Sociale Wetenschappen

PhD defences in the Social Sciences


PhD defence - Raden Murwantara - 20/03/2023

Government Support for Enhancing Public Private Partnerships: Comparing, Explaining and Studying the Effects of variations Across European Countries

Promotor: Prof. dr. Koen Verhoest

Co-Promotor: prof. dr. Steven Van Garsse

Practical information

  • Date: Monday, the 20th of March 2023, 6:00 PM
  • Place: Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters, Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen

The public defence will be followed by a reception. Please confirm your attendance at 

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have gained a momentum as an important alternative solution for financing public infrastructures. Governments are said to mainly develop their support for PPPs along three dimensions: by designing policies and expressing political commitment, by articulating the legal and regulative framework and by creating supporting arrangements, called ‘PPP governmental support (PPP-GS)’. This dissertation focuses on the complex and comprehensive comparison of PPP-GS, explains variations across European countries and studies the effect thereof using fsQCA.
The different PPP-GS do not necessarily come in a package or no countries have high scores for all dimensions (e.g. The UK, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium-Flanders). The highest variation between countries is on the policy and PPP-supporting arrangements, but there much less variation on the regulatory dimension, because of the coercive harmonising influence of the EU-procurement regulation. The twenty countries are grouped into four clusters regarding PPP-GS with the highest levels being Cluster 1: the UK, Netherlands, Germany and Belgium-Flanders, and the lowest levels refer to Cluster 4; Austria, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Serbia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Hungary. The different combinations of the level of GDP per-capita, government debt, uncertainty avoidance and the administrative reform trajectory, and to a lesser extent the state structure, explains the presence of a high PPP-GS, except the UK. The typology of countries can basically be classified into six groups representing the combination of macro-institutional variables.
The study of the effect of variation of PPP-GS on project outcomes focuses on contract stability (non-renegotiation) and project success. Contract stability was found in projects in which a high level of country competitiveness, joined up with a secure remuneration scheme and a young project age, combined with either a well-developed governmental PPP support or an appropriate risk allocation. The projects being on-cost can be explained by the combination of high levels of country competitiveness and PPP-GS and a more optimal financing scheme. The combination of high levels of country competitiveness, a more optimal financing scheme and a more appropriate risk allocation are sufficient conditions for achieving the on-time outcome. This dissertation gives more insight in how government can foster the development and outcomes of PPP projects by providing well-developed government support, which fits their country context.

PhD Defence Julie Janssens 21/4/2023

Promovendus: Julie Janssens (onderzoeker aan het CSB, FSW)
Promotors: Tim Goedemé en Koen Decancq
Titel: Gaps in Belgium’s final safety net. Towards a better measurement and understanding of non-take-up of social benefits in Belgium.
Wanneer? Vrijdag 21 april 2023, 16u30 in S.C.002

Abstract – English

Social benefits targeted at the poor are an important part of modern welfare states. These benefits serve as a final safety net for those for whom traditional protection arrangements fall short. Unfortunately, many of those in a very vulnerable situation do not take up the social benefits they are entitled to and slip through the cracks in the net. The non-take-up of social benefits is problematic as it undermines the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of social policies. Yet, our theoretical and empirical understanding of this phenomenon is still rather limited. This is unfortunate because in order to close the gaps in the net there is an urgency for better knowledge on the size and drivers of non-take-up in Belgium. This dissertation is aimed at advancing efforts to measure and understand non-take-up of social benefits in Belgium. It bundles eights articles that are concerned with the size, characteristics, determinants and solutions of non-take-up of two means-tested benefits targeted at the low-income population in Belgium: social assistance for people at active age and the increased reimbursement of healthcare. In this dissertation, I study the non-take-up of social benefits by building on the latest theoretical insights, collecting and analysing new and existing administrative and survey data, and making use of both microsimulation techniques and a large-scale field experiment.

