Former PCC Chairholder Alcinda Honwana Receives honorary doctorate of Utrecht University

At the Opening of the Academic Year on September 6 2021, Utrecht University has awarded three honorary doctorates to Carlota Perez, Hugo Tempelman and former Prince Claus Chairholder 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.

In 2007, Honwana was appointed by Utrecht University to the Prince Claus Chair. Honwana is currently an Adviser on Social Development Policy for the United Nations in New York. 

Africa is a young continent. The average age in Africa is 19 (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 young people 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 on child soldiers and youth politics

Young people and political protests

Honwana obtained her doctorate in anthropology with a thesis on spirit possession and post-war reintegration 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 youth political protests and social movements.

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

Rector Magnificus Henk Kummeling

Example for other scientists

Honwana’s research is an excellent fit with the research themes on Dynamics of Youth and Migration and Social Change of Utrecht University. 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 youth politics and protest movements and investigates the impact of war and social instability on young people. She is an example of a scholar who knows how to build a bridge from new anthropological insights to social impact,” says Kummeling.

Dr Holwana 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 her 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.

Profile page of Alcinda Holwana