PhD Studentship: Northern Food Systems

​Lakehead University, in partnership with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems and the Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged (FLEdGE) project, is looking for an exceptional candidate to undertake PhD research on issues of northern food systems sustainability. We are offering funding of $10,000/year for four years (providing satisfactory performance). Additional funding may be available through a Graduate Assistant position and/or scholarships, as determined by the admitting program. Given the scope and potential impacts of northern food systems, it is particularly critical to understand their dynamics as they emerge and evolve in response to their surroundings within a context geared primarily toward the dominant agri-industrial system. Issues of focus may include, northern food policy, diverse governance systems, alternative food networks, Indigenous food sovereignty, regional agricultural and land-based identity, and harvesting, forest and freshwater foods. Familiarity with and/or interest in complex adaptive systems theory would be considered an asset. The successful Ph.D. candidate will be expected to actively work toward establishing a strong publication record, assist in seeking external funding, and work effectively in the multi-disciplinary field of northern food systems sustainability including stakeholder/community partners.

To apply for this position, please send a letter of interest, a CV, transcripts and the names of two references via email to Charles Levkoe by no later than December 1, 2016.Candidates will also need to apply (by the appropriate deadline) to undertake their PhD in either Forestry Sciences or Psychological Sciences at Lakehead University. The student will support ongoing research on northern food systems and research from the Food Security Research Network starting in September 2017.

Essential Reference on Food Security

For those interested in, doing research on, or teaching about food security, Mark Gibson's "The Feeding of Nations: Redefining Food Security for the 21st Century" (2012) is an essential reference to have. The book is a hardcover 640-page academic work, and unfortunately not cheap. There are a couple of ways to access the ideas if the cost is a barrier, one is via Google Books, which offers some parts, and the other is on the archive of a discussion Mark lead on the FAO's Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition on the topic of food security. I was fortunate to find a used one.

In many parts, the book is a high level review, such as its overview of nutrition and malnutrition, and is not ground breaking. But, as a reference book for important considerations related to food security, this is one of the few places that attempts to bring it all together. However, in other parts, it is quite detailed, such as the history of food security related concepts. Unique to the book, I believe, is the inclusion of a wide range of topics, often covered in topic-specific books, including linkages to: agriculture, forestry and fisheries, science and technology, socio-cultural aspects, natural resources, health and nutrition, governance and politics, etc. The author also offers thoughts on redefining food security for the future.

There is a downside to an author who has been thinking and writing about a topic over such a long period of time – the references and content can be recycled and get dated. For example, some sections are largely cited from works published in the early 2000s (2000-2004 period), and it is clear that some parts were first written some time ago, even if published in 2012 (e.g.: "it was once again recently reaffirmed at the International Scientific Symposium on Measurement and Assessment of Food Deprivation in 2002", page 16). I suppose "recently" could be a relative term. Nonetheless, a recommended reference work on food security – particularly for those seeking a key resource on the topic, or those looking for relatively condensed and readable content for undergraduate students.

Postdoc (Multiple): Patent-oriented Health Research

Canada's Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) puts patients and caregivers first, to foster "evidence-informed health care by evaluating innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, and bringing them to the point of care." Since its inception, SPOR has supported the development, implementation and ongoing evaluation of provincial Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (SUPPORT) Units.

Saskatchewan's SUPPORT Unit, named the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR), in collaboration with the College of Nursing (University of Saskatchewan), College of Medicine (University of Saskatchewan) and the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina) are accepting applications for Post-Doctoral Fellowships in Patient-Oriented Research. Interested candidates should hold a completed PhD in a health-related discipline. Ideal candidates will have produced work with relevance to health systems and/or clinical research. Prior experience with patient-oriented research is an asset.

More details.


Enemies of Innovation

Dr. Calestous Juma's new book, "Innovation and its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies" (2016), explains that this is a book Dr. Juma has wanted to write since his early engagement with innovation. That includes his founding of the African Centre for Technology Studies in 1988, being a former Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and co-chair of the African Union's High-level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation and his current role of Director of the Science, Technology and Globalization Project at Harvard. He is an avid Twitter user, for anyone interested to follow his work.

For some readers, this book is bound to be cause for (critical) self-reflection. For example, Juma opens with the introduction of mobile phones – technology that has potential health risks, yet has been universally adopted and enabled additional innovations in a range of sectors, from banking and health to education and communication. He contrasts that with biotechnology and transgenetic crops, which also has potential health risks, but "has been marked by controversy that resulted in international treaties negotiated to regulate trade" (p. 2). Juma explains that the book "argues that technological controversies often arise from tensions between the need to innovate and the pressure to maintain continuity, social order and stability" (p. 5). The book is about technology and innovation, but also the socio-cultural and economic structures that enable or deter innovation, and why these exist.

