Ongoing PhD projects
Identity and communication at the multilingual workplace in Dutch-German Euroregions
Start: 1 January 2017
PhD Candidate: Daan Hovens
Supervisor: Prof. Leonie Cornips
His research is about multilingual workplaces in the Dutch-German border area. This project is part of the euroregional research institute ITEM. Read more about his research in this article.
Linguistic Inequality and Globalization among VMBO students in Limburg
Start: 1 November 2016
PhD Candidate: Pomme van de Weerd
Supervisor: Prof. Leonie Cornips
The PhD project falls under the discipline of linguistic anthropology, and examines practices of identification, as related to processes of globalization and inequality, among students in a preparatory middle-level vocational track (VMBO) in Limburg.
Private Collections as Care-takers
Start: 1 September 2016
PhD Candidate: Artemis Rüstau
Supervising team: Prof. dr. Renée van de Vall and Dr. Vivian van Saaze
With Europe-wide budget cuts in the public cultural sector, private collectors play an increasingly important role in the future survival of contemporary art. This project investigates how various types of private collections organize management of and care for their works. Private collections come in different types, from small-scale collections in the owners’ living spaces to larger, semi-public museums with an exhibition space and professional staff. Collectors often maintain close relationships with artists whose works they collect and may even have had a say in the creation of works they have commissioned – how does such involvement affect conservation decisions, loans and/or presentations? How do private collectors communicate with conservation professionals, public art institutions and the wider public? What role does professional expertise play in different types of collections? Are the ethical obligations, legal constraints and financial interests at stake different from those of public collections? What happens if private collectors support public institutions with acquisitions or provide long term loans?
The project will compare conservation practices in smaller and larger collections divided over at least two European countries. Through archival research, semi-structured interviews and on-the-spot observation, it will reconstruct the biographies of a sample of artworks for each collection in order to determine what factors and what stakeholders play a role in decisions about their acquisition, exhibition, storage, documentation, re-installation, preservation and restoration. It will focus particularly on periods of transition, such as the sale or donation of a collection, or the transfer to a new exhibition venue, to bring out the tensions between different ‘pragmatic regimes of engagement’ governing how actors handle objects and things in their care. Two collections will be investigated in more detail through an internship: the former Collection Eijck recently acquired by the Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht with the support of the Province of Limburg and the Fundación Helga de Alvear which has an exhibition venue in the Centro de Artes Visuales, in Caceres, Spain.The project is part of NACCA.
Audience Participation in Performance-based Art
Start: 15 January 2016
PhD candidate: Iona Goldie-Scot
Supervising team: Prof. Renée van de Vall and Dr. Vivian van Saaze
This PhD project aims to explore the opportunities of audience participation for the documentation and conservation of performance-based artworks with the objective to reflect on this emerging practice and to contribute to the development of documentation methods accommodating future re-execution. In doing so, it addresses urgent questions about distributed responsibilities, the longevity and re-execution of performances and their documentation emerging in the wake of live-art accessioning. Whereas recent research has shown that the perpetuation of performance-based art in a museum context highly depends on external memory holders (e.g. artists, audiences, performers), traditional models of museum documentation rarely include the engagement of the audience.
In light of this, the project will examine the viability of public participation in conservation practices, and explore how such practices might be of benefit in relation to live art conservation. During an internship at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and on the basis of case study research at different museums, this project will therefore develop strategies to include audiences in conservation practices - both their views and interpretations of the live work and how they engage with it. The project will be adopting a biographical approach with a foundation built on practice theory. The overriding methodology will be ethnography, with participant observation and interviews featuring as the primary methods. The research will draw on insights and existing models of oral history and community participation in other fields of heritage to explore to what extent these are helpful for developing such strategies for performance-based art. The project is part of NACCA.
The choice for Frisian varieties on social media
Start: 1 November 2015
PhD candidate: Lysbeth Jongbloed-Faber
Supervising team: Prof. Leonie Cornips, Dr. Edwin Klinkenberg (Fryske Akademy) and Dr. Hans Van de Velde (Fryske Akademy)
Social media make up an increasingly important share of daily-life communication and connect people, irrespective of place and time. On the internet, the line between public and private domains has become obscure. Local issues can receive, (un)intentionally, national or global attention. The eventuality that one may also address a non-local audience considerably complicates language choice on social media: it is easier to choose a language at the schoolyard where one knows exactly to whom one is talking, and who might be overhearing a conversation, than writing a message to an imagined audience on Facebook. Consequently, how, when and why Frisian varieties, which so far have been predominantly used in spoken communication, are used on social media is therefore a very interesting topic of research. Lysbeth will investigate the use of Frisian varieties on social media by using a mixed methods approach. Besides analysing data acquired through large-scale quantitative surveys, she will also study actual language use on social media and interview people about their language use on social media.
Speaking Cité Duits in a coalminers' neigborhood: The reconstruction and reproduction of social identities through language practices
Start: 1 September 2015
PhD candidate: Nantke Pecht
Supervising team: Prof. Leonie Cornips and Prof. Peter Auer (University of Freiburg, Germany)
The district of Tuinwijk in Eisden, located in Belgian-Limburg, was founded at the beginning of the 20th century in order to accommodate immigrant mine workers and their families from all over Europe. Originating from countries such as Italy, Hungary, Austria and Poland, they developed a singular language variety within the district, self-labeled Cité Duits. Nowadays there are only about a dozen speakers left.
Nantke Pecht investigates how social identities are constructed through language practices among speakers of Cité Duits. At the same time, she wants to find out how newcomers in our society deal with changing identities and what can be done in order to help them integrate into society.
Watch the video for an impression of Nantke's research.
