Tag Archives: PhD

Writing Retreat of CSPS and WCSG PhD candidates

On the 29st of May to 1st of June 2018, 30 PhD candidates from CSPS and the WCSG (Wageningen Centre of Sustainability Governance) participated in a “Writing Retreat” at the Monastery of Huissen. The retreat offered a great opportunity to make progress with individual writing as well as to share and discuss work and get to know fellow PhD candidates.

The theme of the writing retreat was well-being during the PhD. Dr. Rob Fletcher (SDC) shared his insights on maintaining a healthy and productive writing process. Dr. Joke de Vries held a workshop on ‘How to stay healthy while working in a stressful environment’. The sessions were very interactive and offered a lot of great insights and exchange between the clusters.

Many of the PhDs achieved the writing goals they had set for themselves. Teaming up with someone who is in the same writing phase helped us to reflect on our process and to reach our goal. Aside from writing, the PhDs also went on a guided silent walk, swam in the nearby lake, and ate, exercised and relaxed together. In other words, the retreat was both productive and enjoyable. Some responses of participants:

The location and the food were excellent. It genuinely felt like a retreat. It was nice to hear each other’s trouble.

I liked all the group and workout exercises, and also the silent walk.

I was able to achieve more in the last 3 days than in the last month!



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!

PhD Course: Critical Perspectives on Social Theory

“Not that I condone fascism, or any ism for that matter.  Isms, in my opinion, are not good.”
-Ferris Bueller

Intimidated by all the “isms” out there these days? Searching for some clarity through the minefield of contemporary social theory? Then this course may be for you:

Critical Perspectives on Social Theory

21 February – 13 March 2017

€250 WASS;€500 non-WASS


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.

This year featuring special guests: Scott Prudham (Toronto) & Jamie Lorimer (Oxford)

Central themes include:

  • Marx and Marxisms
  • Postcolonialism
  • Feminisms
  • Governmentality and biopolitics
  • Posthumanism/more-than-human ontologies
  • Psychoanalysis

For more information please contact course coordinators Clemens Driessen (GEO) clemens.driessen@wur.nl or Rob Fletcher (SDC) robert.fletcher@wur.nl

Space is limited so please register before 15 January here:



Course organised by

Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS)

Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

Wageningen University