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The programme group ‘Political Sociology – Power, Place and Difference’ researches evolving relations of conflict and cohesion in various national and international settings. Our research on citizenship, politics, policies, social movements and the state extends beyond actor-centred approaches through relational analyses and a keen eye for power differentials.
Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

Group members employ and develop a wide variety of interpretative and analytic methodologies for rigorous empirical research. We are committed to enhancing and developing comparative and theoretically informed research of current societal issues. The group supports diverse engagements outside the academic arena. In close collaboration with two other programme groups, we form one of the centres of European sociology.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Europe

While remaining globally connected and engaged in scholarly debates around the world, we situate ourselves in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Europe. We engage with issues that are located in these particular places and seek global comparisons to further our understandings. We are interested in how contemporary inequalities and global power differences hit the ground in urban neighbourhoods, local governments, shopping streets, civic integration courses and professional-client relationships.

Understanding difference

Our theoretical and methodological pluralism provides room for understanding the production of difference, ranging from gendered aspects of class-based politics, meanings of health, sexual nationalisms and economic manifestations of diversity to ethnic and racial politics. We look at difference as a product and source of conflict and exclusion, but also as a tool for emancipation. Contemporary inequalities and power struggles over difference are manifold and complex, necessitating innovative combinations of theoretical perspectives. The programme group combines sociologies of citizenship, the welfare state, health and risk, emotion, social movements, urban sociologies and sociologies of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and migration.

Faculty and PhD candidates

Members of the programme group specialise in the research of a wide variety of subjects, including migration and migrant integration, health, risk, urbanism, labour and entrepreneurship, gender, sexualities, belonging, emotions, social movements, citizenship and social policy. We are committed to our engagement with public issues, relating private troubles to changing institutions and social structures. In our scholarly work, we engage in current sociological and interdisciplinary debates. However, we believe that our work as scholars should also include an engagement with publics, ranging from social movements, businesses and civil society to governments and—importantly—students. Many of us also actively contribute to print and social media.


We are associated with the Centre for Urban Studies and the Centre for Social Science and Global Health, which all cover research priority areas. Furthermore, we are co-founders and active participants in three interdisciplinary centres: the Amsterdam Research Centre for Gender and Sexuality (ARC-GS) and the Centre for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES).

Our projects

  • Confronting Obesity: Co-creating policy with youth (CO CREATE)

    Confronting Obesity: Co-creating policy with youth (CO-CREATE) works with adolescents to create, inform and disseminate policies to tackle obesity among their peers.

    The project uses a societal systems approach to understand how factors associated with obesity interact at various levels. The project focuses on adolescence as a crucial age-group with increasing autonomy and soon to be the next generation of adults, parents and policymakers, and thus important agents for change.

    CO-CREATE aims to involve and empower adolescents and youth organizations to foster a participatory process of identifying and formulating relevant policies, assessing the options with other private and public actors, promoting relevant policy actions and developing tools and strategies for implementation.

    CO-CREATE partner organisations include university research departments, national public health institutions and a number of civil society organisations concerned with health policies and youth well-being. The project builds on existing initiatives and platforms, and constructs new opportunities for youth engagement in the issue and youth participation in democratic moves for advocacy and policy change.

    Funded by EU Horizon 2020. Food Security – Resilient and resource-efficient value chains.

    Dr. C. (Christian) Bröer

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

    Dr. E. (Evelyne) Baillergeau

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

    Dr. G.A. (Gerben) Moerman

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

    Dr. G. (Gerlieke) Veltkamp

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

  • EnGendering Europe’s muslim question

    EnGendering Europe’s Muslim Question proposes a new way of thinking about Muslims and Islam in Western Europe. Two deliberate theoretical and methodological strategies are used to this achieve this objective.

    First, by shifting the analytical and methodological focus from ‘the Muslim other’ to the ‘European self’. Second, by centering the analysis in gender and sexuality. 

    The project combines elaborate conceptual work with an ‘ethnography of a problematization’ (adapting Bowen’s ‘anthropology of public reasoning’) focused on studying public debates and more precisely key texts in the realms of policy-making and public debate, as well as interviews with key figures. The empirical inquiry focuses on three topics: gender segregation, violence against women, and toleration of homosexuality. The empirical study is focused on the Netherlands, with contrasting case-studies from France, Germany, and Belgium.

    Funded by NWO VICI

    Prof. dr. S.A.E. (Sarah) Bracke

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

    S.R.J. (Sherilyn) Deen MSc

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

  • Prospective research on homelessness and mental health

    The research follows the preparation and implementation of policy on the de-institutionalizing and decentralizing of responsibilities for Homelessness and Mental Health, in order to learn together on the basis of experience gathered from the start, and to reflect on it and take action. Maximum participation means actively taking into account the say and perspective of the clients as end users as well as professional perspectives during this transition.

    The research provides municipalities with administrative advice and explanations from different perspectives, stressing the client perspective. Amongst others, social support actors, policymakers, housing associations, mental health care (GGZ) and the police are being interviewed annually. During recurring interactive meetings (and webinars), municipalities are informed about their interim results. The study has a running time of five years and can count on the support of municipalities, suppliers, insurers and clients. Find our Dutch reports and video’s on our website (includes an English section).

    One of the ways in which our knowledge about the local practices concerning de-institutionalisation and decentralisation of homelessness (social relief) and mental health (sheltered housing) is shared is by means of our executive programmes for Dutch policy professionals in social welfare and sheltered housing. During multiple sessions Dr Nienke Boesveldt and Ir Michel van Hees (process manager for Dutch municipalities and health organisations) share academic findings and local best practices.

    Dr. N.F. (Nienke) Boesveldt

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

    M.J.A. (Merel) Otto MSc

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Dep. Sociology

  • Muslim Women on the Front Lines of Social and Political Change: A Case Study of the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries

    This VENI project of Lana Sirri research aims to generate a nuanced theorisation of Muslim women’s agency. It focuses on the Gulf Cooperation Council countries—a neglected region in the Anglo-Saxon social sciences, and engages with previously ignored scholarship written in Arabic.


    This aim will be achieved using three main strategies:

    • highlighting women’s diverse lived experiences in the region,
    • mapping their scholarship and grassroots social movements,
    • examining their role as subjects and agents of social change.

    Using these strategies, Lana Sirri will dissect the complexity of Muslim women’s agency, and the diversity of strategies they employ to claim their ‘identities’ and transform gender relations.

    The research consists of four objectives:

    1. analysis of the social categories ‘gender’ and ‘agency’ in religion, and their intersection in the work of female academics,
    2. characterisation of ‘bottom-up’ feminist mobilization,
    3. investigation of women’s grassroots social movements and their involvement in digital activism,
    4. examination of the intersection of academia, grassroots activism and social media.


    The research employs textual analysis, critical discourse analysis, and (digital and virtual) ethnography, involving qualitative interviews with female scholars and social (digital) activists as well as participant observation in physical and virtual settings. Scientifically, the research will advance social scientific understandings of agency, and in particular the fields of gender studies and feminist thought. Moreover, the amplification of women’s diverse experiences and marginalised Arabic scholarship promotes the decolonisation of knowledge production on women, gender and Islam.


    On a societal level, the research holds great potential for empowering Muslim women by awakening an indigenous feminist heritage rooted in Islamic tradition.

    Finally, the outputs of this research could help to inform policy recommendations that benefit Muslim newcomers to the EU by offering culturally sensitive „home-grown“ strategies for countering not only patriarchy but also religious extremism.

    Dr. L. (Lana) Sirri

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

Programme group leader

Prof. dr. S.A.E. (Sarah) Bracke

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

Our staff