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The University of Amsterdam (UvA) will award honorary doctorates to refugee law expert James Hathaway, cultural sociologist Michèle Lamont and Aids advocate Peter van Rooijen.

Jeroen Oerlemans
Credits: Jeroen Oerlemans

Hathaway will receive a doctorate for his original and influential contribution to the development of international refugee law and its practical application. Lamont is being recognised for her important theoretical and empirical contribution to the social sciences, particularly cultural sociology, and her important role in linking American and European social sciences. Van Rooijen will receive a doctorate for his achievements in the national and international fight against Aids and for his commitment to better universal healthcare. The honorary doctorates will be presented during the UvA’s Dies Natalis (anniversary) on 9 January 2017. The Dies forms the start of a lustrum year in which the UvA celebrates its 385th birthday.

James Hathaway

James Hathaway (1956) is professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School (US). ‘Hathaway is one of the most, if not the most, eminent scholars in the field of International Refugee Law. He has been invaluable to this area of law and to legal practice’, says honorary supervisor Professor Marjoleine Zieck. His academic work is hugely important for both the law and for legal formation and legal reform. ‘Hathaway was especially pioneering in the area of the definition of a refugee as enshrined in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and in his analysis of the rights of refugees under international law.’ The innovative proposals he formulated for sharing the responsibility for protecting refugees among states are extremely important. ‘The current crisis in the Mediterranean and the unequal burden being placed on Syria’s neighbours illustrate that the legal regime does not provide for an equal distribution and, by extension, the necessity of the ideas of an outstanding scholar like Hathaway’, says Zieck.

Honorary supervisor Prof. Marjoleine Zieck is professor of International Refugee Law at the UvA.  

Michèle Lamont

Michéle Lamont (1957) is professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies and Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard University (US). ‘Lamont is one of the most influential social scientists of our time’, says honorary supervisor Giselinde Kuipers. ‘Her work distinguishes itself through a special combination of theoretical precision and scope on the one hand, and considerable societal relevance and commitment on the other.’ Lamont focuses on a large number of research themes: culture, social inequality and exclusion, class, race and ethnicity, institutions, science and teaching, health, and social resilience. What is remarkable about her approach is that she regards culture as a set of repertoires. Culture, in this sense, is not a fixed structure or essence, but a flexible framework that allows for meaning and cooperation. ‘Lamont has thereby given the social sciences an innovative and exceptionally useful framework in which to investigate and explain cultural differences’, adds co-honorary supervisor Jan Willem Duyvendak.  

Honorary supervisors are Prof. Giselinde Kuipers, professor of Cultural Sociology at the UvA, and Prof. Jan Willem Duyvendak, professor of Sociology at the UvA and Faculty Professor at the UvA’s Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

Peter van Rooijen

Peter van Rooijen (1956) is executive director of International Civil Society Support (ICSS). ‘Van Rooijen is a prominent pioneer and leader in the field of HIV-care and in the fight against Aids, both nationally and internationally’, says Marcel Levi, honorary supervisor. ‘His entire career has been dedicated to the wellbeing of people.’ Van Rooijen was among the first HIV care providers. One of his greatest achievements was to ensure new Aids treatments quickly became available in the Netherlands and abroad. This led to substantial progress in combatting HIV and Aids in resource-poor countries. Under his leadership, Aids Fonds and STOP AIDS NOW! became hugely successful, as did his various other initiatives, including Dance4Life. As board member of the global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, he played a critical role in the prevention, treatment and care of epidemics. ‘Van Rooijen’s list of achievements just keeps on growing. For example, in his current capacity as executive director of ICCS he has managed to strengthen the voices of those with HIV within international Aids advocacy’, says Levi.    

Honorary supervisor Prof. Marcel Levi is professor of Internal Medicine at the AMC-UvA.

Link with the UvA

The three future honorary doctorates all have a special link with the UvA. Hathaway has been Distinguished Visiting Professor of International Refugee Law at the Faculty of Law since 2010 and annually lectures to Master’s students within the International Refugee Law course. In January, Lamont was a guest of the department of Sociology. Moreover, her work is closely aligned to the central themes in the sociological research conducted by the UvA’s Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR). Van Rooijen is one of the initiators (and a board member) of the Joep Lange Institute and also a member of the Supervisory Board of the recently created Amsterdam Institute for Health and Technology, of which the Faculty of Medicine is the lead agency.