5 PhD Positions in Transformation to Sustainability; Grassroots Social Movements in Agriculture (1.0 FTE)

5 PhD Positions in Transformation to Sustainability; Grassroots Social Movements in Agriculture (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
2 Nov 15 Dec Utrecht

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Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences is looking for 5 PhD Positions in Transformation to Sustainability; Grassroots Social Movements in Agriculture. Are you interested? Then please read the full profile and apply.

Job description

Utrecht University has opened five new positions for PhD candidates in the field of Transformation to Sustainability, with a focus on radical grassroots innovations in agriculture.

The five PhD candidates will become part of the new, cutting-edge international research programme "Societal transformation to sustainability through the unmaking of capitalism? A comparative study of radical grassroots innovations" (UNMAKING). This research programme is directed by Dr Giuseppe Feola and funded through two parallel projects by the European Research Council (ERC) and the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The five PhD candidates will work on their doctoral dissertations over a period of four years within the broader framework and research design of the UNMAKING programme.

Modern, capitalist societies engage destructively with the natural environment. Societal transformation to sustainability is urged, but it implies a degree of disruption of capitalist ways of being and doing. Radical grassroots social movements – those that posit a profound cultural, economic, and political transformation of dominant institutions and practices - hold the potential to lead such transformation, but may be constrained by their marginal, local, small-scale character. This project aims to understand to what extent, under what conditions and through what processes radical grassroots innovations unmake modern, capitalist institutions and practices. The researchprojects focus on permaculture and community supported agriculture, and on four European countries: The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Germany.


The five PhD positions will have the following foci:

  • PhDs 1, 2 and 3 will investigate radical grassroots movements as a spaces of unmaking. They will compare local initiatives of permaculture and of community supported agriculture as case studies purposively sampled in the Netherlands (PhD 1), Italy (PhD 2) and Germany (PhD 3), respectively. They will (i) identify how radical grassroots movements approach deliberate unmaking at the three different levels of the self, society and nature; (ii) uncover the causal mechanisms of unmaking at each level; (iii) uncover the interconnections of unmaking among levels.
  • PhDs 4 and 5 will investigate radical grassroots movements as agents of unmaking. They will investigate how different socioecological contexts respond to different attempts to unmaking, and the extent to which unmaking is a pre-condition for transformation. They will investigate samples of local initiatives equally split between permaculture and community supported agriculture in Italy and Germany (PhD 4), and the Netherlands and Spain (PhD 5).


These positions are an exciting opportunity to engage with theories of transformation to sustainability, to contribute to theorizing mechanisms of unmaking that are involved in radical grassroots innovations, and to testing theory-informed hypothesis through research field work on concrete case studies of permaculture and community supported agriculture in Europe.


Utrecht University


The ideal candidates meet the following requirements:

  • A Master’s degree in Social Sciences, preferably with interdisciplinary orientation and a focus on one or more of the following areas: social movements, transition/transformation to sustainability, political ecology, degrowth, agroecology.
  • Experience of Qualitative Comparative Analysis and/or Event Structure Analysis is a plus;
  • Proven research field work experience;
  • Ability and willingness to work across social science disciplines;
  • Excellent English communication skills (both written and oral);
  • Ability to work independently as well as under supervision;
  • Able to work under time pressure;
  • Good team player;
  • Strong affinity with working in an interdisciplinary and international research environment.

In addition, each of the five PhD positions has the specific language requirements:

  • PhD 1: full proficiency of Dutch;
  • PhD 2: full proficiency of Italian;
  • PhD 3: full proficiency of German;
  • PhD 4: full proficiency of Dutch and Spanish;
  • PhD 5: full proficiency of Italian and German.

All five researchers are expected to obtain a doctoral degree from Utrecht University within four years, based on published articles in top-tier academic journals.

Conditions of employment

You will initially be offered a full-time position for the duration of one year. The expected start date of these positions is 1 May 2019. Upon a good performance the contract will be extended to a total period of four years, with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross monthly salary starts at €2,266 in the first year, and ends at €2,897 in the fourth year for a full-time employment (scale P Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities). Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8 % of annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3 % of annual salary per year. We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model).

Facilities for sports and child care are available on our main campus which is located only 15 minutes away from the historical city centre of Utrecht. More information is available at: working at Utrecht University.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, colleagues from various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Sustainability, Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, and Life Sciences.


Utrecht University has been ranked in the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities as the best university in the Netherlands, and as one of the leading research universities in Europe. Utrecht University’s sustainability research has the greatest citation impact worldwide according to a study conducted by Times Higher Education (2016). The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a charming old centre and an internationally oriented culture that is strongly influenced by its century-old university. Utrecht has been consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the Netherlands.


Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and anthroposphere. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organization. The Faculty of Geosciences is organized in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Urban & Regional Planning, Physical Geography, and Innovation, Environmental & Energy Sciences. The research of the Department Innovation, Environmental & Energy Sciences is organized in the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development.  


The Copernicus Institute is part of the Faculty of Geosciences. The Copernicus Institute has been evaluated in a 2014 international review as the highest ranked research institute in environmental sciences in the Netherlands. Since then, the institute has intensified its efforts in maintaining its leading position, among others by investing in several new international faculty appointments and by developing new, internationally oriented teaching programmes.

All positions will be affiliated with the Environmental Governance group, one of the four research groups of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development. The Environmental Governance group is a dynamic, ambitious and internationally leading team of researchers with a focus on fundamental and policy-oriented research of environmental governance processes, from local to global levels.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences; Behaviour and society; Language and culture
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • max. €2266 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1012504



Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht

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