Theme 3: Communication, contestation and cooperation

Contemporary societies are increasingly pluralistic, in the sense that organisations in the private and public sector and in civil society have to communicate with a wide range of different audiences with diverse, often contradictory professional and cultural backgrounds, identities, values and worldviews. Political, moral and epistemic authority have become increasingly contested, not in the least because Internet and smartphones facilitate easy and fast communication and organization around themes, viewpoints and interests. This plurality fundamentally affects how societies engage with questions around food, health or the environment.

What we do

We study the way conflicts get to be articulated, contestation around issues and conditions for this contestation, and the way pluralism shapes the nature of cooperation. More concretely, one key area of study is the contribution of communication in the role of science in attempts to improve the quality of life. Focusing on what we call ‘expertise in action’ we study the changing role of experts and expertise, not only looking at preconceived communication efforts but also examine how scientific expertise is treated and contested ‘in the wild’, that is, in people’s everyday interactions. Another concrete area of study is the increasing role of civil society advocacy in international development, articulating conflict, while also contesting and seeking cooperation. Here, our research focuses on questions of inclusiveness and effectiveness.

What we aspire

Our research helps to develop a reflexive understanding of societal conflicts and cooperation around food, health and the living environment. We contribute to practical improvements to conflict management, space for contestation, development of mutual understandings and cooperation, and the empowerment of citizens and practitioners.

Leading staff members

Recent publications

Mogendorff, K., te Molder, H., van Woerkum, C., & Gremmen, B. (2016). Turning Experts into Self-Reflexive Speakers: The Problematization of Technical-Scientific Expertise Relative to Alternative Forms of Expertise. In: Science communication 38(1), 26-50. Online version

Arensman, B., van Wessel, M., & Hilhorst, D. (2017). Does Local Ownership Bring About Effectiveness? The Case of a Transnational Advocacy Network. In: Third World Quarterly 38(6), 1310-1326. Online version