Abstract – Dutch

Sociale uitkeringen voor de armen zijn een belangrijk onderdeel van moderne welvaartsstaten. Deze uitkeringen fungeren als laatste vangnet voor diegenen voor wie de traditionele beschermingsregelingen tekortschieten. Helaas maken veel mensen in een zeer kwetsbare situatie geen gebruik van de sociale uitkeringen waarop zij recht hebben en glippen zij zo door de mazen van het net. Het niet-gebruik van sociale uitkeringen is problematisch omdat het de effectiviteit, efficiëntie en rechtvaardigheid van het sociaal beleid ondermijnt. Toch is het theoretisch en empirisch begrip van dit fenomeen momenteel nog vrij beperkt. Dit is jammer aangezien er dringend behoefte is aan betere kennis over de omvang en oorzaken van het niet-gebruik in België als we de gaten in het laatste vangnet willen dichten. Dit proefschrift beoogt het niet-gebruik van sociale uitkeringen in België beter te meten en begrijpen. Het bundelt acht hoofdstukken die betrekking hebben op de omvang, kenmerken, determinanten en oplossingen van het niet-gebruik van twee inkomen getoetste uitkeringen voor mensen met een laag inkomen in België: het leefloon en de verhoogde tegemoetkoming voor gezondheidszorgen. Om het niet-gebruik van sociale uitkeringen te bestuderen, bouw ik in dit proefschrift verder op de nieuwste theoretische inzichten, verzamel en analyseer ik nieuwe en bestaande administratieve en enquêtegegevens, en maak ik gebruik van zowel microsimulatietechnieken als een grootschalig veldexperiment.

PhD Defence Begoña Cabeza Martinez 02/05/2023

  • Name: Begoña Cabeza Martínez
  • Promotor: Koen Decancq
  • Title of the dissertation: Essays on Preferences for Redistribution
  • Date: 2nd May 2023
  • Start time: 9 am
  • Place: Hof Van Liere
  • Reception: Yes
  • Contact:
  • Confirm before: 17th April 2023


Rising inequality is a central issue of public debate that features heavily across political agendas. Studies show that citizens are aware and concerned that the gap between the poor and the rich is growing deeper. Still, the political feasibility of redistributive policies crucially depends on popular support. It therefore becomes essential to understand the motivations behind the demand for inequality reduction and why redistributive preferences differ among citizens. This dissertation consists of four chapters that study the stability of social preferences and beliefs about inequality and redistribution, along with their determinants. The first part assesses the impact that economic and health shocks have on beliefs and preferences, as reported in opinion surveys. The first chapter provides evidence that higher unemployment rates, in the context of the Great Recession in Spain, boost the belief that luck is the main determinant of one’s life outcomes. The second chapter shows that citizens increase their support for higher taxes after exposure to the West African Ebola outbreak. The second part of the dissertation relies on primary data collected by means of an online survey experiment. In this survey, a novel non-parametric elicitation methodology is introduced that enables the straightforward identification of social preferences, with inequality aversion standing out as the most frequent experimental behaviour. In addition, an information provision about effort and luck permits the measurement of treatment effects on the elicited preferences (chapter 3). Lastly, in the fourth chapter, more altruistic experimental behaviour is found to be positively correlated with stated attitudes towards redistribution. 

PhD Defence Mathias Reveraert 04/05/2023

Exploring Insider Threat Awareness and Mitigation: More than the Devil in Disguise

Promotor: Prof. dr. Tom Sauer

Practical information

  • Date: Thursday, the 4th of May 2023, 4 PM
  • Location: Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters, Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen. There is also the option to attend the defence online.
  • Language: English

The public defence will be followed by a reception. Please confirm your attendance (and whether you will attend the defence on location or online) before Monday 24 April 2023 at

