Breed Grants

In 2015, GI started a new grants program to support Leiden-based researchers in writing research grant proposals have a global, comparative or connective approach as a primary component in their methodology. Proposals are evaluated primarily in terms of innovative potential, cross-disciplinary integration and academic excellence. Grants can provide financial support for: teaching relief (buy-out or teaching assistants), a series of intensive expert meetings and workshops, and visiting scholars who are primary collaborators in the grant development, or other activities that aid in the development of collaborative works and perspectives.

Joanita Vroom (2017) - Shifting Empires, Cultural Encounters

Grantee: Dr. Joanita Vroom (Archaeology)
Grant amount: €23.500

Shifting Empires, Cultural Encounters. Mapping Material Culture and Foodways in the Medieval & Post-Medieval Eastern Mediterranean and Adjacent Near East (600-1900 CE)

An important but hardly understood problem in archaeology is the long-term development of «East-West relations» in the eastern Mediterranean and adjacent Near East during the period of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires (ca. 6th to 20th century). These empires succeeded each other as main political and cultural power in the region, but their respective rise and decline were closely interwoven. Over a long period of time these empires interacted with each other in the fields of material culture (such as pottery production) and related cultural behaviour (such as dining habits and cooking techniques). Apart from their mutual interactions, both empires also absorbed influences from the «West» (e.g., Crusaders in the Byzantine Empire; Italian traders in the Ottoman Empire) and the «East» (the expanding Arab-Islamic culture).

«Shifting empires, cultural encounters» aims to address for the first time the dynamics of material culture and related cultural behaviour across the 1300 years of interactions between the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires with each other, as well as with the Medieval «West» and the Arab-Islamic «East». The project introduces a new approach to the archaeology of daily life, by studying the complexities of inter- and trans-cultural contacts in the perspective of long-term changes in pottery (the most mobile material product of the past and an indicator of broader patterns of interaction) and foodways (an important marker of social practices). Its results will illuminate changes across time and space in communities usually invisible to the historical record.

The first-class archaeological datasets of major excavations (e.g., Athens, Ephesus, Butrint, Chalkis, Aqaba), exclusively available to this project, the unprecedented supra-regional and temporal scale, and the interdisciplinary approach (combining typo-chronological research, scientific fabric analyses, experimental archaeology, 3D technology, and cultural interpretations) will greatly contribute to the archaeological knowledge of daily life in Byzantine and Ottoman societies, both examples of proto-globalisation. Also, the project offers an opportunity to make major steps forward in the understanding of long-term «East-West relations» in the region under study, as well as of the dynamics between changes in material culture on the one hand and cultural behaviour on the other.

Expected activities
The Breed Grant will be used to fund an assistant for teaching relief and for relief of other obligations of the grantee during 2017, offering her the opportunity to prepare two research (ERC, NWO) grant proposals which will be built on the earlier results of the grantee’s NWO-VIDI project ‘Material Culture, Consumption and Social Change: New Perspectives for Understanding the Eastern Mediterranean during Byzantine and Ottoman Times’ (2010-2015).

Furthermore, the grant will be used for the organization of an interdisciplinary workshop (provisional title: ‘Archaeological Hotspots in Medieval Europe and Asia (600-1900)’), as well as for the organization of an international expert seminar for an (online) exhibition proposal concerning global interactions, using objects in combination with (3D) pictorial representation of artefacts and of foodways (title: ‘East-West Relations in European Culture – Global Things’; see earlier (online) expositions by the grantee: ; and ).

A student assistant will assist during one term in 2017 with the organization of the workshop and the expert meeting. Lastly, the grant will help to meet some additional publication costs of an edited book including the results of the workshop, which is already accepted by Brepols Publishers.

Michelle Carmody (2017) - Collaboration in a time of Isolation

Grantee: Dr. Michelle Carmody (History and Latin American Studies)
Grant amount: teaching relief (0.6fte) Jan- June 2017

Collaboration in a time of Isolation: Right-Wing regimes and the Development of a Common Security Agenda during the Cold War
The final two decades of the Cold War was a tough time for non-democratic regimes on both sides of the South Atlantic. Caught between the continued threat of communism across the region and the rise of human rights pressures at the international level, right-wing actors in places like Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and South Africa felt themselves diplomatically shunned by the West and under siege by the East. South Africa, increasingly isolated since the Sharpeville Massacre, responded by making a concerted effort to cultivate relationships with potentially sympathetic peers across the Atlantic ocean from the mid-1960s onwards. In the context of increasing diplomatic isolation from the rest of the world, certain actors within these countries sought closer alliances with each other, collaborating on military and counter-insurgency techniques, as well as proposing the establishment of a common security agenda and the creation of a South Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The South Atlantic as a space of political interaction during the Cold War has generally been overlooked in favor of connections across the northern part of the ocean. Recent work on transnational solidarity movements and left-wing interaction between socialist Cuba, Angola and Mozambique has begun to address South-South connections, allowing for an understanding of the common development of political ideas and a transnational political community in the periphery. But apart from a well-developed understanding of the role of the US in supporting repressive and authoritarian political projects, right wing networks and the ideas and practices that they fomented have been largely overlooked.