Tales from the Golden Age: Narrating Communist Childhoods in Romania (2000-2015)
Start: 1 October 2013
PhD candidate: Codruta Pohrib
Supervising team: Prof. Lies Wesseling, Prof. Renée van de Vall and Prof. Georgi Verbeeck
This project researches a remarkable shift in the cultural remembrance of communism in contemporary Romania. Immediately after Ceausescu‘s downfall in 1989, his regime was mainly remembered through national mourning over the persecution of political enemies. With the widespread use of digital media from 2000 onwards, a new memorial discourse has emerged alongside the old one, articulated by the last generation to have spent its youth under communism. Rather than dwelling on the collective trauma of political oppression, this generation remembers communism through cherished childhood memories. These individual childhood recollections share specific narrative strategies, images, figures of speech, and commonplaces, united by a joint interest in the recycling of childhood commodities. Together, they create a generational identity for Ceausescu‘s children. This project investigates how digital media shape the new memorial discourse, focusing on the autobiographical role of childhood memorabilia. This research project was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), PhDs in the Humanities programme.
The Performance of Age Identities in Online Dating 50Plus
Start: 15 August 2010
PhD candidate: Elena Fronk
Supervising team: Dr. Aagje Swinnen, Prof. Maaike Meijer, Prof. Sally Wyatt and Dr. Karin Wenz
50+ online-dating is on the rise. By recognizing the older population as a viable target group, it can be understood as being symptomatic of both consumerism and the ideals of self-fashioning and self-fulfillment, which pervade contemporary culture. It also suggests that cultural ideas about love and later life do increasingly intersect. While romantic love and dating seemed to be preserved for the young in the past – at least in common understanding – dating in later life has become culturally intelligible and, indeed, an important cultural practice that continuously gains visibility, but remains under-researched. My project takes the intersecting themes of age and love as a starting point to explore central questions about contemporary cultures of ageing: How is (the quest for) love in later life imagined, experienced and understood in today’s culture? How do contemporary cultural practices such as online dating play into conceptualizations of love and later life? How do these practices and conceptualizations relate to consumerism, and the ideals of self-fashioning and self-fulfillment? These questions are illuminated through three perspectives: That of older singles themselves (by looking into their accounts in online dating discussion forums), that of the online dating industry (by looking into the ways in which 50plus users are targeted on online-dating sites), and that of popular media (by looking into cultural texts which feature the quest for love in later life).
Individual memories and the cultural memory of the Second World war in roermond and Dülken
Start: 1 January 2010
PhD candidate: Barbara Beckers
Supervising team: Prof. Arnold Labrie, Prof. Maaike Meijer and Ton Nijhuis (Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam)
This PhD project is a study on the relationship between eye witnesses’ individual memories and the cultural memory of the Second World War Roermond (Limburg), Dülken (North-Rhine-Westphalia) and the Dutch-German border region in between.
A comparison between the two towns, only 28 kilometers apart, currently both part of the euregion Rhine-Meuse-North, but belonging to different nation states and political settings, will make it possible to study how wartime experiences have affected the lives, perceptions and narratives of people on both sides of the Dutch-German border and will offer an insight into local and transnational memory and memories.
My research focuses both on the childhood memories and life stories of eye witnesses – through oral history interviews and egodocuments – and on the way these narratives interact with the dynamics of cultural memory in both towns. Foregrounding historical culture, my project takes into account not only local historiography but a plethora of initiatives from within civil society in which eye witnesses switch back and forth between the roles of memory makers and memory consumers (Kansteiner).
I will focus on a number of cases, the first of which is the popularly termed ‘The March of the 3000’ referring to 30 December 1944, when approximately 3000 men between 16 and 60 years of age were deported as part of the last phase of the Arbeitseinsatz from their home town Roermond to the Ruhr area and the Rhineland. Other case studies are on memories of the persecution of the Jewish citizen from Roermond and Dülken and of Jewish refugees in the border region, on memories of allied air raids and their victims and, finally, on memories of the evacuation of women, children and elderly or injured men mere weeks before liberation / Kriegsende.
The interviewing method I have developed for this project takes oral history out of the armchair and into the streets and into the woods as it combines 1) traditional life story interviews with 2) the use of memorial aids such as photographs and literature and 3) on-site interviews at significant memory-laden places and spaces.
Digital technologies in dance performances
Start: 1 January 2008
PhD candidate: Verena Anker
Supervising team: Prof. Renée van de Vall , Dr. Karel Vanhaesebrouck and Dr. Jessica Mesman
This project investigates how and with which consequences new digital media technologies are being used in contemporary dance performances. Through ethnographical observations of the creation and rehearsal processes of two dance productions, Loop Diver by Troika Ranch and Habitat by Labor Gras, the project sets out to elucidate the interaction of the technological and artistic dimensions in the development of both works’ choreographies. Rather than choosing for an instrumentalist or a determinist view of digital technologies, the research starts from an Actor Network Theory perspective to show how both the technologies used and the creative ideas aimed for have to adapt to each other and may inspire each other. Furthermore, the project follows the frictions, adaptations and negotiations through which the dancers integrate the technologies into their bodily movements in successive stages of the process, describing these integration processes with the help of phenomenological concepts. The resulting performances will be interpreted in terms of the history of dance performances, in particular those thematizing human-technology relations.
Completed PhD projects
Language-culture in Roermond, the Netherlands. Place-making and belonging through languagecultural practices
Defended: 11 January 2018
PhD candidate: Lotte Thissen
Supervising team: Prof. Leonie Cornips, Vincent de Rooij (UvA), and Irene Strengs (Meertens Institute)
Lotte's PhD research focuses on the construction of place-making and feelings of belonging through language and culture in the Dutch Limburgian city of Roermond. The province of Limburg can be seen as a peripheral area which is mostly linked to a strong local identity and dialect. This research aims to give insight into the multi-layeredness and complexity of how people are giving meaning to places. In this, she wants to explore how people use linguistic and cultural resources to identify themselves with particular groups in a given place. Consequently, this research gives insight into the importance of language ideologies interrelated with place and belonging in daily lives and routines.
