Values and relationships in the diverse economy of De Ommuurde Tuin: an illustrated ethnography

inez thesis coverLast year Inez responded to a RSO thesis advert to join a research team exploring the social economy of food and nature in Gelderland in connection with several science shop projects coordinated by Jan Hassink. Inez completed her research at de Ommuurde Tuin in Renkum, and took the opportunity to further explore visual and creative methods, documenting her results in an illustrated ethnography that was shared with stakeholders at our most recent network gathering Nijmegen. Thanks for being part of our research team Inez ! 

Inez Dekker, MSc student Sociology of Development (MID) Wageningen University

Below please find the abstract of the MSc  minor thesis Values and relationships in the diverse economy of De Ommuurde Tuin: an illustrated ethnography

The full thesis can be downloaded from the WUR-Library by clicking on the hyperlink

Summary : In the last decades a growing number of alternative food and care initiatives emerged in North-America and Europe. Due to uncertain situations within current neoliberal economic systems such as the recent recession, ongoing outsourcing and environmental depletion, and alienation from production (Morgan and Kuch, 2015), these initiatives offer an alternative to an existing neoliberal model. Moreover, they inspire to create a more diverse pallet of economies alongside dominant economic and social systems. Important to mark here is that their decisions and actions are not merely led by dominant economic models, but intentionally done to create worlds that are environmentally and socially just (Gibson-Graham et al., 2013). Often these initiatives fit in an alternative economic framework where a diverse, interdependent, rich and prolific disarray of ‘good life’ are central for their economies. One of such frameworks is the diverse economic research framework based on the work of Gibson-Graham (2008) where the economy is one based on a myriad of human and non-human social relationships that go beyond capitalist economic models. While there seems to be an emerging interest for practices within alternative economic frameworks, such as in community supported agriculture (CSA) or care farms, there is an absence of how human and non-human relationships create values that form an (diverse) economy. Moreover, in conventional economic thinking, practices occurring outside current economic system remain often unrecognized and unseen, though, these are essential for an economy to exist. Therefore, I aim to strengthen a network of diverse economic initiatives focus on initiatives located in the Dutch province Gelderland. To do this, I created a visual illustration that highlights the diverse practices and human and non-human relationships in the organic horticulture business located in Gelderland called ‘De Ommuurde Tuin’. I add to the scholarship of diverse economies by describing and showing the processes that produce a diversity of values in De Ommuurde Tuin’s daily economic practices. These processes are not only led by relationships among humans but include human and non-human relationships as well. To do this, I not only use a written form, but foremost I used visual and sensory research methods that highlights relationships between humans-humans and humansnonhumans. By putting forward the senses, the visual and emotional, this research concerns the processes in daily economic practices through a study of an economy that is lived and experienced. Moreover, I make alternative and diverse frameworks of economy/is more visible for a wider public through presenting my outcomes in a visual manner in booklet form. This approach tries to display and recognize economic alternatives, which helps to connect and build a coherent and powerful social movement for another economy (Miller, 2008; Gibson-Graham, 2008; Gibson-Graham and Miller, 2015)

Thesis Opportunities: Diverse economies of food, agriculture, and nature in Galicia, Spain

In the field of diverse economies, researchers have paid particular attention to diverse forms of economic organisation and exchange that make up our food system, disrupting dominant development narratives that privilege capital, markets, wages, private property and mainstream financing (Gibson-Graham, 2006). Examples in the literature are multifunctional agriculture (Renting et al., 2009), communal land use (Soto, 2014; Caballero, 2015), ecosystem service provisioning (Bolund and Hunhammar, 1999; Braat and De Groot, 2012), and sharing food or skills to reduce waste, or foster greater food security (Davies et al., 2017). These manifestations of diverse economies are often captured and explained through the theoretical lens of the social economy, an umbrella term used to describe a variety of third sector, cooperative, voluntary, non-profit, and social enterprise initiatives that put social and environmental well-being before profit.

Problem definition / hypothesis 

In Galicia, a ‘green’ region in the northwest corner of Spain, industrialisation and urbanisation mainly takes part in the coastal area. The mountainous interior consists of forests and pastures for beef and dairy cattle, creating a strong divide between the urban and the rural, and their development pathways. Primary production, with relatively low added value, remains important to Galicia’s economic production. The daily fabric of life, in rural but also in industrial-urban environments, is anchored in what can be termed the social economy. Whilst formal collaborative and/or cooperative approaches to market access or income generation are often lacking, the question pops up – whether and how these everyday practices (can) build upon existing social economy dynamics. This research seeks to understand, how communities in these places negotiate social, economic, and environmental concerns by practicing diverse economies in urban and rural areas, and how these practices can contribute to realizing social economies

Communal forestry and mountain farming

Empirical studies in Galicia on the diverse economies of food, agriculture, and nature (i.e. the local resource base, e.g. ecosystems services, green infrastructure, or more theoretically: ecological capital) will contribute to the (yet often) unrecognised role of the social economy in bringing about economic development in relation to provisioning of ecosystem services and/or green infrastructure.

