Vu university Amsterdam

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Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology

VU University Amsterdam
Annual Report


De Boelelaan 1081

1081 HV Amsterdam

+ 31 (0)20 598 6704

Anthropology is the science of the sense of humour. It can be thus

defined without too much pretension or facetiousness. For to see ourselves

as others see us is but the reverse and the counterpart of the gift to see

others as they really are and as they want to be. And this is the métier of the anthropologist.

Bronislaw Malisnowski


In 2006, the department had to say farewell to some of our appreciated collaborators. Old-hands André Droogers and Dick Kooiman retired, as did special professor Sander Griffioen. Our inspirer Donna Winslow (2000-2006) decided to return to her home country, Canada. Another inspirer – visiting professor Thomas Eriksen – also took his farewell due to an overload of work elsewhere. And, finally, we had to say goodby to postdoc Peter Versteeg and our secretary Yvonne van Kampen. But we welcomed Birgit Meyer as, finally, our full-time colleague, and we also welcomed several new PhD candidates.

On the professional level, we performed well. We published about our research in refereed journals, as well as in books, in local languages, and in reports requested by policy makers – which reflects the broad span that we, the department, aspire for. Our courses were evaluated as, in general, inspiring and instructive. We were invited to present papers and give guest lectures all over the globe. And, once again we debated a lot, disagreed and agreed a lot, and laughed a lot. We look to the future with optimism.

Ton Salman

Research Coordinator


1 Introduction 9

2 The SCA research programme 12

3 Staff 16

3.1 Department staff 2006, including PhD candidates 16

3.2 Individual research projects undertaken by staff in 2005 17

3.3 PhD candidates 27

4 Educational activities 31

5 Publications by staff and PhD candidates 33

5.1 Books/edited books, refereed 35

5.2 Books/edited books, non-refereed 36

5.3 Articles, refereed 37

5.4 Articles, non-refereed 40

5.5 Book contributions, refereed 43

5.6 Book contributions, non-refereed 46

5.7 Dissertations 49

5.8 Internal or external reports 50

5.9 Book reviews 51

6 Other research-related activities 54

    1. Organization of national and international congresses,

seminars and workshops 54

    1. Presentation of papers or lectures 57

    2. Guest lectures in academic courses 63

    3. Involvement as supervisor / co-supervisor of PhD projects 66

    4. Participation in graduation and reading committees 71

    5. Fieldwork 73

    6. Membership of the editorial board of scientific journals 75

    7. Memberships of advisory boards and of professional organizations 76

    8. Grants 78

    9. Other activities and press contacts 80

Epilogue 83

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology

VU University Amsterdam

Annual Report 2006
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it

Culture covers just about everything – and many things can be labelled as ‘cultures’. There are hip-hop cultures, Aztec and Thai cultures, university cultures, urban cultures, Catholic cultures, political cultures, agricultures and bacillus cultures. To complicate things even further, globalization has brought about the spread of self-conscious awareness of ‘one’s culture’ across the globe. Thanks to the generalized cultural encounter, paradoxically, today pretty much every set of people claims and cherishes its own culture. Cultures are not only ‘out there’, they are proclaimed, celebrated and fought over. Simultaneously, insights in the intensified dynamics between and transformations of cultures and in ‘cultural fusion’, has made some scholars conclude that the possibility to discern and distinguish a particular culture has faded altogether. Studying culture in the era of globalization is more of a test than ever, because cultures have ceased to sit still or keep quiet while being studied, and, of course, because cultures can be hijacked and turned into grounds for exclusion and violence, or, in other words, ‘[t]he problem with the global village is all the global village idiots’

(P. Ginsparg).

Social and cultural anthropology tries to go beyond the uncovering of the processes of change as such and to understand people’s different, often contradictory perceptions and evaluations of these events, of their causes and ‘perpetrators’, of the responses people design and, of course, the cultural circumstances of all these viewpoints. These perceptions and evaluations often prompt people’s stands and actions. Not only the facts, but also what people make of the facts, is our research terrain.