This will be investigated by doing anthropological fieldwork, characterized by participant observation. Through participating within particular places and groups within the city of Roermond (e.g. a local supermarket and a carnival association) it is possible to collect data about the ways people are interacting in daily situations and constructing language ideologies connected to places and feelings of belonging. Such a bottom-up approach gives deeper understanding of how people experience and shape processes of place-making through the use of linguistic and cultural resources. In order to come to this understanding, it is necessary to explore questions like: How do people relate to the use of different languages in a place like Roermond? How do people construct identifications in a place which is multicultural and multilingual? Does “the Limburgian identity” play a role in daily lives? Who belongs to (places within) Roermond – us – and who does not – them –, and how is this expressed in linguistic practices? What linguistic and cultural forms are required to be perceived as part of a particular group or community?
Memory practices on the move: technological innovations and user generations in home movies
Defended: 18 January 2018
PhD candidate: Tim van der Heijden
Supervising team: Dr. Andreas Fickers, Dr. Jo Wachelder, Dr. Susan Aasman (RUG) and Prof. Maaike Meijer
This research focuses on the changing practices of home movie making and screening from a long term perspective. In general, it aims to study how changing technologies of memory production (film, video or digital camera) have shaped new practices and rituals of memory staging (screening in domestic or public venues) and thereby initiated processes of (re)negotiating user generations and (group) identities. The project aims at spanning the whole period from before the introduction of 9,5mm and 16 mm for amateur filmmakers, via video to end up with digital and mobile technologies. The research will elaborate upon the multi-dimensional concepts of ‘dispositif’ and ‘user generations’ to analyze the impact of technological innovations on memory practices. It will address its technical dimension (focusing on innovations and the life cycle of products), social dimension (focusing on the family and/or peers as a social frame), and cultural dimension (focusing on archival desires and the construction and reconstruction of memories and identities). The concept of generations and the interactions in and between generations will be a central element of the analysis.
Narrative Fan Practices in Role-Playing Games
Defended 28 April 2016
PhD candidate: Rafael Bienia
Supervising team: Prof. Sally Wyatt and Dr. Karin Wenz
At work and in free time, most of us communicate, share information, and make decisions often simultaneously in the physical and the digital. How do people make sense of their experiences? In my dissertation, I investigate the creative practices that a dedicated group of people has evolved in three different types of role-playing games: live action role-playing, augmented reality role-playing games, and tabletop role-playing games. In these games, participants imagine fictional roles to take control of a narrative they share with each other. While book readers follow the narrative as written down by the author, role players take over the author’s part to some extent. Moreover, in role playing participants share one common narrative and influence the experience of each other while ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ simultaneously. The difference between the three types is based on the game materials used to communicate within the narrative and share the decisions of the chosen roles. I have chosen Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to answer the question how role players create a stable network and how game materials influence narratives. As it is debatable whether ANT is a theory at all, another challenge in my work is to find a solution for this seeming dilemma.
Emergent Cultural Literacy: subproject Children’s Poetry
Defended 21 December 2015
PhD candidate: Annette de Bruijn
Supervising team: Prof. Maaike Meijer (promotor) and Piet Mooren
This project belongs to the N.W.O.funded program Emergent Cultural Literacy. The program as a whole develops evidence-based criteria for selecting picture books that induce the emergence of cultural literacy in the very young. It pays due attention to the fact that text appropriation obeys a different logic in four- to eight-year-olds than in older readers. Young children assimilate texts by doing things with them such as singing, dancing, or engaging in symbolic action and play. Texts will be more effectively assimilated if they can be embedded within regularly recurrent routines and cultural or religious celebrations.
This project ‘Children’s Poetry’ studies the textual features which stand out if we compare lyrical texts in anthologies of nursery rhymes and children’s verse to each other. First, many of these rhymes, such as jumping and clapping songs, directly relate to children’s play and to recurrent festivities such as Christmas or Valentine’s day. This direct evocation of recurrent routines and rituals is a first criterion of canonicity. Second, nursery rhymes and children’s poems often amalgamate objects, persons, repetitive acts, and locations that have nothing to do with each other through rhyme, creating what one might call nonsensicality, a second criterion of canonicity. Poems for young children draw one’s attention away from meaning and reference, refocusing it on the linguistic properties of the medium employed through rhyme, meter, alliteration, puns or repetitions. Ritualized nonsensicality achieves this effect for young children. Third: the comical effect of this nonsensicality is often enhanced through the inversion of behavioral norms (Tell her! Smell her! Kick her down the cellar’) (third criterion) or the hyperbolic representation of transgressive behavior such as Annie M.G. Schmidt’s (1987) poem (‘Het zoetste kind dat ik ooit zag/was Hendrik Pieter Hagelslag …’).
Ken Russell’s Artist Biographies as Baroque Performance of the Self
Defended 5 November 2015
PhD candidate: Christophe van Eecke
Supervisors: Dr. Karel Vanhaesebrouck, Dr. Jack Post and Prof. Maaike Meijer (promotor)
Ken Russell has directed a long series of films on the lives of artists. These films are never true to historical fact. Russell stresses that he offers the viewer his own impression of the artist’s life, based on the feelings and images that the artist’s work conjures up in his own mind. This means that Russell’s films are as much about Russell as they are about the artists they portray. In fact, Russell uses his subjects as a medium to write/film an oblique autobiography, painting a self-portrait through the portrait of other artists. The results are excessively baroque films that have been condemned as vulgar, superficial, and overly subjective. In cultural terms, they are a puzzle. In their subjective, collage-like structure, they are close to the postmodern idea that one’s life should be a work of art (Foucault) and that we conceive of ourselves through mirror images found in others (Lacan). But with their robust vitality and abrasive loudness, Russell’s films seem in conflict with visual styles that are commonly associated with the postmodern, such as minimalism, conceptual art, and political art (identity-based art). To resolve this contradiction and establish Russell’s value and importance for contemporary cultural issues I will argue that Russell’s approach to artist biography is rooted in romantic and baroque notions of selfhood that have generated postmodern culture as an effect of, rather than a reaction to, modern culture. To do this, I will show that the baroque and romantic eras saw changes in science and philosophy that undermined traditional concepts of the self. This forced modern man to adopt what I would call performative concepts of identity: the subject had to actively assemble his own identity from various sources and influences, without metaphysical guidance, and present himself to the world. As such, personhood literally became a performance.
