nl en

Searching for Sustainable Livelihoods: A Fieldcourse on Fieldwork in The Netherlands


Admission requirements

Searching for Sustainable Livelihoods: A Fieldcourse on Fieldwork in The Netherlands is a 10 ECTS 200-level course, open to all majors. It runs through Block 4 with a two-week intensive field trip in The Netherlands immediately following reading week. The specific dates are still to be determined. There will be a tuition fee for the field trip to cover lodging, food, and field activities but this will be as minimal as possible and should not hinder anyone from applying. Financial aid may be possible on a case-by-case basis. An information session will be organized at the end of Block 2. The course will count for Global Citizenship credits.

This semester there are two Global Citizenship courses on offer that are by application only (The Ecology Project, and Searching for Sustainable Livelihoods. If you are applying to both of these courses, please indicate (at the top of your application) whether you can take both courses if accepted and your preference ranking for both (1-first choice, 2-second choice). If you are indifferent, give both courses a ranking of 1.

In addition, when applying for the Searching for Sustainable Livelihoods course, please provide the following:

  • Letter of motivation in which you briefly (max 1 page 1.5 spaced) explain your interest in the course, how it fits into your study plan, and what experience you have that you think help prepare you for this field course experience.

  • Your CV

  • Your transcript (print screen from Usis is fine)

Submit all documents via email to:; the deadline to do so is Monday 1 January 2024, 23:59.


Across the globe humans face the challenge of building successful livelihoods, ones that not only bring them financial security and stability, but enhance their capabilities and provide them with other important aspects of well-being, be it good health, happiness, identity, and/or belonging. Such pursuits are arguably taking place in increasingly complex, dynamic, inter-connected and challenging environments. Population pressure, climate change, resource depletion, are only some of the forces pushing us to find innovative ways to adapt to changing ecologies, enhance livelihood resilience, and ensure a continued productive and healthy resource base.

In the Netherlands, for example, farmers and fisherman on the Wadden islands (a UNESCO natural world heritage site) are trying to find ways to retain their coastal livelihoods while accommodating growing tourism and a strong conservation movement aimed at mitigating the threats posed by mining, gas drilling and infrastructure developments. Meanwhile in The Hague, residents fight against physical and cultural displacements in the face of demographic changes, urban renewal policies, and complicated processes of gentrification.

If we want to play a part in facilitating and protecting sustainable livelihoods, be it in an urban metropolis or rural coastal village, we need to understand livelihood systems, the complex relationships between humans and the environments they inhabit or make use of.

Anchored in environmental anthropology and the approaches of cultural, political, and ethnoecology, this field course will train students in field methods; in innovative, participatory, playful and self-reflective methodological approaches and techniques to study human-environment interactions. While we will focus on applying such techniques to questions around sustainable livelihoods and how people engage with, make meaning from, and adapt to the environment, this field methods orientation can be applied to any field and any topic. It is designed for students from all majors.

Students will learn how to approach the field, with attention paid to the ethics of fieldwork and data collection as well as how to enter and be in the field, making use of all of our senses and taking the time to process and self-reflect on our integration and our learning. There is a strong focus on having fun in fieldwork and on playful ways to learn and listen and connect with people in new fields of inquiry and new spaces.

The field methods of focus will include (participant) observation, drawing, social mapping, interviewing, photovoice, and reflective journaling. The course will highlight the value of innovative, creative, mixed-method and participatory approaches.

While the location of the field module cannot yet be promised, the expectation is to return to Terschelling and the Oerol environmental arts festival ( to undertake “Festival Fieldwork,” a method the instructor has been developing to facilitate first time fieldwork and to engage with fun, creative methods of co-creating knowledge.

Course Objectives


  • Students will learn about environmental anthropology and the various approaches used to examine the relationship between humans and environments

  • Students will learn to approach sustainable livelihoods from an interdisciplinary systems perspective and be able to identify the diversity of threats and protection efforts

  • Students will learn about different methodological approaches used to better understand complex livelihood systems and the value of mixed-method, participatory, self-reflective, and playful approaches.

  • Students will gain regional/local knowledge on the environmental, economic, political, and socio-cultural landscape from which residents in urban and rural Netherlands search for sustainable livelihoods.


  • Students learn key fieldwork skills, like how to enter the field, how to observe with all our senses, how to systematically self-reflect and take time to process field data through reflective journaling.

  • Students will get an introduction to some key methods and techniques, like interviewing, participant observation, mapping, drawing and photovoice.

  • Students will engage with game-based learning and playful field methods.

  • Students will be trained in team work, by pursuing field work together.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

LUC Seminar course in Block 4.

  • Classes will meet in the usual manner and according to the timeslot

  • Fieldwork is an important part of this course to develop practical skills. The fieldwork will be conducted during class time and on weekends.

Netherlands field trip (Summerbreak: very likely June 7-16):

  • 10 days of an intensive field trip in The Netherlands, in tents, which will comprise of classroom-type seminars, field-trips and project work.
    Please note that if you cannot participate for this entire 10 days you are not eligible to take this course.

Assessment Method

  • Final field report: 10% (Pass/Fail)

  • Participation: 10% (Graded)

  • Field Assignments: 4X20% (Graded)

Reading list

Will be provided prior and during the course on an ongoing basis.

There is one book to order in time for when the course starts:

  • Causey, A. (2017). Drawn to See: Drawing as an Ethnographic Method. University of Toronto Press.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Caroline Archambault,