Abstract - Dutch

Medewerkers die stelen, frauderen, saboteren of spioneren: het is de nachtmerrie van elke organisatie. Hoewel elke publieke en private organisatie – groot of klein – gevoelig is aan de problematiek van zogenaamde interne dreigingen of ‘insider threats’, is deze problematiek nog te vaak onderbelicht omdat organisaties er vanuit gaan dat medewerkers te vertrouwen zijn. Medewerkers moeten namelijk het vertrouwen genieten om toegang te krijgen tot de waardevolle bezittingen van de organisatie, omdat zij anders niet in staat zijn hun job uit te oefenen. Vanwege deze vrijgeleide binnen de spreekwoordelijke veiligheidsperimeter zijn zogenaamde ‘insiders’ grotendeels vrijgesteld van de veiligheidshindernissen die externe vijanden wel moeten overwinnen. Ondanks dat insiders het dus relatief gemakkelijker hebben om hun slag te slaan, worden ze vaak over het hoofd gezien als een potentiële bedreiging. In België zijn enkele spraakmakende voorbeelden van ‘insider threat’ te vinden die de wereldpers haalden. De sabotage van Doel 4 in 2014, waarbij de kerncentrale doelbewust gesaboteerd werd door een medewerker, blijft het meest tot de verbeelding sprekende voorbeeld. Relatief recentere voorbeelden zijn de klopjacht naar Jürgen Conings en de onthullingen in het kader van Operatie Sky. Om enerzijds meer bewustzijn voor de problematiek te creëren en anderzijds concrete beleidsaanbevelingen te vinden zodat organisaties zich beter kunnen beschermen tegen interne dreigingen, werd met de steun van Brussels Airport Company, Bel-V, Elia, Engie-Electrabel, het Federaal Agentschap voor Nucleaire Controle en G4S, onderzoek gedaan naar de insider threat problematiek. De resultaten van het eerste deel van het onderzoek zorgen ervoor dat we een zicht kregen op de hiaten in de kennis en attitude van Belgische organisaties aangaande de karakteristieken van insider threat en de mogelijkheden om het probleem te mitigeren. De resultaten van het tweede deel van het onderzoek verschaffen nuttige inzichten aangaande waarschuwingssignalen waarop organisaties moeten letten om insider threat op te sporen, alsook aangaande mitigerende maatregelen die organisaties kunnen gebruiken om zich beter te beveiligen tegen bedreigingen van binnenuit.

Abstract - English

Employees that steal, commit fraud, sabotage or leak confidential information: it is every employer’s nightmare. Even though every public or private organisation – big or small – is vulnerable to so-called ‘insider threats’, this problem is too often overlooked because organisations assume that their employees can be trusted. Indeed, employees need to be trusted with access to the organizational assets because they need it in order to do their job. Still, this access implies that insiders are largely exempted from the security obstacles that external enemies have to overcome. Despite the fact that insiders can relatively easier threaten the organization’s assets, they are often overlooked as potential threat. Belgium already encountered multiple insider threat incidents. The most striking example is the nuclear reactor Doel 4 that was deliberately sabotaged by an insider. More recent examples in Belgium are Jürgen Conings and Operation Sky. To on the one hand raise awareness on the insider threat problem, and on the other hand provide organizations with mitigation measures to better secure themselves against insider threats, research was done with the support from Brussels Airport Company, Bel-V, Elia, Engie-Electrabel, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control and G4S on the insider threat problem. The results of the first part of the research provide us with insights on the awareness gaps of Belgian organizations concerning the characteristics of the insider threat as well as the ways to mitigate it. The results of the second part of the research give useful insights on what can be considered ‘red flags’ of insider threats that organizations should be vigilant of, as well as with mitigation measures that organizations can use to better secure themselves against insider threats.

