Research team

Centre for Research on Environmental and Social Change

Expertise

Research and policy advice on science-society interactions. Research and policy advice on cultural change and cultural diversity Theory of society

Multiple identities and shared senses of belonging? A qualitative longitudinal analysis of children's identity formation in a super-diverse city. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

The central aim of this research is to examine how children with diverse backgrounds construct personal and collective identities in the super-diverse city of Antwerp. How do children describe their differential identities? How do they develop (or not) a sense of belonging in a society that to a large extent seems to reproduce inequalities between different groups? How do these senses of belonging affect their well-being and aspirations? To answer these questions, and to highlight the hardly heard experiences of children themselves, I aim to conduct a qualitative longitudinal analysis of children's identity formation during the age of eleven and thirteen. Employing a cultural-sociological approach - inspired by, among others, Bourdieu's work - I will track the heterogeneous group of children during their transition from primary to secondary education. Three rounds of in-depth interviews and class observations will be held over this period of more than two years. In addition, I will conduct interviews with parents and focus groups with teachers and peers, in order to gain insight into their stimulating or restricting role in the children's differential identity formation.

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Exiled and separated: a multi-sited ethnography of Eritrean refugees and their families attempting to reunite. 01/02/2020 - 31/01/2023

Abstract

Most European states allow refugees to access a facilitated procedure to reunify with their family members. Many studies, however, high-light how issues of timing, documentation and economic resources often make family reunions extremely difficult, if not impossible. If much has been written on the obstacles faced migrants in this regard, little is known about the specific case of refugees. Through a multi-sited ethnographic study with refugees and their families, this project aims to reconstruct the complexity of power-relations, social expectations and structural impediments that impact on refugees' right to family life.

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Climate change and migration: a qualitative comparative study on the perspectives of first generation migrants from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Syria and Somalia living in Belgium. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

The current research aims to apply a comparative approach to the study of migration trajectories of people coming from Morocco, DR Congo, Somalia and Syria and now residing in Belgium. The central aim is to examine how environmental changes relate to and indirectly or directly impact the migration trajectories of the distinct migrant groups, living in Belgium. Environmental change is intertwined with other migration reasons, such as economic and political reasons, but there is still too little research into how this actually works. There is relatively little overlap between environmental studies relating migration and migration studies. Hardly any research has been done on the best methodological approach to study environmental migration. Finally, this research aims to explore in which way existing models and theories of migration aspirations and dynamics can be adopted to develop a theoretical framework and conceptual model on environmental migration and aims to fill in the different gaps in existing literature. The objectives of this research are challenging and innovative as they aim to examine the best conceptual and methodological approach to study environmentally induced migration aspirations that considers both environmental changes and prevailing migration dynamics. In doing so, respondents' perspectives on the ways in which environmental factors interplay and influence other migration reasons throughout their (fragmented) migration trajectories will be examined.

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Research team(s)

An unsharp examine. 08/10/2019 - 07/10/2023

Abstract

The theme of the sharp and the blurry is fundamental for the act of looking / observing. This fact is crucial in higher art education, my sculptural work, the arts and society. The phantom statute of the unsharp, it's relationship to our memories, it's intimate character and openness for interpretation is what attracts me in the blurry. I will first investigate the meaning of the blurry and the sharp within photography, and will then look as a sculptor how the sharp and unsharp relate to sculpture. In this is how I hope to develop a well-founded personal vision about 'the blurry' or the unsharp. In this project, I search for the presence of the unsharp in authentic photographs in my family albums of the 1970s and 1980s. I will create new photographs through the act of enlarging and cutting. Cosyness, mystery, intimacy, tactility and abstraction will be dominant themes in these new photos. Based on these new images, I want to create tactile sculptures and installations that are characterized by blurriness. How do sharpness-unsharpness relate to the memory that takes shape through visual media such as family albums? What is the role of focus and blurring in sculpture versus photography? And what is the impact of this effect on our memories? How does sharpness – unsharpness relate to the tactile space and how does 'being embodied' in a tactile environment relate to the sculptural? How does this relate to other media? These are just a few research questions that I will deal with.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Multiple identities and shared senses of belonging? A qualitative longitudinal analysis of children's identity formation in a super-diverse city. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

