dr. Merlijn van Hulst

dr. Merlijn van Hulst

Associate Professor

TLS: Tilburg Law School
TLS: Public Law and Governance


Currently, I am an Associate Professor and Head of Research of the department of Public Law & Governance (Tilburg Law School). I am also leader of the Global Law and Governance signature plan (research) in the Tilburg Law School and member of the Advisory Committee for Research (ACR) of the Law School.

I studied Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University. After that, I worked as a consultant for Cap Gemini (1999-2002). After that I did my PhD ongovernance culture at Erasmus University Rotterdam. In January 2008 I moved to Tilburg University. In 2012, I was one of the organizers of the 7th conference for Interpretive Policy Analysis (IPA, 300+ participants). I also acted as the research coordinator and later as a member of the management team my department (2014-2019).

I have been a project leader on various projects, including an international research project on smart urban intermediaries and a  practice-science collaboration on civil servants work practices.


My research focuses on the work practices employed in the governance of public challenges. I have studied the practices of civil servants, police officers and intermediaries (we have also called them exemplary practitioners and best persons). In addition, I have studied storytelling in local government and at the police. Furthermore, I specialize in interpretive analyses, narrative and frame analysis in particular, and in ethnographic fieldwork. I have published about my research and about methods in a broad range of journals across the social sciences, including Public Administration Review, The American Review of Public Administration, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Organization Studies, Organization, The British Journal of Criminology, Local Government Studies, Planning Theory, Urban Studies, and Media, Culture & Society


In the Public Administration Bachelor I teach a course in Organization Science. The rest of my teaching focuses on doing (qualitative) research. I teach an advanced course in qualitative analyses for the join Research Master in Public Administration and Organisational Science. I am also co-teaching a course on conducting research for the Netherlands Institute of Governance (PhD candidates from political science and public administration). Finally, I am involved in methods courses for PhD candidates at the Tilburg Law School.  



Between 2017 and 2020 we studied the work of smart urban intermediaries (SmartUrbI project) in urban neighborhoods in four European cities: Glasgow, Birmingham, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Funded through Urban Europe. It was a collaboration between four universities and the Danish Town Planning Institute. In addition, we worked with eighteen partner organizations. Our report can be found here. In 2020 we conducted project on the way intermediaries make their work sustainable in five Dutch cities for NWO. A report in Dutch is here. In 2019 we finished a collaborative project with the AenO Fonds Gemeenten, ministry of Internal Affairs, the VNG and six municipalities. The report is here. In 2022/3 we started new projects: CONTRA (for Urban Europe) and on the practices of civil servants in local energy transition (for RAAK). We also made a list of rules for participation (in Dutch) for ministry of Infrastructure and Watermanagement.


Understanding Extended Narrative Sensemaking

Practices, Embedded Agency, and Bricolage

Working the urban assemblage


Top publications

  1. From Policy “Frames” to “Framing” - Theorizing a More Dynamic, Politi…

    van Hulst, M. J., & Yanow, D. (2016). From Policy “Frames” to “Framing”: Theorizing a More Dynamic, Political Approach. The American Review of Public Administration, 46(1), 92–112.
  2. Storytelling, a model of and a model for planning

    van Hulst, M. J. (2012). Storytelling, a model of and a model for planning. Planning Theory, 11(3), 299-318.
  3. From what to where - A setting-sensitive approach to organizational s…

    van Hulst, M., & Ybema, S. (2020). From what to where: A setting-sensitive approach to organizational storytelling. Organization Studies, 41(3), 365– 391.
  4. How do frontline civil servants engage the public? - Practices, embed…

    Blijleven, W., & van Hulst, M. (2021). How do frontline civil servants engage the public? Practices, embedded agency, and bricolage. American Review of Public Administration, 51(4), 278-292. Article 0275074020983805.
  5. Understanding extended narrative sensemaking - How police officers ac…

    van Hulst, M., & Tsoukas, H. (2023). Understanding extended narrative sensemaking: How police officers accomplish story work. Organization, 30(4), 730– 753.

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