Elisabeth Wesseling publishes on the cultural construction of childhood in narrative fiction (children's literature, the novel, film) and science (science based child rearing advice, developmental psychology, anthropology), 1850-2000.
Her current research inquires into narrative models for forging kinship in global adoption. She analyzes the themes, motifs, metaphors and plot-structures that are mobilized by adoption narratives to transform little foreigners into family members and Western couples into parents. This project deals with different narrative genres, i.e. life writing (adoptive parents' diaries, memoirs, autobiographies and blogs), (children's) fiction about and for adoptees, and film.
It aspires towards three aims:
a It develops comparative cultural perspectives on global adoption. Most studies take their bearings from the social sciences, most notably from developmental psychology. There have been relatively few contributions from the humanities, but for the noteworthy exception of the USA, the number one adopting country in the world, where a flourishing research industry has sprung up around American cultural practices of global adoption. However, the results of these studies do not directly apply to European receiving countries, because of the substantial cultural differences between the two continents. This is one of the first projects to embark on the comparative analysis of American and European adoption narratives (UK, the Netherlands, Spain).
b. It wants to contribute to literary anthropology by extending and deepening our insight into the uses of fiction in the construction of familial identities, also drawing upon new historicist insights into the relations between fictional texts and social contexts (literary texts as performances of “cultural work”) and upon theories of life writing that reflect upon the permeable boundary between fictional and non-fictional story-telling.
c. It wants to enrich the ethical deliberation of global adoption.
Stakeholders in global adoption are goverend by deeply ingrained, implicit cultural assumptions about childhood, parenthood, and orphanhood. Narrative analysis of adoption stories may unearth these tacit, deep assumptions, making them available for articulate ethical deliberation.
Elisabeth Wesseling directs the international network PLACIM: Platform for a Cultural history of Children's Media and the research program Emergent Cultural Literacy: Assimilating Children's Literature, both of which are externally funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities of the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO). She is the director of the Centre for Gender and Diversity, a research initiative of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
She is the congress convenor of the 21st Biennual Conference of the International Research Society for Children's Literature (IRSCL) and a board member of the IRSCL. Besides the IRSCL, she is a member of the following learned societies:
- International Society for Cultural History (ISCH)
- International Society for the History of Childhood (ISHC)
- Society for Literature, Science, and Art (SLSA)
- Vlaams-Nederlandse Werkgroep Onderzoekers Jeugdliteratuur
Elisabeth Wesseling has supervised two Phd projects:
- Agnes Andeweg, Griezelig gewoon: Het gotieke in de Nederlandse literatuur (Manifestations of the Gothic in Contemporary Dutch Literature)
- Josje Weusten, Pressured to Enjoy: Articulating the 'Dark' Sides of Parenthood in Contemporary Dutch Literature
Ongoing Phd projects:
- Constance Sommerey, Ongoing Recapitulation: Ramifications Recapitulation Theory in German Culture, 1850-1950
- Inge Verouden, Subproject 3 (Children's Narratives) of the research program Emergent Cultural Literacy.
Most recent publications:
Wesseling, E., & Reimer, M. (2020). Introduction: Child Separation Projects as a Strategy of Colonisation. International Research in Children’s Literature, 13(2), 231-241. https://doi.org/10.3366/ircl.2020.0355
Reimer, M., & Wesseling, E. (Eds.) (2020). (Post-)Colonial Child Separation in Children's Literature. International Research in Children’s Literature, 13(2). https://www.euppublishing.com/toc/ircl/13/2
Wesseling, E. (2020). Brown Nieces and Nephews in an All-White World: Gender and Genre in Dutch Children's Novels about the Dutch East Indies, 1890-1930. Bijdragen en Mededelingen Betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden, 135(3-4), 184-208. https://doi.org/10.18352/bmgn-lchr.10877
Mak, G., Monteiro, M., & Wesseling, E. (2020). Child Separation: (Post-)Colonial Policies and Practices in the Netherlands and Belgium. Bijdragen en Mededelingen Betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden, 135(3-4), 4-28. https://doi.org/10.18352/bmgn-lchr.10871
Mak, G., Monteiro, M., & Wesseling, E. (Eds.) (2020). Child Separation: Child Separation: Post(Colonial) Policies and Practices in the Netherlands and Belgium. Bijdragen en Mededelingen Betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden, 135(3-4). https://bmgn-lchr.nl/issue/view/196
Beiermann, L., & Wesseling, E. (2020). Physiology and Philhellenism in the Late Nineteenth Century: The Self-Fashioning of Emil du Bois-Reymond. Science in Context, 33(1), 19-35. . https://doi.org/10.1017/S0269889720000101
Wesseling, E. (2019). Researching Child Authors: Which Questions (not) to Ask. Humanities, 8(2), . https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020087
Wesseling, E., & Deszcz-Tryhubczak, J. (Eds.) (2019). Children’s Narratives as Transnational Cultural Heritage. Humanities. https://www.mdpi.com/journal/humanities/special_issues/Children_Narratives
Wesseling, E. (2019). Imagology and Children's Literature: Beyond Intellectual Parochialism. In U. Dettmar, C. Roeder, & I. Tomkowiak (Eds.), Schnittstellen der Kinder- und Jugendmedienforschung: Aktuelle Positionen und Perspektiven (pp. 171-181). J.B. Metzler Verlag. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-476-04850-9_11
Wesseling, E., & Dane, J. (2018). Are “the Natives” Educable? Dutch Schoolchildren Learn Ethical Colonial Policy (1890–1910). Journal of Educational Media, Memory and Society, 10(1), 28-44. https://doi.org/10.3167/jemms.2018.100103