Leiden Seminar on Global Interactions (LSGI)

This monthly seminar series ran from September 2009 to June 2013 as a thematic platform for scholars mostly from within Leiden University working on topics related to Global Interactions.  


5 October - Dr. Rivke Jaffe (Institute for Cultural Anthropology, Leiden)

Crime Watch: Mediating Belonging and the Politics of Place in Inner-City Jamaica
From the 1980s, Jamaican gangs became notorious for their success in building transnational networks that stretched from downtown Kingston to inner-city neighborhoods in London, New York and Toronto. North American and European media framed the so-called “yardies” for non-Jamaican audiences. This paper discusses how residents engage with mobile representations of Jamaican crime, based on ethnographic research in inner-city Kingston. Many residents are eager to watch crime documentaries, expressing empathy, intimacy and disappointment as they discuss their relationships with, and knowledge of, the featured criminals. This paper explores how mass-mediated depictions of crime intersect with a transnational affective geography. It traces how these representations connect marginalized urban populations across borders, framing place attachment to Jamaican “ghetto” space even as they inscribe circuits of transnational belonging.

2 November - Dr. Frank Schipper (Institute for History, Leiden)

Don't miss this golden opportunity!" Rotary International and European travel, 1921-1937
In the summers of 1921, 1927, 1931 and 1937, thousands of American Rotarians traveled to Europe to attend the annual convention of their association. These events spotlight two important global interactions of the twentieth century: the rise of international tourism and travel to become one of the world’s largest industries, and the expansion in the number and scope of international organizations. Interestingly, the Rotary conventions happened at a time when Rotary International found itself at a crossroads: should it remain in essence an American organization, or should it broaden beyond its American roots to promote cross-cultural understanding and stimulate businessman camaraderie?Based on research in the archives of Rotary International this paper discusses the mobilities involved in these conventions in three steps. First, it looks at the attempts to convince Rotarians to participate and the logistic operation of getting Rotarians across the Atlantic. Second, it looks at the conventions itself as highly mobile events. Third, it explores the post-convention tours organized in collaboration with travel agencies like Thomas Cook and its competitors. Against the background of the spread of an American organization in Europe, this paper offers a better understanding of Europe as a global tourist destination through investigating the European trips of Rotarians in the Interwar years.

7 December  - Leo Lucassen

Comparing ‘Diversity Regimes’: Long-Term Patterns in Europe and Asia (ERC Synergy Grant Application)
Frank Pieke (LIAS - China)
Nira Wickramasinghe (LIAS - South Asia)
Erik-Jan Zürcher (LIAS - Middle East)

COMPARING DIVERSITY investigates the formation and impact of diversity regimes in four regions in Europe and Asia, focusing on their imperial traditions since the last half millennium. It will address a conspicuous blind spot in diversity studies by asking how and why differences between social groups turn into socially meaningful and politically charged forms of diversity: cultural, linguistic, religious, ethnic, social, political. We seek to understand the emergence, transformation, and interaction of diversity regimes—which we define as a set of dominant institutions, practices and discourses that produce or perpetuate diversity—and the outcomes of these processes for lived human realities. A diachronic, multi-scalar and interregional approach is essential in order to answer such questions. Focused at the nexus of specific political structures and practices of the people, ComparingDiversity will examine how and why diversity regimes and their constitutive attitudes persist, change, and travel. Our programme consists of four regional projects (East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe), and three comparative synergy projects on institutions (How are diversities institutionalized? What constitutes the nature of diversity regimes? To what extent are they path-dependent? Under what conditions do they change?); agencies (How do people deal with the inclusionary and exclusionary effects of particular diversity regimes, and how do these relate to the stability or transformation of a regime?); and global connections (How do diversity regimes interact, and to what extent and effect do they influence each other?) Integrating humanities and area studies with social science and legal expertise, this project will question essentialist conceptions of diversity, and reveal other possible articulations. The innovative approach and outcomes of ComparingDiversity stand to substantively inform and transform global discourse on diversity.

An ERC Synergy Grant gives up to 15 million Euros over 6 years for large research projects that demonstrate state of the art research ideas and synergies between disciplines.

