Social Sciences

Honorary doctorates

We honour our peers... scientific merit is something we cherish

Every few years, the faculty recommends an (internationally) renowned scientist for an honorary doctorate from the University of Antwerp. Here is our ‘wall of fame’.

2022 - Prof. dr. Michèle Lamont

Prof. Michèle Lamont received the honorary degree from the Faculty of Social Sciences in recognition of her expertise in the field of sociology, specifically concerning sociological issues on culture and social inequality, but also because she is an important academic voice in the public debate on themes such as social change, inclusion and diversity.​

Nominator: Prof. Gert Verschraegen

Masterclass What we Value: Redefining Worth in the New Gilded Age

Watch the livestream

2021 - Prof. dr. Jane Mansbridge

Professor Jane Mansbridge was awarded an honorary doctorate in social sciences on Wednesday, 31 March 2021, in recognition of her expertise in the field of political science, specifically democratic representation.

Harvard University
Laudatio: Prof. Dr. Petra Meier
Master Class: The Future of Democracy

2018 - Prof. dr. Michael Slater

Honorary doctorate in social sciences

Communication scientist Professor Slater (Ohio State University) focuses his research on media effects and how they come about. His work looks in particular at the influences of media on health beliefs and behaviours.

Laudatio: prof. dr. Heidi Vandebosch 

Masterclass Four human need, motivation, and goals-based perspectives on Communication

2016 - Prof. dr. Jan Vermunt

The Faculty of Social Sciences pays tribute to Prof. Jan Vermunt of the University of Cambridge (UK). The Dutch educational psychologist is a leading researcher in the field of student learning, teacher learning and professional development, and the relationship between student learning and teacher learning.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Peter Van Petegem

2014 - Prof. dr. Rebecca Blank

Professor Rebecca Blank is nominated by the Faculty of Social Sciences. Blank is rector of the University of Wisconsin (Madison, USA). As a distinguished academic in the field of poverty and social policy research, she made the transition to the White House and worked at policy level under Presidents Clinton and Obama.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ive Marx

2012 - Professor Peter J. Katzenstein

Peter J. Katzenstein is the Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. Professor of International Studies at Cornell University.

His research and teaching lie at the intersection of the fields of international relations and comparative politics. Katzenstein's work addresses issues of political economy, security and culture in world politics. His current research interests focus on the politics of civilizational states; on questions of public diplomacy, law, religion, and popular culture; the role of anti-imperial sentiments, including anti-Americanism; regionalism in world politics; and German politics. Recent books include: Beyond Paradigms: Analytic Eclecticism in World Politics (Palgrave, 2010), with Rudra Sil. Civilizations in World Politics: Plural and Pluralist Perspectives (Routledge, 2010). European Identity (Cambridge University Press, 2009), co-edited with Jeffrey T. Checkel. Rethinking Japanese Security (Routledge, 2008). Anti-Americanisms in World Politics, co-edited with Robert O. Keohane (Cornell University Press, 2007). Religion in an Expanding Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2006), co-edited with Timothy A. Byrnes. Beyond Japan: East Asian Regionalism (Cornell University Press, 2006), co-edited with Takashi Shiraishi. A World of Regions: Asia and Europe in the American Imperium (Cornell University Press, 2005). Rethinking Security in East Asia: Identity, Power, and Efficiency (Stanford University Press, 2004), co-edited with Allen Carlson and J.J. Suh. He is the author, coauthor, editor and coeditor of more than 30 books or monographs and over 100 articles or book chapters.

Katzenstein served as President of the American Political Science Association (2008-09). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Science in 1987 and the American Philosophical Society in 2009. He was the recipient of the 1974 Helen Dwight Reid Award of the American Political Science Association for the best dissertation in international relations; of the American Political Science Association's 1986 Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book published in the United States on international affairs; and, together with Nobuo Okawara, of the 1993 Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize. One of his edited volumes, The Culture of National Security, was selected by Choice magazine as one of the top ten books in international relations in 1997. Katzenstein has been a Fellow at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin. In addition he has held numerous fellowships, and he continues to serve on the editorial boards and academic advisory committees of various journals and organizations, both in the United States and abroad. 

