Tag Archives: course

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 PhD Course: Critical Perspectives on Social Theory


This PhD course gives participants an opportunity to intensively engage with some of the major foundational movements in critical social theory, so that they can continue to explore contemporary expansions of those movements in their own research. It is organized as an intensive discussion seminar over the course of four weeks (with two 3-hour sessions/week). With different specialized teachers for each session, from the chair groups RSO, SDC, GEO, SCH and beyond.

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

  • Distinguish a range of positions in social theory
  • Critique understandings of the social world by contrasting different theoretical positions
  • Compose a coherent position with regard to multiple theoretical positions relevant to an issue


Critical social theoretical perspectives are a well-established and essential part of academic debate. For researchers entering into these debates, it is necessary to have at least basic understandings of many branches of theory, both to effectively carry out new research and to recognize subtle references to specific theories while engaging in dialogue with international audiences. Moreover, theoretical development is a cumulative process: as new theories come to the fore, they build on historical waves of previous development. To engage with new developments, it is therefore vital to have working knowledge of what preceded them.

This course intends to help researchers situate themselves in relation to different interpretations and lineages of major theoretical perspectives. The main objective is to give participants a brief opportunity to engage with some of the major foundational movements in critical social theory, so that they can continue to explore different expansions of those movements in their own research. To do so, the course is organised as an intensive discussion seminar over the course of four weeks, exploring 7 core theoretical topics. Each seminar will have its own set of required readings, which include both foundational literature and new research perspectives. Completing these readings is necessary for all students to contribute to discussion during the seminar meeting. These readings will require a substantial time commitment outside of the meeting hours, so participants will need to budget time accordingly in order to fully participate in the course.

In order to have enough time to complete the readings required for the first day of the course, registration is required by October 22. No registrations later than that date will be accepted.

From the 7 seminars, participants should take with them new understandings about the foundations of their own theoretical perspectives. These will include the following key topics in social theory, with some of the key authors we will read, introduced and guided by these associated experts:


Session 1 2018-11-05 14.00-17.00 Introduction to the course; Marx: Karl Marx Bram Buscher
Session 2 2018-11-06 14.00-17.00 Marxisms: David Harvey, Neil Smith Robert Coates
Session 3 2018-11-08 14.00-17.00 Governmentality and Psychoanalysis: Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizek Robert Fletcher
Session 4 2018-11-09 14.00-17.00 Governmentality and biopolitics: Michel Foucault, Paul Rabinow Stefan Wahlen
Session 5 2018-11-12 14.00-17.00 Posthumanism: Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, Sarah Whatmore Clemens Driessen
Session 6 2018-11-13 14.00-17.00 Feminisms: Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Gibson-Graham Oona Morrow
Session 7 2018-11-14 14.00-17.00 (Post-) Colonialisms: Edward Said, Arundhati Roy, Gyatri Spivak Joost Jongerden

For more info and to register, click here.



PhD Workshop: Psychoanalysis and Political Economy

Dr. Robert Fletcher (SDC)
Dr. Pieter de Vries (SDC)
Dr. Chizu Sato (SCH)
Dr. Jelle Behagel (FNP)
Dr. Yahya Madra (Drew University)

The two-day intensive PhD workshop ‘Psychoanalysis and Political Economy’ complements the international seminar on the same theme bringing together prominent scholars from around the world from 12-13 May in Wageningen, the Netherlands. The workshop will thus give motivated PhD students a solid foundation to participate in this seminar, from which they will emerge with an understanding of cutting-edge developments in this growing area of inquiry.

In recent years a growing group of researchers has asserted that understandings of political economic processes focused on logics of capital accumulation should be supplemented by consideration of the psychodynamic mechanisms that animate these processes. Political economy has been quite effective in critiquing neoliberal capitalism in terms of ecological, economic, and social unsustainability. Yet the effects of this critique have been limited, such that it now seems easier to imagine the end of the world via environmental apocalypse than the possibility of transforming the mode of production, as expressed in the neoliberal slogan TINA (‘there is no alternative’). At the same time we can observe how foreclosure of the possibility of systemic transformation generates all kinds of anxieties and fears (food risks, terrorism, ecological disasters, precarity, etc.). Psychoanalysis thus supplements the critique of political economy by looking at the ways in which the “post-political” foreclosure of dissent produces phantasmatic objects (the Terrorist as well as biogenetic monsters, contagious diseases, and so forth). From a psychoanalytic perspective, this is the “return of the repressed” exposing our inability to face the inherent contradictions of neoliberal capitalism.

The PhD course aims to provide students with an advanced introduction to recent academic thinking on these two important areas of inquiry and their intersection. Two days of intensive coursework and discussions will lay the foundations for the capstone two-day seminar. In group discussions, we will aim to stimulate intellectual debate through various strands of argument and critique and contest these from various angles. In this way, the course also explicitly incorporates development of academic debating skills.

Interested? Register here.

PhD Summer School: Political Ecologies in/of the Anthropocene: value, life and critique

We are excited to announce that enrollment for our next Political Ecology PhD summer school course is now open!! More information and a link to the registration page can be found here. The course fee is 500 € for non-Wageningen participants, which includes lunch and refreshments throughout the course. We’ve set the enrollment limit at 25 so it is likely to fill up quickly. This course immediately precedes our international conference ‘The Value of Life: Measurement, Stakes, Implications’ on 28-30 June which is shaping up to be quite an interesting event as well. You can registration for the larger conference here.

