On 13 May 2022, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University with a public event entitled “Rural Sociology: past, present and future”. The event took place in Akoesticum in Ede and was attended by approximately 130 people: current and former staff members, current and former MSc and PhD students, and current and former collaborators in (inter)national research projects. In addition to this event we wrote and edited a book entitled ‘On Meaningful Diversity: Past, present and future of Wageningen rural sociology’ and a group of (former) PhD students put together a PhD magazine. Both are open access publications.
The entire anniversary event was filmed and a 16 minute compilation video of the day can be found here:
In addition all presentations and talks are available online in order of the program of the day:
Opening by Arthur Mol (Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University)
Keynote by Han Wiskerke: Meaningful diversity: Past, present and future of rural sociology
Keynote by Haroon Akram-Lodhi: From peasant studies to critical agrarian studies
Rural Talk Show: Interactive session including invited guests and audience participation. The Talk Show was chaired by Matt Reed, with Jan Douwe van der Ploeg as a permanent table guest, and changing table guests around the following three themes:
Session 1– Societal engagement or academic distance; with Jessica Duncan, Aya Kimura, Han Wiskerke
Session 2 – Discussing the rural-urban dichotomy; with Henk Oostindie, Sally Shortall, Esther Veen
Session 3 – A continuing debate: agency and structure; with Bettina Bock, Bram Büscher, Mark Vicol
Keynote by Hannah Wittman: Bridging rural and urban through agroecological networks: cultivating agrarian citizenship in a climate crisis
Presentation of Research Agendas: Imagining the next 25 years of rural sociology. Interactive session around three research agendas, briefly pitched by RSO staff, followed by an open floor exchange of ideas and discussion:
At the event we will reflect upon the history of rural sociology and discuss future challenges in a lively and interactive setting.
08.30 – Registration and coffee/thee
09.00 – Opening by Arthur Mol (Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University)
09.30 – Keynote Han Wiskerke Meaningful diversity: Past, present and future of rural sociology
10.00 – Keynote Haroon Akram-Lodhi From peasant studies to critical agrarian studies
10.45 – Break
11.00 – Rural Talk Show – Interactive session including invited guests and audience participation. The Talk Show is chaired by Matt Reed, with Jan Douwe van der Ploeg as a permanent table guest, and changing table guests around the following three themes: – Societal engagement or academic distance; with Jessica Duncan, Aya Kimura, Han Wiskerke – Discussing the rural-urban dichotomy; with Henk Oostindie, Sally Shortall, Esther Veen – A continuing debate: agency and structure; with Bettina Bock, Bram Büscher, and Mark Vicol
12.15 – Closure morning session
12.30 – Lunch
14.00 – Workshops
15.30 – Keynote Hannah Wittman Bridging rural and urban through agroecological networks: cultivating agrarian citizenship in a climate crisis
16.30 – Imagining the next 25 years of rural sociology. Interactive session around three research agenda’s, briefly pitched by RSO staff, followed by an open floor exchange of ideas and discussion: – Agriculture – introduction Kees Jansen – Place – introduction Joost Jongerden – Food – introduction Jessica Duncan
18.00 – Closure, drinks and conference diner
Haroon Akram-Lodhi – ‘From peasant studies to critical agrarian studies‘ Haroon Akram Lodhi is Professor of Economics and International Development Studies at Trent University, Canada. His research interest is in the political economy of agrarian change, the future of smallholder peasant communities in the world food system, on the sustainability of rural social structures, relations and institutions, and gender and rights based economics. https://sites.google.com/site/aharoonakramlodhi/home
Arthur Mol– Opening Arthur Mol was trained in environmental sciences (MSc) and environmental social sciences (PhD). Besides being Chair and Professor of Environmental Policy at Wageningen University he was also Professor of Environmental Policy at Renmin University, China, at Tsinghua University, China, and at the National University of Malaysia UKM. He was joint editor of the journal Environmental Politics, and is book series editor of New Horizons in Environmental Politics. His main fields of interest and publications are in environmental studies, globalization, social theory and the environment, informational governance, ecological modernization, China, sustainable (food) production and consumption and urban environmental governance. Currently, he is Rector Magnificus and Vice-President of the Executive Board of Wageningen University & Research and president of the Association of European Life Science Universities (ICA). https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Arthur-prof.dr.ir.-APJ-Arthur-Mol.htm
