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Research

Funded research

  • Children as Objects and Agents of Change (COAC)

    The "Children as Objects and Agents of Change" or COAC-network aims to investigate how (post)colonial ‘civilizing’ and ‘development’ projects engaged children as their main objects and agents of change. Preliminary research indicates that the various colonial institutes worldwide shared similar intentions and strategies with respect to indigenous children. Children were the primary targets of ‘civilizing’ interferences and, subsequently often became agents of change themselves – whether in service of those ‘civilizing’ projects or diverting from them. These strategies were fuelled, supported, enforced and put into practice primarily by Protestant and Catholic missionaries. These strategies closely resemble the settler colonial practices of ‘child removal’ in Australia and the United States that systematically separated indigenous children from their families and communities in order to initiate and socialize them into the western, Christian culture, norms and values of the colonizing country. However, as of yet, such deeply interfering strategies in continental European colonies have hardly been the subject of a more comprehensive and systematic historical analysis, nor linked to postcolonial ‘development’ policies. This project aims at doing so, and at creating a basis for sharing research and archival sources on this issue globally.

    prof. dr. G.A. (Geertje) Mak

    Faculty of Humanities

    Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis

    project page

  • European Colonial Heritage Modalities in Entangled Cities’ (ECHOES) (Horizon2020)

    ECHOES addresses a pressing dilemma at the heart of contemporary Europe: the fact that while the history of empires and colonialism undoubtedly constitutes a shared European past, this past remains strangely silent in official narratives about Europe’s ‘heritage’—those things it values enough to save for future generations.  We argue that the EU urgently needs not just to acknowledge this dilemma but to reflexively and progressively include it at the heart of its identity.  ‘Europeanizing’ difficult colonial heritage is becoming all the more necessary today as the EU operates in increasingly global contexts, relationships, and geographies, where its ongoing ‘deficit’ towards accepting colonialism as a part of European history collides with the palpable ‘surplus’ of colonial memory in much of the outside world with which Europe grows ever more entangled.  ECHOES therefore proposes that the memory of colonialism needs to find its place in contemporary European heritage debates, and will place European and non-European cities still imbued with manifold traces of the colonial past at the heart of its engagement with heritage practices. 

    Professor Buettner and two postdoctoral researchers will engage closely with several of the project’s foci.  The first (‘City Museums and Multiple Colonial Pasts’) concerns how museums like the Amsterdam Museum, the Museum of Warsaw, and the Shanghai History Museum take up the challenge of presenting and interrogating European colonial heritage, situated as they are at the crossroads of national, urban, and international historical narratives.  The second (‘Europeanizing Colonial Heritage’) examines the missing ‘Europeanization’ of colonialism within scholarship on imperialism and the EU’s official and public discourses and engagement with the politics of remembrance, which to date has focused overwhelmingly on Holocaust commemoration and Stalinism but still remain largely silent about colonialism. 

    The project will run from 1 February 2018-2021.

    prof. dr. E.A. (Elizabeth) Buettner

    Faculty of Humanities

    Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis

  • The European Qurʾan’ (ERC Synergy grant)

    The project, called ‘The European Qurʾan’, will study the place of the Qurʾan in European cultural and religious history (c. 1150-1850), situating European perceptions of the Qurʾan and of Islam in the fractured religious, political and intellectual landscape of this long period.  It aims to discover how deeply imbedded the Muslim holy scripture is in the intellectual thinking of Medieval and Early Modern Christians, Jews, freethinkers, atheists and European Muslims.

    The team will study how the Qur’an has been interpreted, adapted and used in Christian Europe in order to understand how the holy book has influenced both culture and religion in Europe.

    The project will produce interdisciplinary research through monographs, articles, meetings across Europe, a GIS-database of Qurʾan manuscripts, translations, multimedia exhibition on the place of the book in European cultural heritage. At the UvA, one post-doctoral researcher and one PhD researcher will work on this project (the latter shared with the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Madrid and co-supervised by prof. Gerard Wiegers and Prof Mercedes García-Arenal).

    prof. dr. G.A. (Gerard) Wiegers

    Faculty of Humanities

    Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis

  • The Freedom of the Streets: Gender and Urban Space in Eurasia 1600-1850 (NWO VIDI)

