Category Archives: Blog

CSPS ANNUAL LECTURE | Coral Whisperers: Scientists on the brink | by Irus Braverman

| Thursday, June 20 4:00 PM-6:00 PM | Leeuwenborch C63 | drinks in restaurant afterwards

Coral Whisperers captures a critical moment in the history of coral reef science. Gleaning insights from over one hundred interviews with leading scientists and conservation managers, Irus Braverman documents a community caught in an existential crisis and alternating between despair and hope. In her talk, corals will emerge not only as signs and measures of environmental catastrophe, but also as catalysts for action.

Irus Braverman is Professor of Law and Adjunct Professor of Geography at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is author of Planted Flags: Trees, Land, and Law in Israel/Palestine (2009), Zooland: The Institution of Captivity (2012), and Wild Life: The Institution of Nature (2015). Her latest monograph, Coral Whisperers: Scientists on the Brink was published by the University of California Press in November 2018.

Lecture | Forest becomes frontline: Conservation and Counter-Insurgency in a space of violent conflict in Assam, Northeast India | By Anwesha Dutta

| May 20th 12:00 – 13:00 | Leeuwenborch C62

Using the case of the Ecological Task Force (ETF) of the Indian Army as an entry point, I expand on existing conceptual and theoretical views on green militarization and violent environments in the context of poaching and national parks. I situate this within the broader literature on critical conservation and militarized conservation practices and apply it to the reserved forests in the Bodo Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) in Assam, northeast India. Here, politics that surround conservation is immersed within a context of violent ethno-religious conflict. The BTAD has been a theatre of recurrent insurgencies between the autochthonous Bodo tribe and the Adivasi, Muslim groups over territory. A key characteristic of the conflict is its occurrence in the Reserved Forests (RFs) on the Assam-Bhutan borderlands, which can be traced back to the colonial process of forest making that brought immigrants into Assam, threatening cultural and territorial loss for Bodos. During the Bodo movement for a separate state, starting in 1980s and continuing, the militants operated from within the forest, leading to the departure of the forest department. As a result, rebels and locals appropriated the forest through rampant resource extraction. In response, the ETF was constituted in 2007. Fieldwork suggests that ETF is not engaged in counter-insurgency, and rely on the regular Army for protection during conservation operations. Drawing on regional environmental history, I analyze how ethno-religious conflict influences modes of conservation exemplified by continuing inter-institutional competition between the forest department and the ETF. I further argue that at the end it is counter-insurgency that prevails over conservation in the RFs. Moreover, despite ETF’s efforts to buffer from local politics, incidents of a political nature seep into its operations, e.g. ambushed by militants during conservation activities.

Anwesha Dutta

Anwesha Dutta is a Post-Doctoral researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway. She has a PhD in Conflict and Development Studies from Ghent University, Belgium. Her research has focused on political ecology of resource extraction, conservation and livelihoods in the reserved forests on the India-Bhutan borderlands in Assam, Northeast India. Broadly, she focuses on natural resources and environment using political economy and ecology approaches to forestry sector and extractive industries in South Asia.

Kick-off WUR Ph.D. project: “The potential of green programs for the rehabilitation of young employees with burnout: a salutogenic approach”

Roald Pijpker (PhD Candidate at Health & Society/Rural Sociology) |Moestuin in Utrecht | April 30th, 9.30-13.00

Roald Pijpker (PhD Candidate at Health & Society/Rural Sociology) will present about his ongoing PhD project during a kick-off meeting at the Moestuin in Utrecht. Besides his presentation, workshops are provided by green care professionals. Click on this link for more information and for registration (unfortunately in Dutch). You can also register by sending an email to

Research seminar: Forensic Architecture and Violent Landscapes

Wednesday 29 May | 15.00-17.00 | Leeuwenborch, C67

“Forensic Architecture and Violent Landscapes” is a seminar organized by the Politics of Place and Space cluster of the CSPS, focusing on new methods of studying and understanding how landscapes and infrastructures make/unmake territorialities and mediate citizen state relations. Guided by two senior speakers from leading institutes we will explore different approaches and methodologies for reading the landscape and infrastructures of ‘violence’.

Stefan Laxness – Researcher and Project Coordinator at Forensic Architecture, Goldsmith University (UK): Through its investigative work, Forensic Architecture develops methodologies to reaffirm a collective notion of public truth in the contemporary condition. The talk will present an overview of the work of Forensic Architecture. It will be structured around five key concepts – counter-forensics, forensic aesthetics, the image-data complex, operative models, and the architecture of memory – each of which will be introduced through a selection of projects.

Zeynep Kezer – Senior Lecturer in architecture at Newcastle University (UK): Surrounded by steep and rugged mountain ranges and Euphrates’ two main tributaries, Dersim is a natural fortress, which evolved into a shatter zone as the modernizing (Ottoman and later Turkish) state’s efforts to bolster its central authority intensified in the last hundred years. This presentation probes the complex and mutually constitutive relationship between landscape and identity in this region. I argue that the differences between the practices of navigation and mapping used by the agents of the state and local populations not only produced discrepant landscapes in the same physical space, but also reified the rifts between the two groups.

Seminar organized by the Politics of Place and Space cluster of the Centre of Space, Place and Society, Wageningen University and Research. For more info: Joost Jongerden (

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).