Author Archives: Britt B

Wageningen Geography Lecture: Dr. Jess Bier: “Digital Mapmaking on the Ground in Palestine and Israel since 1967: Spatializing the Situated Production of Scientific Knowledge”

Tuesday 11 December, 16:00-17:30 Gaia1 (Droevendaalsesteeg 3, Wageningen Campus)

Dr. Jess Bier: “Digital Mapmaking on the Ground in Palestine and Israel since 1967: Spatializing the Situated Production of Scientific Knowledge”

This talk examines how geographical and political landscapes shape the ways that maps are made. By analyzing the process of making 2 to 3 maps from key moments in the history of Palestine/Israel since 1967, it will investigate how conditions on the ground affect the features that appear on the map, and vice versa.

Digital cartography, including GIS and Google Maps, promises the ultimate creation of one accurate and authoritative map of the world. Satellite imagery and remotely sensed data also seemingly make it possible to accurately map anywhere, from almost anywhere else. Even so, on-the-ground geographic fieldwork continues to be important for the collection and validation of digital data, raising important issues of closure and mobility. And politically, by helping to expand and democratize cartography as a discipline, digital cartography has helped increase, rather than reduce, the numerous different perspectives and ways of mapping the Earth.

Drawing on research in science and technology studies (STS), feminist studies of science, and critical cartography, this talk tells the stories behind specific maps and mapmaking practices in, respectively, Palestinian and Israeli, governmental and non-governmental, organizations. It specifies the complex ways that geographic and political imbalances of power can differently, and unjustly, affect Palestinian, Israeli, and/or international cartographers. In the process, it examines how the Israeli occupation serves to shape scientific knowledge of the occupation, and why two trained professionals, using similar tools and approaches, can look at the same landscape and see quite different things.

Dr. Jess Bier is assistant professor of urban sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam, where she studies the social and political landscapes of science and technology. She is the author of Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine (MIT Press 2017).

In her research, she focuses on the geographies of knowledge, looking at how science and technology are transformed as they travel through space and time. Moreover she studies how knowledge and data can rework space and time, for example by shaping changes in urban landscapes, infrastructures, and forms of mobility.

Please distribute widely, all are welcome, drop me a line if you intend to join to help me estimate chairs/drinks:

CSPS Research Seminar: Tourist and resident perspectives on ‘SLUM TOURISM’: the case of the Vilakazi precinct (Soweto), by Prof. Gijsbert Hoogendoorn

Tuesday 4 December, 12:00 – 13:00

Leeuwenborch C62

Tourist and resident perspectives on ‘SLUM TOURISM’: the case of the Vilakazi precinct (Soweto)
Prof. Gijsbert Hoogendoorn

Slum tourism as a topic of investigation has seen significant growth since the beginning of this decade with increasing theoretical and empirical depth. With this growth, some inconsistencies in terms of conceptual framing and use of terminology has emerged. The purpose of this paper is to argue against the inaccurate use of the term ‘slum tourism’ for township tourism in South Africa. This argument is presented through two sections of analysis and debate using Vilakazi precinct in Orlando West, Soweto, as a case study. Firstly, the paper analyses the emergence of township tourism as an academic focus in the literature and how it came to be classified as slum tourism, considering definitional conundrums. Secondly, the empirical data offer the perspectives of 1) residents, who live in and around Vilakazi street, on tourism in their area; and 2) tourists visiting the Vilakazi precinct. The analysis reveals that neither residents nor visitors consider the Vilakazi precinct and the larger area of Orlando West as a slum. The term slum tourism to describe township tourism in Soweto, is therefore inaccurate and inconsistent with the views of residents and visitors.

Prof. Gijsbert Hoogendoorn is an Associate Professor and Head at the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. His primary research interests are around second homes tourism, climate change and tourism and city tourism.

CSPS Research Seminar: Towards a New Institutional Political Ecology (NIPE)

Tuesday 5 November, 12:30-13:30

Leeuwenborch C0083

Towards a New Institutional Political Ecology (NIPE)

Tobias Haller

Most commons studies include an institutional analysis that is often related to the work of Elinor Ostrom’s newer but also to so-called older institutional approaches. It is argued by Olivier de Sardan that the new and the old approaches differ considerably: The former is related more to the issue of economic efficiency focussing on the gain in reducing transaction costs, which institutions provide via coordination enabling to solve collective action dilemmas. The latter frames actors as rather being embedded in their socio-economic and political environment and uses a broader political economy framework, addressing issues of power relations between actors. As commons studies refer to issues of sustainable use of common pool resources, this book project proposes to have a closer look on how to bridge gaps between a more economic oriented and a more political oriented model in environmental studies. Therefore, this paper suggests to use a social anthropological version of New Institutionalism developed by Ensminger, which includes discussions on bargaining power of actors but as well on ideology (discourses and narratives) as a basis for the production of legitimacy by rational actors in the selection of rules (institution shopping) in a context of institutional pluralism. However, the driver for change in this approach stems from external, economic and value related processes. This approach gives a clear outline of structurally interrelated aspects, showing which elements trigger institutional changes in the management of the commons. However, there is a lack of conceptualisation of power in all these processes and this is done in Political Ecology. Therefore, the book projet proposes to marry these two approaches, which start from completely different views on actors` strategies and behaviours but which will give a more precise analysis for the study of the commons and institutional change if combined rather than used separately. The result, the New Institutional Political Ecology (NIPE), will be outlined by discussing different takes on the issue of power in Political Ecology and by outlining the New Institutionalism approach in Social Anthropology with its structural interrelated variables for explaining the commons governance in a changing ‘glocal’ world. For the presentation and orientation for the book project I discuss this combination by using an empirical case study of a proposed irrigation project in a commonly owned pasture in Zambia.