In its research programme CONSEC (see below), the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology (SCA) at the VU University Amsterdam focuses in particular on people’s attempts to cope with the chances, risks, opportunities, dangers, options and uncertainties that accompany globalization. The core concept of our scholarly work is human security – depicting people’s quest for both material and existential security. This ‘quest’, however, is not conceived of as a steadfast and perennial standard or unswerving inclination of human endeavour, but as a dynamic, situationally embedded and culturally saturated aspect of people’s agency. By studying the ways people imagine security, respond to insecurity and danger, and in this very effort, paradoxically, sometimes engage with, or create risk and hazard (for themselves and/or others), we hope to shed light on the effects of globalization on peoples vicissitudes and actions.

For the department, 2006 was a year of farewells and welcomes. André Droogers – department veteran, professor and former head of the department – took his leave of us on 23 June. The seminar on ‘Science of religion and religion in science’ (which was organized by, among others, his PhD students), André’s farewell lecture, and the reception were attended by a host of colleagues, former colleagues and friends. André was also offered a liber amicorum, and many words of appreciation and gratitude. Luckily, André will stay in touch with the department: a emeritus arrangement has been made up.

A week later (29 June), we had to say goodbye to Sander Griffioen. He had been a special professor at our department for various years, holding the chair of Intercultural Philosophy. Also Sander’s farewell was accompanied by a seminar and a farewell book, and many colleagues and friends came to the VU on the day he took his leave. He, too, was addressed with warm words of indebtedness. Also for Sander, an emeritus arrangement is in place.

To our regret, Professor Donna Winslow decided to return to her home country, Canada. We said goodbye to her on 27 October. We are grateful for all she did for our department.

On 31 December, Dick Kooiman retired. He had worked for over 40 years at the VU – which makes him the most experienced of all. His farewell took place at the beginning of 2007, with a well-attended seminar and reception, and with many words of thanks and appreciation for his long-term contribution. Like the others, Dick will stay with us, but on a less intensive basis, thanks to an emeritus arrangement.

Also on 31 December, postdoc Peter Versteeg and secretary Yvonne van Kampen left our department. We said goodbye to them and thanked them for services rendered by means of a nice dinner at a restaurant on 18 December. Yvonne will be replaced by Selma van Laake-Ypenburg.

A month earlier, we had had to say goodbye to a very appreciated fellow and visiting professor at our department: Thomas Hylland Eriksen, due to an overload of work and responsibilities across the world and at home, he saw himself forced to resign his visiting professorship.
The newcomers include, in a way, Birgit Meyer. After two years of part-time ‘run-up’, on 1 September she started to work full time at our department. She assumes André Droogers’s chair of ‘Cultural Anthropology, especially the Anthropology of Religion’. The department heartily welcomes her! Oscar Salemink, meanwhile, took over Donna Winslow’s chair of ‘Social Anthropology’. In 2006, the department also welcomed six new PhD candidates: Rhoda Woets (February), Scott Dalby, Priscilla Koh and Tam Ngo (September), and Joan van Wijk and Margot Leegwater (November); all have started their research projects. In our research project CONSEC, we welcomed as newcomers Lorraine Nencel and Joost Beuving. Both were formerly part of the Department of Social Research Methodology, but were replaced due to organizational reforms. As trained anthropologists working on very appealing research projects, they were most welcomed in CONSEC.

Last year we reported that the department ‘had more PhD candidates in its midst than ever before’: well, in 2006 we had almost twice as many!

Among the important events in 2006 – apart from all the farewells and welcomes – was a lecture (8 March) by Clara Han on Chile’s authoritarian past, titled ‘Local Genealogies of Torture: Chile’s Consensual State and the Violence of Economics’. Clara Han works at the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Social Medicine, Harvard University. On 20 October, a faculty lecture was given by Tim Allen, from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His lecture addressed the present troubled peace process in northern Uganda and the question of reconciliation. Both lectures had a large and very interested audience and led to lively debate.

