The Institute for European Studies and the Department of Political Science of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel are hiring a PhD researchers for the research programmes on ‘Evaluating Democratic Governance in Europe’ (EDGE) and on ‘Participation and Representation in Modern Democracies (PARTIREP). More precisely, we seek a PhD researcher for the project entitled ‘The substantive representation of women and ethnic minorities in Belgian politics’ (see brief description below).
PhD grants are for four years. Candidates need to have a master in political science or in other social sciences. Joint degrees of Vrije Universiteit Brussel and other universities are possible. The working language is English, although for this particular sub-project knowledge of Dutch and / or French is necessary.
We seek to improve the gender balance among our research staff. Women are thus strongly encouraged to apply.
Starting date is flexible. For further inquiries about this vacancy, contact Prof. Dr. Karen Celis at Karen.firstname.lastname@example.org
The substantive representation of women and ethnic minorities in Belgian politics
It is generally accepted that substantive representation – the representation of citizens’ interests, views, needs, and perspectives – is the most crucial aspect of political representation and thus essential to democratic governance. This call seeks research projects set out to conceptualise and theorise what responsiveness means in today’s representative democracies and how representatives realise it over the course of highly complex and dynamic processes of representation. This necessitates a close examination of just how our representatives substantively represent, or perform responsiveness, during the constitutive process of representation. A related challenge concerns deeming citizens’ views to be the litmus test of democracy. There is a long-standing research tradition on political trust, traditionally considered to be one of the most important resources for the stability of a political system. Notwithstanding the fact that the citizens’ assessment of the representation of their interests can be expected to impact their belief in the political system, substantive representation has actually never been studied within this framework.
We especially welcome projects that focus on the political representation two groups (women and ethnic minorities), and within these broad categories, intersecting sub-groups (e.g. ethnic minority women), and sub-groups (e.g. Turks, Moroccans) in Belgian politics. The project ideally combines an elite and a citizen perspective in order to understand and conceptualise what constitutes responsive substantive representation of these groups and to theorise the conditions for it. When adopting this double perspective, the project is set out to, first, uncover how representatives establish the ‘substantive linkage’ in the course of their representative actions. The project would then address the motivations of the representatives to represent specific issues and interests (electoral incentives, personal conviction and experience, the wishes of the party, civil society organisations, …), the decisions on the concrete content and framing given to these (how is the concrete content defined; why is a specific issue framing chosen; who, if anyone, was consulted, …), the activities representatives perform and their beliefs that what they do constitutes accountable and responsive SR. Secondly, the project would also study the extent to which representatives’ ways of establishing responsive substantive representation indeed impacts on citizen’s feelings of being represented (citizens’ perspective).