Announcement: Starting a New Job in September 2018

The time has come to make this news public — I am starting a new exciting job as an Assistant Professor (tenure-track) at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) in September 2018. ISS is located in The Hague although it is part of EUR. My responsibilities will include teaching in “Governance and Development Policy” Major, supervising Ph.D. students, conducting research and research funding acquisition and taking part in university administration.

ISS is an excellent institute where governance and development meet, and where the focus is placed at the developing world — both in research and education. No other university in The Netherlands can claim that the biggest majority of its students come from Africa, Latin America and Asia. This brings with it a great opportunity for exciting research from the perspective of Southern scholars/students, adding a much need diversity to the efforts to change the current unsustainable practices in the world. I am stepping down as a researcher at Utrecht University, but will maintain close links with the Environmental Governance group at Utrecht. I will remain Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

For communication — my Utrecht email will stop working from late August — thus it is best to write to my private email before I announce my new work email address.

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Can you design institutions for adaptive governance?

Professor Andreas Thiel from Kassel University and I published an essay in the “Handbook of Nature” this month. Our essay is titled: “Purposeful Institutional Change for Adaptive Governance of Natural Resources: How to Cater for Context and Agency?” It is about the issue of instituting rules for adaptive governance, and whether such design is possible. Drawing on the example of China and EU we claim that these attempts are necessary, but will not be deterministic in how such designs unfold and influence adaptive governance. Here is an extract from our introduction:

In recent decades, adaptive governance has been advocated for meeting the challenges of unpredictable and uncertain dynamics of Social-ecological Systems (SES) (Folke, 2006; Huitema et al., 2009). Scholars ascribe a multitude of virtues to adaptive governance, such as, for example, the preparedness of populations for disturbances associated with climate change (Pahl-Wostl, 2006). Adaptive governance stands for a set of meta-principles of governance which contribute to making societies less vulnerable to various shocks. What adaptive governance should look like has been discussed at length in the literature on SES (e.g. Huitema et al., 2009; Ostrom, 2010; Pahl-Wostl, 2008). However, little is known about how such adaptive governance emerges and how we need to think about purposeful institutional change in its regard. In this chapter, we want to specifically address these two issues. Hereby we argue that work on adaptive governance should to a greater extent focus on the role of agency in the emergence of adaptive governance in order to derive appropriate ways to bring the institutional dimensions of adaptive governance about. We develop this argument about deeper understanding of agency by discussing the emergence and functioning of polycentric governance, which is commonly seen as an essential part of adaptive governance.

To read the chapter — you can download it here.

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Western Political Science Association Conference in San Francisco

Next week from Wednesday to Saturday I will attend the WPSA meeting in San Francisco where I present a paper “Policy Translation: a Review of Current Research”. The programme of the conference is very exciting with many interesting panels in three sections of special interest — on public policy, environmental political economy and environmental politics. On Wednesday there is a whole day of workshop on Environmental Political Theory.

This would be my first American conference after a long time (2011) and a first American conference as such. My two other conferences were global that took place in America. So I am also curious to compare the approaches to science, although I do not expect too many differences in this globalised world.

If you are plan to attend WPSA — do get in touch so that we do not miss each other!

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Advice from Helen Ingram on Being in Academia for Early and Seasoned Scholars

In 2017, a double special issue of the Journal of the Southwest was published that celebrated the career of Dr. Helen Ingram (pictured) as a scholar, mentor and colleague. The special issue contains a number of essays written by world-class scholars in the U.S. and around the world and is a must-read for anyone interested in the subject of water policy and politics. Here is a recent review published in Water Alternatives about the Special Issue — a nice starting point to know what to read. Continue reading

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What do you think about this film? Is this capitalism? Consumerism? Human stupidity? Power? Or is this too gloomy a portrait and there is more to life than this ugliness? I am curious what you think!

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Nature, Humans and The Anthropocene (Video in Dutch)


After a long break, here I am posting again. I hope that the most loyal readers still check the website, but no problem — even those who have forgotten about its existence are likely to come back soon as exciting stuff is going to come online! Continue reading

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Reflexivity, positionality and normativity in the ethnography of policy translation

A new chapter on the role of reflexivity, positionality and normativity in using ethnography to study policy translation as a process is now available in the form of proofs. The final version will be published in the book “Translation in World Politics” edited by Tobias Burger and Alejandro Esguerra. Continue reading

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United Nations Global Environmental Outlook 6

(Click on image to enlarge) Dr. Farhad Mukhtarov has been invited to join the flagship publication of the United Nations Environmental Programme — Global Environmental Outlook 6 as a lead author. He will work in a exciting team of scholars and practitioners from all over the world on the chapter called “Policy Effectiveness”. Continue reading

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Stories from the field!!! Water governance stories from Jerusalem, Sabadell, Leicester and Milton Keynes!

