FSS Research awards

Uitreiking

The Johannes van der Zouwen Master Thesis Award intends to increase the high quality of empirical research in the broad field of social sciences. In substantive terms, there is no restriction on the chosen topic of research. Master students at the FSS are eligible for submission. Each department of the faculty annually nominates a candidate for the Master Thesis Award. The thesis must be graded with at least an eight and must be finished and assessed up to one year before the submission date.

Winner 2018: Jasper Vlaanderen (Political Science)

Jasper Vlaanderen

Jasper Vlaanderen (Political Science): Creating unity to ensure support: Member states’ positions towards NATO after ‘Crimea’
Since the end of the Cold War, a debate about a new security role for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has continuously taken place, outside and inside the alliance. Noetzel & Schreer (2009) have shown that NATO even became divided in different camps of member states, each opting for another direction the organisation should take in the twenty-first century. The annexation of Crimea by Russia, four years ago, has put NATO’s traditional position vis-à-vis Russia back in the spotlights. Academic agreement on the necessity of NATO to refocus on Russia was quickly reached afterwards. The position of NATO’s separate member states, however, has been so far neglected in this regard. This master’s thesis, therefore, researches the question how the annexation of Crimea has changed member states’ positions towards NATO. By using the theoretical model of Noetzel & Schreer and analysing policy documents of nine NATO member states, it finds that member states’ positions towards the alliance have converged in the aftermath of the annexation, without taking a pure focus on Russia. Rather, the broad security role NATO developed after the Cold War is being confirmed. This can, remarkably, best be attributed to NATO’s Eastern member states, which have widened their positions towards the alliance in order to ensure support of other member states in their response to the Russian threat. This finding gives ground to the debate about NATO’s security role and raises questions about the realist notion that states solely engage in alliances to balance against common threats.

Nominations for 2018

Lisa Ausic

Lisa Ausic (Social and Cultural Anthropology): For the Goddess’ sake: Pagan Goddes worship and environmental practices in Glastonbury
Lisa’s choice to study environmental issues and how they are linked with religious practices resulted in an anthropological master thesis that is a welcome ethnographic contribution to our understanding of the complexity of environmental behavior in contemporary society and culture. The theoretical imbedding, the collected empirical data, and the anthropological reflections are innovating and interesting inputs to the knowledge over Paganism and environmentalism. This thesis emphasizes the urgency of environmental crisis and pushes the boundaries of social science definitions of sustainability in every day practices. In a good anthropological tradition, Lisa’s study of Goddess worship goes against vested opinions and popular knowledge. The thesis is timely because it chooses to study Pagan practices that are highly stereotyped through TV series, Hollywood movies and recent epic fantasy literature and look beyond these popular views. The thesis calls for a different look at the definition of religion when most students are focused on predominant Abrahamic religions. Lisa innovatively links Pagan practices and their influences on environmental citizenship and accordingly how such links lead to rise of political consciousness among the community of believers. The research problem and its execution are coherently tied together through contemporary cutting-edge theoretical frameworks. Lisa does not limit herself to the anthropological classics and established, and she convincingly shows how social sciences need to look through network and connectivity to make sense of behaviors of people. Despite the philosophical depth and complexities of the theoretical framework that she chose to work, the author lucidly defines all elements through stories and examples instead of overburdening the thesis with jargons and theories. The chapters consistently shape the larger ethnographic analysis and lead to the conclusion with appropriate cultural sensitivity and scientific rigor. Furthermore, the student is aware of her role as the part and parcel of the research and knowledge production system. She keeps her biases and prejudices in check during her research and fieldwork despite being pagan herself. This becomes most evident when she finds inconsistencies between the represented ideas and what the people actually do during their lives. Overall, Lisa’s thesis is a contribution that not only looks at a timely question, but that also theoretically dialogues with current debates on network theory within the anthropology of religion.

Ruud Fiers

Ruud Fiers (Sociology): Means to an End. The framing of gender and sexuality by online followers of two radical right parties in the Netherlands
Means to an End. The framing of gender and sexuality by online followers of two radical right parties in the Netherlands
The role of gender and sexuality issues in radical right claims needs more systematic research. In this respect, we know the content of the political claims of party leaders, but how do their followers think and talk about gender and sexuality? The innovative mixed-method analysis of Facebook comments of PVV and FvD followers yields an inconsistent and paradoxical image. On the one hand, women’s and gay issues are appropriated and ‘defended’, but exclusively mentioned in anti-Islam/immigration rhetoric. These issues function as a way to problematise Muslim and immigrant men, and Islam, and simultaneously victimise native Dutch women, Muslim women and gays. Online PVV followers employ this type of framing more often. On the other hand, progressive gender issues - being feminism and gender equality, transgenderism, diverse gender identities and gender neutral-policy - are attacked and yield conservative responses. Especially online FvD followers are negative towards these issues and ‘progressiveness’ in general