Since 1982 Katzenstein has served as the editor of over 100 books that Cornell University Press has published under the imprint of the Cornell Studies in Political Economy.

Since joining the Cornell Government Department in 1973 Katzenstein has chaired or been a member of more than one hundred dissertation committees. He received Cornell's College of Arts and Science Stephen and Margery Russell Distinguished Teaching Award in 1993, and, in recognition of sustained and distinguished undergraduate teaching, was made one of Cornell University's Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellows in 2004.

An overview of his scholarship can be found at and also at

2010 - Professor Hendrik C.J. van Rensburg

The honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences goes to Professor Hendrik "Dingie" C.J. van Rensburg (°1945) from the Faculty of Humanities at South Africa's University of the Free State. He has had an exceptional career, playing a significant role in the social policy of the new South Africa and carrying out research of international renown.

Perhaps his most important contribution has been his critical analysis of the organisation and dynamics of health care in South Africa, and its gradual reform. In effect, his entire academic career has been an attempt to document and analyse the origins and development of the South African health care system.

During the post-Apartheid era, the research centre founded by Professor van Rensburg in 1993 became a bastion of social sciences and sociology. The centre has contributed significantly to shaping South African social policy, with a particular emphasis on social-medical issues, the renewal of methods, and practical involvement and collaboration with a range of partners at local, national and international level. It has also produced impressive research output, in the form of scientific publications and doctorates that are capable of having a real effect on the serious problems affecting South Africa.

While modern antiretroviral therapies are very effective in treating HIV/AIDS, managing public programmes that aim to combat AIDS in contexts like that of South Africa has proven more complex (because of the large numbers of patients, the labour-intensive nature of these programmes and so on). In this context, social-scientific contributions such as those made by Professor van Rensburg can often have a vital impact on the success of social health programmes.

During his career, Professor van Rensburg has maintained close contacts with Flanders, and especially with the University of Antwerp. In 1996, he was appointed visiting professor at our university and has also given several guest lectures at our university at other points in his career. He has sent his team here as well as receiving Antwerp lecturers and students at his own institute. He has also organised several joint research projects, involving the Institute for Tropical Medicine, and helped to refine our students' perceptions of South Africa and its multicultural society.

Supervisor: Professor Francis Van Loon(Sociology)

2008 - Professor Johan Fiske

Laudatio (in Dutch) voor Prof. Fiske door promotor prof. Hilde Van den Bulck

Net zoals ieder land zijn grootste Belg, Brit of Fransman heeft, zo heeft iedere discipline een aantal ‘groten’: mensen die door hun talenten, kwaliteiten en inzichten de wetenschap waarlijk een stap vooruit hebben gebracht. Met John Fiske zit een van die groten uit de communicatiewetenschappen en de culturele studies hier voor u.  

Na zijn opleiding in Engelse literatuur in Cambridge, maakt John Fiske al snel de overstap naar de studie van de populaire cultuur en media, vooral televisie. Een domein dat hij als geen ander tot het zijne maakt. Zijn talrijke monografieën en artikelen in internationaal gerenommeerde tijdschriften behoren wereldwijd tot de verplichte literatuur voor alle communicatiewetenschappers. Het boek Television Culture is nu, meer dan twintig jaar na verschijningsdatum, nog steeds het standaardwerk op dit vlak. Niet, omdat er in dat domein niets meer gebeurt, maar wél omdat zijn ideeën en inzichten zo fundamenteel en beklijvend blijken.   