In less than 3 weeks I am setting out on my research trip to conduct an interpretive study of flood risk management policy at the local level in the city of Leicester, the UK. At the same time, I supervise three students who will conduct similar studies in three other cities, namely Roos Haasnoot in Jerusalem, Esme Arnott in Milton Keynes, and Rafaela Reznik in Sabadell Continue reading

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Central European University and Academic Freedom

Last week has been unprecedented in the history of the Central European University (CEU) — it was reported in the most prestigious media outlets such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Financial Times and many others. The reason for such an uproar is the tabled legislation in the Hungarian Parliament which would effectively make the operation of CEU in Budapest impossible.

The way CEU reacted reflects the leadership style of Michael Ignatieff who proved to be politically alert and enterprising, a quality rarely found in academics. In the times when rectors are usually appointed as managers and often come from the private sector, the decision to put Ignatieff in lead reflects a unique position of CEU in the liberal world of universities. It is undoubtedly this understanding of the importance of the “academic freedom” by Ignatieff the academic, that pushed him to react in such a broad and intense manner effectively invoking all available remedies to oppose the draft legislation. The media coverage, the diplomatic pressure from the US Embassy, the global academic movement garnered in support of CEU — these are the tools from his toolbox put in use.

CEU will win regardless of the outcome of the decision. It has already benefited from the unprecedented publicity and I would say it is perhaps a leader in the world in terms of combining academic excellence and societal engagement. It is an institution of highest quality you frankly do not find anymore in Europe. There is space to think and explore and there is money for scholarships with no immediate career pressures. As a Ph.D. student at CEU, I spent 4 and a half years researching a topic making use of an excellent library, world class speakers visiting the University (such as Bruno Latour, Joseph Stiglitz and many others) and taking up an opportunity to spend a year at the Oxford University in 2007/2008 — a unique opportunity open to CEU students in cooperation with the Opean Society Institute and the British Council. I did not publish articles while at CEU, but instead, I read broadly, made friends with people from dozens of countries and matured as a person and an academic. CEU is truly special in the way it triggers critical thinking that few other universities do.

Some time ago I reviewed an essay of Edward Said titled “On Defiance and Taking Positions”. It is about the role of a public intellectual in our society. The essay starts with the following paragraph:

Compared, say, to most African, Asian, and Middle Eastern Universities, the American university constitutes a relatively utopian space, where we can actually talk about the boundaries of the academy. In other universities in other parts of the world, of course, the academy is part of the political system and academic appointments are necessarily, very often the case, outright political appointments.

It is precisely this type of independence from political appointments that Orban is trying to end in a country which is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Edward Said goes on to establish the role of an intellectual in society in a following manner:

But I think, once you get out of the academy into the larger world, then the intellectual plays a particular role, and this role is essentially — it is perhaps easier to define it in terms of negatives — an opponent of consensus and orthodoxy, particularly at a moment in our society when with authorities of concerns and orthodoxy are so powerful, and the role of the individual, the voice of the individual tend not to be heard. So the role of the intellectual is not to consolidate authority, but to understand, interpret, and question it: this is another version of the notion of speaking the truth to power, a point I make in my book Representations of the Intellectual.

And then perhaps the most important is the following sentence of Edward Said:

There’s nothing more maddening in our own time than people who say, “Oh no, no, that’s controversial; I don’t want to do it”; or the habitual trimming refrain, “No, no, I can’t sign that because I mean, you know, I may disturb matters and people may think the wrong thing about me”.

It is this type of public intellectuals which this world needs and increasingly lacks, and CEU was a place to cultivate and empower such voices. This is why Orban closes it. And the same reason was at play when Erdogan closed universities and fired professors and deans, Putin closed the European Humanitarian University, Aliyev closed the Qafqaz University and many other leaders push universities in their own countries to comply, academics to keep quiet and become professionals instead of being intellectuals.

The Central European University is a fore-post against such attempts, an institution that is essential for an open society, for democracy, even for public memory to be preserved in the times when every authoritarian leader attempts to write his/her own history. CEU is not fighting for itself, it is fighting for the future of universities in the world. As simple as that.

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The Slow Living

Reading this fantastic essay on slow living and slow writing by Jasmine Ulmer. Just started. Very interesting. Why am I writing in short sentences? Because this is the new “cool”, this is how Trump is governing. It’s fantastic. You’ll love it.

But seriously, you need to read that article about slowness of being. The unbearable slowness of being in this age of fast food, fast love, fast career, fast death. Here is the reference — go and get the article and read it. And then see if you are OK with the scholarship you are having now.

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Interview on Water, Environment and Consumption Issues of Baku and Azerbaijan (2013)

In an earlier post from 2013, I mentioned the project on New Baku implemented by a few Spanish researchers, which resulted in a very informative and interesting website New Baku. Within this project, the researchers made a number of interesting interviews with scholars, experts and inhabitants of Baku, among them, they also talked to me. The video recording of this conversation is below.

