Coordinator Projects

In the second phase of Global Interactions, the coodinators have been given seed grants (€5000 renewable annually pending review) for the development of projects that will build cross-faculty research at Leiden and international networks on Global Interactions themes and questions. Below are descriptions of these projects and research groups.

Manon van der Heijden - Access to Justice in Global Perspective

Scholars often link the urbanization level and notion of citizenship in Western European countries to divergent patterns of economic growth and welfare between the East and the West from ca. 1800. Whereas in other regions in the world a civic culture and urban citizenship did not exist or to a lesser extent there were unlike Western Europe much less opportunities for commercial and social diversity. In this debate it is often assumed that the openness and accessibility of cities and institutions in Western Europe are important preconditions for economic development, social mobility and legal protection. But the question of the extent to which this fundamental difference existed between the towns in the West and other parts of the world is far from being answered.

This seed grant proposal aims to establish an international field of research which undertakes the first comparative and global research cooperation on the theme of Access to and Use of Legal Institutions in Cities by different social and economics groups (free-slaves-serves; men-women; rich-poor, etc.) from the Middle Ages onwards, in and beyond Europe.

The conference Access to and Uses of Justice in a Global and Historical Perspective brings together scholars with expertise on early modern and modern Europe, Asia and the Americas to explore concepts of and to test the alleged uniqueness of litigation patterns in Europe, compared to Asia, Latin America and colonial areas. The discussion will be focussed on cities, because they were important providers of juridical services, and because they allow for the comparative exercise that is central to the discussion.

Research questions:
- Were the Western European experiences regarding access and uses of the law as unique as has been suggested in historiography?

- How did ordinary people use juridical infrastructures in the past, to arrange their social and economic interests? What litigation strategies did they adopt?

- Were Westerners more formal than Easterners or is this merely a matter of perception, and did both groups in reality largely operate in-between formal and informal mechanisms of conflict resolution? And if Easterners were more informal, why was this the case, and how did it influence social and economic processes?

- What does the adaptation of European legal infrastructures in the colonies reveal about the impact of the uses of justice?

General aims:
1. Establishing an international field of research on Access to Justice in Global Perspective, in which Leiden scholars will take the lead.

2. Stimulating multi-disciplinary research and cooperation between various disciplines at Leiden University in the field of urban studies and law. The conference and the publications that result from the conference will involve historians, legal historians/lawyers, Latin-American and Asian studies, and anthropologists.

Research Group
1. Prof. Manon van der Heijden, History, Leiden University
2. Prof. Griet Vermeesch, Vrije Universiteit Brussels
3. Dr. José Carlos Aguiar, Latin American Studies, Leiden University
4. Dr. Erik Bärhe, CA-DS, Leiden University
5. Dr. Jaco Zuijderduijn, History, Leiden University / Education Director, N.W. Posthumus Institute

Petra Sijpesteijn - Networks Articulated

The project looks as networks as systems of exchange, support, inter-dependency and belonging that run parallel and sometimes counter to formal structures of hierarchy, law and organised control, examining how these systems served both to facilitate and delimit governmental reach in pre-modern Eurasians societies in Eurasia.

It continues the very successful Guiding Travelers initiative and develops a new research line that is designed to result in an individual grant application by the PI in 2015/2016 (VIDI and/or ERC consolidator).

(1) Guiding Travelers brings Leiden scholars from the faculties of Humanities, Social Sciences and Archaeology together to examine the exchange of materials, ideas and people through long-distance network clusters from the sixth to the fourteenth centuries in Europe, the Middle East and Central and East Asia.

Workshops bring in non-Leiden guests to address the important questions of how informal structures connected pre-modern societies in Eurasia; how far such networks extended, and how they intertwined, blended and reinforced each other to create complex social bonds over vast areas extending from Europe to East Asia; and how these reticulated bonds help us to understand the regions historical developments.

(2) Embedding Conquest builds on this model to look at what kinds of social, political and economic connections emerged after the mid-seventh-century Arab conquests and underlay the very successful transition, in the seventh to eleventh centuries, from a conquest society into a long-term system of rule.

While the spectacular mid-seventh-century Arab conquests have received significant attention, explanations of how a minority Arab population was able to maintain political control for the next three centuries over such a vast and vastly diverse area and implant economic, legal and cultural structures that long survived the political unity of the caliphate remain inadequate.

This project examines the social and political networks that organised early Islamic society: the structures of dependency, exchange, negotiation and control that worked to stabilise Muslim conquest and imbed Muslim rule. It looks at how the Muslims managed with such effectiveness to co-ordinate and harness, beyond the means of brute compulsion, the total field of social relations. Muslim administration co-opted the social and political patterning of the conquest societies, inserting itself into the strategic links through which power was exercised and resources distributed.

