My research and teaching interests revolve around issues related to natural resource governance and rural development. I study how people organize around natural resources and act in relation to changing political landscapes, new urban-rural migration patterns (back-to-the-land migration), and investigate how this impinges on resource governance and how rural areas and food systems are transformed. My research and teaching interests are interdisciplinary in character and embrace perspectives found in political ecology, anthropology, agrarian history and rural sociology.
Teaching lies close to my heart and over the years I have taught and developed more than 30 different courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels within the broad scope of rural development studies and environmental governance. Currently I am involved in teaching and coordination for the following courses:
· Natural Resource Management (15 credit course)
· Governance of Natural Resources (15 credit course)
· Introductory course in Rural Development Studies (15 credit course)
· Master thesis course for the Master programme in Rural Development and Natural Resource management (30 credit course)
· Master thesis course for the Agronomy programme in Rural Development (30 credit course).
My research interests broadly revolve around three themes:
1. Institutions and resource governance
In my research I investigate how institutions contribute to the governance of natural resources (water, land, forests) and their transformations for the understanding of broader processes of rural change. Building on insights from ‘critical institutionalism’ supported by ethnographic inquiry, I explore how institutions for resource governance emerge and transform. In this stream of work I engage with theories of governance, discourse and participation, and their interpretation in policy and practice to explore how resource governance arrangements co-evolves through both processes of reinvention, contestation and collaboration (c.f. Sandström 2000, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012). Empirically my research spans over different and often interlinked rural resource governance contexts (e.g. water, forestry, agriculture and nature conservation) in both global South (primarily East Africa and Nile Basin) and global north contexts (primarily Sweden).
2. Commons and commoning
A crosscutting theme in my work is a concern for understanding how commons work and reproduce in time and space, both as arenas for contestation and as spaces/places for collaboration and identity formation. In my research on commons, I often combine historical with contemporary perspectives and highlight the co-evolutionary nature of the commons from a perspective of longue durée (Sandström 2008, 2013 and 2017). In my recent research on the commons I elaborate the concept of commoning to highlight commons as a process that is constituted in the general reproduction of rural communities and by emphasizing the blurred nature of the commons. Seen from this perspective, commons are not only juridical and economic resources, nor only resources that people “compete/struggle” around, but rather evolving social resources that bind people together for a common purpose. Conceptualizing commons in this way enables to explore and understand not only resource dilemmas in new ways, but also how specific places, resources and identities are co-constructed (Sandström, 2017).
My work on commons and commoning intersects with the institutional and resource governance theme. For example in work related to the study on how institutions for co-governance in nature conservation contexts evolve in villages in Sweden over time (Sandström, 2008; and Sandström et al 2017); or how large scale land transactions and hydropower investments both facilitates and complicates effective commons management in the Nile River Basin (Sandström 2016a,b,c,d); or how farmers navigate and develop seed commoning systems for the governance of heritage seeds (Sandström et.al forthcoming); or in work that seeks to uncover how biosphere reserves are governed, territorialised and transformed in the name of sustainability (Sandström and Sahlström, 2021).
3. Back-to-the-land migration and the self-sufficiency movement
My more recent work explores the scope and impact of back-to-the-land migration, where people from primarily non-agrarian backgrounds move from urban areas to rural areas to cultivate the land and adopt an agrarian and rural lifestyle based on principles of self-sufficiency. In this work I use both qualitative and quantitative data (including e.g. surveys, register data and interviews) to explore the significance back-to-the land migration has for understanding contemporary rural change and how the food system is changing in Sweden (Sandström, 2022). Back-to-the-land and the cultivation of a renewed countryside? Exploring the scope and impact of back-to-the-land migration in rural Sweden | Externwebben (slu.se)
Although my own research primarily is grounded in social sciences I also work closely with colleagues from natural sciences exploring issues related to for example farmers’ perception and changed practices in relation to climate change (2016g), the role of scale in agriculture and its farmland biodiversity implications (2016f), heritage cereal seed management and farmers perceptions of soil fertility.
Ongoing Research projects:
Back-to-the-land and the cultivation of a renewed countryside? Exploring the scope and impact of back-to-the-land migration in rural Sweden (project leader, Funded by Formas)
Decolonizing Research Methodologies: A Research School Programme on empirical data collection, fieldwork relations, ethical challenges, and transnational approaches. (co-investigator, Funded by the Swedish research council)
Earlier research projects
Commons as hidden resources – exploring the shifting roles of commons in rural development processes. (funded by Formas)
Water Politics in the Nile Basin – Emerging Land Acquisitions and the Hydropolitical Landscape. See link http://www.nai.uu.se/research/areas/water-politics-in-the-nil/. (Funded by the Swedish Research Council)
The role of communicative capacities in the development of dynamic and legitimate management of mountain resources in Sweden (Funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency)
Besides teaching and research, I have worked with research-based assignments and commissions on a part- and fulltime basis in different capacities and for different organisations e.g. the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish Board of Agriculture, Sida, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and County Boards etc.