This project aims to address this by looking at the relationships forged between South Africa and the Southern Cone countries of Chile, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina during the Cold War.

In particular, I will look at these interactions for evidence of the development of Cold War-era notions of security and common political interest, and how these notions were impacted by the broader changes occurring at the international level. I am interested in constructing a historical ethnography that captures the shifts in right-wing, non-democratic political culture during the late Cold War, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between these shifts and the practice of national security, south-south collaboration, human rights and regime change.

The Breed grant will be used to support a teaching buyout, in which I will develop a grant proposal for the deeper development of this project. Some of the questions that motivate the project currently include,

Why and how did third world right wing actors come together and develop relationship of mutual assistance, independently of the US, during this period? What do these collaborations tell us about the vision these actors had for the future of their respective regions in the final decade (s) of the Cold War? In particular, what vision for the world did these non-democratic regimes hold, and how did they see the international system evolving in the late 20th century? How did these non-democratic actors understand, responded to, and resisted the developments of the late Cold War?

Bart Barendregt and Wayne Modest (2016) - Resonating Pasts

Jaap Kunst making phonographic recordings in Nias. Photographer unknown. Netherlands, 1930, 18x13cm, Inventory No. TM-60006845

Jaap Kunst making phonographic recordings in Nias. Photographer unknown. Netherlands, 1930, 18x13cm, Inventory No. TM-60006845

Grantees: Dr. Bart Barendregt (CA-DS), Dr. Wayne Modest (RCMC) and Annette Hoffmann (Independent Scholar and Curator, Berlin)
Grant amount: €26.600

Resonating Pasts: Initiating critical engagement with and developing curatorial strategies for the acoustic and semantic content of sound collections from the ethnographic museum

From the late 18th century ethnographers, folklorists, linguists and musicologists have recorded music and spoken texts with non-European people, with the aim to conserve, analyze and classify languages, music and orally transmitted texts. The result of such endeavors of acoustic preservation is vast collections of historical sound recordings in larger ethnographic museums in Europe and the US. In a strategic move to grant acoustic collections the status of resonating (museum) objects and potential sources of history, this project explores how focusing on the sound archives in the (ethnographic) museums can push beyond the over-determined place that the visual so far has generally held in museum exhibits. We seek to de-privilege the well-established emphasis on the visual, in ‘autopsies’ of the past and as the primary mode of epistemological and curatorial engagement by also including other senses, namely that of hearing/listening. In this sense this project opens onto more recent scholarship on the multisensory museum, foregrounding the auditory as essential to the museum experience.

It is our contention that these collection of sounds, music, and spoken word, the ways they were collected and came to represent certain ideas and concepts, may speak to dimensions of the Dutch/European colonial project that hitherto have escaped scholarly attention. In order to emphasize this potential of the sound archive, and its possible role in rewriting colonial histories, we want to invite colleagues from European museums and other institutions working on comparable colonial sound collections to develop methodologies to critically engage with the acoustic and semantic contents of these archival materials.

Expected output: Application for NWO Vrije Competitie (2017), exhibition proposal Feeling Sound, plus teaching module for either honours or PhD students on Sound Cultures.

Sabine Luning and Wayne Modest (2016) - Global Earth Matters

Grantees: Dr. Sabine Luning (CA-DS) and Dr. Wayne Modest (RCMC)
Grant amount: €25.100

Global Earth Matters: Mining, Materiality and the Museum
Despite abounding critical histories of ethnographic museums highlighting different aspects of the museum’s complicit relationship with the colonial project (Bennett, 1995; Simpson 2012; Bouquet, 2013), so far no studies connect ethnographic museums with mining and the world making processes of resource extraction as part of that project. Taking the Colonial Museum, the predecessor of the Tropenmuseum, as a starting point, this project seeks to set a new agenda for both tracing other histories of ethnographic museums, as well as for the rethinking the world-making history of mining.

The Colonial Museum was established in 1864 in Haarlem to encourage interest in the Dutch colonial territories and their economic potential. The museum’s collected samples of different mineral resources such as bauxite, silver and gold were displayed from the processes of ‘harvesting’ to the final product. The Colonial Museum, and its successors, valued trade and formed an open laboratory where the extraction of mined resources and their fashioning into an end product, an object could be explored. The proposed project attempts to retrace histories of the ethnographic museum towards questions of colonial trade and mining.

The project will focus on a set of inter-related objectives. First, we aim to re-center the question of the materiality of the objects in museums collections, especially in relation to questions of labor, craftsmanship, and to global trade power relations. Secondly, the project will explore the ways in which particular materials/minerals contribute to the ‘making’ and imagining of particular places as useful or not (Ferguson 2005). The objective is to rethink connections between sites of power and (colonial) peripheries of extraction.

Finally, we want to foreground the relationship between the materiality of mining practices (mining as infrastructure, as technology) and the diversity of cultural understanding about the earth, its past and its futures.

