Sociology of Rural and Remote Communities

Core Course | 4 ECTS | Námskeið: CRD 01

Kennari: Jessica Duncan

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This course starts with the question: what is the future of rural areas in an urbanizing world? Since 2009, the number of people living in urban areas has outnumbered those living in the rural areas. The situation differs considerably between high and low income countries, with about 80% of the population residing in urban areas in the former compared to 30% in the latter. Yet the tendency is crystal clear – the world is urbanizing rapidly.

Urbanization is generally perceived as a sign of modernization and, in turn, development and economic growth. At the same time there is concern about its effect on rural areas and their residents and anxiety that urbanization concurs with continuous rural decline, impoverishment and social exclusion of rural residents, and rural abandonment. More insight into the interrelations between rural and urban places is a preconditions for realizing just and sustainable futures.

Bringing together scientific literature with fiction, and using lectures, seminars and interactive teaching methods, students are introduced to sociological perspectives on rural and remote communities with an emphasis on rural-urban relations. In this course we will take students on a field trip to a small fishing community in the Westfjords.


Jessica Duncan is Associate Professor in Rural Sociology at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). She holds a PhD in Food Policy from City University London (2014).

Jessica’s main research focus concerns the practices and politics of participation in food policy processes, particularly the relationships (formal and non-formal) between governance organizations, systems of food provisioning, the environment, and the actors engaged in and across these spaces. More specifically, she maps the diverse ways that actors participate in policy-making processes, analysing how the resulting policies are shaped, implemented, challenged, and resisted, and she theorizes about what this means for socio-ecological transformation. Participation and engagement is at the core of her approach. In turn, she is active in a broad range of local, national and international initiatives with the aim of better understanding participation processes with a view towards transitioning to just and sustainable food systems. She is involved in several European research projects including ROBUST, HortEco & SHEALTHY.

Jessica is published regularly in academic journals. She recently co-edited the Handbook on Sustainable and Regenerative Food Systems (2020). Her other books include Food Security Governance: Civil society participation in the Committee on World Food Security (2015) and an edited volume called Sustainable food futures: Multidisciplinary solutions (2017).

Jessica has received several awards for her teaching and in 2017 she was awarded Teacher of the Year for Wageningen University (shortlisted again in 2018 and 2019, longlisted in 2020). With the funds she has received for these awards she launched a story-telling workshop for students and faculty.

Jessica is on the Editorial Board of the journal Sociologia Ruralis and is an advisor to the Traditional Cultures Project (USA). She is a member of the Wageningen Young Academy and sits on the Sustainability Board of Experts at Wageningen University. She is also the Director of the Centre for Unusual Collaborations (

She blogs at