1 February - Dr. Catia Antunes (Institute for History, Leiden)

'Challenging Monopolies, Building Global Empires in the Early Modern Period' (NWO Vidi Grant)
How did “free agents” in the Dutch Republic react to the creation of colonial monopolies (VOC and WIC) by the States General? This proposal will answer this question by looking at the role individuals played in the construction of an informal global empire parallel to the institutional empire devised by the States General and enabled by the chartered monopolies.

Even though traditional historiography underlines the role institutionalized monopolies played in building empires, the paper trail produced by central states, colonial administrations, commercial companies and notaries reveal an alternative narrative of empire. Even though commercial monopolies were the cornerstone of empire building during most of the Early Modern period, monopolies were permanently challenged, adjudicated, rented out, co-opted or simply hijacked by free agents (the Spanish asientos, the Portuguese contractos, the English East India Company or the French royal monopolies and companies are cases in point).

Free agents came into conflict with the Companies from the very beginning of the monopolies. We hypothesize that the interactions between free agents and the Companies took different forms, from open conflict, to cooperation and, at times, even representation resulting in an informal empire.

The informal empire brought about by the individual choices of free agents and their networks was a borderless, self-organized, often cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, pluri-national and stateless world that can only be characterized as global. How does the Dutch experience of informal empire building compare to the same sort of process taking place in Portugal, Spain, England and France? This comparative approach will bring to the fore the extent to which Dutch empire building followed general Early Modern trends. It will also analyze what those trends mean for our broader understanding of empire building, in general, as an aspect of state formation/centralization and the transition from an Early Modern into a Modern society.

'Fighting Monopolies, Defying Empires 1500-1750: a Comparative Overview of Free Agents and Informal Empires in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire'. (ERC Starting Grant)
Dr Cátia Antunes strives to answer this question with her research entitled 'Fighting Monopolies, Defying Empires 1500-1750: a Comparative Overview of Free Agents and Informal Empires in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire'. Her proposal will pioneer the study of empires in the Early Modern World by consulting primary sources that have now been used for about one hundred years to build a narrative of colonial empires based ont he actions of central states and the monopolies they imposed overseas. Her project will count on a team of four PhD students and one post-doctoral fellow.

5 April - Dr. Alfredo Gonzalez-Ruibal (Faculty Member, Institute of Heritage Sciences (Incipit), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC))

Civilization and savagery: an archaeology of predation in Equatorial Africa (18th-21st centuries).
Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country in Central Africa, known today for its extraordinary oil reserves and its corrupt dictatorship. For almost two hundred years, it was the only Spanish colony in Sub-Saharan Africa and, for a longer period, part of the Atlantic slave trade. In this talk, I will use archaeology to explore the genealogy of the present situation of the country, which is, in many respects, analogous to other resource-rich post-colonial African nations. More specifically, I will use data from a project that I coordinated in the Muni Estuary, between Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, to suggest how ideas of civilization (sensu Norbert Elias) and forms of socioeconomic and environmental depredation have gone hand in hand in the region at least since the eighteenth century.



2011-2012 LSGI Theme: Inscribing Practices: Material Worlds of Migration and Heritage.
The global movements and histories of people leave numerous traces in the communities, landscapes, objects and practices they create, ranging from the mundane to the monumental. In this way, migration and heritage are inscribing practices – that is, material practices of making events, ideologies and processes visible, mobile and durable – as they imprint the world with histories of human movements and productions. For instance, architecture can articulate a history of contact or migration preserved in visual and structural form; museum collections can provide a distinctive material and visual accounts of colonial and post-colonial practices; and immigration forms and procedures can mediate a technology of governmental control as well as a significant transition in an individual’s personal biography. This seminar series will forefront the assemblages of actors, ideologies, and materials that constitute global interactions. The group will cultivate discussions around the materials out of which migration histories and heritage practices emerge, and the social worlds and relationships they make possible as well as constrain.

