PhD Positions in Riverhood; Living Rivers and New Water Justice Movements
Wageningen University Department of Environmental Sciences

4 PhD Positions in Riverhood: Living Rivers and New Water Justice Movements

Published on
April 30, 2021

Location Wageningen

We are looking for

Are you interested in understanding how different actors know, value and strive to shape river systems in diverging ways? Do you want to learn specifically about approaches for enlivening rivers that are promoted by grassroots water justice movements? Then this could be the perfect PhD opportunity for you!

To further explore how new water justice movements (NWJMs) struggle for enlivening rivers, the Water Resources Management (WRM) group invites applications for four 4-year long PhD projects. We seek highly motivated candidates who want to engage with rivers, environmental justice and social movements in a transdisciplinary, cross-cultural and collaborative way. As candidate, you will study the drivers and inspirations for these emergent approaches and movements, and find out how they translate and promote their ideas transnationally.

Notwithstanding rivers’ fundamental importance for social and natural well-being, riverine systems are dammed and polluted, under great stress worldwide. Expert ontologies and epistemologies have become cornerstones of powerful hydraulic-bureaucratic administrations. Recently, worldwide, a large variety of NWJMs have proliferated that view rivers as a living entity that intertwines nature and humans ecologically, culturally and socioeconomically.

RIVERHOOD is a 5-years project funded by the European Research Council (ERC). It will study, conceptualize and support evolving NWJMs in Ecuador, Colombia, Spain and the Netherlands, developing a new analytical and methodological framework. The central research question is: How do the new water justice movements shape and dynamize riverhood enlivening strategies, institutions and practices, and how can they potentiate radically new scientific and policy approaches for sustainable and equitable water governance?

We are hiring four highly engaged researchers who like to implement PhD projects that each articulate a European and Latin American case study.

  1. PhD 1 investigates the Ranchería (or a similar) river in Colombia and the Biesbosch area (NL), both ecological reserves affected by pollution and large infrastructure. Indigenous communities develop river-caring practices and river’s rights have been legally recognized. Also in the Biesbosch, court cases are filed to protect rivers while promoting innovative regeneration techniques.
  2. PhD 2: Studies Ecuador’s Andean Quimsacocha river complex and the Guadalhorce or a similar river in Andalusia, Spain. They are affected by industrial intervention and large water diversion. For both, local-national coalitions develop innovative enlivening practices. Quimsacocha’s mobilization Nature’s Rights is highly interesting for their Andalusian peers.
  3. PhD 3: Investigates Ecuador’s Amazon Piatúa River where an environmentalist, indigenous, ombudsman partnership halts oil- and hydropower-development, mobilizing Rights of Nature. They experiment with alternative riverine practices. This connects to a Dutch ‘rewilded’ river to be selected, where multi-actor coalitions enliven the riverscape.
  4. PhD 4: Studies how community-environmentalist networks mobilize Rights of Rivers (Samaná River, Colombia) and New Water Culture notions (Serpis River, Spain) and halt mega-dams, introducing ecological flows, building-with-nature hydraulics and community riverhoods.
All PhD projects are comparative studies, incorporating social, material and symbolic hydro-territorial relations. Ethnographic methods are combined with quantitative methods such as water measurements, technographic analysis and participatory mapping. PhD researchers will co-organize Environmental Justice Labs as interactive research and action environments to foster knowledge co-production and collaboration between researchers, local actors and translocal networks.

We ask

  • a MSc degree in a relevant (social and/or interdisciplinary sciences) field, preferably with a thesis, fieldwork experience and/or internship on a related topic;
  • the ability to do, and deep affinity with, innovative collaborative research on river governance and NWJMs
  • excellent analytical and publishing skills; publications in high-quality international journals is a plus;
  • excellent written and spoken English language proficiency (a minimum of CEFR C2 level). For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page;
  • proficiency in Spanish is strongly recommended. Additionally, for those interested to work on the case studies in The Netherlands, proficiency in Dutch is a plus;
  • availability and motivation to spend extensive periods in the respective case study sites.
  • experience in (academic and action) research, policy-action and interactive communication strategies with partners from a variety of backgrounds is a plus; RIVERHOOD embeds in the Water Justice alliance, with CEDLA-UvA and many Southern and Northern organizations as key partners.
  • a strong, dynamic team spirit and high motivation to engage in shared research- organization of the RIVERHOOD project.