John Fiske heeft steeds veel aandacht besteed aan de machtsrelaties in de cultuurproductie en voor de analyse van de tekst, onder andere via structuralistische inzichten in de codes van televisie, Toch ligt zijn relevantie vooral in het feit dat hij als een van de eerste communicatiewetenschappers radicaal de kant kiest van de mediagebruikers. Fiske benadrukt hoe ieder mens de populaire media en cultuur ervaart vanuit zijn of haar specifieke manier van leven: wat mensen met de media-inhoud en populaire cultuur doén, wordt niet door de tekst bepaald maar door de condities waarin mensen leven.   

Vanuit dit centrale standpunt heeft John Fiske de academische reflectie over dergelijke processen cruciaal vooruit gestuwd. Hij heeft de communicatiewetenschappen definitief bevrijd van het denken over publiek als één massa machteloze slachtoffers van mediamanipulatie. Hij heeft ruimte gemaakt voor een visie op mediaconsumenten als actieve wezens. Mediagebruikers geven hun eigen interpretatie aan wat wordt aangeboden en beleven plezier aan populaire cultuur, niet als kauwgom voor de geest maar als middel om de sociale orde vanuit een individueel standpunt te beleven en te begrijpen.   

Bovenal heeft John Fiske ons geleerd dat mensen in hun mediaconsumptie in staat zijn tot verzet tegen de geprefereerde lezing en zo tegen de bestaande maatschappelijke structuren. Hij legt met andere woorden de locus van de macht in belangrijke mate bij ieder van ons, de mediagebruikers. Zijn denkbeelden zijn aanvankelijk erg controversieel maar worden ondertussen als algemeen aanvaard beschouwd - wellicht de beste indicatie van zijn belang. Bovendien doorstaat zijn werk de tand des tijd. De komst van de zogenaamde nieuwe, interactieve media, maakt zijn visie relevanter dan ooit.   

Zijn belang voor de communicatiewetenschappen kan dan ook moeilijk worden overschat. Bovendien strekt zijn invloed uit tot ver buiten de muren van de academie. Zijn actieve deelname aan het maatschappelijke debat heeft tot een bredere erkenning geleid van de populaire media als een van de belangrijkste onderdelen van ieders leefwereld.   

Dear Prof. Fiske, in an interview you once said about your fascination with television and popular culture: ‘I can’t study anything That I am not interested in, that I do not enjoy’. No doubt it is this real passion that has influenced both the quality and the relevance of your work. Therefore we are not only pleased to honour you, we feel honoured and priviliged that you are willing to connect your name and fame to our department and university.   

Voor zijn eminente, en internationaal erkende bijdrage aan het domein van de populaire cultuur en de televisiestudies, verzoek ik de Rector de Heer John Fiske met het eredoctoraat van de Universiteit Antwerpen te willen eren en tevens Mevrouw Fiske in de hulde te betrekken. 

2006 - Professor Vojtech Mastny

Professor Mastny is the Coordinator of the Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact (Zurich) and Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C.

Professor Mastny's research has served as the cornerstone for important breakthroughs in the study of the Cold War, including new interpretations and the formulation of theories about the Cold War. Through his research, he has succeeded in advancing and refining concepts which have dominated the field of study for quite some time, such as the orthodox view of the Cold War (which blames the Soviet Union for causing the conflict) and the revisionist view (which views the imperialist United States as the culprit, in the context of the war in Vietnam). As Coordinator of the Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact (1999), his aim is to provide access to unopened or inaccessible archival sources relating to these organisations.

Supervisor: Professor Yvan Vandenberghe (Political Sciences) 
Year: 2006

2004 - Professor Sir Tony Atkinson

Sir Tony Atkinson is an authority in the field of income inequality, poverty and social policy, as is obvious from his contributions on measuring inequality (the Atkinson Index), fair taxation system, the role of the welfare state, and economic policy for combating poverty. His work is groundbreaking, to say the least, in terms of the methods used (i.e. the Atkinson Index for measuring inequality) and theory development. At present, he is also making a significant contribution to thought processes on a social Europe and the development of tools for European social policy.