14 September - Wayne Modest (Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam)

Objects In Limbo – Towards a Museology of Displacement
The history of the modern Caribbean is one of aggressive European conquest and near extermination of the indigenous peoples of the region. This was followed by colonisation and the repopulation of the region through abusive and oppressive force over Africans who were enslaved and brought to the region for labour. Enslaved Africans were torn not only from their home, family and the cultural groups to which they belonged, but also alienated from a past to which they could no longer connect. Later, when African labour could no longer be secured through force and was no longer easily available because of emancipation, other fungible bodies – indentured Indians, Chinese and more Africans - were brought in as replacements. The Caribbean that resulted was one produced in large part by western modernity – a region populated by new groups of arrivants involved in a socio-cultural and economic environment that has been described as modern in some ways even before Europe itself .

In this presentation I will explore what I believe to be the consequences of this history for thinking about the relationship between people and things. I will suggest that the history of Caribbean formation produced a complex relationship between Caribbean peoples and objects, as Caribbean identities were negotiated. The question that will inform my discussion is: within traditional museological conceptions of time, space and history/heritage, how do we account for a group of peoples whose originary formation is not so much located in the land of their current negotiations of identity and belonging, but rather within a colonial formation characterised by forced migration, disjuncture and loss? In addressing this question, I sketch the parameters of what I call a museology of displacement.

Discussant: Ilona Heijnen (Archaeology, Leiden)

10 October - Marieke Bloembergen (KITLV) & Martijn Eickhoff (NIOD):

Save Borobudur! The moral dynamics of heritage formation in Indonesia across orders and borders, 1930s - ca. 1990
With a focus on the eights-century Buddhist temple complex Borobudur, this paper discusses the moral dynamics of heritage politics in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia and their effect on processes of identification, inclusion and exclusion, from local, transasian and international perspectives. Borobudur, like other famous temple complexes elsewhere in Asia, developed in the colonial era from a temple ruin covered by jungle-woods, into a state-legitimizing colonial heritage site, and from there, in the postcolonial era, into national (although also contested) heritage and a world heritage site. While it can be said that Borobudur was in that sense a colonial (re)construction, this colonial legacy apparently was no hindrance for postcolonial national leaders to use the sites so as to emphasize great pre-colonial ‘national pasts’, potential for the future, and/or the international allure that the status of world heritage site brings along. Borobudur, a Buddhist site, officially acknowledged as a dead monument, became a national icon of a predominantly Islamic Indonesia.

Discussant: Aniek Smit (History, Leiden)

2 December -  Alexander Geurds (Archaeology, Leiden)

Tracing the fixing agent: On Americanist archaeology’s contemporary engagement with boundary, process and practice
To talk about material worlds from an archaeological perspective is an unruly challenge. More than ever before, archaeological narratives no longer foreground closed statements, steering clear from singular explanatory positions. Archaeology, at least in North American academia, is increasingly cautious. The tracing of cultural boundaries for example is avoided due to its culture historical roots. Rather than a paradox to earlier accusations of postprocessual freischweberei, Americanist archaeology now appears progressively critical in how it engages with material culture. The goal of this paper is not to “summarize” nor to “integrate” existing views on migration and object movement as studied in Americanist archaeology, instead its aim is to provide views on how these subjects are broached through invoking ethnic identity, essentially forming an archaeology of difference. Such an archaeology is relevant in our times, where differences between people, things, and ideologies persist, despite continually being debated and challenged.


10 February - Arjen Oosterman, Vincent Schipper, Christian Fruneaux and Edwin Gardiner

Discussion: The panel introduced the changing idea of heritage in architecture and explore this through concrete examples. They considered how this idea connects or disconnects with processes of migration.

Arjen Oosterman is a writer and educator as well as the editor-in-chief and publisher of Volume magazine, an independent quarterly that sets the agenda for design. By going beyond architecture’s definition of 'making buildings,' it reaches out for global views on designing environments, advocates broader attitudes to social structures, and reclaims the cultural and political significance of architecture. Created as a global idea platform to voice architecture any way, anywhere, anytime, it represents the expansion of architectural territories and the new mandate for design.

Vincent Schipper has a BA in East Asian Studies from NYU and an M.Phil. in Art History from Leiden University where he studied the theory and history of architecture. He is currently a Social and Architectural Researcher at Smart in Public, part of the editorial team of Stichting Archis and head at Type Project. He also works as a freelance writer, editor and translator.

