Civil society, social work and solidarity

NGOs; grassroots solidarity; volunteering; social movements; transnational social work; advocacy and interest groups;…

Advocacy for Migrants in European Transit Zones. Analysing Innovative Strategies for Political Change

Description: Many migrants get stuck in so-called 'transit zones' in Europe. Governments try to deter migrants from dwelling in these zones, by means of repressive measures. This doesn't shy away migrants but pushes them in ever more destitute living conditions. In response NGOs and grassroots initiatives have tried to push for improved living conditions and to change the policies that cause these humanitarian crises. This project inquires into the advocacy work of grassroots collectives in Brussels and Calais as well as pan-European initiatives. What strategies have been developed since 2015 and to what effect? The project will contribute to debates on the possiblities (and limitations) of grassroots collectives to bring about political change in the contemporary management of migration.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt , Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Marlies Casier , Robin Vandevoordt
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences , Faculty of Law and Criminology
Period of time: 2023 - 2026

Bloody diversity. The transformative capacity of blood donation among ethnic minorities in redefining citizenship and solidarity in ethnically diverse societies

Description: In Europe, blood for transfusion is collected from voluntary, non-remunerated donors. In public discourse, blood donation is framed as an exemplary act of citizenship and solidarity. Despite sufficient blood supply, however, only a small percentage of the population donates, and in particular, ethnic minorities are underrepresented. Existing research has mainly focused on identifying cultural and structural barriers experienced by minorities. This project argues that such a donor-centered approach prevents us from questioning in a more fundamental way how the non-participation of ethnic minorities challenges the basic architecture of the blood procurement system as a Western beacon of citizenship and solidarity. We therefore conduct a country-comparison between Belgium and the UK, representing two different blood collection systems, to explore how ethnic minorities challenge the organization of blood collection.
Promoter(s): Lesley Hustinx , Pierre Monforte
Researcher(s): Toyah Van der Poten
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences
Period of time: 2022 - 2026

Brokering human rights evidence: the case of pushbacks from European borders

Description: This research project focuses on how lawyers bring (cell phone) evidence about push-backs at Europe’s borders to the European Court of Human Right and the Human Rights Committee. It is part of the Dissect project. By focusing on the transformation of knowledge into evidence, the project contributes to the dissecting of evidence regimes from the perspective of lawyers and human right defenders. What is known can vary enormously between adjudicators, states, IHR lawyers, IHR defenders and victims. Nonetheless, there has been little critical reflection so far of the epistemological basis on which justice is supposed to be exercised. Why do adjudicators know what they know? How is the scope of what they claim to know shaped by the work of brokers all the way from the occurrence of an IHR violation, to the constitution of evidence, admission and finally its assessment? How do these brokers of evidence deal with subjectivity, uncertainty and assumptions about truth regimes of adjudicators?
Website research project:
Promoter(s): Jill Alpes
Researcher(s): Jll Alpes
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Law and Criminology
Period of time: 2021 - 2024

Humanitarianism under protest. The politics of grassroots solidarity with illegalized migrants.

Description: Across Europe, numerous grassroots groups have emerged in solidarity with migrants that are illegalised by state policies. Some of these groups combine humanitarian support (e.g. material aid) with an explicit desire to effectuate broader social and political change (e.g. by mobilizing citizens into protests). Through ethnographic fieldwork in grassroots groups that are active in Brussels, Flanders, Dunkirk and across Europe, this project examines what distinguishes these groups from both professional humanitarian NGOs and radical social movements, which dilemmas they are faced with, and how they deal with these.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt
Researcher(s): Robin Vandevoordt
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences
Period of time: 2019 - 2022

Interrogating Islamic roads to conviviality

Description: This project examines conviviality as an everyday practice of bridging religious and cultural difference from the perspective of Muslim minorities in Belgium. It aims to reveal the modalities in which Islamic frames of reference and ethics are mobilized by individuals while striving for harmonious convivial living together across religious difference. The project investigates conviviality in relation to notions of tolerance in Islamic theological and philosophical writings bearing on Western urban contexts. These insights are complemented by in-depth anthropological fieldwork. This project empirically investigates how Belgian Muslims engage in everyday ethical thought and practice while seeking conviviality and negotiating identity. Analysis will identify obstacles and categories of experiences of success and failure while seeking convivial living. Doing so, this project offers solid and evidence-based research on highly neglected facets of Muslim life in Europe.
Promoter(s): Chia Longman
Researcher(s): An Van Raemdonck
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
Period of time: 2022 - 2025

Lost in transit? Deconstructing the il/legalization of migrants dwelling in European ‘transit zones’

Description: In their attempts to regulate migration, Western states have produced and enforced various forms of il/legal status upon migrants. This research project provides a case study of how migrant il/legality is produced in the particular context of North-European transit zones. On the one hand, it examines how migrants are illegalized by a wide range of actors, practices and discourses. On the other hand, the research looks into the socio-legal support migrants are offered in these zones of transit (either by state actors, civic actors, or among migrants themselves) as these forms of support potentially constitute strategies to legalize migrants’ presence instead.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt , Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Maud Martens
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences , Faculty of Law and Criminology
Period of time: 2022 - 2026

Performing kinship with illegalised migrants. Comparing hospitality practices in Brussels and Rome

Description: While the so-called European migration crisis has been echoed with increasingly hostile EU border policies and anti-migrant rhetoric, it has also prompted many citizens' solidarity initiatives towards migrants across the continent. In this context, hosting migrants at home emerged as a new puzzling and exciting phenomenon. Drawing on ethnographic research methods, this project aims to be one of the first to conduct a systematic analysis of hospitality practices - providing shelter at one's home - and the strong, affective, family-like relations (fictive kinship practices) emerging between migrants illegalised by the State and their urban resident-hosts in Brussels and Rome.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt , Lesley Hustinx
Researcher(s): Julija Kekstaite
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences , Faculty of Political and Social Sciences
Period of time: 2021 - 2025

Reclaiming the future? Critical perspectives on social work and policies on undocumented migrants

Description: The structural exclusion of illegalised migrants from Belgian society, their limited rights and restricted access to social services render it difficult for social workers and volunteers to provide more than just material support, situated in the present. This research project aims to gain a deeper understanding of structural social support practices and specific approaches to socio-legal and psycho-social support through ethnographic research methods. Therefore, the project focuses on local and municipal initiatives that link conditional welfare services, namely shelter, to intensive social counselling towards certain future perspectives for illegalised migrants. At the same time, the research endeavours to encompass how social workers, volunteers and illegalised migrants themselves construct informal forms of social support.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt , Ine Lietaert , Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Soline Ballet
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences , Faculty of Law and Criminology
Period of time: 2021 - 2025