CSPS Winter School Natural Resources and Conflict: Violence, Resistance and the State - 4 ECTS

The extraction, exploitation, distribution and trade of natural resources continue to be a source of conflict worldwide, notwithstanding claims of inclusive and equitable development. This course helps PhD candidates unravel the multiple contradictions surrounding the access to natural resources, to overt and covert forms of violence involved, and the resistance this may generate. Specific attention is paid to the role of state power in shaping conflict. The course offers participants a solid theoretical basis to problematize the relation between natural resources and conflict.

Organised by Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

Mon 9 December 2019 until Wed 18 December 2019

Duration Registration deadline: Monday 25 November 2019
Venue Leeuwenborch, building number 201
Hollandseweg 1
6706 KN Wageningen

The course targets PhD candidates who are interested in (further) developing a conceptualisation of conflict and violence relevent to their research problem and setting. The course moves beyond well-known theories on resource scarcity and the so-called 'resource curse', discussing critical perspectives form political sociology, political geography, philosophy, and legal anthropology.

The course encourages participants to (re-)consider their own research from new perspectives and stimulates creative thinking through interactive methodologies. In the course, we discuss questions such as: How can we understand (resource) conflict? What role does the state play in generating or containing conflict? How is violence organised socially, politically, and discursively? What is structural violence and how does it relate to resistance? More practically, the course asks: In what ways do conflicts and violence play a role in our research projects? And how can different theories on conflict and violence help us to re-think contemporary practice of governance and resistance?

Course set up

  • The course is organised around reading, self-study, active pre-class preparation, in-class dialogue, and interactive (game) methods.
  • Sessions in the course combine the reading of foundational texts with more recent academic work on resource conflict
  • Literature-based tutorial sessions take place every morning. These sessions develop around questions and reflections brought in by the participants.
  • Peer-to-peer discussion helps participants process course content and relate it to their research concerns.
  • Topics include structural violence, contentious politics, conflict/violence as performance, legal pluralism, and more.
  • The course starts ends with a full day. The opening day includes and introduction to the course and a game.
  • The last day has a seminar/masterclass session in the morning, and a public lecture with Prof. An Ansoms, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, in the afternoon.
  • The Winterschool amounts to 4 ECTS and concludes with a short reflection paper.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course, participants are expected to be able to:

  • Identify core theoretical frames to (re-)think the ways in which resources, conflict and violence are linked
  • Understand the relevance of historical and theoretical texts for contemporary debates concerning natural resource governance and conflict
  • Critically reflect on the implications of different theoretical framings for their research projects

What is asked of participants?

  • Readings will be provided at least one week before the start of the course, through a dropbox.
  • Participants are expected to read the literature, and send in questions and points for discussion to the teacher no later than 10 PM prior to each session.
  • Important: Prior to the first lecture, participants will send in a brief note (max 300 words) to the course coordinators in which you briefly:
    - explain your research project
    - elaborate on the forms of conflict, violence or resistence observed in your project
  • To finalise the course participants prepare a brief reflection paper which connect course contents to their own research concerns.

Provisional Programme

Session Theme Core readings* Lecturer
9/12: 10.00-12.00 followed by joint lunch Introduction: Unpacking 'resource conflict' n.a. Gemma van der Haar, Lotje de Vries, Arjaan Pellis
9/12: 13.30-12.30 Land rush game n.a. Gemma van der Haar, Lotje de Vries, Arjaan Pellis
10/12: 9.30-12.30 Conflict as protest: Competing claims and contentious politics Charles Tilly: The politics of collective violence Gemma van der Haar
11/12: 9.30-12.30 Conflict and resource scarcity: Rethinking the tragedy of the commons: Do we need a central form of power to control violence? Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan Han van Dijk
12/12: 9.30-12.30 Conflict as communication: How can natural resource conflicts persist as social systems? Niklas Luhmann: Social systems theory Arjaan Pellis
13/12: 9.30-12.30 Conflict, violence and resources in legal anthropology tba Dik Roth
16/12: 10.00-12.30 Structural violence in resource governance Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem Lisa Trogisch
17/12: 10.00-12.30 Resisting repression and dispossession. What role for violence? Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth Lotje de Vries
18/12 morning Presentation session/Masterclass n.a. Gemma van der Haar, Lotje de Vries, Arjaan Pellis
18/12 afternoon Public WASS lecture Prof An Ansoms tba


        The assessment consist of 1) an evaluation of the student’s participation in the sessions and 2) a short essay (suggested range 2500-3500 words) in which participants reflect on issues of resource control, conflict and violence as relevant to their PhD research.

        1) The active participation in class is assessed through the submission of at least one question/reflection for debate and comments on the reading prior to the class, to be submitted no later than 10 PM prior to the session to allow for the lecturer to prepare (questions/reflections to be sent to the lecturer by email). You are asked to link the literature to your research project (or explain why it does not fit). Please write a total reflection of around 250 to 500 words to prepare each session.

        2) In the final essay, students are asked to build on the previous short reflections and rework them in relation to their research projects. And finally, please add a reflection on the course as a whole and its contribution to your thinking.

        Target group and min/max number of participants

        This intense course aims for a maximum of 20 students in order to assure a high level of interaction between the teachers and the participants. The course is intended for PhD candidates in the social and environmental sciences from within Wageningen University and from other universities in the Netherlands and beyond. The course is of relevance to a wide range of students, e.g. in anthropology and
        sociology of development, development economics, communication sciences, political science, environmental science or human geography, who are confronted with different forms of violence in their research, especially during their fieldwork. Students at an advanced master level are also welcome.

        Assumed prior knowledge

        This course gives a thorough introduction into important debates in the social sciences on governance, resistance and violence. Participants are expected to have a basic level of knowledge about debates in the broader social sciences. Please contact the course coordinators in case of doubt about the required entry level.

        Course fee 

        WGS PhDs with TSP € 300
        a) All other PhD candidates b) Postdocs and staff of the above mentioned Graduate Schools € 600
        All others € 900

        Fee includes coffee/tea, and course materials.  

        NB: for some courses, PhD candidates from other WUR graduate schools with a TSP are also entitled to a reduced fee. Please consult your Education/PhD Programme Coordinator for more information

        Cancellation conditions:

        The participants can cancel their registration free of charge 1 month before the course starts. A cancellation fee of 100% applies if a participant cancels his/her registration less than 1 month prior to the start of the course.

        The organisers have the right to cancel the course no later than one month before the planned course start date in the case that the number of registrations does not reach the minimum.

        The participants will be notified of any changes at their e-mail addresses.