This project seeks to establish the historical continuity of concepts of (auto)biography from the renaissance and baroque, through romanticism, to the postmodern age. This will allow us to understand the work of Ken Russell as central to contemporary issues of the representation of selfhood.A video made by Christophe van Eecke (Window #3; 2011) has been included in the exhibition "Once More" at Lokaal 01 (Breda).
Resilient Recapitulation. Ramifications of Haeckel’s undead evolutionary theory in German culture (1918 - 1965)
Defended 23 october 2015
PhD candidate: Constance Sommerey.
Supervising team: Prof. Maaike Meijer (promotor), Dr. Lies Wesseling, Dr. Jo Wachelder, and Dr. Raf de Bont
Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was Germany’s most successful popularizer of evolution in the late 19th century. His popular scientific books Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte (1868) and Die Welträthsel (1890), among others, were enormous successes and more widely read than Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859). In his evolutionary writings, he not only wanted to disseminate Darwinian mechanisms of natural selection, he saw evolution as a means to establish a new religion that relinquished the need for any transcendental forces in nature: monism. Nature, for Haeckel, was in a constant, transformative development. Together with Darwin’s idea of natural selection, Haeckel revealed what he termed the “monistic Genesis” (Haeckel, 1899, p.13).
Up to this day, Haeckel’s impact on the public understanding of evolution is heavily discussed. We are presented with historians who try to exorcize Haeckel’s un-Darwinian ghost in biology (Gould, 1977), historians trying to explain Haeckel’s pseudo-Darwinism (Bowler, 1988), historians who try to explain the link between Haeckel and Hitler (Gasman, 1971; Gasman, 2002; Weikart, 2004), or historians who try to rehabilitate Haeckel (Richards, 2007; Richards, 2008; Gliboff 2008). In most of these stories Haeckel is presented as a biologist who stole elements of Darwin’s theory to appropriate them for his own religious and scientific convictions. The academic preoccupation with Haeckel indicates that Haeckel’s writings still carry importance in today’s perception of evolution (Richardson & Jeffery, 2002). How did Haeckel’s ideas survive?
In this context, I believe that the question of Haeckel's Darwinism is obsolete. It is a misconception to assume that there is one essential story of evolution by natural selection. Every scientist, including Darwin himself, transformed the story of evolution in the act of narrating. I believe Haeckel’s writing to be yet another example of the transformative power of narrating evolution. Haeckel established his own, particular narrative of evolution by natural selection that was so persuasive that it remained alive.
This project studies the survival of Haeckel’s particular narrative in German school books and children’s literature (1918-1965). Which ‘Haeckelian’ narrative elements were deemed important enough to be appropriated and thereby passed on to future generations?
Constance Sommerey is co-founder of the blog Shells and Pebbles: Interesting finds on the shores of the history of science.'
Exploding theatre. Structural transformation of the theatre landscape.
PhD Candidate: Henk Havens (HBO promovendus Hogeschool Zuyd, Maastricht)
Defended 15 October 2015
Supervising team: Prof. Maaike Meijer (promotor UM) Dr. Peter Peters (co-promotor UM en Hogeschool Zuyd).
I am investigating the state of the current Dutch theatre landscape within the context of contemporary cultural dynamics. One can read the theatre landscape as a system, a systematic coherent collaboration of institutions like theatre companies, theatre stages/venues, theatre schools and governmental theatre policies. In the course of the last decennia the theatre has moved to a different position in cultural life than the one it occupied just after the Second World War, when the current theatre system was being constituted. The theatre did change from a leading canonical position to a perfomative subcultural one. The state-funded theatre seems to change structurally from a central kind of cultural ‘premier league’ to a co-ordinate position amidst of other networked subcultures. Considering theatre like this, one can look at the performing arts more and more as constantly changing, heterogeneous and hybrid instead of hierarchical and disciplinary, organised according to a traditional theatrical canon. My research project started from the question: can the seemingly coherent and still dominant ‘interplay’ of theatre-institutions within the context of present day cultural dynamics, boosted by migration, technology and a global cultural industry, be considered as anachronistic?
With this research project I aim to reconsider the historically shaped theatre system, by mapping how it has fundamentally changed by the cultural dynamics of intermediality, interculturality and globalisation. I hope it will make clear that the current perception of the relation between theatre system and contemporary cultural dynamics is far from optimal. This project may provide insights in how to bring the theatre system more in line with the heterogeneous and hybrid context of an intercultural, intermedial and international performative spectrum.
Besides mapping contemporary cultural dynamic effects through four exemplary case studies, I am also describing these dynamics by investigating the work of relational thinkers like Itamar Even-Zohar, Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour and Michel Foucault. By connecting some of their main concepts to the results of the case studies, I try to point out the relevance of a structural reassessment of important theatre-institutions.