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Travel Grants Available to Ph.D. Candidates for International Conference on Public Policy, Singapore June 28-30 2017

Organised by the International Public Policy Association (IPPA)
28th-30th June 2017
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

PANEL T08P13 / Policy Narratives: Frameworks, Methods and Case Studies


Deadline for PAPER Proposals: 15th January 2017

GRANTS. Please note the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy is pleased to support PhD students presenting at the Conference by providing free on-campus accommodation and will also support the participation of academics from developing countries in Asia by providing travel subsidies of SGD $500 to qualifying applicants. The UNDP is also pleased to support the costs of scholars’ travel for participants presenting papers in panels marked “eligible for UNDP grant”. All grants are awarded on a competitive basis based on the quality of the abstract. Information on the procedure to follow to apply for grants and student subsidies is available on our website Continue reading

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Oxford Handbook Chapter — Transfer, Diffusion, Adaptation, and Translation of Water Policy Models

Finally the chapter “Transfer, Diffusion, Adaptation, and Translation of Water Policy Models” in the Oxford Handbook on Water Politics and Policy is out online. The book itself will be printed next year. Continue reading

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Art: Blurring the Boundaries

This paper from 2011 in discusses how artists and scientists can benefit each other in new and interesting ways. Above all, the complex, rewarding and at times frustrating experiences of interdisciplinary collaborations is at display through such innovative work. Another added value of such projects is the tuning of communication strategies of making science and scientific work salient in public, including the disturbing, pessimistic and dystopic visions of it.

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Trump proved — we live in parallel worlds!

Trump’s presidency proves one point – that social constructivism explains the world much better than realism, positivism or whatever. Propaganda, framing of messages, providing false hopes, marketing messages to a desperate constituency — these all proved to be more important than reasons and facts. With this regard, I want to make 2 smaller points clear, as follows Continue reading

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Away from Dependence on Fossil Fuels and onto BIOECONOMY! New paper!

Good news! “Away from fossil-fuels and toward a bioeconomy: Knowledge versatility for public policy?” is finally out Continue reading

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Political and ethical aspects in the ethnography of policy translation: Research experiences from Turkey and China

A new article written by Martin de Jong, Robin Pierce and myself is now out in Environment and Planning A, “Political and ethical aspects in the ethnography of policy translation: Research experiences from Turkey and China”. You can download the author copy here.


A currently burgeoning literature in planning and policy studies engages with the travel of policy models across countries and sites through novel concepts such as policy translation, policy mobility, and mutations. Increasingly, this literature calls for ethnographic methods to study the travel of policy models. Such methods require various degrees of researcher’s participation in the policy process. As a result, ethnographers become entangled in complex webs of relationships during and after their fieldwork, which introduces political and ethical dimensions to ethnographic fieldwork. The literature on policy mobilities and translation, however, has provided few practical guidelines regarding the politics and ethics of conducting ethnographic research. Based on two vignettes from our research experiences in China and Turkey, we discuss the politics and ethics of applying ethnography to policy translation and offer a number of hints for future researchers.

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“We Must Slow Down on All Fronts” by Lieven de Cauter and Pretty Much Everyone

Nuclear test explosion in Mururoa atoll, French Polynesia, in 1971. The official expert group says the Anthropocene should begin about 1950 and is likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across Earth by nuclear bomb tests. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

When I am in The Netherlands, I buy a few magazines in Dutch so that I may enjoy reading them when at home in Baku, over political, social and literary issues which I enjoy a lot. This is partly also because the Dutch have a few magazines which are leftish in their orientation, talk about the issues of sustainability, future, education, social justice and order. I find this very important to have such reflection going on in a society, and thus, try to read these magazines regularly. Continue reading

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Policies on the move: translation, assemblages, and ethnography

I reviewed four recent books on the translation of policies, assemblages and the growing role of ethnography in public policy and urban studies in a new book review essay published in Environment and Planning C. These books are as follows:

Blaustein Jarrett, Speaking truths to power: Policy ethnography and police reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 2015; 272 pp. ISBN 978-0-198-72329-5, $110 (hbk)

Clarke John, Bainton David, Lendvai Noemi, and Stubbs Paul, Making policy move: Towards a politics of translation and assemblage. Policy Press: Bristol, UK, 2015; 224 pp. ISBN 978-1-447-31336-6, $115.00 (hbk), ISBN 978-1-447-31337-3, $44.95 (pbk)

Kingfisher Catherine, A policy travelogue: Tracing welfare reform in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Canada. Berghahn Press: New York, USA and Oxford, UK, 2013; 230 pp. ISBN 978-1-782- 38005-4, $120.00/»75.00 (hbk), ISBN 978-1-785-33221-0, $29.95/»18.50 (pbk)

Peck Jamie and Theodore Nik, Fast policy: Experimental statecraft at the thresholds of neoliberalism. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, USA and London, UK, 2015; 328 pp. ISBN 978-0-816-67730-6 $105.00 (hbk), ISBN 978-0-816-67731-3 $30.00 (pbk)

The article is published first online and will appear in print either later this year or early next year. You can read the book review essay here.

For ADA University students, all four books are available in the ADA library for you to read.

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