Sjors Houtveen

Sjors Houtveen (Communication Science): Nostalgic product placements in narrative media
In this research nostalgic product placements in narrative media were studied with regard to enjoyment, and whether they influenced brand/product evaluations in a more positive manner compared to current product placements. A 2x2 between-subjects experimental design with two levels of brand placements: retro- vs. current products, and two levels of product placement setting: nostalgic- vs. current setting was used to study this rationale. A replication factor with two levels: denim clothing vs portable music devices were also included to control for product types, and aid generalisation. In total 390 participants from multiple countries (80 percent from the United States of America) have filled in the entire questionnaire and were exposed to one of the eight clips (real scenes between 1.5 - 3 minutes). Results showed that retro product placements were evaluated in a more positive manner compared to current product placements. Novel effects of the role of nostalgia in the product placements context were found in this study.

Judith Jansen

Judith Jansen (Public Administration): Normalisatie van arbeidsbeperkten: betekenisoptie of hegemonisch discours?
Normalization of work disabled people: potential meaning or hegemonic discourse? A discourse theoretical analysis of the social construction of disabled people during the development of the Participation Act
The introduction of the ‘Participation Act’ on January 1, 2015 by the Rutte II-cabinet asked of disabled people to participate in society by working (more) in regular jobs. According to the policy design theory, language and especially discourse are of major importance in this so-called ‘normalisation’ of disabled people to make them less dependent and more self-reliant: it legitimates policy and influences thoughts and behaviour of the target group as well as society. Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory is useful to deconstruct this social construction of disabled people. Despite discourse theory’s prediction that one discourse will become hegemonic, the analysis shows that during the creation of the Act, multiple articulations of floating signifiers were present. This means ‘social security’, ‘fully participate’ and ‘disabled’ had not one meaning but multiple meanings, although sometimes one was more hegemonic. Therefore, disabled people are not yet fully ‘normalised’. Still, the development in this direction is undeniable, regarding the reform of the Dutch social security system combined with the emancipation of disabled people.

Sarah Kamphuis

Sarah Kamphuis (Beleid, Communicatie en Organisatie): (In)Formeel sociaal kapitaal als bron van een succesvolle online petitie, of toch niet?
(In)formal social capital as a source of a successful online petition, or not?
Signing an online petition is a widely used form of online activism (Laer & Van Aelst, 2004). Drawing up and signing online petitions is a tactic used by online activists to influence an organisation (Den Hond & De Bakker, 2007; Laer & Van Aelst, 2004). However, online tactics, such as online petitions, that attract a large number of signatures rarely influence organisations’ policies (Kristofferson, White, & Peloza, 2014; Laer & Van Aelst, 2004). Using theories on social movements, social networks and organisational stakeholders, this research aims to unravel to what extent the online petitioner’s formal and informal online social capital influence the chances of a positive reaction to online petitions from organisations. The results reveal that (1) the petitioner’s formal social capital has a negative influence on the chance of a positive reaction from municipalities; and (2) the number of signatures of the online petition has a positive effect on the chance of a positive reaction from municipalities to online petitions.

Floor van Schie

Floor van Schie (Culture, Organization and Management): ‘Nature is what happens behind the fences’
How can it be that local communities regard their natural surroundings as ‘behind the fence’? And how come that people are neighbours, but their worlds are so apart? This thesis set out to understand the underlying dynamics of the different perspectives of local communities in rural South Africa regarding the conservation of their natural surrounding environment. Through participant observation, this research aims to bring to light the diversities and heterogeneity in local communities, and moreover, the disregard of conservation strategies to these local nuances. The research shows that a lack of contact, and a homogenous view of ‘the other side’ simplifies local dynamics into one perspective, thereby excluding (m)any others. By bringing you into the world of rural Mpumalanga, this thesis draws up the curtain on these valuable local nuances and what steps could be taken to create a sustainable, and valuable partnership in protecting and conserving South Africa’s natural environment.

Previous years

2017
Jochem Kootstra & Timo Korstenbroek
nominees
2016
Anthonie Drenth
nominees
2015
Daniëlle Bovenberg
nominees
2014
Simon Twaalfhoven
nominees
2013
Moos Pozzo & Joukje Swinkels
nominees

The FSS Dissertation Award seeks to increase the high quality of empirical research in the broad field of social sciences. In substantive terms, there is no restriction on the chosen topic of research. The granting of the FSS Dissertation Award is open to all FSS former PhD students that defended their dissertation in the past two years on the faculty. Each academic department of the FSS may annually nominate one candidate.