Sir Tony Atkinson is a Fellow of Nuffield College (Oxford University). His previous work also includes positions at Cambridge University, the London School of Economics and MIT, and he is the author of several authoritative books and an impressive list of publications in renowned scientific journals. He has also worked as an advisor to several international commissions and organisations.

Supervisor: Professor Bea Cantillon (Sociology)
year: 2004

2002 - Professor Maxwell E. McCombs

Maxwell E. McCombs has received international acclaim for his research into the agenda-setting function of mass communication, a theory he launched in cooperation with Donald Shaw in the 1968 Chapel Hill study.  Since then, the theory has been considered a paradigm in communication sciences, and has led to 350 follow-up studies worldwide. McCombs is the Jesse H. Jones Centennial Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin.

Agenda-setting relates to the role of mass media in setting the public and political agendas. The media determines which subjects the public think about and - indirectly - the subjects that politics will focus on. In this way, the media controls what we think about. Most of McCombs's research relates to political communication and elections. He has previously studied the American elections but recently transferred his research to southern Europe, extending his theory to agenda-setting during the Spanish elections. The media not only determines the subjects we think about, but also how we think about them. This conclusion is diametrically opposed to the scepticism about the media's impact which has prevailed for several years. It will come as no surprise, then, that the agenda-setting paradigm is becoming increasingly important in communication sciences.

supervisor: Professor Christ'l De Landtsheer (Communication Sciences)
Year: 2002

2000 - Professor Robert D. Putnam

Robert Putnam is one of the most widely quoted political and social scientists of recent years. In 1993, he published his groundbreaking, virtuoso study, Making Democracy Work. In it, he employs data collected in Italy to prove the premise that countries' and regions' economic and democratic performance depends on their social capital. He explains that the enormous differences in economic prosperity and political stability between northern and southern Italy have their roots in differences in social capital.

Civil society
Putnam describes social capital in terms of thriving communities of voluntary organisations. According to Putnam, such communities help promote democracy and foster an attitude of 'generalised trust' in organisations - and in other people - among their members. If this generalised trust is missing, then the community will not thrive politically, socially or economically. In Flanders, this phenomenon is referred to as civil society ('maatschappelijk middenveld').

Sombre picture of the US
After his research in Italy, Putnam turned his attention to his own country, the United States. In the article Bowling Alone he paints a sombre picture of the situation in the United States, in which the decline of civil society is seen as a significant long-term threat to the quality of American democracy. It is interesting to note that Putnam considers the emergence of TV to be one of the greatest threats.

Advisor to Clinton
Putnam is a public figure in the US, having worked as an occasional advisor to President Clinton and helping to promote the revitalisation of American civil society. Putnam is a serious scientist, however, with intense commitment born of a normative perspective.

Putnam's work relevant in Flanders
Politically speaking, Putnam's hypothesis was recently tested and confirmed in Flanders by a sociological research team from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, led by Professor Elchardus. Participation appears to have a significantly positive effect in Flanders, too. The economic aspect of Putnam's premise has also been tested by the economic research team of Professor Moesen, whose results conclude that the Flemish economy is not achieving its maximum yield precisely because of the lack of a climate of trust.

In Flanders - traditionally a region with a strong community spirit and many voluntary organisations - debate on politico-denominational segregation and civil society is also raging: are these organisations an obstacle to or prerequisite for democracy? As in Italy, our Belgian democracy has had its own share of incidents, pseudo-scandals, and north-south divides. Belgian citizens' trust in the government is at an all-time low and the decline in voluntary organisations and social cohesion (which some feel has given rise to phenomena like right-wing party Vlaams Belang) is widely lamented. From a political perspective, Putnam's work is therefore very relevant in Flanders.

Supervisor: Professor Stefaan Walgrave (Political Sciences)
year: 2000