We hope to see many of you soon. A brief description of the course is as follows:

Political Ecologies in/of the Anthropocene: value, life and critique

Annual Political Ecology PhD summer school, Wageningen University

21-27 June 2017


Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher


Bram Büscher (Wageningen University)

Robert Fletcher (Wageningen University)

Mindi Scheider (Institute of Social Studies)

Clemens Driessen (Wageningen University)

Neera Singh (University of Toronto)

Wolfram Dressler (University of Melbourne)

Chizu Sato (Wageningen University)

Rutgerd Boelens (Wageningen University / University of Amsterdam)

The five-day intensive PhD summer school ‘Political Ecologies in/of the Anthropocene: value, life and critique’ precedes the inaugural Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS) conference on ‘the Value of Life’, held from 28-30 June in Wageningen, the Netherlands. The summer school gives motivated PhD students the chance to deepen their knowledge on political ecologies in the Anthropocene, and to interact with several conference speakers and other interesting invited scholars. In line with the theme of the conference, the course covers two broad and interrelated thematic areas of interest in contemporary political ecology:

1. The emergence of the ‘Anthropocene’ and its competitors

It is increasingly asserted that we have entered a new phase in world history, namely the so-called ‘Anthropocene’. The term ‘Anthropocene’ was invented to signal ‘humanity’s’ enormous – even geology-changing – footprint on the earth; yet for many is a profoundly unsatisfying term. Jason Moore and others have recently started talking about the ‘capitalocene’ instead, while yet others talk about many different ‘o-cenes’ in designating this new era. Among other issues, such critics suggest that the term Anthropocene obscures the role of political economy in environmental impact as well as distinctions among the types and degree of impact caused by different groups of people.

The terms Anthropocene and capitalocene thus raise new yet somewhat familiar challenges for political ecology, for instance, in terms of longstanding questions of how to deal with the ‘ecology’ now that this is (again) being defined on a dramatically expanded geological level and timescale. The course will engage these issues in exploring how political ecology should/could address the Anthropocene discussion.

2. The value of life in the Anthropocene

If the Anthropocene signals a profound shift in the conditions of life on earth, how can we understand this shift, and what meanings does it give to human and non-human life? How does it change the governance of life, and how do we conceptualise this in terms of power, politics and ecology? How does this relate to growing discussions concerning how to ‘properly’ value life vis-à-vis, for instance, newfound promotion of ecosystem service valuation and natural capital accounting? The course will thus wrestle with the politics of how to value life in the Anthropocene as well.

These two themes are both complex yet intricately and intrinsically connected. The PhD course aims to provide students with an advanced introduction to these two themes, their interconnections, and recent academic thinking on both. In the introductions and discussions, the theme and practice of ‘contestation’ will be central. Theories on the Anthropocene are, of course, contested. We will delve into these contestations and employ them productively to get a handle on different trends and traditions in political ecology. Special emphasis will be placed on identifying contestations between and among different theoretical traditions, empirical settings, material resources and political objectives that inform, or form the subject of, various political ecology studies. What consequences do different choices with regard to these ‘ingredients’ have for the types of political ecology presented in the literature and presentations? And how can we employ the contestations inherent in them to inform our own understanding and use of political ecology? One of the outcomes of the course, then, is to answer the question how to start thinking about a political ecology of the Anthropocene.

PhD Course: The Politics of Place: Spatial thinking in the social sciences

The Politics of Place: Spatial thinking in the social sciences

21 April – 9 May 2017

€300 WASS; €600 non-WASS


Coordination: Joost Jongerden

In collaboration with:
James Ferguson
Scott Prudham
Bahar Şimşek
Hannah Wittman

Today, the concept of socially produced or constructed space appears in publications with little apparent need for justification or explanation. Yet it was not so long ago that “space” was generally ignored in social theory. It was generally accepted that sociology had a historical rationality. During most of the 19th and 20th centuries, sociology was concerned with explaining (and forecasting) the making of the world, applying a preconceived picture of what modernity was supposed to be. Conceptualizations like “stages of development”, “phases”, and “backwardness” were expressions of the social as intervals on a time-scale. Difference was explained from a perspective of stage or phase difference, thus time. Eventually, the obsession with time and history in modern thought came together with a loss of a “spatial consciousness.” In this course, we critically engage with the spatial turn in social sciences. Building upon a brief introduction into the return of spatial thinking in the social sciences since the 1970s, we will discuss three themes: our understanding of the local in relation to one of the key-concerns in development studies, the social organization of time and space in global capitalism, constructions of the rural in relation to the urban and constructions of nature in relation to the emergence of a new political economy.

For whom?
The course “Spatial thinking in the social sciences” is intended for PhD candidates in the social, environmental, and political sciences. In this course, we will move between close reading of texts, workshops, and discussion. Students following this course will not only learn to think about place as an analytical category, but also learn to “work with place,” by applying various perspectives to concrete cases.

Register online now!