The book covers a range of different technological innovations (farm mechanization, printing press, coffee, margarine, electricity, refrigeration, recorded sound, transgenetic crops, and genetically engineered salmon). The focus is not for or against, or weighing costs and benefits, of technologies, rather it is the broader context within which these innovations exist that Juma focuses upon: "Many of these debates over new technologies are framed in the context of risks to moral values, human health, and environmental safety. But behind these genuine concerns often lie deeper, but unacknowledged, socioeconomic considerations. This book demonstrates the extent to which these factors shape and influence technological controversies, which specific emphasis on the role of social institutions' (p. 6).

Juma concludes each chapter with lessons learned about each innovation, ranging from policy to regulation and politics and economics. As such, it may have appeal to a range of audiences. Consider this reflection: "Margarine represents one of the best examples of incumbent industries using legislative instruments to curtail or extinguish new technologies" (p. 117). Or, "the case of refrigeration shows that, contrary to popular belief, regulation can serve as a stimulus for innovation. In this case, many of the advances that made it possible for consumers to access safe and mechanical refrigeration resulted from regulation and new standards" (p. 198). The historical cases are less contested, as the debates have long since ended. I found the last two examples Juma presents (transgenetic crops and genetically engineered salmon) particularly interesting as they are yet to be settled. While the presentation of the issues and Juma's broader work situates his own positionality, these two chapters explore multiple sides of the on-going debates (not only the pro/con positions, but also the challenges faced by regulatory bodies and economic impacts related to export markets). On these on-going debates, Juma concludes that as "the world leader in biotechnology research, innovation and commercialization, the United States could set an example in the regulation of biotechnology innovations to ensure that society derives the highest possible benefit from these technologies in the safest possible way" (p. 277-278).

One component of the argument that Juma do not entertain in much detail is that of choice, and here an interesting analogy could also have been drawn to transgenetic crops. For those opposed to GM food crops, one of the key issues is choice, and thus advocacy for labeling to have the option to purchase GM or not. Embedded within this debate is that GM crops cannot be contained entirely, and spread (and therefore entire bans are advocated). While there are important considerations to be addressed regarding these concerns, it is interesting that mobile phone technology was not given as a parallel: one can choose not to purchase a mobile phone, but it is almost impossible to avoid exposure to electromagnetic radiation because of societal choices (the level differs, as it would with labeling options that allow for a small percentage of GM to be present in non-GM items).

The book concludes with notes on leaders and leadership: "The next frontier of leadership will focus largely on how society is prepared to respond not only to global grand challenges but also to new social problems generated by technological advancement and engineering applications. Leaders will need to be more adaptive, flexible, and open to continuous learning. They will be called upon increasingly to take decisions in the face of uncertainty and amid controversy" (p. 285-286).

Postdoc: Migration & the Humanities (Harvard)

The Mahindra Humanities Center invites applications for one-year postdoctoral fellowships in connection with the Center's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seminar on the topic of migration and the humanities.

The current refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East has made it clear that migration plays as critical a role in the moral imagination of the humanities as it does in shaping the activist vision of humanitarianism and human rights. The conceptual framework of the humanities is particularly relevant to interpreting and analyzing the cultural and political lifeworlds of the migrant experience. Too often, the humanities are summoned merely as witnesses to the spectacle of the significant currents and crises of contemporary life. Literature and the arts are viewed as iconic presences whose primary aesthetic and moral values lie in their illustrative powers of empathy and evocation. Yet the intellectual formation of the humanities—their very conception of the nature of meaning, knowledge, and morals—is deeply resonant with the displacement of values and the revision of norms that shape the transitional and translational narratives of migrant lives.

Built around pedagogies of representation and interpretation—textual, visual, digital, political, ethical, ecological, etc.—the humanities engage with the "deep" history of shifting relations between cultural expression, historical transition, and political transformation. They play a mediating role in this three-way process. Humanistic disciplines articulate the changing, contingent relationships between cultural meaning and social value as they shape "agents"—individual, collective, institutional—who participate in the creation of public opinion and the definition of public interest. Although they are not activist in a traditional sense, the humanities are actively involved in studying the impact of the displacement of cultural values and trajectories of knowledge-systems as they migrate from one historical context to another, moving across discursive and geographic territories, and establishing hybrid disciplinary borders.

Terms and Conditions

In addition to pursuing their own research projects, fellows will be core participants in the bi-weekly seminar meetings. Other participants will include faculty and graduate students from Harvard and other universities in the region, and occasional visiting speakers. Fellows will be joined at the Center by postdoctoral fellows from Germany, who will be coming as part of a collaboration between the Mahindra Humanities Center and the Volkswagen Foundation. Fellows are expected to be in residence at Harvard for the term of the fellowship. Fellows will receive stipends of $65,000, individual medical insurance, moving assistance of $1,500, and additional research support of $2,500.