PhD Defence Liesbeth Naessens 09/05/2023

Forensic social work: a Human Rights Perspective

Promotor: Prof. dr. Peter Raeymaeckers

Practical information

  • Date: Tuesday, the 9th of May 2023, 10:00 AM
  • Place: Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters, Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen

The public defence will be followed by a reception. Please confirm your attendance at


In this doctoral thesis, I study how practices of forensic social work in Brussels and Flanders can apply a human rights perspective.  Formal human rights legislation both at the international, national as at a regional level emphasizes that people in prison must be seen as citizens, whose rights must be guaranteed. However, an abundance of studies shows that their rights are not realized. Social work is seen as indispensable in realizing human rights, particularly for people in vulnerable positions. A human rights-based approach is central to the broader debate on the identity of social work and its position in current society.

However, to date scientific knowledge is lacking on how social work practice may adopt a human rights perspective to forensic social work. Most studies that focus on the relationship between forensic social work and human rights primarily identify the difficulties, challenges and tensions forensic social work faces when adopting a human rights approach. In this dissertation I adopt an inductive understanding of human rights and construct a model for a human rights practice in forensic social work. The model is based on four qualitative studies. The studies are related to current developments in the field: (1) a network within forensic social work as a politicizing practice; (2) what a generalist approach means within forensic social work; (3) the extent to which the right to work meets the needs of those in prison and (4) how social workers within forensic social work support volunteers to provide qualitative services.

PhD defence Bich Thi Tran 12/05/2023

Practical information

 Please confirm your attendance before 5/5/2023 at

  • Promovendus: Bich Thi Tran
  • Promotor: prof. dr. Elena Atanassova-Cornelis
  • Date: Friday the 12th of May, 2023, 3 PM (Brussels time)
  • Location: online


Vietnam's Grand Strategic Adjustment of Cooperation and Struggle

This doctoral thesis has answered the following questions: What is Vietnam's grand strategy? What can explain the country's strategic adjustment of cooperation and struggle that took place in 2003? How has Vietnam implemented its grand strategy before and after the change? How has the grand strategic adjustment helped the country further achieve its foreign policy goals? What are the remaining challenges?

Vietnam's grand strategy of "independence, self-reliance, openness, multilateralization, and diversification of foreign relations" reconciles the principles endorsed by the conservative and the progressive factions in the Vietnamese leadership. The components of the grand strategy are diplomatic activity, foreign trade policy, defence policy, and resource extraction. Vietnam’s grand strategy, however, has a conservative tilt, and the 2003 adjustment was a result of a shift in the conservatives' perception of systemic incentives and pressures.

The adjustment of cooperation and struggle has helped Vietnam further its foreign policy goals of maintaining peace, constructing the nation, and defending the Fatherland. The new threat perception cleared the way for Vietnam to strengthen relations with the United States and more deeply integrate into the Western-dominated world economy. The change also led to an emphasis on naval and air forces in Vietnam's military modernization, as well as deeper defence cooperation with India, Japan, and the United States. Since 2003, Vietnam has accelerated its industrialization and modernization efforts to create a significantly larger economic base to extract resources for its grand strategy. However, challenges remain.

Vietnam's relations with China and the United States are two clear examples of how Hanoi has carried out the 2003 grand strategic adjustment. Hanoi cooperates with Beijing and Washington on certain political, economic, and security issues, while struggling against the two great powers on other issues. This has led Vietnam to a more balanced approach towards China and the United States.

This thesis furthers empirical understanding of Vietnam's grand strategy in general, as well as its relations with China and the United States in particular. Theoretically, it contributes to the advancement of neoclassical realist theories by developing a theoretical framework that can be used to explain a change in the threat perception of other authoritarian regimes.

PhD defence Samira Azabar 16/05/2023

Promovendus: Samira Azabar

  • Promotor: prof. dr. Peter Thijssen
  • Co-promotor: prof. dr. Peter Van Aelst
  • Date: Tuesday the 16th of May, 2023, 4 PM
  • Location: Stadscampus UAntwerpen, De Meerminne, aula M.003 (St-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerp)

The defence is followed by a reception. Please confirm your attendance before 9/5/2023 at

Halal resistance. Unraveling Muslims' political agency. 

