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Joost Berkhout

BSc in Political Science

‘I want my students to become critical citizens and serious academics.’

Joost Berkhout is a lecturer at the Political Science Department.

Joost Berkhout
Photographer: Jeroen Doomernik

Which course(s) do you teach?

‘Over the past years, I have taught a wide variety of courses in the Comparative Politics programme. These courses included a thesis project on the politicisation of migration, the Core Module focusing on the “crisis of representation”, an elective on lobbying and political protest, and a methodological course on political network analysis. Furthermore, I coordinate the provision of elective courses and research projects in the field of Comparative Politics in the second and third year.’

What do you want students to learn?

‘I want my students to become critical citizens and serious academics. In my view, this process requires discussing recent political developments as critical citizens and, more academically, examining the importance of these developments in light of fundamental theoretical debates on such issues as democracy, representation and inequality. Understanding contemporary political conflict sometimes means that classes lead to a discussion of the previous week’s controversial tweets. At other times, it involves a long-term reflection on the differences among countries in the ways that globalisation has affected their political system, such as their parties and their interest groups.’

What is your own research about?

‘My own research deals with lobbying. I like to make students aware of the inequalities involved in mobilising for a lobby campaign. Academic studies show that business interest groups are better organised and more focused in their lobby activities. However, politics is complex; whether these groups end up with the policies that they prefer depends on a lot of circumstances. For instance, major corporations such as Shell only seem to win important policy battles when the public is either unaware or supportive of the policies that they favour. By contrast, concerned citizens such as the Stop TTIP campaign can also be very successful in challenging new or ongoing policies. I like to inspire students to discover the various nuances in the study of lobbying, activism and interest representation. Sometimes, the very same questions that arise in class spill over into my research. I really enjoy engaging students with the actual research which we do.’