Rearticulating Sounds: Popular Music Enthusiasm in a Digital Era
Defended 22 June 2015
PhD candidate: Maarten Michielse
Supervising team: Dr. Karin Wenz and Prof. Renée van de Vall (promotor)
This project researches how music enthusiasts appropriate popular music by remixing, covering, and/or mashing-up a wide range of songs and sharing these self-made products via (online) communities. The project analyses the creative practices of these music enthusiasts qualitatively, zooming in on the practical level and spending time with them trough a virtual ethnographic approach. Rearticulating Sounds will be looking at how music enthusiasts produce their works, how they deploy, develop, and share all sorts of skills and competences within their everyday practices, and how they deploy different tactics in order to be able to call these songs ‘their own’.
While consumers always had the possibility to engage creatively with music in one way or another - from nineteenth century domestic piano practices to audio-cassette mix-taping in the 1970s and 1980s -, it is only since the last decade that the general availability of creative software and, especially, the networked computer has made it possible to produce, distribute, and share musical appropriations on a scale never seen before. Within the academic world, this process has often been framed in overarching theories such as Toffler’s “prosuming” (1980), Jenkins’ ”participatory culture‟ (1992), O’ Reilly’s “Web 2.0” (2005), and Lessig’s “read/write culture” (2004; 2008). Although these frameworks help to understand the dynamic relationship between producers and consumers, they also bring along the danger of presenting participation as something that happens almost naturally and automatically. In other words: they make it easy to overlook the effort it takes for consumers to actually become producers and how these consumers constantly develop and deploy all sorts of tactics and skills in order to be able to participate in the first place. More empirical research is needed to understand the practical reality behind these broader theories.
In Pursuit of Meaning. The Dynamics of Cultural Memory on the 4th and 5th of May in the Netherlands 1945- 2010
Defended 15 December 2014
PhD candidate: Ilse Raaijmakers
Supervising team: Prof. Georgi Verbeeck, Prof. Maaike Meijer and Frank van Vree (UvA)
Which meaning is given to the memories of the Second World War during commemorations on May 4 and 5 from 1945 onwards? I want to find out which meaning was given to the memories of the Second World War during the commemorations on May 4 and 5. I’m not interested in the history of the war itself, but only in the period after the war, in the Dutch polemic designated as ‘the war after the war’. The objects of analysis in this project are the commemorations and celebrations themselves as well as the discussions surrounding these commemorations. I therefore focus on the tensions and interactions between memory makers, memory consumers and the larger socio-cultural context in which these processes take place. In the field of memory studies much attention has been paid to the national framework. This framework is of importance, but only as one among others. If I want to get a grasp on memory cultures on the 4th and 5th of May in the Netherlands I have to include the local framework in my research as well. I have selected three local case-studies: Eindhoven, Leeuwarden and Haarlem. Both on a national and on a local level, I will analyse the commemorations and festivities on May 4 and 5, for which I will make a selection of five reference years.
For all activities I want to address questions like: who or what is remembered, in which ways and by whom? How did these memory cultures come into being and how did they develop over time? How can continuities and discontinuities in their commemorating practices be explained? Which memories of the Second World War are represented and (re)mediated, and which are forgotten? Who speaks and who is silenced? What discussions surrounded the commemorations? It is important to focus on the social-cultural context as well, because only in this context the 4th and 5th of May get their meaning.
The Sounding Museum
Defended 9 May 2014
PhD Candidate: Hein Schoer (HBO-promovendus Fontys Tilburg)
Supervising team: Prof. Maaike Meijer and Prof. Renee van de Vall (promotores)
This project is about cultural soundscapes as presented in a museum, namely the aboriginal soundscape of North America’s Pacific Northwest Coast. The dissertation will consist of a book and an audio-CD and DVD. The project is tied to the NONAM, the Nordamerika Native Museum in Zürich, Switzerland, where I helped to build the Sound Chamber some years ago. I since then have been supervising its operation. The core objective of the project is to produce a cultural soundscape composition and put it to use at the Sound Chamber, where my piece “Two Weeks in Alert Bay”, based on field recordings made in collaboration with members of the Namgis Band of the Kwakwaka’wakw people of British Columbia, can be experienced under optimized conditions (as compared to the qualitative limits of CD playback). The book contains all the background information on the project that cannot be brought across by the composition alone; it’s the kind of artwork that requires explanation in order to be valued to its full depth. I argue that, unless affectively effective, a work of art has failed it’s purpose. In this dissertation I try to integrate my artistic, scientific, and pedagogical aspirations. That means that not only the content is of relevance, but also it’s packaging; the visual and acoustic design is as important as the words I have chosen to get my message across.
Productive Fandom: Intermediality and Affective reception in Fan Cultures
PhD Candidate: Nicolle Lamerichs
Defended 26 March 2014
Supervising team: Prof. Maaike Meijer (promoter), Karin Wenz (co-promoter)
Loners, geeks, fanatics - fans have often been misunderstood and ridiculed in popular media. Productive Fandom proves this imagery to be false and offers a media ethnography of fan cultures as they are lived: social, creative and felt spaces of productive reception. Fans appropriate populare culture to suit their alternative tastes.
Written from an insider's perspective, Productive Fandom explores these rich subcultures that provide new insights on the shared spaces of consumers, producers and media texts. Productive Fandom shows that fans are above all creative. They write their own stories, "cosplay" in their own dresses and invent their own games. Fandom is a rich and vibrant culture of rewriting - a formation of media spaces and audiences that come together online and offline.
Fandom gets more complex as media franchises are distributed across different platforms and audiences translate a television text from one medium to the other. Intermediality is a core concept in this study that shows the diversity of contemporary fandom by studying fans of Sherlock, Glee, Firefly and other popular franchises. The book addresses both scholars and fans and tackles broader questions about production hierarchies, gender, sexuality, play and affect.
In touch with life - Investigating artistic and life scientific laboratorial practices from a hands-on perspective
PhD Candidate: Jenny Boulboullé
Defended 20 December, 2012
Supervisor: Prof. Rob Zwijnenberg
This interdisciplinary research project comprises several subprojects that all investigate the role of hands-on experiences and hands-on notions in relation life sciences.
