Naamdr. FM Köhne

OmschrijvingUniversitair docent Rechtsantropologie
OrganisatieDepartement Maatschappijwetenschappen
OrganisatieeenheidSociologie van Ontwikkeling en Verandering
Telefoon+31 317 482 948
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BezoekadresHollandseweg 1
PostadresPostbus 8130
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Ma Di Wo Do Vr


Michiel Köhne is Assistant Professor in Anthropology of the politics of Development and works at the Sociology of Development and Change group of Wageningen University.


My areas of expertise are: Anthropology of law and development, Energy transition, Renewable energy, Nuclear energy, Land conflict, Resistance, Activism, Extraction, Oil Palm, Energy Practices, Certification. I have been working in: Bolivia, Indonesia, Australia and The Netherlands.



I work primarily on how local groups of inhabitants organize themselves through activism or through law when confronted with powerful social actors, such as companies and governments seeking access to their natural resources. I use ethnographic research with a focus on how activism or law are used in these negotiations. I have worked on social mobilizations around shale gas in the Netherlands and Australia and around palm oil plantations in Indonesia. At present I focus on how the energy transition towards renewable energy takes place and the role of nuclear power in this process by analysing local energy practices and political negotiations.


My formal education: LLM at the Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam, 1993), PhD in law at Tilburg University (Tilburg 2000).






An important theme in my work is the production and reproduction of power inequalities with a focus on the relationship between on the one hand the relative anonymous actors of a globalising market relations and its related scramble for resources and on the other hand concrete communities that negotiate their relatively local autonomous lifestyles, interests and dwellings. In both the Noordoostpolder and Australia I analyse how inhabitants react to announcements of gas extraction in their area, on how they perceive their expected wins and losses and how they relate this to larger discourse and engage in alliances to organize their resistance, all within a normative context which includes imaginations of state and law. In Indonesia my research focuses on how villagers use different kinds of law, among which RSPO, and fight over the legitimacy of different kinds of land use and village heads in order to safeguard their access to land vis-à-vis oil palm plantation companies. In Bolivia I have analysed how an indigenous community used a combination of state law and authorities and indigenous law and authorities to strive for autonomy against logging companies.


A relatively new theme in my work is renewable energy. Also on this topic I work both in The Netherlands and in Australia. One of the big questions here is why almost everybody is concerned about climate change and has hopes for renewable energy developments to solve this. Still, especially large-scale renewable energy developments often face a lot of opposition. Within these themes I focus on the role of normativities and activism.


Another research focus is the role of law in the production and reproduction of power inequalities. I look at how people use and produce law, among other sources of power to negotiate these power inequalities. This includes an analysis of how uses of law are related to uses of other resources like knowledge, discourses, economic power and alliances. Use of law is about the use and reproduction of both state law and non-state law. Central in my understanding is the construction and reconstruction of authorities that may produce or enforce law. Among these authorities the state is an important one, but also non-state authorities are important. These are authorities are not something apart from society, but are part of social processes in which authorities are produced and reproduced through processes of legitimation. This implies an understanding of state and other authorities as another means to pursue private interests.


In teaching anthropology of law I pursue first and foremost to achieve a discussion between my students, the teaching materials and me. My teaching supports students to think aloud and try out their positioning in debates on development and on the role of law in development. In this way, I hope to support a learning experience that goes beyond a mere reproduction of knowledge, its application or analysis of cases by students, aiming at a genuine growth of the students themselves.


Being a student of international development for me is not primarily about learning the skills for a job or even understanding inequalities. Although these are important and useful and do take up their rightful prominent place in the curriculum. More importantly however, it is about learning to place yourself in this world full of questions of development and inequalities.


My happiest moments in teaching are those when students find out anew who they are or who they can be in relation to development. One of the courses in which this is very much the focus is our SDC50904 course on "Resistance, Power and Movements" which is all about developing your own political agency in the realm of activism.

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