I am Assistant Professor of Transformative Governance and Democracy at the Copernicus Institute at Utrecht University. I take a leading role in the innovative, transdisciplinary European CHARM-EU Master on 'Global Challenges for Sustainability', especially its Capstone phase. I am a research fellow of the global Earth System Governance network and co-convene its working group on Democracy.
My research focuses on democracy and justice for the governance of social-ecological transformations, esp. food governance, radical and ecological democracy, community-based initiatives, social movements, and Seed Commons. My research highlights deep leverage points for sustainability transformation, hence challenging dominant unsustainable discourses and paradigms, such as a growth focus, human-nature dichotomies, and focus on expert, technocratic knowledge; and revealing incumbent power relations embedded in dominant institutions and practices. My research aims to shine light on and empower the many already lived, prefigurative 'real utopias' on the ground, and understand conditions for them to achieve wider transformative impact. For this, I am passionate about better understanding the interplay of governance levels and scales in processes of transformations, hence how bottom-up grassroots relate to top-down structures, and ways to co-create more empowering narratives, institutions and practices. This includes alternative forms of achieving pluralistic, democratic directionality towards just and sustainable transformations. I take a transformative and transdisciplinary research approach to incorporate pluralist voices and types of knowledge in my research, including Global South and Indigenous perspectives.
I obtained my cumulative PhD in the transdisciplinary research project RightSeeds at the University of Oldenburg, Germany, for which I was awarded the University Society Oldenburg Award for an Outstanding Dissertation. My dissertation examined how Seed Commons initiatives are affected by the complex Multi-Level Governance system around plant genetic resources, biodiversity, intellectual property rights and seed legislation in Germany and the Philippines, and at the EU and the global level. I analyzed how these seed initiatives as ‘real utopias’ on the ground and as social movements contribute to creating more empowering institutions and practices for a social-ecological transformation of agri-food systems.
During my PhD, I was research fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, at the Environmental Studies Department. I obtained my Master degree in ‘Sustainability Economics and Management’ at the University of Oldenburg and a Bachelor degree in ‘International Relations’ at the Technical University of Dresden.