1. Hands-on Bio Artists: this first subproject focuses on a phenomenon in contemporary art and describes and analyses the artistic practice of ‘bio artists’ who have entered today’s laboratories to explore the aesthetic potentials and ethical implications of working with biotechnological materials, such as living cells, bacteria, genetically modified organism. My study focusses on the rhetoric of bio artists who lay great emphasis on the fact that they work ‘hands-on’ in laboratories and attach great importance to ‘hands-on experiences’ for a critical engagement with the life sciences and draws on ethnographic material gathered at a Biotech Art Workshops and the Australian art-science research laboratory SymbioticA.
2. Descartes as hands-on practitioner: this second subproject focuses on the conspicuous lack of hands-on notions in theoretical discourses in the history and philosophy of science and discusses this in relation to the work of the French philosopher René Descartes. In popular reception the French philosopher René Descartes has been identified with his famous ‘cogito’, creating an image of a thinker with no hands who explored the possibilities of knowledge with his ratio alone. In this part I explore Descartes thoughts on what knowledge is and how it can be obtained from a different perspective. What if we envision Descartes as a researcher who has first and foremost explored the world from a hands-on perspective? Recent studies have convincingly argued that Descartes has been an experimenter who was actively involved in the sciences of his day, demonstrating that he stood at the cradle of what has become known as the ‘new science’. I discuss recent philosophical and historical studies that re-contextualise his metaphysical works historically and situate these works within and experimental natural philosophical inquiries and the Vesalian renaissance in the Low Countries. Instead of confining his epistemological considerations to the bloodless realm of pure reason, I re-examine Descartes epistemological writings for reflections on the new ways of hands-on engagements in relation to his anatomical experiments and theoretical attempts to historicise epistemology.
3. The Practical turn – studying life sciences from a hands-on perspective: this third subproject analyses some classics of ethnographic laboratorial studies conducted in molecular biology laboratories (Latours& Woolgars Laboratory Life and Knorr-Cetinas Epistemic Cultures) and discusses how their attempt to theorise scientific knowledge practices from a hands-on perspective, remains trapped in an anti-cartesian rhetoric and understands itself as a counter discourse to traditional epistemology, which becomes problematic, as I argue, in light of my thesis that modern epistemology grounds in hands-on reflections and hands-on experimental practices and on basis of my own ethnographical observations focusing on benchwork as embodied activity.
I close my investigation with an epilogue that elaborates on peculiar hands-on/hands-off experiences in life scientific research with the concept of Cleanroom aesthetics.
Dominant Mothers, Queer Sons. (Re)producing Momism in Postwar American Culture
PhD Candidate: Roel van den Over
Defended 15 June 2012
Supervising team: Prof. Maaike Meijer (promotor), Renee Hoogland (Wayne State University USA) co-promotor
This dissertation offers interpretations of four American fictional texts from the 1950s and 1960s, each featuring a dominant mother and her queer son. They are the novel The Grotto (Grace Zaring Stone, 1951), the play Suddenly Last Summer (Tennessee Williams, 1958), the film Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), and the novel Portnoy’s Complaint (Philip Roth, 1969). I read these texts in three different ways.
First, I consider them as cultural representations of Momism and homophobia, two discourses prominent in America at the time. From the 1940s until the early 1970s, sociologists and psychiatrists advanced the idea that an over-affectionate or too-distant mother – or better, Mom – hampers the social and psychosexual development of her son, in extremis causing conditions such as asthma, autism, and schizophrenia. Perhaps worst of all was the outcome of homosexuality, since the period saw an intense policing of sexual deviancy, incited especially by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s vilification of communists and homosexuals alike. After presenting an historical overview of Momism and its attendant homophobia in chapter one, I zoom in on the four selected instances of their joint cultural representation – a facet seldom studied.
Second, in addition to complementing the received knowledge of Momism, I aim to complicate the picture. I show that the selected representations convey not only Momism beliefs, but alternative imaginations and appreciations as well: the mother is not always blamed for her son’s intriguing sexual transgressions. Ergo the four texts simultaneously do and undo Momism.
Third, I tease out these contradictory portrayals and valuations of mother and son via interpretation. My preferred reading method is narratology.
Beyond the ideal: Representation of Motherhood in Dutch literature, 1980 until 2010
PhD Candidate: Josje Weusten
Defended 25 november 2011
Supervising team: Prof. Maaike Meijer (promotor) and Dr. Lies Wesseling (co-promotor)
The dissertation De idylle voorbij. Verbeelding van moederschap in Nederlandse literatuur, 1980 tot 2010 by Josje Weusten reveals that contemporary Dutch society has a tendency to idealize motherhood in quite a normative manner. Motherhood is considered a conscious choice due to the introduction of the birth control pill and it is generally believed that the practice of mothering can be molded, changed and controlled as one sees fit. It should therefore be a success. Educational self help books for parents, commercial glossy magazines for women, popular educational magazines for parents, and advertisements and other promotional activities for baby products contribute to the rosy picture of motherhood. The idealized mother generally is white, well-to-do and belongs to the middle class. Furthermore, she is a member of a nuclear family household with young, healthy children. Her husband is the main bread winner, while she does most of the care work. This particular type of mother is expected to enjoy motherhood and to have a symbiotic relationship with her young child(ren). If she does experience any unpleasantness, she is expected to call upon professional services that enable her to become happy after all. Her happiness is considered to be her own responsibility; if she is not happy she only has herself to blame. Due to the coercive presence of this idyllic notion of motherhood, many mothers find it difficult to openly discuss less pleasant experiences and aspects of motherhood. This seems to be taboo.