More details.

PhD and Postdocs (6): Racialized Lives of Migrants

The Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa) invites applications for up to six Post-Doctoral Research positions in the project The Colour of Labour: The Racialized Lives of Migrants (ERC Advanced Grant # 695573 - COLOUR), led by Cristiana Bastos.

The multi-track, multi-disciplinary project COLOUR will address the processes of racialization in cases drawn from post-slavery sugar plantations and cotton-mill factories. The cognitive categories of racialization include formal, political, popular, medical and scientific uses of race as criteria for assembling and separating human beings, as well as the medical and popular knowledge about the endurance and competence of bodies in different environments. The processes of embodiment and memory will connect the present and the past and provide a basis to explore the potentialities of combining ethnographic and historical research.

Pre-defined case studies include the flows of Madeiran islanders to the sugar plantations (Guianas, Caribbean, Hawaii) and to African rural settlements; the flows of Azorean islanders to the workforce of North America; their trajectories into further destinations; and the lives and memories of the generations that followed them. The scope of research will be completed by two further cases brought by the hired researchers (from Europe, Asia, Middle East, etc.) with potential for cross-analysis and conceptual development.

PhD Studentships (2) here.

Postdocs (6) here.

PhD (x3) and Postdoc: Participatory urban governance

'Participatory urban governance between democracy and clientelism: Brokers and (in)formal politics' is a five-year research project financed by the European Research Council (2016-2021), led by Dr Martijn Koster. This research project investigates ethnographically how brokers position themselves in participatory urban governance. It examines their practices, discourses and networks, both in and outside officially sanctioned channels and institutions. The research conceptualizes brokers as 'assemblers', connective agents who actively bring together different government and citizen actors, institutions and resources and who combine formal and informal politics.

The project focuses on four cities, two in the Global North and two in the Global South: Rotterdam (NL), Manchester (UK), Cochabamba (Bolivia) and Recife (Brazil). It will develop a new framework for analysing brokerage in participatory urban governance, which will enhance our ability to understand the challenges of political representation more broadly, as well as the impact of brokerage on state-citizen engagement and on decision-making regarding the allocation of resources.

More on PhD options.

More on Postdoc option.

Two Faces of Civil Society

A number of authors promote civil society as a mechanism to improve aid: Dwyer (2015) argued it as an alternative to traditional, top-down aid, Roy, Negron-Gonzales, Opoku-Agyemang and Talwalker (2016) as poor people's movements, Eyben (2014) of the people-centered alternative vision of civil society, and Acemoglu and Robinson (2006) about the necessity of collective action for democratic transitions. But, little is offered in the way of critical reflections on civil society, and the ways in which it can reproduce marginalization, disempowerment and exclusion. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to come across Stephen Ndegwa's The Two Faces of Civil Society: NGOs and Politics in Africa (1996). Although the book has its weaknesses, it draws out an important nuance that is often missed in the promotion of, and enthusiasm about, civil society.

Ndegwa seeks to assess how NGOs, as one part of civil society, "contribute to democratization in Africa and what conditions facilitate or inhibit their contributions" (p. 1). At the same time, there is a recognition that conditions are insufficient, drawing upon two case studies, which one "actively advocating political pluralism, and the other remaining politically obtuse" (p. 1). At the outset, Ndegwa suggests that: "there is nothing inherent about civil society organizations that makes them opponents of authoritarianism and proponents of democracy" (p. 6). And, therefore, civil society cannot "be assumed to be congenial to or supportive of democratic pluralism by its mere existence, expansion or level of activity" (p. 7).

On this note, which I believe is the greatest contribution forwarded with this book, the author highlights examples wherein organizations had the potential to act as brokers of change, working with marginalized people and interacting with the government, but made no attempts to do so. Instead, the NGO was "more concerned with carrying out its development projects than in engaging the state over issues touching on the interest of its client communities" (p. 66). Ndegwa suggests that the main lesson "from this case study is that although civil society organizations may be conscious of their political roles in the democratization movement and may have the resources, capacity, and political opportunity to mobilize, they may still be captives of their own institutionalization and especially of their connections to the state they are expected to challenge" (p. 78).

The context is particularly interesting, as this book focuses upon Kenya in the 1990s, and yet it appears in the mid-2010s we are having a similar conversation (as demonstrated by the authors mentioned above). The author explains: "The channeling of immense resources through NGOs reflects the conventional wisdom regarding the ability of official development agencies and, in particular, African states, to carry out development work. Riddled by inefficiency, corruption, and authoritarianism and generally lacking in accountability to its citizens, the African state has been isolated as the greatest bottleneck" (p. 20). Similarly, the experience of increasing governmental concern and regulation of NGO activity is resurfacing (including in Kenya and Ethiopia), then and now, strong civil society organizations pose threats to political power. A WhyDev blog outlines how donors are hesitant to challenge authoritarian government, so long as the expected outcomes are met, yet the Kenyan experience demonstrates how donor agencies were active and effective in supporting civil society and openly criticizing the government of Kenya, including the suspension of aid, supporting the reinstatement of multiparty elections (p. 29).

