban food landscape is in constant transition, but we do not clearly know how people engage with their everyday food planning – where do they go, what choices do they make, and what practical considerations do they take into account? Answering such questions will help us better understand people’s food provisioning practices, and how to make these practices more sustainable and healthy.

The Rural Sociology Group is looking for a student interested in exploring one or both of the changing foodscapes (Amsterdamsestraatweg / Javastraat). What kind of people are visiting these food places? Do the same people make use of the full variety, or do the kebab places and the hipster bars (as the two extremes) attract different groups of people? Where do the customers of both types of food places live? What do their food provisioning practices look like, and what is important to them when consuming food?

We are looking for one or two thesis students interested in these questions, and willing to do a thesis with the Rural Sociology Group, starting spring 2018. Interested? Send a short motivation to esther.veen@wur.nl and anke.devrieze@wur.nl.

Thesismogelijkheid: Tuinieren voor kankerpatienten

Due to the nature of this thesis, which involves speaking to Dutch former cancer patients, this thesis is only available for Dutch speaking students.

Voor het project Healing Gardens (zie www.healinggardenswur.nl) ben ik op zoek naar een student die een thesis wil schrijven bij de leerstoelgroep Rurale Sociologie.

Healing Gardens is een samenwerking van Rurale Sociologie en Humane Voeding. Doel van het project is onderzoeken in hoeverre tuinieren bijdraagt aan de kwaliteit van leven van ex-kankerpatiënten. Tussen april en september 2017 hebben we een pilot onderzoek uitgevoerd, waarbij 6 patiënten hebben getuinierd in Almere. De pilot was onderdeel van onderzoeksprogramma’s van AMS (Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions) en de Flevocampus.

De deelnemers hebben tijdens de pilot aan drie meetronden meegedaan – aan het begin, in het midden en aan het einde. Vanuit Rurale Sociologie hebben we de deelnemers gevraagd naar hun verwachtingen, in hoeverre die uitkwamen, sociale relaties en lotgenotencontact. Ik ben nu op zoek naar een student om deze interviews te analyseren en daar een thesis over te schrijven. Daarnaast kun je zelf extra data verzamelen. Hiervoor zijn meerdere opties, afhankelijk van je eigen interesse. Voorbeelden zijn follow-up interviews met de deelnemers, of interviews met deelnemers van andere lotgenotencontact-groepen, om de verschillen tussen verscheidene vormen van lotgenotencontact te onderzoeken.

De thesis kan vanaf april beginnen. Geïnteresseerd? Stuur een korte motivatie naar esther.veen@wur.nl.

Social Capital and Fisheries participation in Marine Spatial Planning in Orkney – MSc-thesis Yanick Bakker

By Yanick Bakker, MSc International Development Studies.

MSc-thesis Social Capital and Fisheries participation in Marine Spatial Planning in Orkney, Scotland (complete thesis can be downloaded).

In the autumn of 2016, I spent three months on the Orkney Islands in Scotland, where I delved into the worlds of inshore shellfish fisheries and marine spatial planning. Marine spatial planning is a relatively new tool for marine governance designed to manage the use of marine space while minimizing user-user and user-environment conflicts. The marine environment around the Orkney Islands is an important natural asset for the island communities. The waters are used for recreation and transportation, they provide fresh sea foods and are a central part of the islands’ ecosystem, identity and diverse livelihoods. Since 2010, the inshore waters around the Orkney Islands and the North East coast of Scotland have also become sites for marine renewable energy developments. Controversy over the allocation of marine space for these developments, have led to the set-up of a pilot marine spatial plan for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters.

Writing this thesis, I was curious to see how fishermen relate to this new way of looking at and giving direction to the development of marine space. As the waters in which they fish and the fish stocks they target are central resources for fisher communities, access to these resources is vital for their survival. Not only do new marine developments create concerns for sustainability, the notion of spatial planning at sea also causes concern for decreased mobility and consumption of space among fishermen. Taking community resilience theory as a starting point, I have focused on the use of community social capital in fisheries’ engagement with marine spatial planning in Orkney.