In 2006, our department continued to have above-average evaluations for most courses in both our Bachelor’s and MSc programme. Once again, in the academic year 2005/2006, over 85% of our MSc students graduated. Furthermore, we continued our relationships with visiting professors Maurice Bloch and Saskia Sassen.

This year, the final judgement on our education programme – the results of the five-yearly audit (which was held in 2005) – came in. Both our Bachelor’s programme and especially our Master’s programme were positively evaluated: our Master’s was declared ‘best in the country’.

The SCA research programme:

Constructing Human Security in a Globalizing World (CONSEC)
Every word or concept, clear as it may seem to be, has only a limited range of applicability

Werner Heisenberg

The programme

People interact, willingly or reluctantly, more intensively every day. This process inevitably affects all sorts of matters that are regarded as necessarily true or certain to happen, including those that contribute to people’s confidence in and familiarity with traditional customs, livelihoods and environments. The process of globalization tends to undermine ‘traditional’ forms of physical and existential security, as experienced by many groups and communities around the world. At the same time, it provides an increase of the pools of resources and meaning from which people can draw in their quest for such security. Although the scope of anthropological research is often local, both the challenges to human security and the repertoires of resources and meaning on which people draw are increasingly transnational in nature.

In our research programme ‘Constructing Human Security in a Globalizing World’ (CONSEC) we study the paradoxes inherent in this mostly local, particular quest for human security in the context and on the basis of fast-changing, increasingly transnational repertoires of resources and meanings, by looking at the localized quest for physical and existential security at the same time. The central question of the research programme is: How do people construct and use varying social and cultural repertoires in a globalizing world to create human security, both physical and existential?
The fields in which we pursue this programme are varied. Traditionally, the theme of religion has been a forte. Currently, specifically its interconnections with development, transnational linkages, identity searches and identity politics, the paramount role of media in their recruitment and communication, are intensely studied within SCA. A major research activity is the ‘Conversion Careers Programme’ chaired by André Droogers. In 2006, André Droogers also received a NORFACE grant for a new research project, conducted in collaboration with the international, multidisciplinary Glopent network (set up on the initiative of the Hollenweger Centre) on Pentecostal immigrant churches in three European countries. André’s work is continued and extended in Birgit Meyer’s focus on the role of religion and media in the imagination of communities in post-colonial societies. Her inaugural lecture (6 October 2006) stressed the eminent role of religion in its many mediated guises (e.g. video movies) in processes of identity formation.

Anton van Harskamp does research on religion and civil society, and Peter Versteeg on conversion. Oscar Salemink connects religion and religious conversions (in Vietnam) with dimensions of ethnicity and national minority policies, and brings in a transnational dimension in the analysis of the conversion strategies. Edien Bartels studies the role of Islamic religious inspirations in the process of establishing an identity and role for oneself as a Muslim in Western societies such as the Netherlands (‘Dutch Islam’), and additionally addresses such themes as arranged marriages and female circumcision. Lenie Brouwer is especially interested in how second-generation Dutch Moroccans derive their concepts of meaning more and more from transnational sources of signification, for example the Internet. Marjo de Theije, in Brazil, studied extensively the role of Catholic religion in designing survival and community strategies. A considerable number of SCA’s PhD candidates work within this field.

A second field in which the department had a marked presence is urban studies. Freek Colombijn is working on a long-term project to reconstruct the power, ethnic and spatial dimensions of the emergence of urban ‘orders’ in Indonesia. Marion den Uyl’s current research focuses on the social, cultural and ‘security’ aspects of the large-scale reconstruction of the Bijlmermeer neighbourhood in Amsterdam and links themes of urban segregation, urban security, social cohesion and multiculturalism. Ton Salman’s research on the quest for citizenship and genuine democracy in La Paz, Bolivia, connects issues of urban migration, ethnicity, public space and political culture. Both Lenie Brouwer and Edien Bartels have done much work on social cohesion in Amsterdam neighbourhoods.

