The Global Interactions profile area welcomes four new PhD-students. The coming years they will work on research dealing with the topics of migration and global heritage. The PhD-students are each guided by two supervisors from different disciplines, to guarantee interdisciplinarity and promote coherence of the research within the profile area.
Marlous van den Akker, a PhD student from the department of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology (Leiden University), started in 2010 with a research project on the Mount Kenya UNESCO World Heritage Site. This site, which entangles many groups such as conservation NGOs, farmers cultivating Mount Kenya’s slopes, tourism and safari industry employees and the Kenya Wildlife Service responsible for management of the site, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 as an outstanding example of natural heritage.
Within this research, UNESCO interventions are taken as point of departure to examine the ways in which different groups experience UNESCO’s heritage claim on the territory. The site’s conservation processes have become a catalyst, absorbing not only displaced or disenfranchised people, but also urban professionals and local elites. Mount Kenya is therefore approached as constituting a particular heritage scene in which the area’s landscape is understood as a temporal and multivocal construction. Arguing that the separation of cultural heritage sites from natural heritage sites (a division which not only prevails in UNESCO policy and practices but equally in the majority of heritage studies) can be questioned, this research problematizes notions of authenticity, ownership and agency.
In the 17th century islam started to spread from the royal courts of central sudanic Africa, where it had been welcomed centuries earlier, to the country side. The ‘agents’ of this spread were muslim scholars, often from one particular ethnical (Fulani) background. We know they settled in villages and started new muslim communities there. The period that started a century and half later, when politics and society in the region were profoundly changed by the ‘jihad’ of Uthman dan Fodio, is well studied. But the 17th century has not yielded many written sources, and what there is, has not yet been studied extensively. It means that little is known about the motivation of those first ‘missionaries’, about how they worked and how they translated concepts of the global religion of islam to their local audiences; nor about the way in which local culture translated into their vision of islam. Those are questions I address in a philological study of the works of the most renowned theological scholar of his time in the region of today’s northern Nigeria and western Chad. The study involves the translation and edition of some arabic manuscripts from the Leiden University Library and the Herskovits Library of Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill) that have not been translated or edited before.
Supervisors are ms P.M. Sijpesteijn, professor of Arabic studies and R.R. Ross, professor of history of Africa.
One of the most continuous and intense forms of cultural interaction may be observed in Middle America where the Spanish conquest (1519/21) has led to a complex “hybridization” between the indigenous cultures and Europe during almost 500 years. The research of Ilona Heijnen will concentrate on a yet enigmatic process and result of interaction that was not forced by the (well-studied) efforts of conversion to Christianity; the introduction and use of symbols of European astrology. The pre-colonial Mesoamerican prophetic calendar and its divinatory system met a European system, both expressions of the perception and interpretation of time, and its social implications (e.g. cultural memory and identity). A tangible result of the interaction of these two divinatory systems in the colonial period is the translated Spanish astrological almanac (reportorio) into Nahuatl.
This project will proceed the study of such a key document from the Tropenmuseum Amsterdam (ms 3523-2) as well as researching European astrological elements in divinations in present Nahua communities. By combining philological, historical and anthropological research stretching from colonial times to the present, light will be shed on the dynamics of cultural interaction, specifically of time-related concepts and practices as well as the employment of foreign symbols introduced into a new cultural environment with emphasize on diviners as active agent enabling this process.
After Aniek Smit obtained her (research-) Masters degree in Social History at Leiden University (2009), she was selected as a PhD candidate focusing on western and non-western expats in the cities of The Hague and Jakarta during the last century. The movement of expats around the world is often considered to be a new phenomenon, studied in the context of current globalization. Nevertheless, there are many historical examples to think of, such as diplomats, merchants, bureaucrats, military officers, technicians, scholars and missionaries. To what extent can these new and old elites be considered as one category in Migration Theory? What settlement process did they experience, and when did these career migrants start to form expat-communities?
Focusing on differences in ethnic-, professional-, class-, religious- and gender-background this study aims to historicize the expat-phenomenon and conclude on the role of expats in shaping the character of these cities and the networks along the lines of which they moved. The archives of sending institutions, migrant-organizations and local newspapers will form the main resource for this study. The persisting image of the expat as predominantly western, footloose, and living within an expat-bubble will be challenged, by focusing on the role of career migrants in forging global links and interactions.