Depending on the preferences of individual students for empirical research subjects, and a possibly simultaneous implementation of MSc thesis projects,  research subjects can consist of communal (agro) forestry (in urban and/or rural contexts), mountain farming (in more remote rural areas), or a combination of these.

Research topics include but are not limited to:

  • Mapping diverse economies of food, agriculture, and nature: initiatives and projects (focus: forestry and farm activities), community and/or household configurations, collaboration (different aggregation levels), payments and income strategies (private and public goods), availability of regional policy support schemes, support structures for similar initiatives elsewhere
  • Developing strategies to enhance local business opportunities (forestry and farming activities, food and other ecosystem service provisioning in relation to e.g. gastronomy and tourism), identify and describe heterogeneity in best practices, report bottlenecks in relation to place-based development (taking into account spatial relationships)

Planning of an MSc thesis research project

The overall goal of these MSc thesis projects are to a) advance our understanding of the diverse and social economies in rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and b) identify and promote policies, governance models and practices that foster this type of social innovation, with the aim to also enhance more mainstream economic production: contribute to creating value added, market access, and additional farm income for primary producers.

An assignment will be drawn up together with the student: an initial research plan in advance to leaving to Galicia for the field research, and a more definitive plan at arrival, in collaboration with local stakeholders.

Research requires a stay of 3 months or longer at the University of Vigo / in Galicia.

Start date: Spring or Summer 2019

Qualifications:

  • You have training in qualitative methods and are able to conduct qualitative research in Spanish or Galician (Thesis is written in English)
  • You have an interest in engaging diverse stakeholders in participatory and collaborative research
  • You have one or more of the following skills and/or interests: able to use basic excel and mapping tools; interest in diverse economies and social innovation and/or spatial relationships; experience with assessment and evaluation
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or other relevant social science courses)
  • Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: RSO Oona Morrow oona.morrow@wur.nl & GEN Paul Swagemakers paul.swagemakers@uvigo.es (University of Vigo, Galicia, Spain)

Works cited & further reading:

Bolund, P., Hunhammar, S., 1999. Ecosystem services in urban areas. Ecological Economics 29, 293–301

Braat, L.C., De Groot, R., 2012. The ecosystem services agenda: bridging the worlds of natural science and economics, conservation and development, and public and private policy. Ecosystem Services, 1, 4–15.

Caballero, G.,2015. Community-based forest management institutions in the Galician communal forests: a new institutional approach. Forest Policy and Economics 50, 347–356

Davies, A.R., Edwards, F., Marovelli, B., Morrow, O., Rut, M., Weymes, M., 2017. Making visible: Interrogating the performance of food sharing across 100 urban areas. Geoforum 86, 136-149

Gibson-Graham, J.K., 2006. A Postcapitalist Politics. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis

Gibson-Graham, J. K., 2008. Diverse economies: performative practices for other worlds’. Progress in Human Geography, 32(5), 613-632

Jongerden, J.P., 2018. Living Structures : Methodological Considerations on People and Place. In: Methodological Approaches in Kurdish Studies. Baser, B., Toivanen, M., Zorlu, B., Duman, Y. (Eds.), Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield Publisher), Lanham, 21 – 33

Morrow, O., Dombroski, K., 2015. Enacting a Postcapitalist Politics through the Sites and Practices of Life’s Work. In: Precarious Worlds: Contested Geographies of Social Reproduction. Meehan, K., Stauss, K. (Eds.), University of Georgia Press, Georgia

Öztürk, M., Topaloğlu, B., Hilton, A., Jongerden, J., 2017. Rural‒Urban Mobilities in

Turkey: Socio-spatial Perspectives on Migration and Return Movements, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies 20(5), 513 – 530

Renting, H., Rossing, W.A.H., Groot, J.C.J., van der Ploeg, J.D., Laurent, C., Perraud, D., Stobbelaar, D.J., van Ittersum, M.K., 2009. Exploring multifunctional agriculture: a review of conceptual approaches and prospects for an integrative transitional framework. Journal of Environmental Management 90, 112–123

Soto, D., 2014. Community, institutions and environment in conflicts over commons in Galicia, northwest Spain (18th–20th centuries). International Journal on Strikes  and Social Conflicts 5, 58–76

Swagemakers, P., Domínguez García, M.D., Milone, P., Ventura, F., Wiskerke, J.S.C., in press. Exploring cooperative place-based approaches to restorative agriculture. Journal of Rural Studies. Online first, doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2018.12.003