A third important field is ethnicity. Ellen Bal’s research on the ‘India connection’ of the Hindustani immigrants in the Netherlands and Surinam revealed the multilayered character of ethnic belonging, and her research in Bangladesh and India on youth’s search for identity and a future project touches upon the interlinkages between local, religious and ‘global’ components of this search. Ethnicity also plays a central role in Marjo de Theije’s current research on Brazilian gold-diggers in Surinam, and in the research of Jan Abbink on political developments in the Horn of Africa. Sandra Evers studies the intricate relations between ethnic groups, landownership, social status and access to resources in the central highlands of Madagascar and the Seychelles. Ethnicity, in its interlinkages with trade, state formation and social mobility, is also central in Heather Sutherland’s historical research on Southeast Asia.

The department, finally, has a solid record of research on development issues. Many of the individual projects mentioned above are directly or indirectly related to questions related to development processes, touching upon such themes as rural development, sustainability, livelihoods, and national and transnational migration. And staff members, of course, also address topics that are not directly related to these four major fields.

Human security is a transversal theme, touching upon all these fields. The department’s policy is to explore and capitalize these clusters by intensifying, if possible employing conjunctions with issues of human security, inter-faculty and inter-university collaboration. A case in point is the pursuit for intensifying collaboration with the VU interfaculty research efforts in the ‘Centrum voor Politie-en Veiligheidswetenschappen VU’ (CP-VW, coordinated by Jaap Timmer) and the FSW project ‘Veiligheid en Burgerschap’ of Professor Hans Boutellier.

In our exploration of the potential of the concept human security, our attempts to test its possible usefulness in the various research projects that are being carried out in the department, and our efforts to anthropologize the debate on human security (HS), we continuously come across its contradictory manifestations. Of course, we do not claim that all human endeavour can be interpreted in terms of a quest for security. Moreover, the antonym of security is not necessarily and exclusively insecurity: it can be freedom or risk. The diverse dimensions of human security and insecurity are thus entangled in sometimes puzzling ways.

In the research programme, therefore, we both explore the usefulness of HS for opening new vistas in the respective participant’s research fields, and continuously question and revise the concept. Such ongoing revisions and contextualizations are indispensable if we want to move beyond detecting factual degrees of risks and dangers, to include, as a crucial dimension, different agents’ perceptions thereof. After all, ‘[t]he trouble with facts is that there are so many of them’ (Samuel McChord Crothers). The department is planning to again dedicate a specific seminar to the developments that we have been going through in our usage of and reflection on the concept of human security. This seminar will be held in 2007. We also intend to persist in our efforts to make curiosity the driving force of our research, heedful of the spirit expressed in Terry Prachett’s novel Small Gods:

It is a popular fact that nine-tenths of the brain is not used and, like most popular facts, it is wrong. Not even the most stupid Creator would go to the trouble of making the human head carry around several pounds of unnecessary grey goo if its only real purpose was, for example, to serve as a delicacy for certain remote tribesmen in unexplored valleys. It is used. And one of its functions is to make the miraculous seem ordinary and turn the unusual into the usual. Because if this was not the case, then human beings, faced with the daily wondrousness of everything, would go around wearing big stupid grins, similar to those worn by certain remote tribesmen.

