NEWAVE PhD 10: Neither privatizing nor-remunicipalizing: Austerity as a means of initiating re-commoning governance practices

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Amsterdam, , NL

Host institution: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Principal supervisor: Prof. Maria Kaika
Co-supervisor: Prof. Jampel Dell’Angelo
Non-academic co-supervisor: Mr. Georges Archontopoulos
Application deadline: 24 May 2020
Expected starting date: before 15 October 2020
Duration: 3 years


The recent austerity crisis in Europe has given rise to stronger and more populous movements demanding re-municipalisation or re-commoning of water resources. These movements differ from past attempts to re-commoning and re-municipalising water in two important ways:

  • The geographical scope of these grassroots movements fighting for re-commoning water and against privatisation ranges from intra-Europan (e.g. the European Citizens’ initiative for the right to water), to regional (the recent campaign at Lazio, Italy, for declaring water a service of public interest) to local initiatives (e.g. the SOSte to nero, and 136 movement against the privatisation of the water company of Thessaloniki, Greece).
  • The Actors involved in these movements under austerity conditions consist of social groups and organizations who were previously considered to be neither ‘revolutionary’ nor ‘militant’, and certainly not ‘radical’ or ‘innovative’ in their outlook philosophy and praxis. These emerging actors who think outside the box and often act ‘out of their traditional role and character’ include trade unions, home carers (particularly women), children, and pensioners.

The project will pay particular attention to these actors who were ignored in previous research, but are now central in initiating fresh ways of thinking about managing ‘the commons’ under conditions of crisis and austerity. The project will assess the role they play in building alliances across segments of the society, and internationally, for reclaiming the commons through a new process of subjectivisation at different geographical scales and social contexts.

This PhD position will:

  1. Investigate to what extent the need to both protect the environment and secure jobs under economic crisis and austerity frameworks, can mobilize new sets of actors and can ignite new paradigms for water governance.
  2. Examine ways in which the pressure of the international paradigm to privatize water combined with the inability to find investors under an economic crisis can lead to innovative ways of thinking and acting ‘outside the box’ around water governance and to re-thinking practices for re-commoning water resources.

Expected results:

  1. Document and assess new innovative paradigms for managing water as the commons
  2. Assess the extent to which these new practices can be upscaled to an EU and international level
  3. Compare and contrast the outcomes of such re-commoning practices, to existing paradigms of either municipal or privately-run water sectors
  4. (4) Understand and explain where such paradigms succeed and where they fail. Why do they fail (or succeed) locally in changing water management practices? Why they fail (or succeed) in scaling-up, and in altering global water management practices? Why and how they succeed or fail in inspiring further movements and practices?
About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. And to be a university where personal education and societal involvement play a leading role. Where people from different disciplines and backgrounds work together on innovations and on generating new knowledge. Our teaching and research embrace the whole spectrum of science – from the humanities, the social sciences and the pure sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 24,500 students. We employ more than 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We seek
  • A degree at BA and at Masters level at the time of appointment in one of the following fields: geography, urban studies, planning, sociology, political ecology, environmental policy and governance, political sciences, law, anthropology or any other related cognate discipline in the humanities and social sciences.
  • A commitment to academic excellence
  • Proven skills in executing empirical research in challenging contexts. Participant experience or research experience with social movements is particularly desirable
  • Proven Capacity to work independently and as part of a team
  • Examples of high-quality written work, such as a journal paper or equivalent
  • Outstanding interpersonal skills to work with multiple stakeholders
  • Some acquaintance (in theory or in praxis) with a range of research methods in the social sciences (notably qualitative and ethnographic research methods)
  • Very good command of English. Knowledge of Greek is an asset but not necessary
  • Live and work full-time in Amsterdam and be prepared to conduct brief fieldwork periods abroad (mainly in Greece).
  • Capacity and commitment to Co-organize and participate fully in all the international research activities of the ITN network (including summer schools, conferences, etc.) .
Eligibility criteria*
  • You must – at the date of recruitment – have obtained the MSc degree entitling you to embark on a doctorate
  • You must – at the date of recruitment – be within the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career and not have a doctoral degree
  • Mobility rule: you must not have resided or carried out your main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the host organisation you are applying for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment date. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

*Please make sure you comply with the eligibility criteria before applying. You need to be able to provide documentation proving your eligibility for recruitment. You can read the full description of eligibility criteria in the Information Note for ITN Fellows.


Dr. Maria Kaika
Chair in Urban Regional and Environmental Planning
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Institute of Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands

Prof. Jampel Dell’Angelo
Assistant professor of Water Governance & NEWAVE Principal Investigator
Institute of Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands

Mr. Georges Archontopoulos
President of SEEYATH Worker’s Union of Thessaloniki Water Company, Greece





IHE Delft Institute for Water Education - MSc in Water and Sustainable Development