Edwin Gardner is an architect by training, but primarily works as a writer, web-editor, curator and design researcher working on publications, workshops, exhibitions and online publishing. He is a regular contributor to Volume magazine and collaborator of Archis. He does research on modes of diagrammatic reasoning in architecture, whether performed by brain or machine. Currently, he is a researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie, working on the Diagram Catalogue project, and the Tracing Concepts project in collaboration with Marcell Mars.

2 March - Paul Basu (Anthropology, University College London)

The ‘In-betweenness’ of Things: Materialising Movement and Cultural Interaction in the Sierra Leonean Object Diaspora Drawing on theories emerging from the study of human diasporas, I consider the implications for rethinking the diasporas of objects that fill the stores and galleries of the global museumscape. Using objects from the Sierra Leonean ‘object diaspora’ as examples, I examine how material culture can challenge dominant ideas about the static isomorphism between people, culture and place, and instead manifest a kind of ‘double-consciousness’ in a space ‘in-between’ peoples, cultures and places. The paper is conceived as a ‘spoken-word exhibition’ in which I discuss an assemblage of Sierra Leonean objects which ‘speak’ to the themes of inter-cultural interaction, the colonial contexts of collection and removal, and the creolisation of form. I then go on to explore other aspects of diaspora studies in relation to the material world of collections: considering, for example, ideas of return and the value of economic or symbolic remittances.

Discussant: Anna Grasscamp (Art History, Leiden)

13 April 1 - Renzo S. Duin (Archaeology)

Mapped boundaries and fluid frontiers: implications for indigenous heritage management
Recent anthropological and archaeological research has demonstrated that Amazonia appears more heterogeneous, dynamic, and socio-politically complex than assumed thus far. Regarding the frontier zone of Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil, however, the discourse of a "pristine forest" in which "stone age Indians" roamed, has been prevailing over local historicities. Political boundaries between Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil were defined by drawing rivers on maps. These mapped boundaries have direct implications for local communities to whom these rivers facilitate interaction. Western narrative and practice of map-making diverges from indigenous memories and inscribing practices (ritual performance, architecture, landscape management). These divergent metanarratives lead to contrasting perceptions of the historical ecology of the recently created national parks in respectively the north of Brazil (Parque Nacional das Montanhas de Tumucumaque) and in the south of French Guyana (Parc Amazonien de Guyane). This presentation is intended to explore possibilities for further dialogue and understanding of the material and immaterial heritage of indigenous people situated in the globalizing arena.

Discussant: Dorrit van Dalen (LIAS, Leiden)

4 May 4th - Hester Dibbits (Reinwardt Academy)

Drinking Moroccan tea in the traditional salon: the musealization of every day practices
The period room is since long considered as a somewhat old fashioned but still attractive museological phenomenon. As a matter of fact, since the last two decades, museums have built on this tradition exhibiting domestic interiors of migrant families. Comparing different exhibitions, one may perceive them as very ‘stereotypical’. This paper argues that the 'stereotypicalness' can be better understood when looking at the actual interiors of migrant families themselves. Although it is often claimed that the ways in which people furnish their room is highly individual, the contrary appears to be true as well. There are several explanations for this, such as the availability of specific furniture at the time of arrival but also the shared biographies of people and the shared preferences for certain specific interiorstyles related to these shared biographies. Moreover, it is possible to detect certain patterns in which people appropriate their dwellings. As it appears, processes of canonisation and musealization are not confined to the museum, but they also take place in the everyday domestic context. We could even say that these processes begin in the domestic setting. Furnishing their houses people are valueing, selecting, displaying, fostering or deaccessioning the things they found themselves surrounded with. Being aware of these dynamics, it is interesting to take this parallel a bit further and look at other everyday indoor practices, such as having dinner or drinking tea together. To what extend are these practices also 'canonized' into shared, more or less fixed, 'inscribed' performances? Exploring this topic in my paper, I will also pose the question how everyday practices are dealt with in the context of the museum, now that more and more museums, opting for 'experiences', try to work with the concept of intangible heritage.