Activities: Expert Seminars and Research Proposal
Minerals are good stuff to think with: they offer the possibility for comparative perspectives on global developments. Aluminum has changed the world of design, architecture and mobilities. Its products epitomize cosmopolitan life and accelerated speed in global connections. Gold and silver are emblematic substances for displaying individual wealth, but they also serve as anchors of value in financial systems. These precious metals are associated with adornment of the body as well as with worldwide inequalities and (in) stabilities.

The requested breed grant will be used to organize a series of four expert seminars as a building block towards a larger NWO or ERC funded research proposal entitled Global Earth Matters: Mining, Materiality and the Museum. Three expert seminars will be dedicated to a specific mineral (bauxite, gold and silver) and one to debates on the glitter and gloom of resource futures more generally. For the first three seminars the collections of the National Museum of World Cultures will form a focal point around which our discussions are based. These collections include an extensive collection of photographs on mining in different parts of the world and especially in Indonesia and the Caribbean, the products of mining in crafted objects as well as a small collection of minerals left over from the Trade Museum. These collections will be the starting point for elaborating specific questions that will be addressed in the seminars.

The final expert seminar will focus on resource futures more broadly. It will build upon the material turn in the study of mining: technical shifts in tapping into ‘a netherworld of rocks and reservoirs’ (Bridge 2009) lead to radical rearrangements in the organization of labour, global connections and political representation (Mitchell 2011). This focus on materiality will be brought into conversation with a diversity of cultural perspectives on the earth. We will scrutinize how both the bright and the dark side of mining materialities gives rise to anxieties about the destiny of the globe in times of accelerated consumption and depletion of resources.

This final workshop will also offer the opportunity to elaborate the main strands of the larger research proposal which we hope to submit in 2017.

Bennett, T. (1995). The birth of the museum: History, theory. Politics, 2-4.
Bouquet, M. (2013). Colonizing the Museum? Contemporary Art, Heritage and Relational Museology. Material Culture Review/Revue de la culture matérielle, 77.
Bridge, G. (2009). The hole world: Scales and spaces of extraction. New Geographies, 2, 43-48.
Douglas, M. (2002). The world of goods: Towards an anthropology of consumption (Vol. 6). Psychology Press. Ferguson, J. (2005). Seeing like an oil company: space, security, and global capital in neoliberal Africa. American anthropologist, 377-382. Mitchell, T. (2011). Carbon democracy: Political power in the age of oil. Verso Books.
Mitchell, T. (2011). Carbon democracy: Political power in the age of oil. Verso Books.
Sheller, M. (2014). Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity. MIT Press.
Simpson, M. G. (2012). Making representations: Museums in the post-colonial era. Routledge.

Miguel John Versluys (2015) - VICI Proposal Preparation

Update: VICI was awarded for this project in 2016.

Building on his current VIDI project, Cultural innovation in a globalizing society: Egypt in the Roman World (running from 2010 to 2015), Miguel John-Versluys was awarded €3000 and will use this grant to fund a teaching assistant which will aid his preparation of a VICI proposal.

Drawing on the results of the VIDI, the VICI should enlarge the framework even more. It will therefore not focus on the Roman Empire as such, but on Rome as part (and result) of global developments in Eurasia and beyond. The other aspect in which the VICI project will shift away from classical approaches to historical development, is that it will put objects and their material agency central as important players with these developments. Contrary to almost all previous research, the VICI project will thus focus on connectivity/globalisation (in stead of power/imperialism) and on objects (instead of people) to account for the genesis and functioning of the Roman Empire.

By applying such a globalising and object-centered approach, the beginnings of Rome will be firmly relocated in the Hellenistic Eastern Mediterranean and Western Eurasia: a place where various world systems came together with the Mediterranean network in a period that is characterised by an unprecedented intensification of globalisation processes. The innovative hypothesis of the project is that the Roman Empire came about through cultural innovations emanating from cosmopolitan centres linking various (cultural) systems and that objects with their agency played a crucially important role with this process.

To test and elaborate this hypothesis, the project will study the material repertoire (and object-scapes) of two important Hellenistic “hubs”: Samosata (at the Euphrates and linking the Eurasian, Iranian and Mediterranean commonwealths) and Alexandria (at the Nile and linking the Mediterranean with the African and Iranian networks). The relevant contacts with archaeological projects working at those sites have already been established so that they will act as partners in the project. The two sites have also been carefully selected in terms of heritage issues. The project will analyse the cultural innovations taking place in these “laboratories” and subsequently look at how these influenced Rome and the Mediterranean network. The effect that objects have on people − their material agency − are central to these analyses. It is the explicit aim of the project to use this (historical) case study on “the agency of global connections” for comparative reasoning, and to analyse how objects in motion make world history more in general.

Miguel John Versluys is Associate Professor of Classical & Mediterranean Archaeology, Faculty of Archaeology  and Co-organizer of the Material Agency Forum (MAF).

Research Projects

Last Modified: 25-11-2016