    Investigating how women navigated the streets of global cities in the past. Throughout history and across cultures, women are seen as destined for the home instead of the street. At the same time, in historic cities worldwide women ventured out regularly to shop, work, pray, and play. This research project investigates the relationship between women and the city street in a time when historians believe restrictions on female movement greatly intensified.

    dr. D.W.A.G. (Danielle) van den Heuvel

    Faculty of Humanities

    Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis

    project page

  • The Invention of the Refugee in Early Modern Europe (NWO VICI)

    Refugees have been common throughout history, but are for the first time described as such in the early modern period (1450-1750). Integrating historical, legal and social scientific approaches to migration, this project aims to analyse the discursive invention of the refugee in early modern Europe. More specifically, it seeks to achieve three inter-related objectives:

    1. To explain the emergence of the refugee as a social category in European society. It will map when, where and why particular migrants started to describe themselves as 'refugees' and trace the models (religious, political, legal) of such discursive strategies
    2. To identify the agency of displaced religious minorities in forging transnational solidarity networks. By studying how diasporic communities organized themselves, this project reveals the significance of refugees in shaping media coverage, initiating humanitarian interventions and promoting a new emotional culture that focused on empathy
    3. To uncover the impact of refugees on European state formation. This project will examine how the protection and accommodation of displaced men and women interacted with the ambitions of early modern authorities to expand their territories and forge confessional regimes

    The project consists of three PhD positions and a Postdoc. Funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), it will run from 2018-2023.

    prof. dr. G.H. (Geert) Janssen

    Faculty of Humanities

    Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis

  • Managing multi-level conflicts in commercial cities in northern Europe (c.1350-1570) (NWO VIDI)

    We all want to know how to end conflicts. That is why conflict resolution has been at the centre of academic debates in relation to individual, group and large-scale clashes. Yet conflicts are not only brought to an end. The current challenge is to reconsider classical paradigms for dealing with conflicts and anchor this change in historical reflection. In this project, ‘conflict managers’ in premodern commercial cities in northern Europe open a new door to understanding how conflicts were dealt with in the past. I propose a five-partite model of conflict management, consisting of prevention, provocation, maintenance of the status quo, escalation and resolution. Combining insights from economic, legal and political history, and aiming to contribute to these fields with a fundamentally novel approach, I analyse individual, group and large-scale conflicts as one system of relations, connected through the group of people who dealt with them: the faces of institutions in premodern Europe.
    Conflict managers were embedded in merchant networks and fulfilled multiple and flexible roles such as mediators, judges and urban diplomats. I hypothesise that the development of sophisticated management strategies, designed by and put into practice by experienced conflict managers, was essential for safeguarding the autonomy of premodern commercial cities in northern Europe. A transnational and comparative analysis of city cases from c. 1350-1570 involving varying degrees of autonomy will test this hypothesis and reveal how cities in northern Europe responded to state formation and complex changes.

    The insights from this project will contribute directly to research on contemporary conflicts by showing why we today should look beyond conflict resolution and fixed roles of conflict managers. The project is thus a relevant contribution to modern Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and economic diplomacy, disciplines which combine theory with practice to explore alternatives to law and political intervention

    The project will run from 2018-2023.

    dr. J.J. (Justyna) Wubs-Mrozewicz

    Faculty of Humanities

    Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis

  • Premodern Healthscaping (ERC Consolidator grant)

    Premodern Healthscaping brings together a group of medievalists across several disciplines to explore how urban residents in two of Europe’s most urbanized regions–Italy and the Low Countries–thought about and pursued population-level health. The 5-year project, funded by an ERC Consolidator grant, is based at the University of Amsterdam and builds on insights reached by scholars of premodern medicine, urbanism and material culture, which challenge the identification of public health as a uniquely modern phenomenon. Over the next years, this project will trace the development of community health, safety and wellbeing as a major aspect of the public good and as a key means of justifying and legitimating power in an urban context. It will explore the transmission of and tensions between medical theory and urban policy in this regard, and will examine the extent to which these were enforced from the political center outward, guarded and resisted by for instance major economic stakeholders, including the church, as well as neighborhood agents. Using a combination of methodologies drawing on anthropology, geography, cultural history and science and technology studies, this group seeks to define a new key for observing how historical communities aspired to live in places where health could bloom.

    prof. dr. G. (Guy) Geltner

    Faculty of Humanities

    Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis

    project page