Kies de Nederlandse taal
Course module: 201500033
Sustainability and Social Contestation
Course infoSchedule
Course code201500033
ECTS Credits5 - 7.5
Category / LevelM (Master)
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byFaculty of Social Sciences; Graduate School Sociale Wetenschappen; Cultural Anthropology: Sustainable Citizenship;
Contact persondr. C. Grasseni
Contactperson for the course
dr. C. Grasseni
Other courses by this lecturer
dr. C. Grasseni
Feedback and availability
Other courses by this lecturer
Teaching period
1  (31/08/2015 to 06/11/2015)
Teaching period in which the course begins
Time slotC: MON-afternoon, TUE-afternoon,THU-morning
Study mode
Enrolment periodfrom 01/06/2015 up to and including 28/06/2015
Course application processOsiris
Enrolling through OSIRISYes
Enrolment open to students taking subsidiary coursesNo
Waiting listNo
Number of insufficient tests0
  • To learn, understand and apply new theoretical approaches and concepts around the themes of social sustainability, social contestation, active citizenship, societal participation in environmental and economic sustainability. To be able to elaborate on them in exam questions.
  • To analyze both academic and societal debates about social sustainability (such as food sovereignty, food justice, de-growth, solidarity economy, etc.), developing an understanding of the arguments at hand and one’s own critical and scientifically sound position. To exercise such skills in a group moderating task.
  • To learn to report on the theoretical and ethnographic findings presented in the course in a scientific way (using argumentation, organization, and analysis). To Learn to present research findings and literature analysis in a written paper.
Sustainability is an increasingly contested terrain. The very meaning of the term ranges from environmental stewardship to the search for technological fixes to the multiple challenges of climate change, demographic pressure, and our current inefficient and wasteful provisioning of energy, food, and natural resources. However, such interpretation of sustainability is limited and it is often contested. A ‘triple bottom line’ is increasingly invoked to point out that sustainability has not only an environmental and economic meaning (by which an enterprise cannot be polluting or running business in the red) but also a social one: our livelihoods and models of development must be not only economically viable and environment-friendly but also socially equitable. Around the world, a variety of citizens’ initiatives express a felt need for sovereignty over matters of sustainability. Alternative food networks, alternative currencies, and models for transition to renewable resources and societal resilience characterize such initiatives.
Anthropologists can describe and contextualize such grassroots understandings of societal innovation and contestation. They do so on the basis of a fine-grained comprehension of the cultural diversity of such understandings, whether due to ethnic, class, gender differences, or age, health, and status. This course offers a theoretical vocabulary to interpret and analyze such social phenomena.
Content-wise, we will focus on constructive efforts to offer alternatives to the current provisioning systems, looking especially at "food activism" as one of the many possible expressions of active citizenship in building social, economic, and environmental resilience. We will focus on the work of social scientists and particularly on ethnographies of alternative provisioning movements in the US and Europe. Provisioning activism (especially in the field of food, but also of energy and commodity provisioning) ranges from Solidarity Economy networks to Community-Supported Agriculture schemes, from Slow Food to Fair Trade, and many other actors and organizations. We will explore emerging networks and innovative social dynamics such as collective buying and direct relationships between producers and consumers, to investigate if and how they change lifestyles and challenge political assumptions about the role of the consumer in contemporary society. Can individuals and communities make an impact upon their provisioning systems? Do local supply chains transform lifestyles and make them more sustainable? Are these emerging economic circuits promoting environmental, economic and social sustainability? Do they provide survival strategies for local agriculture, smallholders, and regional economies? Students will learn about diverse kinds of provisioning activism: practices, theories, and participants. By engaging with the literature and case studies presented, students will build their own critical framework through which to assess the limits, potentials, and results of provisioning activism as one form of sustainable citizenship.
Entry requirements
Required materials
To be announced
Instructional formats


General remarks
Students are expected to have thoroughly read the assigned literature and to have completed the assignments. Active participation in the discussion is required.

Class session preparation
1. Active, critical and constructive participation in discussions of the study sections.
2. Active participation in panels that introduce the assigned literature ( moderating panel).
3. Critical and constructive engagement in assessing work of other students (peer review).

Contribution to group work
Each work group will be moderated by a small group of students who will open and lead the discussion on the assigned literature, and report its results.

Test weight20
Minimum grade5.5

Will be announced in the course syllabus

Test weight100
Minimum grade-

Test weight20
Minimum grade5.5

Will be announced in the course syllabus.

Test weight60
Minimum grade5.5

Will be announced in the course syllabus

Kies de Nederlandse taal