The aim of the project is to examine how these processes actually worked, taking a bottom-up rather than a top-down view, with a focus on Egypt and Khurasan from the eighth to the twelfth centuries, but taking into account empire-wide developments. The sources will be documents (papyri in Egypt, leather documents from Khurasan) and narrative sources in Arabic, Persian, Coptic, Greek, Bactrian and Soghdian.

Three dimensions will be examined: (1) access to justice within and outside the court through an examination of informal requests and formal petitions asking for mediation and financial, legal help; (2) the co-optation of indigenous and Arab elites, through the distribution of land, positions and other privileges through which elite co-operation was controlled and secured; and (3) the relation between provincial Arab rulers and the caliphal centre and how control was exercised and co-operation secured.

Guiding Travelers Research Group
1. Prof. Petra Sijpesteijn, Leiden University, LIAS
2. Prof. Peter Hoppenbrouwers, Leiden University, Institute for History
3. Dr. Joanita Vroom, Leiden University, Archaeology
4. Prof. Remco Breuker, Leiden University, LIAS
5. Prof. Hilde de Weerdt, Leiden University, LIAS

Embedding Conquest Research Group
1. Prof. Petra Sijpesteijn, Leiden University, LIAS
2. Prof. Frans Theuws, Leiden University, Archaeology
3. Prof. Bas ter Haar Romeny, VU, Religious Studies
4. Prof. Robert Hoyland, Oxford, Oriental Studies
5. Prof. Roger Bagnall, NYU, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
6. Dr. Sylvie Denoix, CNRS
7. Dr. Jelle Bruning, Leiden University, LIAS
8. Dr. Janneke de Jong, Leiden University, LIAS

Maarten Jansen - Heritage and Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The application concerns funding for organizing a yearly colloquium about the issue of Heritage and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as a continuation of the successful first colloquium on this topic in June 2014. The project aims at contributing to the continuity, international visibility and further development of the Leiden expertise concerning Indigenous Peoples (Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia/NewZealand and Europe). This, explicitly, as a basis for developing a consistent research and teaching focus that will result in collaborative publications and in the design of a major research project to be presented as a proposal to NWO, ERC and/or other funding institutions.

Indigenous Peoples have become more and more a focus of attention during the past twenty years, especially with the adoption of the I.L.O. Convention 169 in 1989 and the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP) in 2007 and its confirmation during the U.N. World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014. At the same time, global migration, conflicts over cultural patrimony, and global heritagization have led to a situation of Indigenous Heritage at Risk. In general the complexity of conflicting interests, diverse religious and political visions, and the power structures involved, as well as outright violence and war, has only become bigger and more pressing.

The rights of Indigenous Peoples imply a.o. rights of self-determination and autonomy, of free, previous and informed consent in issues and development projects that affect them, as well as an important set of rights concerning cultural heritage (e.g. DRIP article 11: the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs... to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature). The heritage issue is the core for our colloquium project. The heritage concept implies not only the cultural heritage but also the natural heritage. Particularly relevant for the latter is the Convention on Biological Diversity (article 8j), which also aims to respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

As the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples is a relatively recent development, and full of problematic aspects (because of the multiplicity of parties concerned and the still present consequences of colonialism in many areas), it is important to monitor and evaluate the progress on the ground. How are the declared rights (going to be) implemented / respected and what are the consequences for the Indigenous Peoples and for societies at large. Will the recognition of indigenous rights, for example, contribute to internal democratization and true decolonization in the nations concerned? Will the principle of free, prior and informed consent lead to a less destructive exploitation of resources? Will indigenous viewpoints influence the thinking about sustainability in economy and development? Can heritage policies be devised that lead to more consensus and cooperation between different right- and stakeholders? What are the roles of education and the media, particularly of the Indigenous media (including Indigenous radio and television stations), and how about their (in)possibility of independent reporting? Will the inclusion of Indigenous expertise and the concrete participation of Indigenous experts in research and decision-making lead to a different treatment and understanding of cultural heritage, history memory and identity, even to different research methodologies and to a different epistemology?

The rights of Indigenous Peoples have international and national but also local dimensions, e.g. the customary laws, which on the one hand maybe deeply rooted in Indigenous culture, but on the other may include their own problematic aspects such as exclusion and oppression of women. There is a danger that defense of traditional culture results in social and political conservatism that may actually reproduce ancient and/or colonial structures of dominance and injustice.