Owing to a racialized environment where Islam is a “chronic object of discussion and debate”, this dissertation unpacks Muslims’ political participation from an agential perspective. The several empirical studies aim to answer the following question: How and why do Muslims participate in an environment that perceives Muslims as the dangerous Other?

To study how and why Muslims participate in politics in racialized environments in a comprehensive way, this dissertation focused on (1) Muslims’ electoral choices on the party and candidate level and explanations of these choices in a flexible proportional list system, (2) Muslims’ non-institutionalized participation and its drivers and (3) Muslims’ hidden, everyday resistance practices. Moreover, this dissertation paid attention to the intersecting power dynamics (i.e., gender, religiosity, ethnicity) affecting the political engagement of Muslims in Belgium.

All in all, this dissertation showed how Muslims exert their agency in the political realm through various forms of active engagement, despite facing multiple obstacles. Focusing on Muslims’ perspectives, this dissertation adds to the literature that does not center what policymakers and public opinion seem to deem important. The several empirical studies rebut widespread stereotypes and misconceptions of Muslims that could inform policies, and create awareness of the lack of social justice and equality in our society. 

PhD defence Dries Dingenen - De 'meervoudige natuur van actieonderzoek': Opportuniteiten en spanningsvelden van burgerparticipatie in sociaalwetenschappelijk onderzoek - 6/6/2022

Op dinsdag 6 juni 2023 nodigt Dries Dingenen (Departement Sociologie) je van harte uit voor de openbare verdediging van zijn doctoraal proefschrift

De 'meervoudige natuur van actieonderzoek': Opportuniteiten en spanningsvelden van burgerparticipatie in sociaalwetenschappelijk onderzoek

Actieonderzoek heeft net zoals vele andere vormen van participatief onderzoek een duidelijke emancipatorische connotatie en in de wetenschappelijke literatuur over deze onderzoeksbenaderingen vormt democratisering een rode draad. Het verwezenlijken van de onderliggende emancipatorische aspiraties van actieonderzoek is echter allesbehalve evident en in de praktijk ervaren onderzoekers heel wat uitdagingen en moeilijkheden. Met deze doctoraatsverhandeling over de ‘meervoudige natuur van actieonderzoek’ worden de spanningsvelden die actieonderzoekers ervaren uitvoerig bestudeerd en wordt inzicht verworven in de complexe relatie tussen macht en participatie. Een beter begrip van de spanningsvelden waarmee actieonderzoekers, net zoals participatief onderzoekers, te maken krijgen in hun onderzoekspraktijk is van essentieel belang. Met de opmars van burgerparticipatie in sociaalwetenschappelijk onderzoek worden actieonderzoekers in groeiende mate geconfronteerd met de vraag hoe zij hun rol als onderzoeker willen, kunnen en moeten invullen.

Praktische informatie 

  • Promovendus: Dries Dingenen 
  • Promotoren: prof. dr. Anne Bergmans & prof. dr. Peter Raeymaeckers
  • Datum, startuur en plaats: Dinsdag 6 juni 2023, 14u, M.004 (St-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerpen)
  • Taal: Nederlands

Aansluitend volgt een receptie in het Agora Caffee; graag je aanwezigheid voor 30 mei bevestigen per mail aan

PhD defence Emmanuel Dockx - Connecting the Dots Together: Advancing Public Sector Collaboration with a Dissertation on Antecedents, Dynamics and Outcomes - 7/6/2022

On Wednesday 7 June 2023, Emmanuel Dockx (Department of Political Science) cordially invites you to the public defence of his doctoral thesis 

Connecting the Dots Together:

Advancing Public Sector Collaboration With a Dissertation on Antecedents, Dynamics and Outcomes 

