Master Thesis Supervisors and Master Thesis Topics
Frans Boekema's research focuses on a variety of topics in the field of Economic Geography and Urban and Regional Economics. An emphasis is put on Regional Innovation, Learning Regions, The Knowledge Economy and Regional Economic Growth and Development.
Possible topics for MA-thesis that I will gladly supervise are:
- Location theories and local/regional economic development
- City-marketing and regional branding
- Regional innovation systems
- Clusters, networks and development
- Regional competitiveness
- Agribusiness clusters and the bio-based economy
- Social capital and learning regions
- The creative class and urban development
- Demographic change and economic development
- Border regions and economic development
- Regional labour markets
- Spatial dimensions of the knowledge economy
As director of the Centre for International Conflict Analysis & Management I have a strong (research) interest in the various aspects and dimensions of violent conflict, ranging from the causes of conflict, conflict prevention, conflict dynamics to conflict management and peace building and post-conflict reconstruction of societies. The regional focus is on Europe (Balkans, Caucasus, minority issues) and its bordering regions. Specific topics include:
- Dutch defence and security policy in an international context;
- Military aspects of security policies;
- The role of international “security” organizations: NATO, European Union, Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe;
- Historical analysis of current conflicts
Research interests: philosophy of space and place (what is space/place?), philosophical anthropology (what are human beings?), action theoretic approaches in human geography (how do people relate to space and place in their daily actions?), theory led policy evaluations, identity and meaning of places and regions, European integration, transnationalism and network society, regional and spatial development and the human being behind it, statistical modelling of spatial decisions, qualitative analysis of spatial actions, cooperative planning, Searching for the limits of and similarities between different theoretical approaches in human geography, making geography matter (critical approaches in human geography).
Possible Master Thesis Topics:
- The University as a Network organisation (data sets on Dutch universities for analysis available) (suggested apprenticeship organisation: International Office Radboud University Nijmegen);
- Spatial Frames of Relevance in cross border shopping (an application of Framing Analysis on cross border shopping behaviour) (suggested apprenticeship organisation: any consultancy firm in the field of shopping behaviour and 'koopstromenonderzoek');
- Spatial Frames of Relevance and Living across the Border (an application of Framing Analysis on Dutch people living across the border in Germany);
- Planning Cultures in the City Region Arnhem-Nijmegen (an action theoretical analysis of planning practices in the City Region Arnhem-Nijmegen) (In relation with an international research project on comparative planning cultures) (suggested apprenticeship organisation: City Region Arnhem-Nijmegen);
- Modelling Traffic Mode decisions in relation to Policy Interventions (quantitative statistical analysis) (suggested apprenticeship organisation: Traffic Policy Organisations);
- Application of Norbert Elias' figuration theory of 'The established and the outsiders' on transnational communities (e.g. the Dutch community in Kranenburg) (suggested apprenticeship organisation: Municipality of Kranenburg);
- Analysing success factors of City and Region Marketing and Branding (Application of Jürgen Habermas' theory of communicative rationality on the communication of spatial identities);
- The power of theories: Comparing theories of habitual spatial behaviour (behavioural theories) and of framed spatial actions (action theories);
- The Anthropology of City Life: Applying philosophical anthropological insights on daily life in the city (suggested apprenticeship organisation: municipality of a larger city);
- The limits of the creative class in the city: What if every city seeks its creative class? (What is next after Richard Florida's 'creative class'?) (suggested apprenticeship organisation: Kenniscentrum Stedelijke Vernieuwing; or any larger city municipality);
- Analysing the Polder model / What the consensus economy is really about? (application of new institutionalist insights on the collaborative relationships in Public-Privat Partnerships);
- The critical potential of discourse analytical approaches in (spatial) policy research. (what is the practical use of discourse analysis in policy research? A meta-analysis based on discourse analytical research of others);
- University Culture and Innovation in University Research (analysing the role of culture in innovation at universities) (suggested apprenticeship organisation: Department of Strategy of the Radboud University);
- Geography is what geographers do: Empirical analysis of what the human geography alumni of the Radboud University do nowadays. (suggested apprenticeship organisation: Alumni Office of the Radboud University);
- What is the meaning of Space in the work of Helmuth Plessner? (in relation with the International Helmuth Plessner Conference in Amsterdam in 2009).
