PhD Defence by Hanna Carlsson

On Wednesday, June 8, 2022, after a Covid-19-related postponement, our PhD candidate Hanna Carlsson, fabulously defended her PhD thesis, on Caring for Older Migrants in Dutch Cities. This thesis and defence were in all respects highly praised, and she graduated with the rarely awarded but well-deserved distinction Cum Laude. This made not just herself but also her daily supervisors Dr Roos Pijpers and Dr Rianne van Melik very proud. I myself as the principal supervisor was also emotionally touched by this achievement, not just of a single person, but of the geography group as a whole, which continuously succeeds in keeping up an inspiring, stimulating and challenging research atmosphere (I referred to this concept of atmosphere in an earlier entry on this blog-site). So it is also the quality of the place which makes the difference.

This specific PhD thesis (if you click on the cover page you can download the thesis) addresses a core issue in the field of Geography, namely, how do we deal with differences and with diversity in our current world. It makes use of a relational approach which is also very topical and vividly debated within our group, assuming that reality cannot be grasped by thinking in a multitude of exclusive categories, containers, or bubbles, but that reality is often much more complex, mixed and interrelated as well as multi-scalar.  So how do we deal with these very diverse and complex situations, in a way that does justice to all objectives and all people involved? Hanna uses Practice Theories of the post-practice-turn kind to conceptualise these processes. If we want to move beyond the essentialisation and beyond the containerisation and beyond the foamy multitude of bubbles of today it is almost self-evident that there cannot be ideal practices, but at best we can try to increase the social justice of our daily caregiving to older migrants in Dutch cities, even though we are aware that this, at best, will be a form of ‘non-ideal’ social justice, as Hanna calls it. This is never finished and will continuously need our critical reflective monitoring. In this respect, this approach indeed goes beyond the woke versions of multicultural idealism and is much more realistic, nuanced and practice-oriented.

This much broader social theoretic approach of how we in practice deal with difference and diversity, and how we can make places, occasions and practices more just or less unjust also clearly shows how this in a more general sense is related to the dynamics of placemaking. A piece of work, we are all proud of…