Hannah Wittman – ‘Bridging rural and urban through agroecological networks: cultivating agrarian citizenship in a climate crisis‘ Hannah Wittman is Professor Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Her research examines the ways that the rights to produce and consume food are contested and transformed through struggles for agrarian reform, food sovereignty, and agrarian citizenship. Her projects include community-based research on farmland access, transition to organic agriculture, and seed sovereignty in British Columbia, agroecological transition and the role of institutional procurement in the transition to food sovereignty in Ecuador and Brazil, and the role that urban agriculture and farm-to-school nutrition initiatives play in food literacy education. http://ires.ubc.ca/person/hannah-wittman/
Han Wiskerke – ‘Meaningful diversity: past, present and future of rural sociology’ Han Wiskerke is Professor of Rural Sociology and Chair of the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University since 2004. From January 2013 until June 2016 he was also Professor of Foodscape Studies and Design at the Academy of Architecture (Amsterdam University of the Arts). His main research themes during the past 15 years have been a) agrarian and rural development, b) city-region food systems and c) urban-rural relations. He was founding editor-in-chief of Urban Agriculture and Regional Food Systems from 2014 – 2018 and (co-)editor of books on agrarian & rural transitions, food planning, foodscape studies & design, urban agriculture, and sustainable & regenerative food systems. https://www.wur.nl/nl/personen/han-prof.dr.ir.-jsc-han-wiskerke.htm
Participants in the Rural Talk Show session and the Imagining the next 25 years of rural sociology session:
Bettina Bock is Professor for Inclusive Rural Development at the Rural Sociology Chairgroup at Wageningen University and Professor for Population Decline and Quality of Life at Groningen University. Her areas of research include inclusive rural development and social innovation, with a particular focus on remote and depopulating rural areas, governance, migration and rural gender relations. From 2013-2019 she was the editor-in-chief of Sociologia Ruralis. In addition, she is a board members of the European Society for Rural Sociology and the International Rural Sociology Association. She has been invited as guest professor at the Università di Gastronomia in Pollenza in 2020), Cornell University in the United States (2019), Kyoto University (2018) and Newcastle University (2017). https://www.wur.nl/nl/personen/bettina-prof.dr.ir.-bb-bettina-bock.htm
Bram Büscher is Professor and Chair of the Sociology of Development and Change group at Wageningen University. He holds visiting positions at the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies of the University of Johannesburg and the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology of Stellenbosch University, in South Africa. His research interests revolve around the political economy of conservation and development, the politics of energy and extraction, ecotourism, new media and social theory. More info at www.brambuscher.com
Jessica Duncan is Associate Professor in the Politics of Sustainable Food Systems in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University, is a researcher and educator committed to social justice. Jessica is widely recognised for her expertise on the politics of sustainable food system transition. She is a founding member of the Centre for Unusual Collaborations (CUCo) and sits on the editorial board of Sociologia Ruralis. https://www.wur.nl/nl/personen/jessica-dr.-jab-jessica-duncan.htm
Kees Jansen is an Associate Professor in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. His work connects the fields of political ecology, critical agrarian studies and international development. His current research focusses on pesticide risk governance and social movements concerned about pesticides. More info at www.keesjansen.eu
Joost Jongerden is an Associate Professor in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. His research on ‘Do-It-Yourself Development’ aims to identify the possibilities of alternative futures grounded in peoples’ daily practices and present struggles. His geographical focus is Kurdistan and Turkey. He holds a position as professor at the Asian Platform for Global Sustainability and Transcultural Studies, Kyoto University, Japan, and has been a visiting professor at Toronto University in 2018. In 2012 he was a founding member of the journal Kurdish Studies, of which he was an editor until 2020. In 2021 he founded the journal Commentaries. He is a board member of the European Union Turkey Civic Commission. https://wur.academia.edu/JoostJongerden
Aya H. Kimura – professor of sociology at the University of Hawai`i-Manoa. Her research analyzes the intersections of technoscience, gender, and sustainability. She has had research projects in Indonesia, Japan, and Hawai`i, and has written on agrobiodiversity, fermentation, food safety, nutrition science and the idea of “smart food.” Among others, she examines diverse practical experiences with citizen science on a range of food and farming issues, from seed development to toxicants to biodiversity. https://ayakimura.weebly.com/
Henk Oostindie – Senior Researcher in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. He has a longstanding experience in researching the socio-economic aspects of rural development, including topics as farming styles, multifunctional agrarian pathways, food chain dynamics, multi-level rural governance and rural-urban interdepencies. A significant part of his empirically grounded research interests took place within comparative analysis and policy oriented European projects.