As an economic geographer Gert-Jan Hospers is fascinated by the economic development of cities and regions in Europe. Gert-Jan is particularly interested in city and regional marketing, innovation policy, the particularities of old industrial/peripheral areas and creative cities. Gert-Jan has area expertise on East- and North-Netherlands, the Ruhr Area, Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, Faeroer), the UK (North-East of England) and some cities in North-West Europe.
Possible research topics include:
- city and regional marketing and branding
- local and regional economic policy
- regional innovation and cluster policy
- the role of culture in the economic development of regions and cities
- the development of old industrial areas in Europe (e.g. Ruhr Area and Oresund)
- the development of peripheral cities and regions (e.g. North-Netherlands)
- economic-geographic issues in East-Netherlands (e.g. Twente and Stadsregio)
Research interests/Possible Master Thesis topics:
- Global Justice, Cosmopolitanism, Globalisation;
- Open Borders Ethics/Morality of Borders;
- European and National Biopolitics;
- Europeanisation Politics of fear and security;
- European Neighbourhood Programme;
- (Illegalised) migration routes into the EU;
- Migration camps/detention centres;
- Dying (illegalised) migrants at the borders of the EU;
- Borders, Nationalism and Transnationalism;
- Perceptions and Representations of Borders and Identities;
- Home, Identity and Belonging
- Cross-border Networks and (im)Mobility in Europe;
- (Im)migration and Integration National identity and citizenship;
- National Borders, Nationalism and Transnationalism;
- Borderscapes, Borders in Cities, Divided Cities;
- Soccer: representation, identity, territorial battle, commercialization;
- (Urban) hypercapitalism;
- Nietzsche, Foucault, Kafka, Agamben, Lacan, Deleuze and Guattari, Bauman.
I am mainly interested in the following research themes:
Border ‘Memory Work’
I am keen to embed currently fashionable accounts of the EU as both an internally borderless and externally Fortress-like geopolitical space within a longer-durée encompassing earlier rounds of European re-structuring and re-bordering, notably those of late 19th century imperial expansion and mid 20th century decolonization. In so doing, I’m attempting what might be called a ‘genealogy of the European border’, one which recognizes, as in our own time, moments of danger for Europe when the border becomes a crucial site for imagining ‘Europe’ otherwise. The late colonial archive and 1950s decolonization literature (ie, Sartre, Fanon, Memmi, de Beauvoir Camus) currently form the textual backdrop for this work-in-progress.
European Transboundary Regional Governance
For some time now I have been interested in the ways in which Europe is reconstructing itself politically, economically and culturally at the cross-border regional scale. Here the laboratory of the cross-border euroregions (or euregios) has been a central focus of my work, as I explore the ways in which these novel territorial and administrative entities seek to produce modes of governance ‘beyond’ traditional member state borders. A more recent initiative has led me to consider forms of transboundary governance at the outer borders of the EU, notably in its relation to countries forming its new ‘neighbourhood’. In both these research settings I am particularly intrigued by the paradoxes of transboundary governance, and in examining their myriad deficits I seek to reveal broader contradictions disturbing the wider EU integration project as a whole. As a key part of this research agenda, I am particularly attuned to the power of maps, and the power-laden visions they express in either enabling (or disabling) an authentic cross-border demos capable of recognizing alterity and difference.
I am intrigued by the possibility of developing an epistemological framework for thinking at/from the borders of Europe in a wider North/South framework. In dialogue with Southern European and Latin American academic networks, the invention of such a ‘border epistemology’ draws on post-structuralist, postmodern and postcolonial approaches in human geography. Putting Descartes on his head, it dares ask the question: ‘I am where I think’.
Possible topics for master-theses could be in the range of the following:
- The geo-history of European borders, frontiers and empires (as well the associated border strategies of anti-colonial movements)
- The borders of anti-colonial / post-colonial theory and the postcolonial inflection of European border studies
- Contemporary modes of cross-border governance and governmentality: euregios as well as wider EU-Frontier (ie, European Neighbourhood, ‘Europe in the World’)
- Re-working the ‘New Regionalism’ at/from the European border
- Contesting geopolitical representations: border maps and counter-maps
- The temporality of borders
- Strengthening the link between European border studies and critical social theory
Arnoud Lagendijk's research focuses on regional development and processes of regionalisation across Europe. He is especially interested in relational approaches to region formation, exploring the impact of the circulation of ideas, practices, and forms of governance.