Discussant: Ilona Heijnen (Archaeology, Leiden)

1 June - Sabine Luning (FSW, Leiden University)

Global Gold Connections: Ethical Consumption and the Beauty of Bonding Artisans
This paper focuses on ethical jewelry initiatives such as Oro Verde and the “No dirty Gold Campaign” by Oxfam Novib. These initiatives promise to create supply chains which allow consumers to do good with their purchased gold, not just to the recipient of the gift but also to the producers.Gold has a longstanding reputation as symbol of the social good: it epitomizes social values of trust, love and loyalty. Wedding rings and gold jewelry seem to be made to do good. The current quest for ethical consumption makes a perfect match with the morals attached to gold. The crucial test: can the circumstances of production and fabrication be made as good as gold?

Ethical consumption depends on interesting representations of the source of gold and different professional positions along the global value chain. The paper addresses two features of the representations of fair-mined (commodity) chain of gold: the designers involved in fair-mined initiatives are portrayed as celebrities, the producers as poor miners operating at small scale. The first image banks on the association of the chique and the beautiful, the second on the credo that small is beautiful. The paper analyses the conjunction of the images of the celebrity artisan and the small-scale artisan. This allows to highlight the specific characteristics of 'good gold' as form of 'eco-chic' ethical consumption. Celebrity culture foregrounds elitism of consumers, production on small scale is framed as a form of mining that can be improved to live up to standards of social and ecological sustainability. Together, ‘we are on the road to good gold’ (‘op weg naar goed goud’, Solidaridad campaign in The Netherlands).

Discussant: Lindsay Weiss (Stanford Archaeology Center and Dept of Anthroplogy, Stanford University)


1 October - Prof.dr. Pál Nyiri (VU University, Amsterdam): Chinese entrepreneurs in poor countries: a transnational “middleman minority” and its futures

15 October - Book presentation: Jan Lucassen, Leo Lucassen and Patrick Manning (eds.), Migration History. Multidisciplinary Approaches, Studies in Global Social History (Leiden and Boston, Brill Publishers, 2010).

5 November - Dr. Jan Gerrit Dercksen (Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University): The impact of Assyrian migration to Anatolia

3 December - Prof.dr. Frank Pieke (Modern China Studies, Leiden University): International migration to the People’s Republic of China

4 February - Dr. Vincent Lagendijk (Institute for History, Leiden University): Transnationalising the TVA: Building Dams on International Rivers

Discussant: Marlous van den Akker  

4 March Dr. Miguel John Versluys  (Archaeology, Leiden University): Globalisation and the Roman world: Perspectives and opportunities

Discussant: Dorrit van Dalen  

1 April  - Prof.dr. Leo Lucassen (Institute for History, Leiden University): Yet another Great Divergence? Moving to the city since the late 18th century, a global perspective

Discussant: Ilona Heijnen  

10 June - Dr. José Carlos G. Aguiar (TCLA, Leiden University): From Guangzhou to Guadalajara: Piracy and the questions of illegality in commodity chains

Discussant: Aniek Smit


2 October - Dr. Jos Gommans  ( School of Asian Studies/History, Leiden University): Exploring global interactions in early-modern world history: new wine or just new bottles?

6 November - Prof. dr. Olaf Kaper (School of Middle Eastern Studies, Leiden University): Asserting Cultural Identity: Temples and the State in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt

4 December - Dr. Ethan Mark (School of Asian Studies, Japan, Leiden University): Pygmalion Empire: Late Imperial Japan and the Language of the Revolution in Occupied Java

5 February - Prof.dr.John Bintliff (Archaeology, Leiden University): Poverty and Resistance in the Material Culture of Early Modern Rural Households in the Aegean

5 March - Prof. dr. Chris Goto-Jones (Leiden University College The Hague) and Prof. dr. Peter Pels (Culture Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University): The Future is Elsewhere: Towards a Comparative History of the Futurities of the Digital (R)evolution

9 April - Prof.dr. Kitty Zijlmans (Institute for Cultural Disciplines, Leiden University): Pushing back Frontiers: from Art History to World Art Studies

7 May - Dr. Kasia Cwiertka (School of Asian Studies, Leiden University): Feeding the Troops around the Pacific (1937-1953)

4 June - Dr. Jan-Bart Gewald (Africa Study Centre Leiden, Institute for History, Leiden University): World War One in Central Africa and the Effective Colonisation of Northern Rhodesia

Last Modified: 06-08-2014