'Migration and diversity related issues within the urban housing and planning context are a core interest in our research programme'

Interview with Reinout Kleinhans – Associate Professor of Urban Regeneration at Delft University of Technology

Reinout Kleinhans

What was your personal motivation to become part of the LDE Centre Governance of Migration and Diversity?

Whenever I am working with my students it is almost by default that they have to look at other issues than only the design and planning implications of diversity and migration. They should start to think about things like governance, social justice or history in order to understand where these issues come from. The issues we are dealing with are interdisciplinary in nature and therefore we wanted to apply an interdisciplinary approach in collaboration with different institutions.

Before the research centre I was already involved in the development of the joint LDE Master programme Governance of Migration and Diversity which turned out to be very successful. In my view, this cooperation has been working very well and effective and since we were already working together, it made sense to think about research in terms of a joint effort by all institutions involved. So the idea to extend teaching into something larger including research and societal impact activities was based on a good track record of joint cooperation and knowing each other’s work.

   Instead of providing discipline-related answers, universities should increasingly focus on creating more integrated and holistic analyses on so called ‘wicked problems’ societies are dealing with today.

What is the role of your faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment within the LDE Centre Governance of Migration and Diversity?

Within my faculty many colleagues are working on planning and design issues such as urban regeneration and spatial justice in cities across Europe and beyond. Several Mediterranean countries and cities have become a source of migration flows to Europe over the last couple of years due to multiple political developments and tensions. Other colleagues are  identifying and designing housing solutions for the large influx of immigrants in the Netherlands or elsewhere. As such, migration and diversity related issues within the urban housing and planning context are a core interest in our research programme. Our design and planning approach is highly complementary to what other institutions are doing in the LDE research centre.

Reinout Kleinhans with students
Dr. Reinout Kleinhans and GMD students talking with residents of the Kuyperwijk

I am currently working in the recently established research group Urban Studies, which also has an interdisciplinary approach. Our staff members include urbanists, human geographers, sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists. We tackle issues related to urban development including social inequality, segregation and neighbourhood development. These issues are strongly related to migration and diversity, such as segregation caused by social-spatial inequalities of people with a migration background or the concentration of low-income households in areas which reveal superdiversity in terms of migration backgrounds. Especially my department - which is dealing with societal issues but does not have a very strong research tradition in the social sciences- can benefit from interdisciplinary cooperation by getting connected to other research initiatives.

Why do we need this LDE research centre on Governance of Diversity and Migration?

Policy makers, politicians and journalists often see universities as knowledge producers which can provide answers. However, instead of providing discipline-related answers, universities should increasingly focus on creating more integrated and holistic analyses and answers to so called ‘wicked problems’ societies are dealing with today. To develop such answers, universities with different orientations and approaches have to work together and integrate knowledge in a comprehensible way. We should be able to do so and use the research centre as a vehicle in this effort. This approach fits in the larger trend of universities to create an impact beyond the well-known numbers of publications and grant funding by making a difference to policies and societal problems. 

   It is important to show that we can offer integrated knowledge and interdisciplinary views on migration and diversity related issues.

What can we expect from the LDE Centre Governance of Migration and Diversity in three years’ time?

I would be happy to see that in three years’ time we are recognised as a unitary body which can provide answers. That we are considered as one of the knowledge hubs which provides interdisciplinary perspectives on all kinds of migration and diversity related issues, and where people can easily access scientific knowledge which is connected to policy and practice.

The way to get there is not only by developing joint research projects, but also initiating interesting initiatives and methods to create societal impact on a policy level and in practice. It is important to show that we can offer integrated knowledge and interdisciplinary views on migration and diversity related issues.