I am Assistant Professor in Urban Politics and Planning. My work specializes in processes of urban governance, conflict, citizen participation, and in- and exclusion of marginalized groups. I am trained in Anthropology and Political Science. My research and teaching take an interdisciplinary and ethnographic approach to 'planning for inclusive cities'.
I am interested in participatory planning and the (often agonistic) interactions between citizens and local governments. I study both top-down and bottom-up efforts to democratize urban development processes and specifically look at the role of ‘informal politics’ as a crucial aspect of participation. To study how informality and democratization takes shape in cities in the Global North and South, my study takes a comparative approach across institutional contexts. By use of ethnography and storytelling methodologies I seek to embed myself in the lived experience of diverse citizens, civil servants and local politicians. My scholarly work contributes to debates on critical urban studies and interpretive policy analyses. I am committed to valorize my results with and for civil servants, local politicians and citizens of the cities in which I work.
Since 2022, I serve as the Dean of Metropool, a post graduate educational program for urban professionals seeking to understand the complex challenges of governing the city at The Netherlands School for Public Policy (NSOB) in The Hague.
In 2020-2021 I was Urban Citizen Fellow at NIAS/KNAW and the Municipality of Amsterdam where I researched how Amsterdam could re-politicize citizen participation processes. I worked closely with civil servants and local politicians in advizing them on how to make citizen participation more inclusive. I am currently involved in a research project together with the Ombudsman Metropool Amsterdam to study how citizen participation processes can be improved in Amsterdam.
In 2020 I published an edited volume on interdisciplinary research methodologies, 'Seeing the City. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Study of the Urban', together with Luca Bertolini (Amsterdam University Press).
In 2019, I received an individual talent research grant (VENI) from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) for my project entitled ‘Strengthening democracy beyond ‘participation’: informal politics and inclusive urban development’ on which I work from 2020 – 2024.
My PhD dissertation (Cum Laude) was awarded with the Van Poelje prize of best dissertation in Public Policy 2015. My work appeared in a wide array of academic and popular scientific journals. Furthermore, I serve as the chief editor of the Dutch academic journal 'Policy and Society' and on the editorial board of 'Tijdschrift voor Sociale Vraagstukken.'
Strengthening democracy beyond ‘participation’: informal politics and inclusive urban development. (2020 – 2024)
Citizens who experience social and geographic exclusion often have difficulty influencing local decision making on urban planning, and this experience can reinforce dissatisfaction with the democratic system and foster societal fragmentation. Although local governments around the world increasingly seek to involve citizens in decision making, studies show that formal participatory processes still fail to include all citizens. This project turns a lens onto the informal politics by which marginalized citizens already claim their ‘right to the city’, so that those practices can be better recognized by urban planners and their concerns can be heard. How do relatively marginalized citizens informally claim their right to the city in ways that are not recognized by formal participation efforts? How do these informal politics shape formal processes of participation? How can these informal ways be better included in participatory planning?
The project contributes to the scholarship of ‘participation’ by theorizing informal politics via contrasting ethnographic case studies of citizens’ politics in response to participatory urban development projects, in the distinct institutional contexts of Amsterdam (the Netherlands), where participation is highly regulated, and Bogotá (Colombia), where experimental efforts seek to creatively involve citizens. In-depth field research examines informal politics around the edges of formal meetings, in street-level encounters between citizens and public officials, and in other settings, and how these encounters shape formal participatory processes. The research design challenges two taken-for-granted ideas: that informality in politics is a Southern phenomenon and that citizen involvement is better organized in welfare states. Further, the comparison will illuminate how state institutional frameworks variously enable or constrain citizen participation. Using an innovative approach to the methodology of political ethnography, I involve local stakeholders in knowledge production and utilization, to ultimately generate multi-dimensional understandings of participation from below and above.
This project is funded by an individual research grant (VENI) of the Dutch Research Council (NWO).
Urban Citizen Fellow (September 2020 - February 2021)
As Urban Citizen Fellow at NIAS/KNAW I am researching how Amsterdam could re-politicize participation and how conflict and dissent play a role in local democracy. I am working on a study about a participation process in Amsterdam West that has turned into strong resistance from the neighbourhood.
This project is funded by the Urban Citizen Fellowship of NIAS/KNAW and the Municipality of Amsterdam.
Book project City Methods (2019 – 2020)
In the volume 'Seeing the City. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Study of the Urban' Luca Bertolini and I bring together a wide variety of inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to study the city. The book is part of the IIS series 'Perspectives on interdisciplinarity' and Amsterdam University Press.
This project is funded by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS).
Commoning Amsterdam’s Future (2019 – 2020)
Together with Fenne Pinkster (UvA), Virginie Mamadouh (UvA), and documentary filmmaker Julia Strijland (Momo productions), we assess Amsterdam’s future through the eyes, experiences and stories of Amsterdam citizens from all walks of life. The city of Amsterdam is quickly expanding, posing new challenges to create plans for the future that foster the wide array of interests and dreams of the people of Amsterdam. Strategic plans like the Structuurvisie, Koers 2025and Omgevingsvisiesteer urban planning practices in the years to come. While such planning strategies have traditionally been top-down, the municipality now aims to include bottom-up experiences and interests of various stakeholders like residents, entrepreneurs, and professionals. While projects aim at engaging citizens, we believe that they are 1) limited to the more central neighborhood in the city, and 2) tend to cater to the more affluent citizens who raise issues by themselves and are comfortable speaking in formal public meetings. Our project aims to ‘common Amsterdam’s future’ from the bottom-up by including a group of citizens that has so far remained ‘outside’ of the planning process and wider discussions about the city’s plans for the future. Storytelling workshops result in a documentary that highlights the perspective of citizens in envisioning Amsterdam’s future.
This project is funded by a Seed Grant XL of the Center for Urban Studies (CUS).
Since 2019: 'Planning Research: empirical research methods and techniques', Master Urban and Regional Planning, Department of Geography, Planning, and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam. (coordinator/lecturer together with dr. R. Arundel)
2016, 2017: 'Qualitative Research Methods', Master Urban and Regional Planning, Department of Geography, Planning, and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam. (lecturer together with dr. F. Savini, dr. A. Zorlu, and R. Arundel)
2013, 2014, 2015: 'Analyzing Identity-Based Conflict', Master in Public Policy, International Relations, and Conflict Resolution and Governance, Graduate School for Social Sciences, University of Amsterdam (lecturer)
2013, 2014, 2015: 'Research Seminar', Master Conflict Resolution and Governance, Graduate School for Social Sciences, University of Amsterdam, (lecturer together with Dr. David Laws)
2013, 2014, 2015: 'Thesis supervision', Master Conflict Resolution and Governance, Graduate School for Social Sciences (GSSS), University of Amsterdam (supervisor)
2012: 'Practice Seminar', Master Conflict Resulution and Governance, Graduate School for Social Sciences, University of Amsterdam (lecturer together with Dr. David Laws)
2012: Series of lectures on 'Performance and narrative in conflict' , George Mason University, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), Center for the Study of Narrative in Conflict, (visiting scholar)
2011: 'Short Intensive Course on neighborhood research', for PhD students, AISSR, University of Amsterdam (founder and organizer with dr. Emma Folmer)
Since 2018: 'Methods and Techniques 2', Bachelor Social Geography and Planning, Department of Geography, Planning, and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam. (coordinator/lecturer together with dr. A. Zorlu and dr. E. Veldhuizen)
Since 2016: 'Spatial Interventions', Bachelor Social Geography and Planning, Department of Geography, Planning, and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam. (coordinator/lecturer together with dr. F. Savini)
2016/2017: 'The image of the modern city', Honours course, University of Amsterdam. (lecturer together with Dr. W. van Gent)
2016, 2017, 2018: 'Spatial Planning and Design', Bachelor Social Geography and Planning, Department of Geography, Planning, and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam. (coordinator/lecturer)
2016, 2017: 'Inequality: policy and conflict', Bachelor thesis project, Department of Geography, Planning, and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam (lecturer/supervisor together with C. Hochstenbach)
2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015: 'Introduction to Conflict Studies', Bachelor Political Science, department of political sciences, University of Amsterdam (coordinator and lecturer)