Tobias Haller is professor at the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He studied social anthropology, geography and sociology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland and also graduated there. He did research on institutional change in agriculture and common pool resources management in Cameroon and Zambia, led several comparative research projects on the management of the commons in Floodplains in Mali, Cameroon, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana, on land, water and green grabbing with impact on gender relations in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Morocco, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, on Food Systems in Kenya and Bolivia, on social and environmental impacts of oil and mining companies worldwide, on the management of the commons in Switzerland and on constitutionality (participatory bottom-up institution building processes).

CSPS Winter School Natural resources and Conflict: Theorizing governance, resistance and violence – 4 ECTS

Mon 10 December 2018 until Wed 19 December 2018

The extraction, exploitation, distribution and trade of natural resources continue to be a source of conflict worldwide, notwithstanding claims of inclusive and equitable development. The PhD course “Natural Resources and Conflict: Theorizing Governance, Resistance and Violence” offers an in-depth exploration of theoretical approaches to understand the nature of these conflicts, how they reflect local, regional and international power dynamics, and how they relate to institutional change. An issue of particular concern is when and how conflicts turn violent and how to approach such violence theoretically.

This course is relevant both to PhD candidates who specifically study natural resource conflicts, and to those who encounter forms of conflict and violence as they study topics related to resource management and economic and social development related to for instance land, water, forestry or mineral extraction. The course helps PhD candidates unravel the multiple contradictions surrounding the governance of natural resources, the resistance these may generate, and the overt and covert forms of violence found in their research settings.

The course is organised around theories that link governance, resistance and violence. The course thus moves beyond theories on resource scarcity and the ‘resource curse’ that came to dominate the debate on resource conflict in the 1990s but that have been highly criticised. It offers students a solid theoretical basis to problematize the relation between natural resources and conflict, touching upon questions such as: What role does the state play in resource governance? Does it contain or generate resource conflict? What is resistance and when does it become violent? How is violence organised socially and politically?
What does violence communicate? More practically, the course asks: in what ways do conflicts and
violence play a role our research projects?

We draw on different disciplines (history, philosophy, political sociology, geography, economics) to rethink the relation between resource governance, resistance and violence. The various sessions in the course combine the reading of foundational texts with readings of more recent academic work on resource conflicts.

Learning outcomes

During the course, participants develop an adequate conceptualization of conflict and violence relevant to their research question and setting. Students will engage directly with foundational texts on governance, resistance and violence and link these to the manifold ways in which resource conflict manifests itself.
Students learn to see how conflict and violence are produced and what are the impacts on their research project and on the research population.

After successful completion of this course, participants are expected to be able to:

  • Identify core theoretical frames to rethink the ways in which resources and conflicts are linked
  • Understand the importance of historical, abstract and theoretical texts and apply them to contemporary debates on the governance of natural resources
  • Critically reflect on the implications of different theoretical framings for their research projects
  • Develop a conceptualisation of governance, resistance or violence for their own research project.


10-12: 10.00-11.00 Introduction: Understanding the relationship between resources and conflict Gemma van der Haar and Lotje de Vries
10-12: 11.00-13.30 Rethinking the tragedy of the commons: Do we need a central form of power to control violence? Han van Dijk Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
11-12: 10.00-12.30 Extraction, capture and control: the modern state in development Joost Jongerden Pierre Clastres: The Archeology of violence
12-12: 10.00-12.30 Structural violence in resource governance to be defined Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem, a report an the banality of evil
13-12: 10.00-12.30 Resisting repression and dispossession. What role for violence? Lotje de Vries Franz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth
14-12: 10.00-12.30 Competing claims to resources: How and why does claim-making turn violent? Gemma van der Haar Charles Tilly: The politics of collective violence
17-12: 10.00-12.30 Rethinking incentives: Is violence rational behaviour? Maarten Voors James Fearon: Rationalist Explanations for War
18-12: 10.00-12.30 Violence as performance: How do natural resource conflicts persist as forms of communication? Arjaan Pellis Niklas Luhmann: Social systems
19-12: 10.00-12.30 Presentation session on PhD research All
19-12: 15.00-17.00 Public WASS lecture Paul Richards Peace is Impossible; A neo-Durkheimian approach to coping with intractable conflict
For more info and registration, click here.

CSPS Research Seminar: Problems in paradise: Airbnb, the ‘sharing economy’ and social reproduction in New Zealand’s regional tourist towns

Tuesday 30 October, 12:30-13:30

Leeuwenborch C0083

Problems in paradise: Airbnb, the ‘sharing economy’ and social reproduction in New Zealand’s regional tourist towns

Stella Pennell

Since its inception in 2008 Airbnb has become the largest accommodation provider in the world. In  New Zealand regional tourist towns are disproportionately represented, making them suitable sites for investigation of the Airbnb phenomenon. Drawing on interviews conducted in 2017 with Airbnb hosts from four regional tourist towns in New Zealand, a biopolitical lens illuminates forms of social reproduction emerging for these Airbnb hosts at community, family and personal levels. Airbnb is emblematic of ‘platform capitalism’: capitalism operated through digital infrastructures. Airbnb’s ‘dividuation’ of subjects (hosts) into data bites produces forms of subjectivity anticipated, but not guaranteed, to be amenable to the ‘dataveillance’ by which the platform operates. This research identifies three forms of subjectivity that allow hosts to engage with different effects. This set of subject-positions illuminate the calculative rationalities and material and affective resources employed by Airbnb hosts amidst a horizon of biopolitical contradictions.

Stella Pennell is a PhD candidate at Massey University, New Zealand, currently at WUR on a guest fellowship with CSPS. Stella’s research interests are in regional sociology and tourism.