In contrast to this tendency to idealize motherhood in Dutch society, motherhood seems to be anything but a pleasurable experience in contemporary Dutch literature. Many novels depict mothers who loose control and go off the rails. Some of these mothers even murder their own children. The current study by Josje Weusten deals with the way in which Dutch literature represents motherhood in relation to the social construction of rosy-spectacled motherhood. In order to analyze this relationship, methods from the sociology of literature and of textual interpretation of novels are combined in an innovative manner. The analysis of four well-known novels on motherhood by female authors takes center stage. Two of them deal with unwanted childlessness: De reis naar het kind (The journey to the child, 1989) by Vonne van der Meer, and Nieuwe buren (New neighbours, 2006) by Saskia Noort. The other two centre on infanticide: Een hart van steen (A heart of stone, 1998) by Renate Dorrestein, and Met onbekende bestemming (Unknown destination, 2000) by Maya Rasker.
At the end of this dissertation it is argued that the modern idea of enjoyment, which surrounds motherhood nowadays, is questioned in a critical manner in all four novels. It proves to be possible to put the novels at hand at work, in order to undercut the modern, normative idealization of motherhood. A major result of this research is that pre-modern and/or anti-modern perspectives turn out to play a pivotal role in the undermining force of the novels. All books contain intertextual references to genres that open up pre-modern or anti-modern representations of motherhood. Van der Meer’s novel contains intertextual references to the fairy tale, Noort refers to the a-heroic crime novel; we find references to the (homely) gothic novel in Noort (2006), Dorrestein (1998) and Rasker (2000); to Greek tragedies in Dorrestein (1998) and Rasker (2000), and poetry in Rasker’s Met onbekende bestemming (2000). These references often, though not always, unlatch meanings, which make it possible to read the novels as critical commentaries on the modern discourse of enjoyment.
De idylle voorbij is a cultural history of motherhood, in which the relationship between society and literature plays an important part. Ample attention is also paid to important social debates about unwanted childlessness, infanticide, de combination of a career and motherhood and postpartum depression. This book is not only interesting for literary scholars, gender studies scholars and sociologists, but for everyone who wants to know more about motherhood in The Netherlands.
Griezelig gewoon. Gotieke verschijningen in Nederlandse romans, 1980-1995
Amsterdam University Press, 2011. 224 pp.
PhD Candidate: Agnes Andeweg
Defended 1 April 2010
Promotores: Prof. Maaike Meijer (1e) and Dr. Lies Wesseling (co-)
Het genre van ‘the gothic novel’ is vooral bekend uit de Angelsaksische literatuur. Sinds Walpole’s befaamde The Castle of Otranto in 1765 werd het genre enorm populair. De theatrale en fantastische ‘gotieke’ verhalen spelen zich bij voorkeur af op ruïneuze kastelen, waar jonge onschuldige heldinnen worden belaagd door schurkachtige oudere mannen – aristocraten of (corrupt) katholieken. Deze barokke, vaak bloedstollend-spannende vertellingen zijn doortrokken van bovennatuurlijke verschijnselen, geweld, dood en verval. Het genre beleefde een grote bloei tot 1820 en dook vervolgens in vele literaturen steeds weer in nieuwe vormen op – denk aan Dracula, Jane Eyre, Jekyll and Hyde, en in de moderne tijd bij auteurs als Toni Morrison, Donna Tartt, Angela Carter om alleen wat bekende Engelstalige voorbeelden te noemen.
Het gotieke is internationaal het voorwerp geweest van literair historisch en cultuurpsychologisch onderzoek. De vraag naar de functie van het gotieke is daarbij vaak gesteld. Andeweg presenteert de theorie dat het gotieke een verwerking is van sociale spanningen die modernisering met zich meebrengt. Modernisering is altijd incompleet en contradictoir en het gotieke raapt de brokken op, om het huiselijk te zeggen. Andeweg presenteert het gotieke als het culturele podium waarop maatschappelijke conflicten worden uitgespeeld. Dat gebeurt na elke golf van maatschappelijke verandering: het podium blijkt verrijdbaar. In 2006 is voor het eerst geopperd dat sommige Nederlandstalige auteurs – Couperus, Haasse, Ruebsamen - ook door de bril van het gotieke zouden kunnen worden gelezen. Dat voorstel ging in tegen de gevestigde beeldvorming over Nederland als modern en nuchter. Andeweg zet het gotieke leeskader nu op fascinerende wijze in, door meeslepende analyses van romans van Kellendonk, Reve, Rosenboom, Dorrestein en Van der Meer. Die romans worden onder haar handen verwerkingen van de revolutionaire jaren zestig, van de onverteerde brokken die bleven liggen na de secularisatie, seksuele bevrijding, acceptatie van homoseksualiteit, nieuwe man-vrouw-verhoudingen, de modernisering van de klassenstructuur. Andeweg verlost de literatuur uit zijn ivoren toren en laat er de maatschappelijke bemiddelingsfunctie van zien.
Doing Artworks. A Study into the Presentation and Conservation of Installation Artworks.
PhD Candidate: Vivian van Saaze
Defended December 2009
Promotores: Prof. dr. R. Zwijnenberg (Maastricht University, now University of Leiden), Prof. dr. R. van de Vall (Maastricht University), Y. Hummelen (ICN, RCE)
During the last three decades, installation artworks have become mainstream in contemporary artistic practices. Acquiring and displaying such works, however, implies that curators and conservators have to deal with obsolete technologies, ephemeral materials and other problems concerning the care and management of these artworks. Installation artworks challenge traditional museum practices of collecting and conservation. How do museums approach these challenges and how to understand the role of conservation theory and ethics in these practices? Drawing on fieldwork in contemporary art museums, this book explores how key concepts such as authenticity and artist’s intention figure in day-to-day museum work. Moreover, the study shows how conservation practices behind-the-scenes play an important role in the perpetuation of installation artworks. Consequently, it argues that the common distinction between front (presentation and display) and back (conservation and collection management) is particularly untenable in the case of installation artworks.
