Resource competition worldwide: Issues and perspectives


About this course

One of the big questions of our time is how to deal with competing claims to scarce natural resources. Given the multiple competing pressures on resources, how can we organise resource access in a fair way? Global problems around resource grabbing continue to be high on the agenda and it remains difficult to reconcile large scale land acquisition and infrastructural investment with equitable and sustainable development. The current concern with climate change adds to these pressures: measures related to carbon emission reduction, alternative sources of energy, and climate adaptation tend to have considerable land foot prints and compete with other uses. This course offers students a broad understanding of current day processes of resource competition and provides key conceptual building blocks to analyze its dynamics and outcomes. How we conceptualise resource competition informs the direction in which we look for solutions. The course examines resource competition in terms of 'new enclosures', stressing resource capture by powerful actors at the expense of less powerful users. We pay attention to the interplay of power and politics, the law, and violence. We discuss several theoretical approaches to resource competition, most importantly: political ecology, legal anthropology, and conflict studies. These approaches help move beyond understandings of (violent) competition as a 'simple' response to resource scarcity to consider the underlying dynamics of resource appropriation and unequal access, and the relation between open conflict and structural forms of exclusion and dispossession. The course discusses current approaches to address resource conflict and prevent ‘grabbing’, such as due diligence, land rights registration, and civil society advocacy. It will become clear that though there is a clear need for equitable and sustainable solutions, how to achieve this remains an issue of much debate.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • identify sources and manifestations of resource competition;
  • analyze dynamics of power and contention in resource competition with the use of suitable theories;
  • identify approaches to address natural resource competition and critically reflect on the potential of these approaches to contribute to equity and sustainability;
  • develop skills in analytical and argumentative writing;
  • (start to) reflect on their own position and options for professional engagement with resource conflict and social/environmental justice.

Required prior knowledge

Assumed Knowledge:
This course is open to students from different disciplinary backgrounds. We expect you to have prior knowledge in one of the following fields- broadly defined: development studies, natural resource management, social geography, land use planning, social anthropology, conflict studies. If you have doubts about your entry level or the added value of the course, please contact the course coordinator to discuss your concerns.

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    2 september 2024

    • Ends
      25 oktober 2024
    • Term *
      Period 1
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    Enrolment starts in 44 days
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University