Thomas Vetter


Biography and research interests

Thomas joined Neuchâtel University in July 2015 as a PhD student on this project and has chosen to explore our research topic and objectives in the United Kingdom (UK). Prior to coming to Switzerland and conducting field work within the UK, he had lived in Denmark for 4 years, where he first completed a MSc in Agricultural Development at Copenhagen University and then worked at the same institution as a research assistant. Thomas further holds a bachelor degree in Governance & Public Policy from Passau University in Germany and has worked for about two years in development cooperation in between his two study programmes.

His main research interest lies in the transformation of agri-food systems (both in the Global North and Global South) and its implications for society, economy, state and the environment. He is particularly interested in more sustainable forms of food production and consumption and its associated governance frameworks supporting such transitions.

For more information: download CV

Thesis project: Agri-Environmental Governance & Social-Ecological Transitions

Thomas research interest derives from the observation that many new approaches, such as payments for ecosystem services or catchment-based initiatives, now complement and transform previous agri-environmental measures subsumed under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. In most cases these new approaches transcend traditional boundaries between the public and the private, the state and the market, the conventional and the alternative, and hence involve a rising number of actors and interests at different organizational and spatial scales. This emergence of multiplicity can thus be seen as an increasingly common feature of modern governmentality, whose underlying principles and drivers, real-life manifestations and practical implications for target groups and societies at large remain understudied and undertheorized.

Therefore, Thomas’ project sets out to synthesise and analyse these contemporary forms of AEG in the context of the UK in order to shed light on three critical issues: a) the social, practical and spatial expressions in which AEG approaches manifest themselves, b) their capacities to achieve transformational change with regard to more sustainable food systems and rural development, and c) the reasons for their inherent advantages or shortcomings in achieving these objectives. The aim of his project is to document changing human-environmental relations which are potentially engendered through new forms of governance and to analyse the roles that different actors, attitudes and values play therein. It does so by employing a mixed-methods approach primarily based on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork.


  • Vetter, T. and Larsen, M.N. (2014): ’Supermarkedsrevolutionen’ i Indonesien, in Geografisk Orientering, Vol. 44 (4), pp. 28-32 (in Danish).
  • Vetter, T. (2014): Adapt or Die? The Modernisation of Agri-Food Markets in Indonesia and ist Implications for Horticulture Smallholder Producers – Insights from West Java and South Sulawesi, Master thesis, Copenhagen University, available at:

Conference presentations

  • Envisioning the Market as a Solution to Agri-Environmental Governance in Wales, presentation at XIV World Congress of Rural Sociology 2016, Toronto, Canada, 14. AUG.
  • The (so-called) Supermarket Revolution in Indonesia – What does it mean for smallholder production?, presentation at the annual conference of the Association of Development Researchers in Denmark (FAU) and the Danish Development Research Network (DDRN) 2014, Copenhagen, Denmark, 21. AUG.
  • Winds of Change: Livelihoods of an Iban Community in Transition, poster presentation at the annual Conference on Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural and Natural Resource Management, Tropentag 2012, Göttingen, Germany, 21 SEP.


Phone:  UK +44 (0)7539 457233