Social capital refers to practices, values and sets of norms found within different forms of social networks (or communities) which can contribute to the collaboration, functioning and collective action of the network. Social capital can be produced within a community (bonding), between different kinds of communities (bridging) or across scales and hierarchical structures (linking). Community resilience theory assumes that community members can act as agents of change, whereby they use different strategies to ensure the survival of the community in face of change. For example by engaging in social relation within and beyond the boundaries of the community to mobilize resources or gain power.

By conducting qualitative interviews with fishermen, representatives of fisher organizations, researchers and policy makers, I have gained insight in the different ways in which the Orkney inshore shellfish fisher community employs and continues to develop its community social capital in order to collaborate, mobilize resources to generate information to reframe the definition and formal representation of marine space and to gain power in (future) marine spatial planning negotiations.

Although social capital seems to be an enabling factor for participation in policy making, this research has shown that it is not a community asset which can be readily mobilized. Having social capital, does thus not equal having agency to act. Seeing the participatory sphere as one of unequal power, stakeholders’ ability to gain influence in governance processes is influenced by institutional limiting and facilitating factors. Social organization of fishermen in fisher organizations has shown to be an important enabling factor for participation in marine spatial planning, in Orkney.

 

Agricultural cooperatives and the social economy in Kenya – IMRD thesis by Jordan Treakle

treakle-dairy-cooperative-in-kenyaLast autumn Jordan Treakle successfully defended his Master of Science thesis ‘Agricultural cooperatives and the social economy in Kenya’s changing governance landscape’ in Wageningen’s Rural Sociology Group to complete his International Master in Rural Development. Below a synopsis of the thesis. Continue reading

An impact assessment of potentially radical niche developments in the Dutch dairy sector – MSc-thesis Anne Verschoor

October 11 2016, Anne Verschoor successfully defended her MSc-thesis ‘An impact assessment of potentially radical niche developments in the Dutch dairy sector‘. She thus completed the Specialization Gastronomy of the Master Food Technology of Wageningen University. Applying a Social Science perspective in her thesis research was extra challenging but she managed very well to do so. Below an abstract of the thesis. Continue reading

Thesis opportunity: Thuisafgehaald

Note: as I am looking for a Dutch-speaking student for this thesis, the text of this post is in Dutch.

Het stedelijk voedsellandschap verandert. Bestaande kanalen bieden andere soorten voedsel aan (supermarkten verkopen steeds meer biologische en/of lokale producten) en er ontstaan nieuwe kanalen die het mogelijk maken op andere manieren aan voedsel te komen (kopen bij de boer, zelf verbouwen). Consumenten hebben hiervoor zowel ethische overwegingen (diervriendelijker, milieubewuster consumeren) als sociale overwegingen (elkaar ontmoeten rondom eten). Ondanks het bestaan van al die verschillende kanalen kopen de meeste mensen het grootste deel van hun voedsel in de supermarkt. Blijkbaar is het in de praktijk nog best lastig om de supermarkt te omzeilen. Continue reading

Resistance in action in the Mayan region: “NO to GMO’s”

Mayan women in a concert of the Ma OGM campaign. Source Maria Boa

Mayan women in a concert of the Ma OGM campaign. Source maria Boa

August 18 María del Refugio Boa Alvarado successfully defended her MSc-thesis ‘Resistance in Action; Mobilization of Mayan beekeepers against GM soy: The case of the ‘Colectivo MA OGM‘ for the Master International Master in Rural Development. Below a post by Maria.

Are you interested on social movements? On Indigenous rights? On collectives and their practices? For years, many social scientists have been fascinated by the study of social movements and collective action. In my case, I am fascinated by the research of complex associations that frame and articulate their claims or grievances. Particularly, the processes of social transformation that have their grassroots within indigenous communities. Continue reading