- 2010 (ongoing) Senior Lecturer in Rural Development, Department of Urban and Rural Development Studies at SLU (100%).
- 2018 – 2022 Director of Studies for the Research School “Landscape and Society”, Department of Urban and Rural Development at SLU
- 2013 - 2016 Senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden
- 2010 - 2012 Head of the Rural Development Division at the Department of Urban and Rural Development at SLU.
- 2008 - 2010 Lecturer (universitetsadjunkt) in Rural Development at the Department of Urban and Rural Development at SLU.
- 2008 – 2010 Director of Studies for the International Master’s Program in Rural Development and Natural Resource Management.
- 2000 - 2008 PhD candidate and lecturer in Rural Development at the Department of Urban and Rural Development at SLU.
- 2000 - 2001 Associate Expert (for Sida and Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries of Zambia) for the Rural Development Programme in Zambia.
- 1998 - 2000 Senior environmental economist at NCC AB (a multinational construction company).
- 1996 - 1998 Course leader in environment and development studies at the Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala University/SLU.
- Wahlström, Nora. Back-to-the-land and the cultivation of a new countryside. (Ongoing principal supervisor)
- Ortman, Tove. Kulturspannmålens roll för ekologisk spannmålsproduktion och konsumtion - kan vi lära av historien? (Ongoing assistant supervisor)
- Rosén, Linus. 2020. At the limits of state governance: Territory, property and state making in Lenje Chiefdom, rural Zambia. SLU, Doctoral Thesis No. 2020:67. https://pub.epsilon.slu.se/18832/1/rosen_l_201127.pdf. (assistant supervisor)https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1557173/FULLTEXT01.pdf
- Granlund, Stefan. 2020. The Promise of Payday: Exploring the role of state cash transfers in post-apartheid rural South Africa. SLU, Doctoral Thesis No. 2020:10. https://pub.epsilon.slu.se/16691/7/granlund_s_200219.pdf. (assistant supervisor)
- Chongtham, Iman Raj. 2016. Understanding crop and farm management: Links to farm characteristics, productivity, biodiversity, marketing channels and perceptions of climate change. https://pub.epsilon.slu.se/13704/. (assistant supervisor)
Msc thesis supervision (recent)
- Gustafsson, Clara, 2022. Who’s in and who’s out? En studie om hur utsädeshanteringen av kulturspannmål organiseras och regleras formellt och informellt. MA thesis in rural development, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, SLU.
- Ek, Anna, 2022. Mer än ett minne från svunna tider: en analys av häradsallmänningarnas institutionella utveckling. MA thesis in rural development, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, SLU.
- Norr, Hannes, 2022. Att arbeta för en värld som fungerar : en studie om samtalets betydelse för att bygga ett hållbart livsmedelssystem. MA thesis in rural development, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, SLU.
- Palmgren, Josefine. 2020. Går det åt skogen? En diskursanalys över konflikten kring nyckelbiotoper. MA thesis in rural development. Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, SLU.
- Tidlund, Leonie, 2020. Gränsöverskridande samverkan i biosfären: samverkansprocesser i två biosfärområden. MA thesis in rural development, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, SLU.
- Björklund, Magne, 2019. Reason, purpose and members: a critical discourse analysis of a Swedish agricultural cooperative. MA thesis in rural development, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, SLU.
- Orlendo, Elvis Bahati, 2019. Behind the tap: an analysis of Kenya’s Water Act 2016. MA thesis in rural development, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, SLU.
- Tilly, Camilla. 2019. Local Food is Growing, but is Farmer Interest Wilting? An Empirical Investigation into the Factors that Motivate Farmer Involvement in Local Selling Channels. MA thesis in Sustainable Development. Dept. of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University.
- Vesterberg, Viktor. 2019. Havet hör bygden till - kustnära fiske och gastronomi på Österlen. MA thesis in rural development. Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, SLU.