Jan Douwe van der Ploeg – Emeritus Professor and the former Chair of the Rural Sociology Group in Wageningen. In his position as Professor of Rural Sociology, he elaborated the inquiry into the expressions, implications and underlying mechanisms of heterogeneity in agriculture. He was also closely involved in some of the grass root initiatives that aimed at developing (practical) new alternatives to the reigning model of ongoing scale-increase and further industrialization of agriculture and rural development. http://www.jandouwevanderploeg.com/EN/
Matt Reed – Associate Professor in Food Citizenship and director of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucestershire (UK). He is a sociologist with research interests in how and why social change takes place around food. His research rests upon the intersections of political sociology, cultural studies and rural geography. http://www.ccri.ac.uk/reed/
Sally Shortall – Duke of Northumberland Professor of Rural Economy at the Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle University (UK). Her research interest is in rural sociology, community studies, rural development and rural proofing, agriculture, farm families. She is specifically known for her work on gender and agriculture. https://www.ncl.ac.uk/cre/about/staff/profile/sallyshortall.html#background
Esther Veen worked as an Assistant Professor at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University until 2021. She taught courses on urban food, food and identity, foodscapes and alternative food networks, and studied urban food initiatives, urban food growing and the effects of green on health and wellbeing. She is currently lector (reader) Urban Food Issues at Aeres University of Applied Sciences Almere, working closely with research institute Flevo Campus. She studies how food routines change and normalise, and how the urban environment can stimulate healthier and more sustainable food patterns. She is specifically interested in the interplay between the food environment and everyday routines around shopping, cooking and eating. She also focuses on the role of urban agriculture in the urban food system. https://www.aereshogeschool.nl/onderzoek/lectoren-en-onderzoekers/esther-veen
Mark Vicol is Assistant Professor of Agrarian Sociology in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. My research focuses on the intersections between rural livelihoods, agricultural development and agrarian change in South and Southeast Asia. I explore integrative approaches to understanding patterns of change at the intersections of micro-scale rural livelihoods and the macro-scale political-economic structures and social relations that underpin global capitalism. Specifically, I am interested in the changing relationships between land, agriculture, rural livelihoods and inequality; the livelihood implications for rural households of modern agricultural global value chains, and the politics of value chain development; and broader political economy questions about patterns of agrarian accumulation and differentiation and the future of small farmers and agriculture in the region. https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Mark-dr.-MR-Mark-Vicol.htm
Venue: Akoesticum, Nieuwe Kazernelaan 2D42, 6711 JC Ede, The Netherlands.
Recently a Horizon 2020 grant of € 6 million was awarded for a project entitled ‘Rural-Urban Outlooks: Unlocking Synergies’ (ROBUST). ROBUST has started on the 1st of June 2017 and is coordinated by Han Wiskerke of the Rural Sociology Group.
The overall goal of ROBUST is to a) advance our understanding of the interactions and dependencies between rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and b) identify and promote policies, governance models and practices that foster mutually beneficial relations.
The project focusses on five domains of urban-rural relations & interdependencies: 1) New businesses and labour markets; 2) Public infrastructures and social services; 3) Sustainable food systems, 4) Cultural connections, and 5) Ecosystem services. These domains will be studied in 11 place-based living labs: Ede (Netherlands), Tukums (Latvia), Helsinki (Finland), Mid-Wales (UK), Gloucestershire (UK), Frankfurt-Rhein-Main metropole (Germany), Ljubljana Urban Region (Slovenia), Styria (Austria), Valencia (Spain), Province of Lucca (Italy) and Lisbon and Tagus Valley Region (Portugal). Each Living Labs will focus on three domains of urban-rural relations. Domain-specific lessons and experiences will be shared across Living Labs in thematic Communities of Practice (five in total, each covering one of the aforementioned domains of urban-rural relations).
