CSPS Winter School Natural resources and Conflict: Theorizing governance, resistance and violence - 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. The PhD course “Natural Resources and Conflict: Theorizing Governance, Resistance and Violence” offers an in-depth exploration of theoretical approaches to understand the nature of these conflicts, how they reflect local, regional and international power dynamics, and how they relate to institutional change. An issue of particular concern is when and how conflicts turn violent and how to approach such violence theoretically.

Organisator Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

ma 10 december 2018 tot wo 19 december 2018

Duur Registration deadline: Monday 26 November 2018
Locatie Leeuwenborch, building number 201
Hollandseweg 1
6706 KN Wageningen

This course is relevant both to PhD candidates who specifically study natural resource conflicts, and to those who encounter forms of conflict and violence as they study topics related to resource management and economic and social development related to for instance land, water, forestry or mineral extraction. The course helps PhD candidates unravel the multiple contradictions surrounding the governance of natural resources, the resistance these may generate, and the overt and covert forms of violence found in their research settings.

The course is organised around theories that link governance, resistance and violence. The course thus moves beyond theories on resource scarcity and the ‘resource curse’ that came to dominate the debate on resource conflict in the 1990s but that have been highly criticised. It offers students a solid theoretical basis to problematize the relation between natural resources and conflict, touching upon questions such as: What role does the state play in resource governance? Does it contain or generate resource conflict? What is resistance and when does it become violent? How is violence organised socially and politically?
What does violence communicate? More practically, the course asks: in what ways do conflicts and
violence play a role our research projects?

We draw on different disciplines (history, philosophy, political sociology, geography, economics) to rethink the relation between resource governance, resistance and violence. The various sessions in the course combine the reading of foundational texts with readings of more recent academic work on resource conflicts.

Learning outcomes

During the course, participants develop an adequate conceptualization of conflict and violence relevant to their research question and setting. Students will engage directly with foundational texts on governance, resistance and violence and link these to the manifold ways in which resource conflict manifests itself.
Students learn to see how conflict and violence are produced and what are the impacts on their research project and on the research population.

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

  • Identify core theoretical frames to rethink the ways in which resources and conflicts are linked
  • Understand the importance of historical, abstract and theoretical texts and apply them to contemporary debates on the governance of natural resources
  • Critically reflect on the implications of different theoretical framings for their research projects
  • Develop a conceptualisation of governance, resistance or violence for their own research project.


      10-12: 10.00-11.00 Introduction: Understanding the relationship between resources and conflict Gemma van der Haar and Lotje de Vries
      10-12: 11.00-13.30 Rethinking the tragedy of the commons: Do we need a central form of power to control violence? Han van Dijk Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
      11-12: 10.00-12.30 Extraction, capture and control: the modern state in development Joost Jongerden Pierre Clastres: The Archeology of violence
      12-12: 10.00-12.30 Structural violence in resource governance to be defined Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem, a report an the banality of evil
      13-12: 10.00-12.30 Resisting repression and dispossession. What role for violence? Lotje de Vries Franz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth
      14-12: 10.00-12.30 Competing claims to resources: How and why does claim-making turn violent? Gemma van der Haar Charles Tilly: The politics of collective violence
      17-12: 10.00-12.30 Rethinking incentives: Is violence rational behaviour? Maarten Voors James Fearon: Rationalist Explanations for War
      18-12: 10.00-12.30 Violence as performance: How do natural resource conflicts persist as forms of communication? Arjaan Pellis Niklas Luhmann: Social systems
      19-12: 10.00-12.30 Presentation session on PhD research All
      19-12: 15.00-17.00 Public WASS lecture Paul Richards Peace is Impossible; A neo-Durkheimian approach to coping with intractable conflict

      Note: Selected excerpts of these texts and additional literature will be provided closer to the starting date.


      The course is organised around reading, self-study, active pre-class preparation, and dialogue. During the week, participants will have morning and afternoon seminar sessions. The readings, including guiding questions, will be provided at least two weeks before the start of the course.
      Participants are expected to read the literature and send in questions and points for discussion no later than 08.00 am the day of the session.

      • Session one will serve as an introduction into the topic and set-up of the course. We will allow participants to get to know each other, briefly discuss each other’s research projects, and align expectations.
      • The literature-based tutorial sessions will discuss foundational texts and relate these to contemporary work that addresses the relation between resources and conflict. Where appropriate we discuss how the specific literature of that week is applied in empirical research. The sessions will introduce the literature based on participants’ questions. The active contribution of participants to bring in their observations and reflections is encouraged.
      • The final day of the course consists of two parts. In the morning there is a PhD research seminar in which participants present their research in relation to the different perspectives discussed in the course. In the afternoon, Emeritus professor Paul Richards will give a public WASS lecture in which he shares his approach on coping with intractable conflict, based on the work of Mary Douglas.


      The assessment consist of 1) an evaluation of the student’s participation in the literature sessions and 2) a short essay (3000 words) in which participants will reflect on the ways in which forms or aspects of violence they are confronted with in their PhD research.
      1) The active participation in class is assessed through the submission of at least one question for debate and comments on the reading prior to the class, to be submitted no later than 08.00 am on the day of session to allow for the lecturer to prepare (questions/reflections to be sent to the lecturer by email).
      2) In the final essay, students are asked to work with the theory of one or two sessions and make a connection between the theoretical debates and their own research. The course is available as a 3 or 4 ECTS course. Only students who opt for the 4th ECTS will have to write the final essay.
      There will be no final grades.

      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 

      WASS, PE&RC and WIMEK/SENSE 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.