Research into pandemics, youth and sustainability in the spotlight

Utrecht University confers three honorary doctorates

At this year's Opening of the Academic Year on September 6, Utrecht University will award three honorary doctorates to Carlota Perez, Hugo Tempelman and Alcinda Honwana. All three researchers demonstrate in their own way that science is crucial to tackling issues such as climate change, pandemics and inequality. With these honorary doctorates, Utrecht University honours the researchers and their contribution to the social debate.

Carlota Perez: Smart green growth

Technology is developing at such a fast pace that companies and governments are struggling to keep up while avoiding the negative consequences for society and the climate. Can we ensure a sustainable future by giving a direction to the technological potential available? This is what Carlota Perez, an authority in the field of technological revolutions and development in a historical context, is currently concerned with in her research. Perez dubbed the optimal direction as "smart green growth".

The Venezuelan-British author of the influential book Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages, holds that, historically, the best times for society have indeed resulted from giving an appropriate direction to each of the technological revolutions.

Global equity, democracy, and sustainable innovation.

Social impact 

Perez is no stranger to social debate. She advises  local and regional governments on how to socially shape  technological developments and regularly takes the public stage. She is listed in Forbes in the top 5 of most influential (female) economists (5 Economists Redefining… Everything. Oh Yes, And They’re Women). In addition, Perez chaired the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Expert Group for Green Growth and Jobs, an independent group of experts that produced a report exploring a sustainable future that would also help increase and improve job opportunities. All in all, Perez is an outspoken advocate for national and global equity, democracy, and sustainable innovation.

Carlota Perez is a scientist with an enormous track record, showing that technological revolution and a sustainable future can go hand in hand.

Pioneering research

Henk Kummeling, Rector Magnificus of Utrecht University is delighted that Carlota Perez is receiving an honorary doctorate this year.  "Carlota Perez stands for smart green growth. She is a scientist with an enormous track record, showing that technological revolution and a sustainable future can go hand in hand. She not only performs pioneering research but also frequently uses her expertise to advise local and national governments on how to deal with major technological changes in a sustainable manner," says Kummeling. Perez's work and research fit perfectly with Utrecht University's strategic themes Institutions for Open Societies and Pathways to Sustainability

Curriculum Vitea Carlota Perez in a nutshell 

Perez is currently an Honorary Professor at IIPP-University College London and at SPRU-University of Sussex. She also teaches at the Ragnar Nurkse Institute of Innovation and Governance, at TalTech, Estonia. In addition, Perez is closely involved in Deep Transitions, a flagship project of the Utrecht University Centre for Global Challenges.

From small HIV clinic to successful NGO

26 Years ago, Doctor Hugo Tempelman literally built with his own hands a small policlinic for the treatment and prevention of HIV infection in the rural areas of - now - the poorest province of South Africa, Limpopo. In the years that followed, Tempelman expanded this first policlinic into a special and prominent NGO, which, using the Zulu word for elephant, is named Ndlovu.

Ndlovu is now an established name, as NGO and HIV clinic, both nationally and internationally. The clinic has its own pharmacy, laboratory and X-ray facility. Dental care is provided to schools via a fully equipped dental van.

Food packages for 2500 poor families

Health care in rural areas of Africa

Of course the diagnostics and treatment of Covid-19 also receives attention at the moment. The Ndlovu laboratory is one of the few in the area that is certified to perform Covid-19 diagnostics with modern PCR methods. Because many inhabitants cannot get food due to the coronapandemic, employees of the clinic also deliver food packages to 2500 poor families every week. Tempelman is actively engaged in drawing more attention to the inadequate health care in rural areas of Africa. For example, Africa is at the back of the line for a corona vaccine, something Tempelman expresses his dissatisfaction and concern about, both in the media and in politics.

It's inspiring how Hugo Tempelman manages to bridge the gap between new scientific insights and societal impact.

Contributing to a better world

Rector Magnificus Henk Kummeling is proud that Hugo Tempelman receives the honorary doctorate this year. "As Utrecht University we are always looking for ways to contribute to a better world, to bridge the gap between new scientific insights and societal impact. Hugo Tempelman is an inspiration in this. He applies his expertise to help others. The data generated in the clinic is in turn the basis for new scientific publications to which he himself contributes. This honorary doctorate for social merit is very much his due,” Kummeling explains.

Curriculum vitea Hugo Tempelman in a nutshell

Tempelman was a guest lecturer in Education and Health Care in Resource Poor Settings at Utrecht University from 2007 to 2012. In that role he supervised master's students of Social Sciences and created PhD research for the UMC Utrecht. In 2015, Ndlovu's collaboration with Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht took firm shape with the establishment of the Ndlovu Research Consortium, to which also Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg. Through this collaboration already 250 students have been able to do research in - and to - the Ndlovu clinic. Tempelman was appointed Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau in 2007 and in 2009 he received the prestigious Martin Buber plaque.

Alcinda Honwana: Youth, protest and change in Africa

Africa is a young continent. The average age in Africa is around 20 (in Europe it is over 43). Youth is a precarious period in people's lives. Some receive (financial) support from their parents or government during this phase, but for many children growing up in Africa, this phase is mainly a matter of survival and perseverance.

Alcinda Honwana refers to this period as 'waithood': the sometimes slow, difficult and sometimes traumatic transition into adulthood. Her groundbreaking research on children in conflict and on youth transitions and politics in the global south is widely praised. In particular, her work on 'waithood' has provided her wide international recognition, both within and outside academia.

Groundbreaking research in the phenomenon of child soldiers

Young people and political protests

Honwana obtained her doctorate in anthropology with a thesis on spirit possession in the post-civil war in Mozambique. From this research, she developed a great interest in the phenomenon of child soldiers and the impact of armed conflict and the socio-economic development of young people in conflict affected areas. Her work has paid explicit attention to the gender dimensions of young people’s experiences. Her most current work has focused on young people’s role in political protests and social movements.

Alcinda Honwana is an example of a scientist who knows how to build a bridge from new anthropological insights to social impact

Example for other scientists

De Honwana's research is an excellent fit with the research themes on Dynamics of Youth and Migration and Social Change. The interdisciplinary approach of Honwana's research, combined with her ability to bring scientific issues to the public debate, is particularly stimulating and will give a fresh impulse to ongoing research within Utrecht University. Henk Kummeling is impressed by Honwana's research and its impact. "Alcinda Honwana looks at protest movements in conflict areas and investigates the impact of war and social instability on young people. She is an example of a scientist who knows how to build a bridge from new anthropological insights to social impact," says Kummeling.

Curriculum Vitea Alcinda Honwana in a nutshell

In 2007, Honwana was appointed by Utrecht University and the Institute for Social Studies to the Prince Claus Chair, a rotating chair for exceptional young academics from the global South. Honwana is currently an Adviser on Social Development Policy for the United Nations in New York. Previously, she was Centennial Professor and Strategic Director at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa  at London Schoold of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where she remains a visiting professor. She has also been the Chair in International Development and Director of the International Development Centre at the Open University, UK; and Director at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in New York.  She has taught at the University of Cape Town and has been a visiting professor at several leading universities (CUNY, Columbia University, the New School for Social Research and the Open University). Since 2016, she has been the Chair of the International African Institute in the United Kingdom.

Honorary Doctorates and the Opening of the Academic Year

The honorary doctorates normally receive their title during the Dies Natalis of Utrecht University. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown, it has been postponed to the Opening of the Academic Year 2021/2022. The person receiving the doctorate receives a cappa (dressing gown) in the red and white colors of Utrecht University, may use the title doctor honoris causa and may add Dr.h.c. in front of his name. The promoters appointed by the faculty will also be present at the ceremony, but their role is clearly different from that of an 'ordinary' doctorate. There is no question of a defense of research, but of an honorable and ceremonial occasion.