Gijs van Campenhout

Current projects

Who belongs to the Nation? Citizenship Changes in International Football, 1930-2014

In our increasingly mobile and competitive world, requests for and changes in citizenship status are becoming an everyday phenomenon. Although nothing new, citizenship changes challenge the ‘naturally’ presumed relationship between citizenship, state and the nation by raising questions about who, under which conditions, belongs to the nation – revealing the changing relevance, value and need for a special link between these three components. Further, the erosion of citizenship, partly due to citizenship changes, calls for more flexible notions of citizenship and belonging. Usually, citizenship changes of highly skilled professionals, like doctors, ICT-workers, academic professors and talented athletes – like elite football players –, do not play a part in this discourse on citizenship (changes). However, due to their high profile in the mass media, representations of international football players who change their citizenship in international sports influence the public discourse on citizenship and belonging. This is highlighted in the context where states are actively recruiting highly talented athletes, by providing ‘fast-track citizenship exchanges’, in the hope of international success without bothering a special link between the players and the country. International football is, thereby, considered as a magnifying glass to society, as international football players who have changed citizenship, are often highly profiled in the media and have become an active part of peoples’ on- and offline everyday discussions.

We are building a database to reveal (optional) citizenship changes of international football players who have represented a nation (-state) in the FIFA World Cup (1930-2014). Changes in the position towards, and the process of, granting citizenship to individuals by (sending and receiving) states, changes in FIFA’s eligibility rules, and football players’ increased global mobility shape the context of these changes in citizenship. Further, how citizenship changes in international football are represented in the mass media, and received and reworked by the audience, will provide deeper insights in how changes in citizenship (re)shape our notion of (sense of) belonging to the nation in the (nation-) state as we now know it. This leads to the main research question: How are changes in citizenship status of international football players (1930-2014) related to the discourse of ‘who belongs to the nation’? 

Van Campenhout is working as a PhD researcher within the broader research project ‘Sport and the Nation’. He does this under the supervision of Dr. Oonk (promotor) and Van Sterkenburg (co-promotor).

Former projects

‘It is somewhere where blokes can be blokes’: Making Places at the Auckland University Rugby Football Club.

In his research master to become a cultural geographer, Gijs van Campenhout conducted a research on place making activities of rugby players at their local rugby club – the Auckland University Rugby Football Club, New Zealand. Rugby being the national sport of New Zealand, the participants indicated that both the sport and the local rugby club, including the places associated with both, were closely (inter)related to various aspects of their identity – in example to both their masculine and national identities. The history of the sport in place and feelings of ‘belonging to’ both the sport and the rugby club, were important factors in the process of place making and the (re)production of (place) identities. The study, further, dealt which why, how and which forms of masculine identities were displayed (in public) by the men during various moments of a match day at the rugby club. The results indicated changing activities and (personalised) behaviour of the rugby players in time and space, whereby the displayed behaviour of the players depended on being at front- or backstage 

This project resulted in:

  • Van Campenhout, G., and B. van Hoven. 2014. ‘It is where blokes can be blokes’: Making places at the Auckland University Rugby Football Club. Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, Vol. 21, No. 9, p. 1090-1107.
  • Van Campenhout, G. 2010. ‘It is somewhere where blokes can be blokes’: Making Places at the Auckland University Rugby Football Club. Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, Research Master thesis in Regional Studies; Spaces & Places, Analyses & Interventions.

Geography of Death: The appreciation of four commemoration places of death in the Pécs region 

After their death, people leave places behind. Places where individuals have had an impact on and places were relatives can commemorate the deceived person. In other words, the death of an individual will have several impacts on space, especially as a death memorial is erected for commemorational purposes. These places of death can have an (emotional) meaning to relatives of the deceased person (and others), as it is a place where they mourn and can still feel connected to the lost one. The aim of this research was to measure the appreciation of four commemoration places of death situated in the Pécs region amongst the inhabitants of Pécs in terms of their aesthetical value and their (societal) meaning.

Within this project, Van Campenhout has been predominantly working on the chapter about roadside memorials – their appearances and meanings. Roadside memorials exist on the shoulders a road. These memorials are only visible for people who have a good look at the verges of the roads while being on them. This is necessary because this kind of memorials are not placed in a group near each other, but are geographically scattered due to the fact that they are erected at places where deathly traffic accidents happened. The aesthetical appreciation of roadside memorials can be considered neutral, due to their individual and private character – predominantly linked to the deceived one or its relatives. In terms of (societal) meaning, roadside memorials can, besides a place of commemoration, be regarded as a ‘warning sign to road users’.

This project resulted in:

  • Van Campenhout, G., S. Hulshof, Q. Spakman, and T. Vredeveld. 2008. Geography of Death: The appreciation of four commemoration places of death in the Pécs region. Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, Bachelor thesis in Human Geography and Planning.


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Van der Goot Building | Building

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50

Gijs van Campenhout