The 'Avond van Wetenschap & Maatschappij' (Night of Science & Society) was founded in order to promote the importance of scientific research for society. Since 2000 this black-tie event brings together 275 prominent scholars, entrepreneurs, politicians, artists, journalists, and athletes. Over the course of a festive dinner these participants discuss various scholarly topics and their importance to the wider society.
The organisation invited 25 prominent scholars to present their research by means of thought-provoking arguments in order to stimulate a lively discussion at the dinner table. These scholars were also invited to bring along a junior researcher, such as a PhD candidate or a postdoc. Geert Janssen, professor of Early Modern History, was among the scholars invited, and he was joined by Rosanne Baars. PhD candidate Josephine van den Bent accompanied Maaike van Berkel, professor of Medieval Studies at the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.
During the evening Geert Janssen and Rosanne Baars questioned the 'Dutchness' of the Dutch golden age. Society still celebrates an idealized past which is characterized by nationalist overtones. Janssen and Baars stressed the importance of migration to Dutch culture at the time. Their argument led to a stimulating conversation on topics such as the significance of cultural diversity in present-day Dutch society.
At another table, Maaike van Berkel and Josephine van den Bent talked about the historical Islamic caliphate. In the current struggle against ISIS, which claims to be a continuation of this institution, a proper understanding of the past realities of the historical caliphate is key in both understanding ISIS's claims and in countering these. This is a topic on which Van den Bent previously published in De Groene Amsterdammer <http://www.groene.nl/artikel/bidden-vechten-drinken-en-dichten>, while Van Berkel is a leading expert on the Abbasid caliphate.
For more information on and photos of this year's 'Avond van Wetenschap & Maatschappij' see the website.