The book outlines four key factors that contribute to NGO success:

  • "the availability of political opportunity to voice dissent and to pursue oppositional action. This political opportunity included institutional openings allowing access to the state to express disagreement with policy and to lobby for changes" (p. 50)
  • "the level of NGO collective organization and their combined resources. In particular, the formation of the NGO Network and the elected NGO Standing Committee gave NGOs a strong collective voice" (p. 50)
  • "the NGO alliance with international donor agencies. Institutional donors consistently facilitated the NGO effort to fight the controlling legislation in various ways" (p. 51)
  • "NGO alliance with other oppositional forces in civil society was equally important" (p. 51)

Acting upon these factors, however, is not given. And, the "explanation for the two faces of civil society lies in the willingness of the leadership of these organizations to use organizational resources against the repressive state" (p. 111). Ndegwa concludes with a recommendation not on encouraging more courageous NGO leadership, but with a shift of NGO activity towards: "Grassroots empowerment… Through projects that enhance the political capacities of local communities" (p. 117).

New Publication: Land Grabbing & Human Rights

Cochrane, L. (2016) Land Grabbing. In Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics, 2nd Edition, edited by P. Thompson and D. Kaplan.


  • The application of force to coerce individuals to illegally give up their land or the otherwise illegal dispossession of land, a process known as "land grabbing," is a violation of human rights – the arbitrary deprivation of property outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 17). Land grabbing is the most legally and ethically problematic form of large-scale land acquisitions. However, if direct or indirect force is not applied in the process of large-scale land acquisitions nor any laws broken, and the individuals involved receive sufficient benefit in exchange for their land, are the exchanges necessarily ethical? Based upon a human rights-based perspective, this chapter argues that human rights cannot be analyzed in isolation, but must be evaluated in totality in order to contextualize the vulnerability and duress experienced by those transferring their land. In doing so, it expands our conceptualization of what is considered "land grabbing" and what is not. Over the last decade, the majority of large-scale land acquisitions have taken place in countries where human rights are violated. In order for large-scale land acquisitions to be ethical, human rights must be met and protected to ensure that choices are truly free and fair. This is not a practical argument, made to improve the process, but an ethical argument based upon protecting the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers and pastoralists, ensuring their choices are truly free and fair, not simply the product of a lack of options made from a position of vulnerability.
The full article is gated. Abstract and further publication details available via the link above. If you would like a copy of the article, send me an email.

PhD Studentships (11): Multilingualism in Education

A group of researchers of the Research Unit "Education, Culture, Cognition and Society" (ECCS) and of the Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (LUCET) at the University of Luxembourg has obtained a large grant for the interdisciplinary Doctoral Training Unit CALIDIE (Capitalising on Linguistic Diversity in Education). The doctoral programme CALIDIE is funded in the frame of the PRIDE scheme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) and offers 11 positions for Doctoral candidates (PhD students) in the field of Multilingualism in Education (m/f)

PhD Projects and Supervisors

• P1.1: Learners as cultural mediators: Exploring the role and value of children's multilingual practices for learning (Sociolinguistics, Ethnography, Educational studies)
• P1.2: From school to work: Multilingual practices of youth in vocational education and training (VET) (Sociolinguistics, Nexus Analysis, Ethnography, Multimodal approaches to discourse)
• P1.3: Translanguaging for learning: A study of multilingual practices in the primary school (Educational Studies)

• P1.4: Internationalisation and multilingualism in Higher Education: A focus on natural sciences (Educational Sciences, Applied / Sociolinguistics, Research in Multilingualism in Higher Education)
• P2.1: The development of orthographic practices of multilingual pupils throughout schooling (Linguistics, Written language acquisition)
• P2.2: Enhancing children's oral language skills in a multilingual educational setting: A preschool intervention study (Psychology, Educational Sciences, Developmental approach)
• P2.3: The use of value-added (VA) scores for the identification of highly effective pedagogical practices for diverse student populations (Psychology, Psychometrics & Educational Measurement)
• P2.4: Exploring innovative directions in the computer-based assessment (CBA) of language competency (Psychology, Assessment & Psychometrics, Educational Studies)
• P3.1: The influence of language profiles on early numerical and (pre-)mathematical learning (Psychology, Cognitive neuroscience approach)
• P3.2 The influence of the instruction language on mathematics in a multilingual educational setting (Cognitive psychology, Educational studies)
• P3.3 Interaction between language of instruction and language proficiency in science education (Psychology, Assessment & Psychometrics, Educational Studies)

More information.

Logan Cochrane

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