Centre for Social Theory

CST is a scholarly hub for social, critical, creative and engaged theoretical thinking in relation to current societal dynamics and concerning the social production of knowledge. At the CST, we eagerly explore new sociological imaginations and interdisciplinary conversations in relation to key contemporary clusters of debate. We currently centrally focus on social inequalities, citizenship and solidarity, climate justice and environmental action/practice, migration and border regimes, and epistemic inequality in knowledge production. We pursue theoretical work and grounded-theory oriented empirical research, embodying research as a reflexive praxis and striving for more inclusive methodologies.

More specific, we wander through the academic fields of (global) social theory, sociology of knowledge, historical sociology, political sociology, economic sociology, citizenship studies, civil society and third sector research, science and technology studies, postcolonial and decolonial theory, critical border studies, and feminist theory, among others.

Current key research lines are:

  • Social inequalities: on the persistence of old forms of inequality and the rise of new forms, especially linked with educational inequalities, gender, and ethnicity/race
  • Social differentiation: on the determinants of change in different fields or systems of modern society, such as religion, education, or science. 
  • Social boundaries: on the recognition of society’s environment, such as animal rights debates and environmental problems
  • Solidarity and civic engagement: organizational and institutional embedding of 'altruism' and 'voluntary action' (blood donation, volunteering), practices of grassroots activism with illegalized migrants and the climate justice movement
  • Reflexive sociology: on the history and the future of the social sciences, especially considering the challenges posed by globalization and de-/postcolonial thinking.

The CST actively collaborates with:

  • CESSMIR (https://www.ugent.be/cessmir/en)
  • Sarton Centre for History of Science (https://www.sarton.ugent.be)
  • Stadsacademie (https://stadsacademie.be )

Director of the CST: Prof. dr. Lesley Hustinx

Members of the CST:

Camila Contreras Vera

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Camila Contreras Veraholds a BA in Political Science from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (PUC). She also obtained an MSc in Governance and Development at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. She is a doctoral researcher at the Center for Social Theory at Ghent University and is also affiliated as a PhD student in sociology at PUC (Chile). Her research focuses on migrant integration in host societies through religious institutions. Her main research interests include local governments, migrant integration and the sociology of religion. 

Laura Goditiabois


Laura Goditiabois is a doctoral candidate and teaching assistant. She obtained an MSc in criminology and in sociology. Her research interests mainly focus on human-animal relations, animal welfare, and animal rights. She was the recipient of the Marthe Versichelen-award for her master’s thesis research, which examined discourses on animals in court cases involving slaughterhouses. 


Sam Gorleer


Sam Gorleer is a doctoral candidate and former teaching assistant. His research is aimed primarily at uncovering the institutional and organizational pathways through which blood donation practices are affected. He published articles in European Sociological Review (2020) and Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (2023) and is the main author of a book chapter in “Economic Sociology in Europe: current developments and topics” (Routledge) (2023).

Tom Haseloff

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Tom Haseloff is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD exchange student in Sociology at Ghent University. His research covers a range of topics in economic sociology and political economy, such as climate change, finance, and digital technology. His M.A. research examined the political and economic forces driving differences in the content of renewable energy policies among U.S. states. Currently, his research focuses on the role of finance, specifically venture capital, in the technology sector. 

Lesley Hustinx


Lesley Hustinx is associate professor of Sociology. Her fields of interest include social theory, political sociology, citizenship studies and third sector research. Her work has been published in, among others, Voluntas, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Citizenship Studies, and European Sociological Review. She serves on the editorial board of Voluntas and Journal of Civil Society. She formerly was a board member of the International Society for Third Sector Research, and an expert member of the High Council for Volunteering in Belgium.

Julija Kekstaite


Julija Kekstaite is a doctoral researcher in Sociology at Ghent University. Her research interests include sociological examination of forced migration, civic engagement, immigration policies and feminist theory. Her current project investigates civic engagement with illegalised migrants at the Lithuania-Belarus borderland and racialised migration governance in Lithuania.

Yasmien Khaled


Yasmien Khaled is a doctoral candidate and teaching assistant. Her research focuses on youth in the Middle East and their patterns of civic engagement, specifically through their volunteering activities. She seeks to investigate how the civic engagement of young Arab civilians is molded by cultural practices, third sector organizations, and state ideologies.

Massilia Ourabah


Massilia Ourabah is a FWO doctoral research fellow. She is doing research on how reproductive labour, the labour that reproduces and maintains life, reconfigures in the new climatic regime. Her work mobilises (feminist) science and technology studies, ecological thought, social reproduction theory, ethics of care, and Rancièrian theories of radical equality. 

In 2020 she published The Social Life of a Herstory Textbook (Palgrave Macmillan).

Ewoud Vandepitte


Ewoud Vandepitte is a voluntary research fellow at the CST. He is in the process of finishing an FWO doctoral project in sociology at the university of Antwerp. His research explores how Belgian climate protestors cultivate hope and thereby draws from social movement theory, sociology of emotions and environmental sociology. He holds masters’ degrees in sociology and moral sciences from Ghent University. 

Toyah Van der Poten


Toyah Van der Poten is a doctoral candidate. She has a background as a filmmaker, with experience in both documentaries and socio-artistic projects. The doctoral research she is working on focuses on the underrepresentation and (re)presentation of ethnic groups in blood donation and challenges the organizational field of blood donation. The experiences of individuals with a migration background are studied through fieldwork in Ghent (BE) and Leicester (UK).

Raf Vanderstraeten


Raf Vanderstraeten is Professor of Sociology. His work is in the field of sociological theory, sociology of knowledge, sociology of religion, and sociology of education. In recent years, he has been Visiting Scholar in the Department of Sociology of the University of Chicago (USA) and Visiting Professor in the London School of Economics and Political Science (England). With Kaat Louckx, he published in 2018 Sociology in Belgium: A Sociological History (Palgrave Macmillan) and in 2022 Soziologie in Belgien (Springer). He is co-editing the forthcoming Elgar Encyclopedia of Global Social Theory.