Theodoor Weustenraad (1805-1849) en de ‘Percessie van Scherpenheuvel’ [Theodoor Weustenraad (1805-1849) and the ‘Pilgrimage of Scherpenheuvel’]
Hilversum 2009 (Maaslandse Monografieën 72) [520 p.; ill.]
PhD Candidate: Lou Spronck
Defended 9 October 2009
Promotores: prof. dr. W. Kusters (Maastricht University), prof. dr. A. Hanou (Radboud University Nijmegen).
This thesis consists of two parts: a biography of the lawyer, journalist, and poet Theodoor Weustenraad (1805-1849), and a critical edition of the autograph of his epic poem in Maastricht’s idiom, the Percessie van Scherpenheuvel (‘Pilgrimage of Scherpenheuvel’).
Weustenraad was a child of the French Revolution. He was devoted to the ideals of freedom and equality, and felt the dissatisfaction of a romantic who dreams of a novel world. His mentor at the University of Liège, Johannes Kinker, freemason from Amsterdam, honed his critical outlook. In Maastricht, which in the 1820s underwent several promising changes in education, culture, and economics, Weustenraad became an editor for the new daily paper L’Éclaireur. In this paper he publicly opposed the government of king Willem I. He encouraged political activism amongst his readers, and enlightened them with understanding of democracy.
In October 1830 he was forced to move to Belgium. Here he became enthused by Saint-Simonism, the ‘new Christianity’, which promised a society which no longer offered room for idle privileges. This period of fanatical support for these new teachings went quickly past, but Weustenraad maintained his belief in a better future thanks to industrial progress. He lauded the wonders of technical developments in Le Remorqueur (the locomotive) and Le Haut-Fourneau (the furnace). By such poems and by his polemics he contributed to the forming of the young Belgian nation.
He continued to deplore the fate of his mother city, which remained in Dutch hands. His 1834 elegy Maestricht marks the origins of a myth that purported high commander general Dibbets as a rapist of the opinions of the people of Maastricht. From a different perspective, Weustenraad enjoyed the poetical expression in Maastricht’s idiom, the humoristic and sarcastic results of which he entertained his friends with. At the young age of 43, Weustenraad unexpectedly succumbed to cholera in Jambes near Namur.
As mentioned, Weustenraad’s biography is followed by an edition of the manuscript of the Percessie van Scherpenheuvel. The Percessie is a ‘mock epic’ in Maastricht’s idiom, which, despite containing 2000 verses, Weustenraad left to us unfinished. In the Percessie he turns away from the seriousness of his French poetry, and displays his multi-faceted nature: levity, eroticism, anti-clerical satire, self-mockery, social criticism. A-century-and-a-half after his death, this poem proves to be alive and well.
Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners
Published in a popular edition as: Levy, David. Love and sex with Robots. Harper Collins, New York, 2007. ISBN 0-06-135975-0.
PhD Candidate: David Levy
Defended 11 October 2007
Promotores: Prof. Maaike Meijer (1) and Prof. Jaap van den Herik (2)
Levy’s thesis argues that trends in robotics and other areas of artificial intelligence will, within a few decades, result in robots that are so humanlike in their appearance and functionality, in their personality, and in their expression of emotions, that many people will be falling in love with them, having sex with them, and even marrying them. This Ph.D. research has encompassed the fields of psychology, sexology, sociology, robotics, artificial intelligence, and gender studies. His forecasts are based on his analysis of certain trends and on what he sees as the inevitability of how these trends will continue in the future. One of these trends follows the objects of human affection – at first this was only for other humans, then it expanded to include pet animals, then virtual pets such as the TAMAGOTCHI and Sony’s robotic dog AIBO, and in the future, according to Levy’s thesis, for robots. Another trend examined in the thesis follows our attitudes to various sexual practices, as these attitudes have become steadily more liberal. The thesis also examines the principal reasons, identified by research psychologists, why we fall in love and why we have sex. Most of these reasons are shown in the thesis to be equally applicable to the human-robot relationships of the future as they are for human-human relationships today.
Tussen wet en werkelijkheid – euthanasie in het licht van een roman van Willem Jan Otten en de filosofie van Marcel Merleau-Ponty
PhD Candidate: Monica Soeting
Defended 28 April, 2005
Promotores: Prof. Dr. Guy Widdershoven en Prof. Dr. Wiel Kusters
Euthanasie en hulp bij zelfdoding zijn uitermate complex. Formele richtlijnen voor het handelen bij een verzoek tot hulp bij zelfdoding schieten tekort. Aanvullende methodieken zijn nodig. Monica Soeting werkt in haar studie een dergelijke methodiek uit aan de hand van een filosofische benadering van een roman waarin het euthanasievraagstuk centraal staat. Weliswaar kunnen ook filosofie en literatuur in dit soort situaties geen concrete richtlijnen bieden, ze kunnen wel helpen een houding te bepalen inzake euthanasie en hulp bij zelfdoding. Ze maken als het ware de spanning tussen algemene beginselen (de wet) en concrete situaties (de werkelijkheid) inzichtelijk en hanteerbaar. Door de roman “Ons Mankeert Niets” van Willem Jan Otten te lezen (waarin de vraag centraal staat wat te doen als een nabije ander wil sterven) en aan de hand van de filosofie van Maurice Merleau-Ponty, beantwoordt Soeting de vraag hoe een roman of verhaal ons kan helpen de kloof tussen wet en werkelijkheid te overbruggen. Soeting laat zien dat literatuur een belangrijke rol kan spelen bij het inzichtelijk maken van de spanning tussen algemene beginselen en concrete situaties, zonder dat ze, zoals Otten zelf doet, er bij voorbaat vanuit gaan dat wet en werkelijkheid haaks op elkaar staan.