3.1 Department staff 2006, including PhD candidates
Department Staff

Abbink, Prof. Jan (special chair)

Bal, Dr Ellen

Bartels, Dr Edien

Brouwer, Dr Lenie

Colombijn, Dr Freek

Droogers, Prof. André (until June)

Evers, Dr Sandra

Griffioen, Prof. Sander (special chair, until June)

Harskamp, Prof. Anton van (special chair)

Keuper, drs. Ina

Kooiman, Dr Dick (until December)

Meyer, Prof. Birgit

Salemink, Prof. Oscar

Salman, Dr Ton

Sutherland, Prof. Heather (part time)

Theije, Dr Marjo de

Uyl, Dr Marion den

Versteeg, Dr Peter (until December)

Winslow, Prof. Donna (until November)

PhD candidates

Büscher, drs. Bram

Dalby, MSc, Scott (since September)

Grassiani, drs. Erella

Kamp, drs. Linda van de

Klaver, drs. Miranda

Koh, MSc Priscilla (since September)

Leegwater, drs. Margot (since November)

Minkjan. Drs. Hanneke

Ngo, MSc Tam (since September)

Nguyen, MSc Tuan Anh

Noguchi, MSc Ikuya

Rickli, MSc João

Roeland, drs. Johan

Ruigrok, drs. Inge

Salverda, drs. Tijo

Smit, drs. Regien

Stokhof, drs. Malte

Wijk, drs. Joan van (since November)

Woets, drs. Rhoda

Former PhD candidates, whose graduation is awaited

Cil, MSc Aysegül

Hummel, drs. Rhea

Knibbe, drs. Kim

Schwerzel, drs. Jeffrey
Since September 2005, the management team (MT) has comprised:
Prof. Oscar Salemink, Head of Department

drs. Ina Keuper, Education Coordinator

Dr Ton Salman, Research Coordinator

Our secretariat:
Ms Anouk Nieuwland

Ms Yvonne van Kampen (until December)

3.2 Individual research projects undertaken by staff in 20061

Abbink, Jan

Project title: Political Culture in the Horn of Africa: Local and National Narratives of Ethnicity and Conflict
Politics and power formation in the Horn of Africa are shaped by conflicting narratives on historical, religious and ethnic identity. Governance, group relations and the exercise of power are reinterpreted and enacted in specific local forms in settings where different legal traditions and cultural commitments are at play. These local forms, being entry points for national policy and interventions supported by foreign donors, need continuous study to assess people’s scope and forms of agency in the context of wider socio-political processes. This research project is looking at developments on the national level as well as at changing patterns of conflict and sociocultural transformation in societies on the margins of the state, notably in Ethiopia. On the national level, the project addresses problems of political culture and fledgling ‘democratization’ of the Ethiopian political system and its possible conflict-generating aspects; on the local level it looks at the shaping/reshaping and transformation of ethnic group relations and their articulation in new, more politicized forms. The impact of growing ecological-economic and political problems is considered in relation to the decline of human security profiles and specifically to developments in the sphere of communal relations. The empirical research is focused on two regions in northern and south-central Ethiopia.
Bal, Ellen

Project titles: Searching Roots and Constructing Homeland(s): the Importance of India for Hindustanis in Suriname and the Netherlands and (in preparation) Of dreams and Nightmares: Youth and Human Security in Bangladesh and India

The first project investigates notions of ‘roots’, ‘homeland’ and/or ‘belonging’ held by people of Indian origin in Suriname and the Netherlands, and explores their emotional and practical attachments to India. The study is closely linked with a larger research project entitled ‘A Diaspora Coming Home? Overseas Indians re-establishing links with India’, which is being carried out by Dr Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff (Sept. 2001 – Sept. 2005) and concentrates on PIOs (people of Indian origin) in Mauritius, the Netherlands and Suriname.
The second project (which is in preparation) focuses on the views and experiences of young people in poor and conflict-ridden regions in South Asia (Bangladesh and India), on what it means to be young, and on their dreams and nightmares, their hopes, desires and ambitions, as well as their fears, uncertainties and insecurities. The project will attempt to broaden the social scientific understanding of young people’s perceptions of and role in constructing (and/or risking) human securities and insecurities, in their present lives and anticipated futures.
Bartels, Edien

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