Winner 2018: Thijs Willems (Organization Sciences)

Thijs Willems

Thijs Willems (Organization Sciences): 'Monsters' and 'Mess' on the Railways: Coping with Complexity in Infrastructure Breakdowns
Infrastructures are the structures and built constructions defining how we move, communicate, store, dispose of stuff, buy, distribute, arrange, organise, etc. They are so basic in our daily lives that they generally operate invisibly on the background of society. Only when infrastructures break down they come to us as something meaningful to scrutinise and investigate. This ethnography on the Dutch railway system argues that distinctions between functioning or broken down infrastructures cannot be drawn unproblematically. Rather, it urges us to rethink infrastructure as a process in which breakdowns and repair work are constitutive of how infrastructure functions. Analysing diverse railway breakdowns, ranging from the very mundane to dramatic ones, the dissertation illustrates what is at the core of breakdowns: their complexity. Two different perspectives on complexity are discerned: one in which complexity shows up as an enemy that must be tamed and managed, and one in which railway employees deal with it in practice. What turns out as truly disruptive is not the breakdown itself, but the ways in which the two perspectives on coping with complexity interrelate and are played out.

Nominations for 2018

Corné Dijkmans

Corné Dijkmans (Communication Science): From monologues to dialogues: Interactivity in company social media use
In recent years, the presence of companies on social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) and their interactivity on these online platforms has increased significantly. Online media have become an indispensable element in the communication mix of companies, although they may also pose risks (e.g., by their public character). In this dissertation, the effects of social media use by companies are studied on their relationships with consumers. The dissertation shows that online interactivity of companies – via online engagement of consumers – may contribute positively to improvement of their corporate reputation; among customers but particularly among non-customers. Relationships with consumers can be further strengthened if companies use a conversational human voice in their social media activities (e.g., showing understanding for different opinions, admitting possible mistakes). This dissertation offers new theoretical and practical insights, and may contribute to the optimisation of company communication strategies.

Marike van der Velden

Mariken van der Velden (Political Science and Public Administration): Political “Frenemies”: Party strategies, electoral competition & coalition cooperation
The overwhelming majority of governments formed after elections have been coalition governments, in which two or more parties cooperate. Oftentimes the policy preferences of voters and future and/or current coalition partner(s) do not align. Parties, therefore in a coalition government need to weigh whether being friends with their coalition partner(s) is more beneficial than being enemies. The result of this trade-off is decisive for their communication strategy. The current literature explaining changes in party communication does not account for these trade-offs coalition government participation brings. In this thesis, Mariken poses and answers the question how past coalition participation and future coalition considerations influence parties to change their communication by refining existing theories on party competition. Using novel data and innovative empirical strategies, Mariken demonstrate first the differences in communication strategies between government and opposition parties and subsequently shows that these differences stem from parties’ anticipation of coalition participation.

Arjen de Wit

Arjen de Wit (Sociology): Philanthropy in the welfare state: Why charitable donations do not simply substitute government support
Arguments in political debates often plea for a less top-down government with little rules and less public spending. The expectation is that neighbours, volunteers and charitable donors can fill the gaps left by the government. But can they? This dissertation shows that governmental budget cuts do not simply lead to higher private donations to non-profit organisations. Charitable donors are often not aware of government spending, which is partly due to selective media coverage. Organisations may attract about twenty percent more donors by providing explicit information about a reduction in government support, but this is partly at the expense of other organisations. Many households have a fixed budget reserved for total giving within which they choose their organisations. Thus, government spending leads to redistribution of philanthropic giving rather than an overall increase.

Previous years

2017
Kasper Welbers
nominees
2016
Maaike Matelski & Jeroen Wolbers
nominees
2015
Dhoya Snijders
nominees
2014
Nicoletta Dimitrova
nominees
2013
Naná de Graaff
nominees

The FSS Research Award aims to bring the most appealing, promising and original research achievements into the spotlight. This recognition encourages the nominees to continue on the same foot, provides an example for other researchers, and enables the departments and the faculty as a whole to biennial contribute examples of research that contributes to accomplishing the mission of the faculty. The granting of the FSS Research Award is open to all FSS researchers, regardless their function and task. The granting of the FSS Research Award is not open to: a) persons who are part of the jury; b) persons who have already received the FSS Research Award in the previous five years. Each academic department of the FSS may biennial nominate one candidate.
2017
Johan Hoorn
nominees
2015
Kees Boersmanominees
2013
Christian Burgers
nominees
2011
Marleen de Witte
nominees