Swagemakers, P., Dominguez Garcia, M.D., Wiskerke, J.S.C., 2018.  Socially-innovative development and value creation: how a composting project in Galicia (Spain) ‘hit the rocks’. Sustainability 10(6), 2040

Swagemakers, P., Dominguez Garcia, M.D., Onofa Torres, A., Oostindie, H., Groot, J.C.J., 2017. A values-based approach to exploring synergies between livestock farming and landscape conservation in Galicia (Spain). Sustainability 9(11), 1987

Wiskerke, J.S.C., Verhoeven, S., 2018. Flourishing foodscapes: designing city-region food systems. Valiz, Amsterdam

Wiskerke, J.S.C., 2009. On places lost and places regained: reflections on the alternative food geography and sustainable regional development. International Planning Studies 14(4), 369-387

 

 

 

Discussing about Diverse Economies with prof. Katherine Gibson

On June 27th 2017, the Rural Sociology Group (in collaboration with SUSPLACE and in conjuction with the CSPS Conference ‘The Value of Life’) organised a masterclass on Performative Practices for Diverse Economies with prof. Katherine Gibson (Western Sydney University).

The masterclass was well attended, with more than 25 PhDs, researchers and professors joining, from a diversity of geographical and disciplinary backgrounds.

Prof. Gibson opened the meeting with a short presentation of her work on Diverse Economies. Next, we engaged in dynamic ‘fishbowl’ conversations in which 3 participants at a time discussed about a topic or question of joint interest, with prof.  Gibson stepping in and helping to advance the thinking.

We thus actively ‘performed thinking’ on diverse economies!

00:1927:06 Family Economies & Gender (with Maria Borras Escayola, Shivani Kaul and Zulfa Utami Adiputri)
27:1042:42 Participation, Activation & Motivation (with Veerle Boekenstijn, Esther Veen and Inez Dekker)
43:0058:28 Food Economies, prosumers and community gardens (with Sungwoong Jung, Lucie Sovova and Alberto Serra)

Thanks to MSc student Veerle Boekestijn, both prof. Gibson’s keynote and all the fishbowl conversation have been captured on video. We are happy to share them here, with all those that weren’t able to attend the masterclass in person.

 

What if the Trucks Stop Coming? – PhD thesis by Cheron Constance

On Wednesday 21 June 2017 at 13.30 hrs Cheron Constance will defend her PhD thesis entitled ‘What if the trucks stop coming? Exploring the framing of local food by cooperative food retailers in New Mexico’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.

The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.

 

Summary of the thesis

Proponents of local food cite a variety of economic and environmental advantages of short food supply chains. Consumer interest in local food has also offered a point of differentiation for many players in the food industry, including restaurants and grocery stores. Engaging with local food has significant challenges, however, and many production and distribution systems engender and support more diffuse food provisioning, not less. Though food can travel thousands of miles from its point of origin to consumption, many cooperative (co-op) grocery stores have long sold locally-produced food and have deep ties to their supplier communities. This thesis offers case studies of two co-ops in the natural and organic food sector and examines how they think about and work with local food. The theories of embeddedness (after Polanyi) and diverse economies (from Gibson-Graham) undergird the analyses of these co-ops’ involvement with local food and how the cooperative business model relates to it.

Take back the economy 2: how do we value work?

The social side of capital

In my last blog I talked about Robby and Elena: two people both aged 24 but each having a completely different working life. Echoing the authors of “taking back the economy”, I wondered which bright ideas could help our Robby’s to earn a decent living and our Elena’s to achieve a better work-life balance. Based on your reactions and my thinking, I would like to argue there is a need for a changing value system in our economy. This could be done in many ways. And luckily there are already real life examples to proof this is an ongoing development. In this blog I will show a few of them.

Let’s start with Robby. He has a range of experiences and qualities. He is motivated to work for all jobs that he endorses. Yet he usually ends up with work which is not or very badly paid. His…

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Take Back the Economy – 1. Reframing the economy, reframing ourselves

Inspired by the presentation of Katharine Gibson on Wednesday September 4 and her latest book book ‘Take Back the Economy: an ethical guide for transforming our communities’ (http://takebackeconomy.net/) Michelle Steggerda started her weblog on which she will post her reading of the book and her effort to take back the economy.

The social side of capital

In Dutch we have the famous proverb: keep business and private life separately. But what if you plea for community building on every academic congress, but don’t even know your own neighbours? Or the other way around, what if you are very proud of the newly installed solar panels on your roof, while you work 40 hours a week for a company that invests in polluting energy? Is there not something strange here? In the book take back the economy they say: “Reframing the economy means taking notice of all things we do to ensure the material functioning and well-being of our households, communities and nations.” That’s a nice quote where not a lot of people would disagree with. But how can we do this if the companies we work for are mainly concerned with making a profit? How can we change our economy if most influential people still mainly…

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