SDC investigates the structures and practices of international development with a particular focus on issues of inequality, marginalization and political agency. Through our core expertise in development studies, political ecology, anthropology of law and crisis and disaster studies, our mission is to gain and communicate a deeper understanding of these issues generated by global and local structures of power and political-economy, as well as how actors generate forms of agency and practices that enable them to deal with these dynamics and create new opportunities. In this way, we aim to contribute to socially just, economically equitable, sustainable and peaceful solutions to twenty-first century development problems.

It is clear that processes and structures of inequality and marginalization greatly influence the quality of life for many people around the world. In other words, there can be no improvement in the quality of life if development continues to stimulate and engrain processes of inequality and marginalization, and hence it is vital to understand the structures and practices of how these processes come about; how they develop and change; and how they are resisted and responded to through forms of political agency. The SDC group focuses its scientific interest in these issues on core Wageningen themes: livelihoods, agriculture, resources and the living environment. In so doing, the group contributes to WUR’s overall mission ‘to explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life’ by investigating the question of who benefits from what idea of (the potential of) nature and how this changes over time and across space. Nature here is broadly defined and encompasses nonhuman ecosystems, landscapes and resources across rural and urban spaces.

Research themes

The SDC research programme is operationalised through three distinct yet interrelated core themes:

  1. Resources, rights and livelihoods: Explores the dynamic interactions between resources and their exploitation, domination and conservation. With resources we refer to land, food, minerals and the environment but also to knowledge, information and heritage. This theme foregrounds contestations over resources and how these are created and framed through global structures of neoliberal governance, legal and extra-legal frameworks and lived realities.
  2. Crisis, reordering and resilience: Engages with change and re-ordering of society associated with crises and disasters and their aftermath in which new linkages, institutions and livelihoods may develop. Crises and natural or human-made disasters are seen as complex processes of reordering with historical, present and future dimensions rather than unproblematic, manageable routines of ‘disaster risk reduction’, ‘relief’ and ‘reconstruction’.
  3. Reassessing divides and boundaries: Focuses on the material and discursive dynamics that change old divides and bring about new ones. We study how (ontological, epistemological, empirical or other) boundaries are shaped, steered, used, strengthened or weakened; divides such as global-local, urban-rural, powerful-marginalized, whole-parts, developed-undeveloped, crisis-normality. Divides and boundaries are operationalised and studied on all levels, including practical material levels and on the level of knowledge and science, in order to understand their practical, epistemological and ontological consequences for broader process and structures of development and change.