In each Living Lab a research organisation (university, research institute or consultancy firm) will collaborate with a local or regional authority. For the Dutch case the Rural Sociology Group will collaborate with Ede Municipality. In total the ROBUST consortium consists of 24 partners: 11 research organisations, 11 local or regional authorities and two umbrella organisations: the Peri-Urban Regions Platform Europe (PURPLE) and the European Secretariat of the International Network of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI Europe).
The kick-off meeting will take place on 7, 8 and 9 June in the Akoesticum in Ede. The website of the project is expected to be ready by September 2017. For more information about ROBUST, please contact one of the members of the RSO ROBUST team: Han Wiskerke, Henk Oostindie, Rudolf van Broekhuizen, Jessica Duncan and Bettina Bock.
Urban Green Rural Blues is the 2014 theme of Stichting RUW. The opening event will be January 21 with lectures and a debate on how the future city will look like. From 19.00-21.00 in the Public Library (BBLTHK), Stationsstraat 2, Wageningen. Free entrance and free drinks afterwards.
Since 2008 more people live in cities than in rural areas. The world population is growing and urbanisation is expected to continue. As a result, pressure on urban areas is increasing with growing issues and challenges; concerning the urban environment, waste management, traffic, housing and food supply. At the same time, cities are vibrant hubs of creativity where inspirational and successful ideas for a green, clean and healthy living environment emerge.
How can we envision the future of the city? And that of the countryside? How are urban-rural landscapes, communities and relations changing? Join us at our opening activity on the 21st of January to find out!
Rutger de Graaf (TUDelft, DeltaSync, Blue Revolution) will explain why we need to start building on water and Jan-Willem van der Schans (WUR, LEI) will discuss the role of urban food strategies in building a sustainable city. Elma Schoenmaker (BelW climate-green design) will show us several eco-smart, climate-adaptive and bio-mimicry designs.
One can be quite busy at the moment just going to interesting food strategy events. After all, it is harvesting time. Hence, we have the Week of Taste with activities all over the country and the Capital of Taste which is Groningen this year and the Food4You festival in Wageningen and.. probably many more events that I am not aware of. The Capital of Taste activities are situated inside the City of Groningen but in the meanwhile the city is also involved in the making of a Regional Food Strategy. Not so easy (see also Foodlog blog). What is the region? The province with its capital city? Or the administrative region Groningen-Assen which cuts across two provinces? (and who has money? Labeled for what?)
Moreover, what is the problem? Again, difficult. Maybe broadly covered under the heading of ‘urban-rural relationships’ but in fact more narrowly focused on how to get the urban citizen to buy regional products (with no specific focus on sustainable agriculture). Is this a problem? Not really, it is a chance it was agreed in the meeting. A chance which could be facilitated by the government without standing in the way. So there you have your strategy and it resonates with Hinrichs (2000) defensive localism.
It also resonates in another way with Proeftuin Amsterdam, where also the key focus was to facilitate initiatives already there. The task; bringing together, connecting, inspiring, communicating across the energy which crystallizes in a particular topic, food is the hottest at the moment. “We should ask ourselves, where is the energy is flowing towards” I heard in the meeting. Hence, the most important driving force of Proeftuin was according to a presentation, the attention for citizen initiatives. A conclusion too in the Schuttelaar debate in Wageningen, same day. Research done by students of Wageningen university confirms the trend; municipalities busy with food policy/strategy/projects were those activated by their own active citizens.
After this, the next question often asked, becomes a bit weird. How to anchor the food strategy for the long-term? There is nothing to anchor where the ‘policy’ is to facilitate citizen initiatives, this goes as long as citizens are active. Proeftuin Amsterdam does not exist anymore. Amongst others because there was no political problem (“er lag geen bestuurlijke vraag”). Food security, policies for social exclusion and poverty and access to good food, problems the Food Banks now address, were deliberately not part of the Proeftuin focus.
So what’s wrong with stimulating enthusiastic citizens busy with creating sustainable food systems in various ways? Nothing of course. However, if that’s all, it seems that despite the many ‘nice’ activities, food keeps being seen as a private responsibility. There is a serious problem in the articulation of public interest addressing structural problems in our food system and in fact, no attention at all for social justice. Do-it-yourself for those who can.