Other research themes:
- The development of spatial planning and regional development concepts in The Netherlands;
- Clustering and cluster policy (with emphasis on SMEs and the link to innovation);
- The localisation and investment strategies of multinational companies;
- The rise of alternative economic practices.
Thesis ideas on all these themes will find a warm welcome.
- NGOs and peacebuilding.
- The linkage between conflict and development
- Local dispute resolution
- Land rights, tenure security, land disputes
- Decentralization and local management of natural resources
- gender and conflict
Geographical interests: southern Sudan, the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and Guatemala
Other activities: Over the last few years, from an interactive research methodology, I have combined doing research on international efforts to strengthen peacebuilding capacities of civil society organizations with working with a variety of such organizations. Practically, this involved participating in programme management, monitoring and evaluation, and organizing workshops. In addition, I have conducted a series of consultancies. I have a keen interest in Community Theater.
Possible thesis subjects are:
- Landrights and tenure security in post-conflict reconstruction
- Linking state-building to civil-society building
- Challenges of rebel-movement to political party transitions
Jaïr van der Lijn has strong interests in the many aspects of conflict resolution, such as peace operations, peace agreements, and the role of the United Nations. Given the nature of his research, his focus lies predominantly, but not exclusively on the Balkans, Afghanistan and Africa. In addition, the Future Security Environment for the Netherlands constitutes one of his research topics.
Expertise/ possible theses topics with regard to conflict (resolution):
- United Nations
- Peace operations
- Integrated approach 3D-approach (Development, Defense and Diplomacy), Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC)
- Future security threats (such as resource scarcity, super power conflict, state failure, climate change)
- Military operations en Afghanistan
- Causes of conflict
- Conflict resolution
- Peace agreements
My research focuses on the theories and practices of conflict resolution, peacebuilding and transitional justice. I am particularly interested in studying the application of conflict resolution projects in diverse settings and in the political, social, and cultural implications of such applications. My research to date has focused on exploring local experiences of conflict resolution interventions in West Africa. In addition, this line of research has fostered research into the development of conflict resolution as an academic discipline and as a profession, into interdisciplinarity as a mode of academic inquiry, and into the methods used to evaluate peacebuilding and transitional justice processes
Possible Master Thesis Topics in the field of:
- Conflict Resolution
- Transitional Justice
- Postwar Reconciliation
- Theories of War and Peace
- Development and Human Security
- Sub-Saharan Africa
Roos Pijpers' research focuses on the 'geography of work', including the migration, mobility, and flexibility of labour, migrant/worker subjectivity, workplace restructuring, and border making. She is also interested in how certain categories with an inherent spatiality ('mass migration', 'flexibility') are discursively and culturally constructed. Regionally, her work has focussed on Eastern Europe but she welcomes research in/on other case-study areas.
Possible thesis subjects are:
- Migration and Europe (e.g. Poles to the Netherlands, Dutch to Germany, Germans to the Canary Islands, Africans who are expelled from the Canary Islands to Ukraine, and Ukrainians to Poland): causes, policies, consequences;
- The relocation of workplaces to Eastern Europe;
- Cultural economy and alternative economic practices: global-local relations, alternative forms of production, work and entrepreneurship, alternative housing;
- The migration of women;
- Border policies (e.g. the external border of the European Union).
Marcel Rutten is a geographer and head of the Economy, Environment and Exploitation research group of the African Studies Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands. His central topic of interest is how the process of continued commoditization affect people’s access to resources, in particular the role played by institutions through which these resources are provided, and how this, in turn, defines constraints and opportunities for wealth creation. His key interest is in (resolving) competition and conflicts over natural resources. Since the early 1980s he has done longitudinal research on land, water, (eco)tourism and food security in semi-arid Africa. In addition, his interest is directed to processes of democratisation and economic development in developing countries.
Ongoing research projects and possible master thesis subjects are:
- Land tenure reforms in the arid and semi-arid lands of East Africa: The World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development noted in 1989 that land availability was not a major problem in the context of most African countries. Since then however, some of the continent’s most serious conflicts (e.g. in Rwanda and Ivory Coast) have been linked to problems related to land availability and ownership. Access to land is becoming problematic in many African countries as land use and tenure frontiers shift. Scholars like De Soto claim that formalised tenure will resolve key obstacles for wealth creation in developing countries. My own research efforts over the last 25 years in southern Kenya show the opposite outcome of this process of land tenure reform among Maasai pastoralists.
- Water development: Access to water is becoming increasingly difficult for many people in developing countries. Successful efforts initiated in the past, e.g., through improving the design of traditional shallow wells is undermined because of deep boreholes sunk to irrigate high valued export commodities such as flowers to international markets, notably the Netherlands. In collaboration with local researchers, longitudinal research since the early 1990s is conducted to establish the magnitude and causes of the drying of the wells.
- Drought planning and migration patterns among pastoralists; shrinking pastures, drying wells and rivers, growing populations puts a heavy stress on livestock keepers resilience and opportunities to make a living. Climate change is said to add to these obstacles. One way out is by diversifying into other activities (cultivation, bio fuel plantations, etc), leaving the livestock sector all together or by migrating (rural-urban, rural-rural). Research is underway in the outer skirts of Nairobi to establish more details of these kinds of migration practices.
- Ecotourism in Africa: an opportunity and a threat at the same time is the biggest industry worldwide: tourism. In recent years partnerships between foreign tour operators or nature conservation organizations with local people mushroom in an effort to safeguard wildlife while at the same time raising potential revenues for the local inhabitants. How successful are these initiatives? Which elements for success are crucial to be taken into account when starting these new ventures?
- Processes of democratisation and development in Kenya: Especially since the late 1980s African countries have picked up multi-party democracy. In a number of cases this has brought important gains as well as new problems. The case of Kenya is interesting as it is among the few African countries where a ruling party was send home peacefully while in another election the handover ended up in a violent clash. Studies in Kenya’s political history and economic development have been undertaken through interviewing key stakeholders.
New topics that have gained my interest, yet have not yet received abundant empirical research efforts and therefore are also potential subjects for master thesis research projects are the following:
- Casual Labour, Poverty Reduction and (Fair Trade) Coffee Labelling
- Comparing Asian and African Development Trajectories
- Spatial development (corridors) in Africa
- The position of handicapped people in developing countries
A researcher with academic training in a number of interrelated disciplines such as human geography, (development) sociology, anthropology and (micro) economics, Lothar Smith is especially interested in research issues concerning developing countries, notably in relation to global influences. Hence topics such as international migration, transnational influences, globalization and social and economical changes in rural and urban economies in developing countries have his especial interest. Other topics, more related to the Dutch/European context, include assimilation/integration issues, studies of the role of Diasporas / migrant organizations in development aid.
Master Thesis Topics:
From the above a number of topics can be distilled which Lothar Smith would readily supervise. Some of these topics are reformulated again below in the context of specific geographical locations. However – in consultation with Lothar Smith – they may also be applied elsewhere.
- Ghana: University of Ghana (incl. Centre for Migration Studies, Geography Department and the Institute for Statistics, Social and Economic Research): Notably opportunities for research on migration and globalisation issues. Other research topics: developments around the relationship between urban and rural economies, coping with risk by urban actors, the role of recreational spaces in the city (Accra, Kumasi), public transport development.
- South Africa: University of Fort Hare and/or University of Rhodes. Also in collaboration with Paul Hebinck (rural development sociology, Wageningen University): Integration or separation: ties between rural and urban economies through social networks.
- South Africa: Forced Migration Programme (Witwatersrand, Johannesburg): Building on existing research on migrants in the city of Johannesburg by the FMP this research can answer the need to examine the opportunities for West African (esp. Ghanaian) migrants to realize social and economic mobility in South Africa and their country of origin (within transnational context)
- Nigeria: Geography Department, Kano: diverse topics concerning urban development of Kano. Collaboration with Nigerian Ma students is encouraged.
- Kenya: Various research opportunities for shorter or longer terms with a local research institute. If there is an interest to conduct resarch in Kenya, let me know so as to be able to make the necessary arrangements.
- Stedenbanden: De betekenis van stedenbanden in een globaliserende wereld. Dit onderwerp kan ook door meerdere, samenwerkende studenten worden gedaan middels gelijktijdig onderzoek op verschillende locaties om daarmee partnerships tussen Nederlandse en buitenlandse steden te onderzoeken. Contact via diverse gemeentes in Nederland of de Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeentes (coördinator J. Brac).
