PhD position - Contested Landscapes

PhD position - Contested Landscapes

Published Deadline Location
16 Apr 13 May Wageningen

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Job description

The Sociology of Development and Change (SDC) Group welcomes applicants for a fully salaried PhD position (4Y). The PhD student will be able to design their own research project on the broad topic of ‘contested landscapes’ combining insights from political ecology and anthropology.

Background information
Political ecologists highlight how industrial-capitalism, and its view of nature as separate from humanity, threaten the viability of life on the planet and disproportionately affect people and populations with long histories of colonial exploitation and violence. Anthropologists often reaffirm these findings. However, they also demonstrate possibilities for (everyday) resistance including the adaptability of longstanding, often environmentally more sustainable socio-ecological, economic and cultural practices and values.

Drawing on these complementary debates in political ecology and anthropology, this
project seeks to develop new empirical and conceptual insights into how diverse historically contested landscapes enable, hinder and more broadly, create possibilities for diverse and sustainable human-environment relations. Landscapes are conceptually and empirically intriguing because they materialize the diversity of human-nature relations. They shape, and are shaped by, how people and environments
experience and (en)counter colonialism, wars, large-scale development projects, and even increased digitization. Simultaneously, they shape and are shaped by how, if at all, diverse peoples seek to maintain a sense of autonomy within global and localized inequalities.

Research subject/ area
We are looking for a candidate who will combine historical and ethnographic research methods, focussing on a remote, rural landscape that has long been sites of industrial-capitalist exploitation and violence – but also (everyday) resistance.

The broader theoretical scope and geographical focus have been left open deliberately. We are looking for a candidate who brings their own research idea and interests to this project which will also be situated in a comparative dialogue with the daily supervisors’ own long-term field research in the African Great Lakes Region (Dr. Esther Marijnen) and the Large Ocean States of the Pacific (Dr. Stephanie Hobbis). We advise potential candidates to look at the daily supervisors’ research profiles, and see how their own research proposal would link to their research interest.

Your duties and responsibilities include:
  • conceptualizing and developing a personalized PhD project embedded in political ecology and anthropology;
  • setting up and carrying out extended ethnographic fieldwork;
  • setting up and completing a PhD dissertation within four years;
  • authoring and co-authoring publications with other team members;
  • participating in conferences, workshops, seminars and other scholarly activities;
  • being an active member of the Sociology and Development and Change Group and the Section Space, Place and Society (participating in group activities, meetings, and seminars).

You will work here
This team is embedded in the chair group of Sociology of Development and Change led by Prof. Bram Büscher, and the Section Space, Place and Society. Your daily supervisors will be Dr Esther Marijnen and Dr Stephanie Hobbis


Wageningen University & Research


You are:
  • a dedicated, curious researcher who has a critical mindset and wishes to build a deeper understanding of debates in political ecology and anthropology
  • willing to nurture these qualities further over the course of the project, including how these could serve you in a further career in academia or beyond after the PhD.

You also possess:
  • completed (Research) Master’s Degree in anthropology, conflict studies, environmental history or related field;
  • demonstrated passion and aptitude for research;
  • proven experience with ethnographic and other qualitative research methods,
  • affinity with topics related to political ecology, human-nature relations, political economy, political anthropology
  • excellent writing skills and broader proficiency in English;
  • willingness to learn the language of the proposed field-site (if not already acquired);
  • affinity with teaching, possibly already some experience (e.g. as student assistant)
  • interest in being part of and contributing to a lively, caring and engaging academic environment.

For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770 - per month rising to € 3.539,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 19th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.

Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about for example helping your partner to find a job, housing, or schooling.

Finally, certain categories of international staff may be eligible for a tax exemption on a part of their salary during the first five years in the Netherlands.


Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University & Research
TThe mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 students and over 150,000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch the video below to get an idea of our green campus!

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • P1494183-1


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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