The central aim of this research is to examine how children with diverse backgrounds construct personal and collective identities in the super-diverse city of Antwerp. How do children describe their differential identities? How do they develop (or not) a sense of belonging in a society that to a large extent seems to reproduce inequalities between different groups? How do these senses of belonging affect their well-being and aspirations? To answer these questions, and to highlight the hardly heard experiences of children themselves, I aim to conduct a qualitative longitudinal analysis of children's identity formation during the age of eleven and thirteen. Employing a cultural-sociological approach - inspired by, among others, Bourdieu's work - I will track the heterogeneous group of children during their transition from primary to secondary education. Three rounds of in-depth interviews and class observations will be held over this period of more than two years. In addition, I will conduct interviews with parents and focus groups with teachers and peers, in order to gain insight into their stimulating or restricting role in the children's differential identity formation.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Qualitative research with refugees on living in diversity. 22/05/2017 - 21/05/2018

Abstract

In the past years, Belgium, like the rest of Europe, experienced an exceptionally high influx of asylum seekers and refugees. This sudden influx poses special challenges for both the host community and the refugees. A large proportion of the refugees initially end up in "arrival districts" in large cities with a superdiverse population, where all kinds of economic, religious and ethnic fault lines run straight through each other (Geldof 2015, Oosterlynck et al 2016, Saunders 2010). The incoming refugees themselves also include a particularly diverse group of people with higher and lower educational levels, religious communities (from Shiites to Evangelical Christians) and ethnicities (Kurds and Arabs in Syria, Pashtun and Tajik in Afghanistan and Tigrinya and Tiger in Eritrea). While many refugees first land in large cities, there are more and more who, sometimes only after some time, end up in smaller municipalities. The question that arises is how these refugees look at living together with Belgians and people of other nationalities? Do they feel at home in the big city or in the small municipality, and do they seek contact with Belgians? Do they consider the city or the municipality as their new home, or as a temporary stop where they ended up without much choice? How do their first contacts with Belgians, other newcomers and second generation migrants go, and how do these contacts change over time? What role do networks play in building language learning, access to community life, education and the labor market? What tensions do they experience between the standards and values ​​of their host country and those of their country of origin? How do these tensions change over time? What consequences does this have for the place where they want to live? Are there differences between living together in the big city and in small municipalities? And finally: what implications does this have for the different facets of the local and Flemish integration policy (integration, language, housing, education, work)? We propose to study these questions on the basis of three aspects of living together in diversity, which focus on the specific situation of refugees: the development of social networks, symbolic border work (identity) and spatial experiences.

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The European Refugee Controversy as a Cosmopolitan Crisis: the rise, spread and development of new moral imaginaries and movements. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

From the summer of 2015 onwards, Europe has encountered a refugee crisis which has fed into a wide range of controversies, ranging from acute humanitarian needs to the alleged security threats posed by refugees. Citizens have responded to these controversies in diverse ways, some turning into amateur humanitarian aid workers overnight, others taking political engagements by protesting and manifesting against the arrival of asylum seekers in their neighbourhood. This research project aims to explore how and to which extent these controversies have fueled new moral and political ideas on 'our' precise responsibilities towards 'strangers'. To do so we examine the rise and development of civil movements that emerged in response to three types of specific refugee controversies: a) citizens helping refugees, in spite of the absence of major NGOs or national governments (e.g. Dunkirk and Calais); b) citizens protesting against the arrival of refugees (e.g. by the establishment of new asylum centers); and c) confrontational controversies where both supportive and protesting citizens encounter one another (e.g. Greek Islands where many refugees arrive). To examine these cases, we rely upon a multi-sited, qualitative research design using methods such as in-depth interviews and participant observations, so as to explore citizens' beliefs, motivations and actions in considerable depth.

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Making and Unmaking Muslim Identities. Symbolic Boundary Work and Islam in Flanders. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

Cities around the world are diversifying in a rapid pace and a metropolitan city such as Antwerp is no exception to this trend. Against the background of the ongoing refugee crisis, international conflict in the Middle-East and jihadi-Salafist terrorism, many Flemish natives currently perceive the growing presence of Muslims as a fundamental threat to our society. The latter is imagined as a secular, or at least 'inherently' non-Islamic society. However, Muslims are often a marginal voice in these public debates and insights on how Muslim identities are (re-)negotiated in such a 'hostile' context are scarce. Some research has indicated that the hostility towards Muslims is growing, while, at the same time, the religious identity of many Muslims is becoming more important and tends to be represented as a crucial emblem of their identity. Many Muslims, however, rather denounce the essentializing processes placed upon them by many Flemish natives, which tend to perceive and categorize Muslims solely based upon this religious affiliation. It is this conundrum the current research proposal wants to tackle: how is ethno-religious identity of Muslims in Flanders made and unmade in the everyday interaction between individuals, as well as in the broader public debate? The proposed project aims to further analyse this apparent conundrum by putting forward the hypothesis that a growing religious self-identification among Muslims is related to the deteriorating public image of Islam and Muslim identity. To gain insights in these often unconscious and difficult to grasp processes of boundary and identity work, we designed a multiphase mixed methods design in three distinct sequences. Furthermore, we study these processes in nine different settings: four secondary schools, one tertiary education setting and four labour market settings to get fine-grained insight both on the individual as well as on the institutional level (socio-demographic composition of the specific context and open or conservative approach to diversity). The innovative methodological framework engages with these issues via three strategies: we start with a broad survey analysis to construct specific profiles of respondents that are used to deepen our understanding in two subsequent phases. First respondents with specific profiles are asked to participate in individual in-depth interviews facilitated by the Photo Q Methodology as to study boundary work from the perspective of the individual. In a final stage individuals are asked to participate in 'confrontational' focus group discussions to study boundary and identity work in a real life resembling interactional context as to study how boundaries are reworked when confronted with significant others.

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Constructing the moral and political (ir)responsibilities towards Syrian and Afghan refugees. A sociological discourse analysis on how Belgian media, the public, civil society and policy have responded to refugee demands. 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

This research project examines the social construction of moral and political responsibilities towards refugees. It thereby focusses on how different social actors, such as refugee organisations, policy makers and the media, compete with one another in defining and evaluating the claims of refugees.

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Science, Technology and Society. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

This is a fundamental research project financed by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). The project was subsidized after selection by the FWO-expert panel. The objective of the FWO's Research projects is to advance fundamental scientific research.

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Governing Urban Diversity: Creating Social Cohesion, Social Mobility and Economic Performance in Today's Hyper-diversified Cities (DIVERCITIES). 01/03/2013 - 28/02/2017

Abstract

The central hypothesis of this project is that socio-economic, socio-demographic, ethnic and cultural diversity can positively affect social cohesion, economic performance and social mobility of individuals and groups. A better social cohesion, higher economic performance and increased chances for social mobility will make European cities more liveable and more competitive. In this period of long-term economic downturn (or sometimes even crisis) and increasing competition from countries elsewhere in the world (e.g. China, India), it is important to find out how and under which circumstances European's urban diversity can be turned into social and economic advantages.

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Communities without citizens. A sociological analysis of the discursive construction of moral status in Belgian asylum centres. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

This research proposal seeks to investigate the social construction of moral status through the discursive use of cultural variables such as gender, age, faith, and ethnicity. It thus deals with core social processes such as social exclusion, as well as the cultural construction of moral meaning and status.

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Poverty reduction in Europe: social policy and innovation (IMPROVE). 01/03/2012 - 29/02/2016

Abstract

This research proposal takes as its starting points: (a) the long standstill in poverty reduction, especially for people of working age, (b) the complementarity between employment, economic growth and social inclusion that is focal in the EU 2020 strategy, and, (c) the emergence of socially innovative policies and actions in the margins of the European welfare states. It aims at the evaluation of the Lisbon decade in terms of policies and actions against poverty at European, national and sub-national level and at improving the understanding of the interrelationships between employment, social protection and social inclusion and between institutionalised macro level social policies and innovative local action.

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