- Wageningen: Alterra. Op dit moment loopt hier een onderzoek m.b.t. multiculturele aspecten t.a.v. omgang met openbare ruimte in steden. Hier zijn diverse verwante onderwerpen aan te koppelen die wellicht ook via een COS of dergelijke als stage te realiseren zijn.
- Nijmegen: Bij de Gemeente Nijmegen hebben we momenteel een duale student die vergelijkend onderzoek doet naar structurele achterblijvers (“probleemhuishoudens”) in achterstandswijken. Hieromheen zijn allerlei andere onderwerpen denkbaar.
Comment: The majority of these topics imply going to, and doing research in, a foreign country. To ensure that this takes place within the timeframe of their study, students are encouraged to take timely action and contact Lothar Smith as soon as they identify one of these topics as something of personal interest.
Haley Swedlund is interested in a broad range of topics related to the role of external actors in aid-dependent and post-conflict contexts. Her current research focuses on donor-government relationships and debates regarding ownership and aid effectiveness. She is also interested in the role and effectiveness of of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the impact of peacebuilding initiatives. Her work currently focuses on East Africa, but she is open to supervising research in other regions of the world.
Possible Master Thesis Topics:
- Aid effectiveness & donor-government relationships
- Democracy promotion and statebuilding by external actors
- The role of NGOs and civil society in situations of post-conflict peacebuilding
- The timing and sequencing of peacebuilding missions
- Female peacekeepers and peacekeeping units (i.e. Liberia)
- Land & resource conflict
My research interests lie at the intersection of political geography and political economy, with a focus on the following broad questions: Who has the power to claim which space(s)? How are geographical imaginations (re)produced to back such claims? How is spatial injustice (re)produced (and what is spatial justice at all)? More specifically, I am interested in the transformation of the nation-state in the context of globalisation and ‘Europeanisation’, and the changing geographies of wealth redistribution, political representation and identity-building.
Possible Master Thesis Topics:
- The political, economic and cultural constitution of the geographies of state power
- The links between ‘Europeanisation’, state restructuring, changing forms of urban and regional governance and social cohesion/exclusion
- The connections between geographies of governance and (uneven) development and spatial justice
- (The politics of) spatial and regional policy at the EU and national levels
- The working of geographical imaginaries in policy-making
- Theorising the politics of space
As one of the coordinators of the Nijmegen Centre for Border Research and co-editor of the Journal of Borderlands Studies, I am confronted with a wide range of issues where borders do play an important role, which reflects in my broad and general interest in the area Border-studies. In recent years my research has focussed on three topics in particular:
- the causes and effects of changing border regimes (like Schengen);
- the border as an asset that can be exploited as opposed to the border as a barrier that has to be removed;
- (undocumented) migration and borders.
Possible topics for MA-theses that I will gladly supervise and work on together, are:
- Borders in the broadest sense of the word. This could involve economic aspects (like labour markets, consumer behaviour), migration, identity, etc.;
- Developments in Central and Eastern Europe, especially where it concerns the accession to, inclusion in and relations with in the European Union;
- The US-Mexico border and developments on the North-American continent;
- Furthermore as thoroughbred human geographer I also appreciate and am willing to work together on other geographical topics.
Willemijn Verkoren is interested in various aspects of peacebuilding and postconflict development, in particular the political aspects of peace- and statebuilding and the role of civil society and local and national government in these processes. Her regional focus has so far been primarily on Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Kenya) and Asia (Cambodia, Philippines) but she is interested in other regions and countries as well.
Master Thesis Topics:
- The place of traditional mechanisms and relationships (patronage, non-state justice and security networks) in modern statebuilding missions
- Restoring the social contract after conflict: how to rebuild state-society relations?
- Roles of civil society organisations in peacemaking and peacebuilding
- "Conflict resources" and the conflict-sensitive management of natural resources
- Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) and community security
- Statebuilding debates: exporting democracy?
Jackie van de Walle has strong interests in the specific topics that are related to international migration and the multicultural society in the Netherlands and other countries. She’s also interested socio-economic and spatial development in Africa and migrants in the Netherlands.
Master Thesis Topics:
- education and labour market (e.g. black/white schools)
- ethnic entrepreneurs especially also female entrepreneurship (social networks, independent entrepreneurship, micro-financiering etc)
- spatial segregation
- policy of integration
- multicultural society in general
- social cohesion
- processes of social exclusion