Ph.D. Course: 'Rural Transformations in the 21st Century'

The objective of this interdisciplinary course is to critically analyze – empirically and conceptually – processes of transformation in rural areas as related to access to and governance of resources and how these are reshaping the lives of people living there.

The application deadline was 5 April, 2018.

Photos: Creative Commons

Oslo Academy of Global Governance and SUM Research School, Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo are pleased to invite applications for the forthcoming doctoral course 'Rural Transformations in the 21st Century'.

New resource frontiers are constantly expanding in rural areas across the world, for example in the form of agricultural commercialization, extractive industries, agro-industrial plantations, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD+), tourism or nature conservation. While some areas become entangled in global capitalist circuits, others are abandoned, often with devastating consequences. In addition to the flow and ebb of capital, contemporary rural life is shaped by domestic and international migration, deagrarianization, state and non-state forms of governance, international trade as well as new forms of authoritarian populism.

Responses from rural people involve not only passivity or resistance but also other – at times contradictory – forms of agency. Such agency manifests in projects and processes that both involve agriculture and go far beyond it, intimately shaped by rural people’s hopes, wishes and aspirations. Consequently, in the 21st century, ‘the rural’ is increasingly decoupled from ‘the agrarian’ in ways that warrant new critical rethinking of rural transformations.

Against this backdrop the course will address questions such as:

  • How do rural people respond to new resource frontiers and their booms and busts?
  • What forms of governance are emerging in the midst of, while giving shape to, contemporary rural transformations?
  • How is contemporary rural life shaped by both transnational and global alliances of rural people and new authoritarian populist politics?

The course will bring together PhD students working with rural life and agrarian issues to contribute to expand their understanding of rural transformations in the 21st century by locating their own research within a wider context, including issues of governance, mobilization and legitimacy.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • Obtain a nuanced understanding of processes of transformation in rural areas of the world in the 21st century, both empirically and theoretically;
  • Be well acquainted with the major theoretical and empirical approaches to studying rural transformations at local, national and global levels;
  • Engage in critical discussion, become acquainted with the work of others on rural transformations, and build networks within their chosen field of research.


  • Marc Edelman, Professor, The City University of New York
  • Amita Baviskar, Professor, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi
  • Tor Arve Benjaminsen, Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
  • Kenneth Bo Nielsen, Associate Professor, University of Oslo

Who may apply?

The interdisciplinary nature of the course will be most suitable for doctoral students engaging with different disciplines within the social sciences – such as anthropology, sociology, political science, geography, and development studies.

Doctoral students will be prioritised, although other applicants may be considered only if space permits.

The application deadline was 5 April, 2018.

Published Jan. 10, 2018 2:06 PM - Last modified July 28, 2020 9:43 AM