We offer

We offer four PhD positions at the WRM Group of Wageningen University. The PhD positions are part of the RIVERHOOD project led by Prof. Rutgerd Boelens and Dr. Jeroen Vos, and funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 101002921).

The PhDs will be part of the Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS) and will be offered a course program tailored to their needs and the research team. The positions are based in Wageningen, The Netherlands but include extensive field research periods abroad.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.395,- per month rising to € 3.061,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreement (scale P). This is based on a full working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the remaining duration of the project (30 months) if you perform well.

In addition, we offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance
  • a structural end-of year bonus of 8.3%
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions
  • flexible working hours that we determine together in good consultation
  • pension plan through ABP
  • 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes, e.g. the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra for extra leave
  • a flexible model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan
  • a lively workplace on the Wageningen Campus
  • make use of the sports facilities on campus for a small fee.
We stimulate internal career opportunities and mobility with our internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for personal initiative in a learning environment. With us you get a versatile job in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere, with students and staff from over 100 countries around the world.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 15th consecutive time.

More information

To learn more about this function you can get in touch with Lena Hommes, Water Resources Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, email:  

For questions about the procedure you can contact Edgar Tijhuis, corporate recruiter, e-mail

Do you want to apply?

This can be done directly via the application button at the vacancy on our website so that we can process your personal data with your permission. Please note that a part of your personal data may also be shared with the European Research Council when required.

We invite interested candidates to submit the following documents in English in support of their application:

  1. CV
  2. A letter of motivation
  3. A brief note (max. 3 A4 pages and 1500 words excl. references) outlining initial ideas on the proposed research on the topic. This should include the conceptual/theoretical approach to be used, research questions based on the main and/or sub-themes mentioned above, application to a case study/example, methodology to operationalize the research, and expected outcome of the research.
Interested candidates can apply for one specific PhD project, but this is not a must. Applications for doing a PhD within the project without any preference for the mentioned  case studies are equally appreciated.
This vacancy is open up to and including 08 June 2021. The first job interviews are expected to take place in early July.

Equal opportunities

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

The mission of our University is to explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life. Nine specialised research institutes from the Wageningen Research Foundation and Wageningen University have joined forces to help answer the most important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With approximately 30 locations, 6.500 employees, and 12.500 students, it is one of the leading organisations in its domain worldwide. A coordinated approach to problems and the cooperation between various fields are at the heart of the outstanding approach of Wageningen. We have been named Best Employer in Education category 2019-2020. Click here to read more about working at WUR and take a look at our campus.

The WRM group is an interdisciplinary research and education entity focused on the interactions of water, technology and society. We study integrated water resource management and governance questions in both the global South and North. Central in many of our studies are questions about environmental justice and how patterns of unequal access, allocation and use of water can be explained as the combined outcome of technological choices, socio-ecological dynamics and cultural, social and political exclusions, negotiations and contestations.

Apply now

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Physicaloxy


All Jobs


Harvard University Academic Positions

Kuwait University Current Faculty Openings

Osaka University Academic Opportunities

Purdue University Job Postings for Faculty Positions

Texas Tech University Faculty Openings

Tsinghua University Job Postings

University of Cambridge Job Openings

University of Geneva Faculty Opportunities

University of New South Wales Job Openings

University of Nottingham Research Positions

University of Oslo Academic Jobs

University of Saskatchewan Faculty Positions

University of Southampton Research Vacancies

University of Tokyo Current Academic Vacancies

University of Toronto Open Faculty Positions

University of Zurich Job Postings