Making the invisible visible: A broad view on social inequality and diversity

Spark interview with Lore van Praag

Lore Van Praag is a university lecturer in social inequality and diversity. She researches gender, migration, and climate change, which are broad, societal, and current themes. "I believe it's important to include all voices in my research, especially those that are often overlooked, such as the gender and migration aspects related to climate issues."

Since September 2022, Lore has been affiliated with Erasmus University Rotterdam. "My main focus is on how people perceive migration, especially their own or that of their families. That's why I conduct a lot of qualitative research, often involving interviews. One of the interesting outcomes is that it becomes evident that there is often a connection between social inequality and climate measures. Climate policies primarily target the white middle class. For example, there are subsidies for solar panels, but if you live in social housing, you can't take advantage of them. When developing policies, they focus on numbers and goals without considering the values that users find important, such as religion."

Knowledge from the country of origin 

In Rotterdam, there are many initiatives to live sustainably. A project can be more successful if the residents' and users' preferences are considered beforehand. For instance, consider purchasing solar panels per neighbourhood. Lore explains, "Residents with a migration background participate if the investment is not profit-driven and adheres to halal principles. If these aspects are not considered in such a neighborhood project, a large group of residents will be excluded. My research highlights this issue."

Migrants bring a lot of knowledge from their country of origin regarding climate adaptation and water scarcity, influenced by their local situation and cultural background. Lore says, "They often lived closer to nature than is possible in a big city like Rotterdam. They know various ways to conserve water but can't always apply them, for example, because they lack a garden. They are also more aware of the impact of climate changes on their people's living conditions."

Societal engagement 

Van Praag hopes that students develop a critical mindset during their studies. "I hope they approach literature with a critical mindset, learn how to conduct research, develop their own ideas, and know how to discuss them critically. I also hope they apply academic and sociological insights to their daily lives and their future. This means finding practical applications for abstract concepts. For example, students learn about the theories developed by Max Weber or Karl Marx. I hope they can see and understand how to apply these views to Rotterdam society. With all this knowledge in mind, I hope they strive to improve society. When developing climate plans, for example, I hope they formulate policy recommendations in a way that all political groups can work with, perhaps by listing pros and cons or introducing standardized tests."

Sector funding 

Lore's appointment comes from what's known as sector funding. This is money that the Minister of Education provides on a regular basis to improve scientific education and research. The investment also aims to stimulate collaboration within and between universities. Lore says, "I'm looking forward to collaborating with colleagues, particularly for interdisciplinary research on sustainability, migration, and exclusion."

Lore is already involved in a research project with various European partners, the ReIncluGen project. They investigate how to promote gender empowerment and inclusion, with specific attention to migrant women and girls. Lore continues to make the invisible visible here. They ask women to take photos of activities they do for their community, such as preparing sandwiches for schoolchildren who would otherwise go to school without breakfast. By displaying these photos, the activities and the women themselves become visible. It's also a way to build a database of best practices, including activities that aren't formally registered, don't have funding, and don't require formal evaluations. "The aim is to inspire organizations. It's particularly interesting for various themes. Women's contributions can be integrated into an environmental story, as women generally have a different relationship with nature than men. This highlights the gender aspect and amplifies more voices."

"I'm drawn to this societal engagement," says Lore. "I welcome anything that leads to more diversity. I want scientific discourse to take place and policies to be tailored to all people."


More information

This interview is part of Spark. With these interviews, we aim to draw attention to the positive impact of the faculty's education and research on society. The stories in Spark give an insight into what makes ESSB students, alumni, staff and researchers tick.

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes