Please find the description of the following PhD scholarship below. Feel free to circulate it, and please accept my apologies for cross-posting this message.
Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research at Vrije Universiteit Brussels is looking for a fulltime PhD candidate in the context of a 2+2-year Innoviris Anticipate project, starting on 1st January 2018.
The project, sponsored by the funding body of the Brussels Capital Region, is entitled “Circular eco-nomy and the city: identifying socio-spatial conditions and opportunities for a transition towards a circular paradigm in Brussels”. Research is both quantitative and qualitative in kind, focusing amongst others on a mapping of “circular” activities in Brussels, analysing their embeddedness in the city’s socio-spatial landscape, and thus developing a critical perspective on the theory, policy and practice of circular economy. The project will centre on a number of in-depth case studies in the field of food and transport, and will involve a collaboration between the PhD candidate and a postdoctoral researcher hired on the project. Due to the policy-oriented nature of the project, the PhD candidate is expected to combine the development of a doctoral dissertation with a steady reporting of results relevant to policy makers in the Brussels Capital Region. The PhD candidate will be based at Cosmopolis, a growing inter-disciplinary centre for engaged research into urban geography, planning and design.
Eligible candidates should hold a master degree in geography or urban studies, or demonstrate equivalent education in a related discipline, and be familiar with the field of economic geography and its quantitative and qualitative methods. Advanced knowledge of either Dutch or French is required.
Prospective candidates are invited to send a full academic CV (including educational track record), a 1-page motivation letter, and a letter of recommendation to [log in to unmask] and [log in to unmask] by 10 December 2017 (10:00 GMT + 1). Following our commitment to gender equality, we especially welcome applications from female candidates.
The Innoviris Anticipate 2017 call on the “circular economy” centres upon the question of achieving an equilibrium between, on the one hand, the socio-economic diversity of the BCR’s inhabitants, and, on the other, the requirements of the BCR’s potential transition towards the circular economy paradigm. In this research proposal, we argue that the framing of the call is somewhat less sensitive to the more fine-grained economic geographies of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as profit/non-profit citizen initiatives in the BCR. Therefore, instead of conceptualising the policy challenge as a question of raising awareness about the circular economy, lowering its barriers and increasing its accessibility to Brussels households, we posit that it may be equally valuable to scrutinise to what extent smaller-scale bottom-up activities that may qualify as “circular practices” are already taking place throughout Brussels.
We further argue that it is fundamental to complement existing Brussels-centred studies about material flows of waste, water, energy, and construction materials with an examination of how the circular economy—its practices, activities and products—is rooted in the diverse socio-spatial context of Brussels. The main question this project therefore seeks to address is how and to what extent the transition towards a circular economy is or can be spatially embedded in the Brussels economy and society.
The first objective of the research is therefore to anchor the notion of circular economy and the analysis if its related practices within urban studies and planning. Secondly, the research aims at mapping and assessing the current spatial distribution of circular economic practices in the BCR, and, thirdly, to analyse their socio-spatial embeddedness. Thus designed research will work towards improving the existing methods of data collection with regard to identifying, interpreting and improving existing and emergent circular economic practices in the BCR.
The quantitative part of the research will apply available data resources to pin down potentially circular practices from a number of sectors—including food, mobility, energy, water, waste, and construction—in five selected neighbourhoods of the BCR, to be mapped and reviewed against the “3R” principle of the circular economy paradigm. In the subsequent qualitative part of the review two circular practices will be selected for further analysis in each of the neighbourhoods: one operating in the domain of food, and one related to the domain of mobility. The case studies will be scrutinised against newly generated data about the cultural, social, financial, labour and governance networks they are embedded in. The research will also analyse what working conditions are offered within each case, and look into the socio-economic profile of their consumers and uses.
Further stages of the research will compare these practices to local ‘classical’ modes of economic exchange. This juxtaposition will entail an inquiry into the origins, conditions, catalysts of the urban change that the transition towards the circular paradigm may involve, identifying existing coalitions working towards altering the noncircular modes of production in the BCR. Key in this perspective will be the identification of needs and capabilities of Brussels inhabitants’ to engage with circular economy. Finally, the research will reflect on possibilities and limits in terms of scaling up circular practices, and suggest potential scenarios for their improvement and expansion.
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