Publikationer i urval
Sandström, E. 2022. Resurgent Back-to-the-land and the Cultivation of a Renewed Countryside. Sociologia Ruralis, 22, 1– 20. https://doi.org/10.1111/soru.12406
Sandström, E and Sahlström, E. 2021. ”Building Biospheres Reserves through Collaborative Governance: a study of organisational forms and collaborative processes in Sweden’s biosphere reserves”. https://pub.epsilon.slu.se/id/eprint/26875
Sandström, E and Sahlström, E. 2020. ”Utveckling av modellområden för hållbar samhällsförändring: En studie om organisationsformer och samverkansprocesser i Sveriges biosfärsområden”. Report 6941, p 1-88, Naturvårdsverket, Stockholm. https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1557173/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Hajdu F, Granlund S, Neves D, Hochfeld T, Amuakwa-Mensah F, and Sandström E. 2020. Cash transfers for sustainable rural livelihoods? Examining the long-term productive effects of the Child Support Grant in South Africa. World Development Perspectives. Published open access: DOI: 10.1016/j.wdp.2020.100227
Sandström, E. 2019. ”Skogens värden och värderingar – en studie om skogliga diskurser och dilemman på Gotland”. Report from Dept. Urban and Rural Development, SLU. Skogens värden och värderingar.pdf (lansstyrelsen.se)
Sandström, E 2018. Det småskaliga kustfiskets förändrade förutsättningar och mervärden. Urban and rural reports series 2018:1. https://pub.epsilon.slu.se/15885/7/
Sandström, E. Ekman, A. and Lindholm, K-J. 2017. ”Commoning in the periphery – the role of commons for understanding rural continuities and change”. International Journal of the Commons. 11(1), pp.508–531. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/ijc.729
Sandström, E; Jägerskog, A. and Oestigaard, T (eds). 2016. “Land and Hydropolitics in the Nile River Basin – Challenges and new investments”. Earthscan/Routledge: London. doi.org/10.4324/9781315686172
Sandström, E. Jägerskog, A. and Oestigaard, T. 2016. ”Changing Challenges: New Hydropolitical Landscapes in the Nile Basin”. In Sandström, E. Jägerskog, A. and Oestigaard, T (eds). Land and Hydropolitics in the Nile River Basin: Challenges and New Investments. doi.org/10.4324/9781315686172
Sandström, E. 2016. “Dealing with water – emerging land investments and the hydropolitical landscape of the Nile Basin”. In Sandström, E. Jägerskog, A. and Oestigaard, T (eds). Land and Hydropolitics in the Nile River Basin: Challenges and New Investments. doi.org/10.4324/9781315686172
Hårsmar, M. Sandström, E. and Beyene, A. 2016. ”Lake Tana: Source of Disputes or Collaboration over the Blue Nile”. In Sandström, E. Jägerskog, A. and Oestigaard, T (eds). Land and Hydropolitics in the Nile River Basin: Challenges and New Investments. doi.org/10.4324/9781315686172
Beyene, A and Sandström, E. 2016. “Emerging water frontiers: Large-scale land and water acquisitions and food security in Africa”. In Tvedt, T and Oestigard, T. (eds) “Water and Food – Africa in a Global Context”. I.B. Tauris, London/New York. DOI: 10.5040/9781350985087.ch-021
Chongtham, I.R., Sandström, E., Watson, C.A., Bergkvist, G., Bengtsson, J. & Öborn, I. 2016. “Exploring links between marketing channels, farming systems, farm size and farmland biodiversity in Central Sweden”. Paper in Chongtam, R thesis compilation entitled: Understanding crop and farm management. Acta Universitatis agriculturae Sueciae 1652-6880; 2016:77. ISBN 978-91-576-8656-5. Available at: http://pub.epsilon.slu.se/13704/
Chongtham, I-R; Sandström, E; Bergkvist , G ; Watson , C; Milestad , R; Thored , K; J Bengtsson , J and Öborn, I. 2016. “Organic and conventional farmers’ views and changed practices in relation to climate change, a Swedish example”. Paper in Chongtam, R thesis compilation entitled: Understanding crop and farm management. Acta Universitatis agriculturae Sueciae 1652-6880; 2016:77. ISBN 978-91-576-8656-5. http://pub.epsilon.slu.se/13704/
Chongtham, I.R. Bergkvist, G. Watson, C.A. Sandström, E. Bengtsson, J. and Öborn, I. 2016. “Factors influencing crop rotation strategies on organic farms with different time periods since conversion to organic production”. Biological Agriculture & Horticulture. No :1-14. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01448765.2016.1174884
Lindholm, K-J. Sandström, E and Ekman A-K. 2013. “The Archeology of the Commons". Journal of Archaeology and Ancient History, No 10:2013. http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:675970/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Sandström, E and Olsson, A. 2012. “Biosfärsområdenas bildningsprocesser – en utvärdering om erfarenheter från genomförandeprocesser i fem svenska biosfärområden”. Report 6529, Naturvårdsverket, Stockholm.
Norrby, T. Sandström, E and Westberg, L. 2011. ”Framtidens Flexibla Förvaltningsformer? En utvärdering av projektet Samverkansplaner för värdefulla kust- och havsområden.” Report 6435. Naturvårdsverket, Stockholm.
Sandström, E. 2008. “Reinventing the Commons – Exploring the Emergence of Local Natural Resource Management Arrangements”. Doctoral thesis No. 2008:48, Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, SLU. Reinventing the Commons
Sandström, E. 2006. “Formation of Local Governance Arrangements for Natural Resources in the Age of Globalisation”. In Havnevik, K. Negash, T and Beyene, A (eds). Of Global Concern – Rural Livelihood Dynamics and Natural Resource Governance. Sida stud.no.16.
Havnevik, K., Hårsmar, M and Sandström, E (eds). 2003.”Rural Development and the Private Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa; Sida’s experiences and approaches in the 1990’s”. Sida Evaluation 03/18. Stockholm.
Havnevik, K. and Sandström, E. (eds.). 2000. “The Institutional Context of Poverty. Eradication in Rural Africa”. Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala.