Common themes

Research projects among core staff have the following features in common:

  • The politics of location: Our epistemological starting point is that gender as well as cultural differences has a bearing on the production of knowledge. This involves the following question: What are the consequences of the participation of the once silenced ‘other’ (the woman, the subaltern) in processes of knowledge and theory formation that up until recently have been, behind a mask of false universality, politically hegemonic (colonial, western, androcentric and heteronormative)?
  • The study of ‘culture’ from an anthropological and postcolonial perspective: Culture refers to shared modes and forms of meaning-making, sociality, learning, belonging and everyday practices, yet is also seen as inherently non-homogenous, conflictual, creative and evolving. Hence culture is seen as a dynamic vehicle of identity-making, at the level of the individual, group and community. It goes beyond conventional understandings of ‘race’ or ‘ethnicity’, to include the making of other and related constructions of gender, sexuality, dis/ability, etc., and the power relations between them.
  • The study of ‘gender’ from a feminist and intersectional perspective: Gender is seen as a cultural construction in relation to other identity dynamics such as ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and nationality. Gender is not only considered as an analytical category and as a social means of categorization and regulation, but as a culturally variable construction as well. Empirical research is directed at local cultural productions, reproductions and shifts in gender, sexual, and cultural ideologies, discourses practices, with attention to dynamics of intercultural and transnational exchange and creativity in contexts of migration and globalization.
  • Interdisciplinarity with a strong anthropological and ethnographic orientation informed by postcolonial critique: Learning from rather than about others what it means to be human using qualitative research techniques, including ethnography, discourse analysis, etc. .
  • Cross-cultural comparison: Projects within the centre focus on a variety of cultural traditions and regions rather than being limited to one specific form, region or cultural area. Our research does not necessarily, nor exclusively focus on ‘others’ (cultures outside the ‘West’ or minorities within the ‘West’) but also involves examining diversity and inequality among majority populations. For gender and culture is as much about ‘us’ – whoever ‘we’ may be – as about ‘others’.
  • Dialogue and collaboration across disciplines, scientific paradigms and methodologies: Individual, social and cultural differences and identities are also grounded in embodied experiences that benefit from interdisciplinary research and a holistic approach.  Various projects and events involve collaboration with colleagues from archeology, medicine, psychology, social and political sciences, law, regional studies, ethics, literature, etc.


Research areas

  • gender, religion, spirituality, (post)secularism, non-religion, world-views and sense-giving
  • ethnicity, sexuality, racism, social activism and social movements
  • kinship, reproduction, cultures of relatedness, parenting, mothering, marital and relation practices, care relationships
  • gender & education
  • migration, multicultural citizenship, racism, inequality, postcolonialism, development
  • harmful cultural practices
  • mental health, self-care, well-being and culture
  • sexual & reproductive health and rights
  • gender and diversity in academia
  • culture, gender, visual ethnography and artistic production
  • LGBTQ/I rights, well-being, experiences and identities
  • gender, sexuality and (older) age

Completed dissertations

‘Making Families’: Parenting and Beloging in Transnational Adoption in Flanders 
Date of defence: 04/05/2012.
Dr. Katrien De Graeve – Doctor in Comparative Sciences of Culture
Under supervision of: prof. dr. Chia Longman & prof. dr. Karel Arnaut

Accoucher la citoyenneté. Expériences et témoignages de femmes sans-papiers à propos de le leur travail maternel.
Date of defence:  1/10/2013.
Dr. Tine Brouckaert – Doctor in Comparative Sciences of Culture
Under supervision of: prof. dr. Chia Longman & prof. dr. Marc Derycke.
International joint doctorate, Ghent University with MoDyS (Mondes et Dynamismes des Sociétiés) Université St. Etienne.

Religion and Women’s Emancipation in a West-European Context: Qualitative Case Studies on Religion and Secularity in Feminist Perspectives and Practices in Flanders.
Date of defence: 15/12/2014.
Dr. Nella van den Brandt – Doctor in Comparative Sciences of Culture
Under supervision of prof. dr. Chia Longman.

Elif Shafak and Emine Sevgi Özdamar: Politics of Fiction, Re-negotiating Secularism, Decolonial Feminism and Decolonial Aesthesis.
Date of defence: 23/09/2016
Dr. Elif Simsek
Under supervision of prof. dr. Chia Longman & prof. dr. Ralph Poole & prof. dr. Christine Kanz.
Joint Doctorate with Salzburg University, Austria.

Agency within Crevices of Subordination: Female Teacher Educators’ Gendered Lived Experiences in Uganda
Date of defendence: 21/11/2016
Dr. Lydia Namatende – Doctor in Gender and Diversity Studies
Under supervision of: prof. dr. Chia Longman & prof. dr. Martin Valcke

Female Genital Cutting and the Politics of Islamicate Practices in Egypt. Debating Development and the Religious/Secular Devide
Date of defence: 16/12/2016
Dr. An Van Raemdonck – Doctor in Comparative Sciences of Culture
Under supervisoion of: prof. dr. Chia Longman & prof. dr. Els Leye

Sexual Rights Activism in Mozambique. A qualitative case study of civil society organisations and experiences of lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons
Date of defence: 7/09/2018
Dr. Maria Judite Chipenembe –  Doctor in Gender and Diversity Studies (UGent) & Doctor in Gender and Diversity (VUB)
Under supervision of: prof. dr. Gily Coene & prof. dr. Chia Longman

Gender, Sexuality and the Moral Body: A Qualitative Study of perceptions and Experiences of Body Management among Women in Iran and Iranian Migrant Women in Belgium
Date of defence: 28/05/2019
Dr. Ladan Rahbari – Doctor in Gender and Diversity Studies (UGent) & Doctor in Gender and Diversity (VUB)
Under supervision of: prof. dr. Chia Longman & prof. dr. Gily Coene

Working ‘with’ or ‘on’ Moroccan migrant mothers: mediating structure versus agency in the analysis of marriage migration, gender and integration
Date of defence: 09/11/2021
Dr. Amal Miri – Doctor in Gender and Diversity Studies (UGent)
Under supervision of: prof.dr. Chia Longman, prof.dr. Nadia Fadil & prof.dr.Sarah Bracke


Research Networks


Ethics, Culture and Society is a research alliance group between the VUB and Ghent University since 2017.  (2017-2020/2020-2023/2023-2026). It is supported by The Special Research Fund at UGent and VUB.


ECSO brings together members of the RHEA Expertise Centre in Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality at VUB Brussels, and CRCG, Centre for Research on Culture and Gender at UGent. Members collaborate regularly in joint research projects, publications and events. Various members also co-operate closely in education, especially in the inter university Master in Gender and Diversity.


Members: VUB: Gily Coene (director), Dirk Laufaut, Iman Lechkar, Memory Mphaphuli, Hannelore Van Bavel. UGent: Chia Longman (co-director), Katrien De Graeve, Michiel De Proost, An Van Raemdonck, Giulia Nazarro.


Research foci (2023-2026):

  1. Ethics, religion, anthropology
  2. Anthropology of moralities: intimacy and sexuality
  3. Feminist bio-ethics: care and reproduction


Recent events:



Gily Coene

Chia Longman


Past collaborations and achievements (selection) include:

Joint doctorates and co-publications in the framework of the research projects

  • Harmful Cultural Practices: A critical analysis of cross-cultural discourses and moral understandings of gender, sexuality and embodiment (FWO, 2014-2019): L. Rahbari, S. Dierickx (supervised by G. Coene, C. Longman)
  • Sexual Rights Activism in Mozambique: A qualitative case study of civil society organizations and experiences of lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, Joint-PhD in the framework of VLIR-UOS co-operation with Universidade Eduardo Mondlane Mozambique (2009-2018), M. Chipenembe  (supervised by G. Coene, C. Longman)
  • Global families, global inequalities. The politics of child relinquishment, search and reunion in transnational adoption, FWO PhD project (2017-2023), Atamhi Bex (supervised by K. De Graeve & S. Withaeck).
  • International Conference ‘Sexual and Gendered Moralities’ under the auspices of the International Association for the study of Religion and Gender (IARG) UGent, 26-28 November 2018. (Special Issue: “Sexual and Gendered Moralities”. Gender and Religion, 12, 2, 2022).