Collaboration between different stakeholders, including public actors, private companies, research institutions, non-profits, civil society, and citizens, has become increasingly important for governments to address societal issues and provide better public services. However, public sector collaboration is challenging and continuously changing due to various factors such as technological advances, shifting political landscapes, and societal attitudes. In this dissertation, the focus is on examining the practice and implementation of collaboration in the public sector to promote innovation and learning. Through various methodologies, including statistical regression and fsQCA, and analyses of multiple data sources, this dissertation identifies factors that contribute to successful collaboration and provides insights for public sector managers and policymakers to engage in effective collaboration for innovation and learning.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Emmanuel Dockx
  • Promotor: Prof. dr. Koen Verhoest
  • Date: Wednesday 7 June 2023, 4 PM
  • Location: Hof van Liere, F. de Tassiszaal (Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp)

The defence is followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 31/05/2023 by mail at

PhD defence Loubna Ou-Salah - "Soon water will be worth gold!" - 8/6/2023

On Thursday 8 June 2023, Loubna Ou-Salah (Department of Sociology) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis 

"Soon water will be worth gold!"

A qualitative study on how environmental factors are considered during migration decision-making in the Moroccan and Belgian context 

This dissertation explores the impact of gradual environmental changes on migration decisions from Morocco to Belgium. Starting from the viewpoints of Moroccan and Congolese migrants residing in Belgium, the dissertation first reconstructs their migration paths. It then centers on the perceptions of people living in rural areas in the Souss-Massa region in Morocco who face slow-onset environmental changes in their daily life, and explores how this impacts migration decision-making. Findings of this dissertation highlight the importance of structural conditions and societal structures, the life course, existing cultures of migration and belief systems in gaining knowledge about environmental change and migration opportunities. This is essential since societal structures, such as gender dynamics, cultural beliefs, and migration histories, influence individuals’ migration experiences and decision-making processes. 

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Loubna Ou-Salah
  • Promotors: prof. dr. Gert Verschraegen & prof. dr. Lore Van Praag
  • When? Thursday 8 June 2023, 10 AM
  • Where? Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters (Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp)

The defence will be followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before the 26th of May at 

PhD Defence Eva Theunissen - Queering the View. A multi-sited study on bodies, digital/visual technologies and ethnographic invisibilities. - 17/6/2023

On Friday 16 June 2023, Eva Theunissen (Department of Communication Studies) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis 

Queering the View.

A multi-sited study on bodies, digital/visual technologies and ethnographic invisibilities. 

In response to significant developments in technology and society, as well as various social movements in the 1980s and 1990s, many social scientists have started taking seriously the body as an object of research. Criticizing modernist approaches to the body as an abstract, unitary and discursive domain, contemporary feminist and materialist approaches foreground bodies’ vitality and multiplicity, their capacity to affect and be affected. Indeed, today our physical bodies are increasingly entangled with digital and visual technologies. Carrying many markers of our identities and biographies such as gender, race, sexuality, age and dis/ability, human bodies are also closely associated with issues of in/visibility, surveillance and power.My dissertation looks at the intersection of three main strands of research: the body, digital/visual technologies and issues of methodological invisibility. Despite an increased recognition of the body in social science scholarship, I argue that the attention most often goes out to the bodies of “others”, our research participants. In my dissertation, “queering the view” involves shifting focus to the role my own body has played during ethnographic fieldwork. Contributing to the growing body of MeToo Anthro literature, the first part of my dissertation urges for more attention to the embodied power dynamics of fieldwork. The second part looks at the role of digital images and technologies for queer bodies and visibility. This section builds on a multi-sited online and offline study of queer bodies and their relationships with digital screens, cameras and image-making practices. The third and final part of my dissertation looks at the use of digital/visual tools and technologies in qualitative social science research. Applying various non-dualistic lenses to research methods and questions of epistemology, this section explores the various roles technologies play in ethnographic fieldwork and knowledge production.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Eva Theunissen
  • Promotors: prof. dr. Paolo S.H. Favero & prof. dr. Luc Pauwels
  • When? Friday 16 June 2023, 3 PM
  • Where? Hof van Liere - A. Dürerzaal (Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp)

The defence is followed by a reception, please confirm your attendance before 6 June 2023 at