PER background

The distinguishing feature of the research group is a critical political economy approach that looks at population and economic transitions that have emerged from changes in agriculture and rural areas. It examines the changing nature of access to resources, environmental degradation, poverty dynamics, vulnerability, exclusion, and social/gender differentiation in these transitions.

Rural householders working in the fields

For example, these include looking at why young people do not want to farm anymore, the shift in gender power relations in the land rights disputes, the impact of migration to urban areas, and the issue of ‘surplus population’.


Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies

Rubber productionThe research on Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES) is partly a continuation of earlier research that took place in the second half of the previous decade on land, agrarian change, land reform and rural livelihoods.

The research theme of agrarian change since then expanded to include work on environmental degradation, political ecology and conservation[1], as agricultural and rural development became more and more influenced by resource conflicts and climate change.

Primary school in Laos

Critical Research in Social Policy

Critical Research in Social Policy is based on earlier work in the area of popula­tion and development, amongst others jointly undertaken with UNFPA, and research on poverty.

By the mid-2000s the research area was expanded into innovative directions such as children, youth and development, social policy and development, gender and sexual and reproductive health rights, while poverty research as well as population studies remained important.

This was a change that followed important external policy foci emerging in the ‘devel­opment agenda’, and emerging trends in global debates, such as focusing on sexual and reproductive health rights and gender equity and on inter-genera­tional issues, such as ageing and children & youth in development.


This two-stream approach, which recognizes the inter-connexions between these two areas of study, is not only innovative but also allows the development and cross-fertilization of new ideas and initiatives. These inter-relationships are recognized by the draft IPRC (2012), as having 'a common epistemological and methodological foundation that holds it together.'



[1] Büscher was granted a prestigious Veni grant from NWO (2012-2015) in this field (see under Research Projects).