In-depth case studies need to be made, shared and discussed, on what the local practices of the protection of Indigenous heritage are, and how Indigenous concepts, rights and agency are being taken into account, especially when problematic issues such as repatriation have to be dealt with, but also in research designs, interpretations and publications. Needless to say that the research on this matter should take into account the voices and active participation of Indigenous Peoples themselves. Therefore the application concerns in the first place the possibility to invite Indigenous experts to the proposed colloquium.

12-14 June 2014 24-25 September 2015

Prof. Maarten Jansen, Archaeology, Chair of Heritage of Indigenous Peoples, Leiden University
Prof. Gerard A. Persoon, CA-DS, Chair in Environment and Development, Leiden University

Research Group
Mrs Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez
Dr. Sada Mire
Dr. Manuel May Castillo
Dr. Shu Li Wang
Dr. Amy Strecker

Caroline van Eck - Material Agency Forum

Scholars in fields ranging from political theory and literature to sociology and economics are currently moving away from an understanding of the world centered on people, texts, and images, and instead are moving towards a reconsideration of the power of objects to exercise agency and thus play an active role in the human-thing entanglement that constitutes culture. This material turn is relevant for the three disciplines that have always been centered around the object, and that now seem to rediscover its agency in cultural and historical terms: art history, anthropology and archaeology.

The Material Agency Forum from Leiden University has grown out of the cooperation in teaching and research of scholars from three difficult Faculties: Prof. Dr. C. van Eck (Humanities), Prof. Dr. P. ter Keurs (Social Sciences) and Dr. M.J. Versluys (Archaeology).

The Material Agency Forum aims at being a podium for research on material agency taking place at Leiden University (and beyond). Rigorously interdisciplinary from the very start and global in scope, the Material Agency Forum wants to bring together scholars from different disciplines working on material agency at Leiden University. By doing so it also aims to critically evaluate (theoretical) debates on Material Culture Studies and to add to the development of this paradigm.

The first period of activities initiated and hosted by the Material Agency Forum (MAF), included among others a series of lectures by guest speakers, a guest seminar at the Ecole du Louvre, a conference at the same institution on the topic of the contested entrance of idols in French art museums around 1800, and an ERC Advanced Grant (submitted in October 2014). We would like to continue and extend these activities in the coming five years.

See Material Agency Forum

Prof. Dr. C. van Eck (Humanities)
Prof. Dr. P. ter Keurs (Social Sciences)
Dr. M.J. Versluys (Archaeology)

Peter Pels - Europe from the Outside in? Imagining Civilization though Collecting the Exotic

In trying to imagine ‘Europe’ as a civilizational entity, people all over the world have had to confront the exceptional position Europe has claimed in time and space. Such exceptionalism, however, was always fraught with contradictions. Whereas the emergence of the idea of Europe has been studied by various disciplines, but usually from within Europe (Chakrabarty 2000), it has recently become clear that from Columbian times onwards, Europe was constituted through being “decentred” by new locations of knowledge such as Mexico City, just as it needed to reconceptualize its Southern boundaries in relation to a modernizing, yet increasingly Islamic Ottoman Empire (Gruzinski 2010). In later centuries, ‘Europe’ reimagined itself as exceptional in space and time both by pretending to “take the outside in” in its collections of objects and knowledge, but also by reinventing its nations as universal particulars that could claim the right to take other, less cultivated parts of the globe, in possession. Today, we see that the universal claims of European civilization – science, museums, nation-states - have been globalized in the East and South, but often by disparaging or ignoring their historical embedding in both the universals and the particularities of an (often violent) European past. This conference proposes to rethink this global process of constituting European identity by zooming in on the practices of collecting and exhibiting the exotic, as a particularly powerful way to diagnose the emergence and development of European exceptionalism. The material practices of incorporating objects into collections claiming to cover “the world”, the classifications and categories that exhibited those objects as either exotic (the ‘other’), ancestral (the ‘self’), or universal (the ‘high’), and the decentering of such universal claims by relocating museum institutions and their associated disciplines in the global East and South, provide a particularly powerful set of questions with which to historically rethink the global position of European civilization today.

We propose to depart from practices of incorporating the exotic because through its classification, ‘Europe’ constituted itself as an interior space from which an ‘outside’ could be collected and measured – which at the same time declared ‘Europe’ to be a space insufficient by itself. Moreover, the global distinctions of spaces of the self and of the other were never simply given: they emerged, in the case of collections, from the criterion of ‘wonder’ that made Europeans include ‘curiosities’ into Wunderkammer, and that themselves played a role in alienating scientific discipline from the scholastic dominance of Christendom (Daston 1994).

If we can indeed say that the European exotic culminated in the late nineteenth-century practice of ethnographic exhibitions of live human beings, and later in the institution of the ethnographic museum (whose global future is so hotly debated today), this historical process of differentiating out the ethnographic exhibition also shows that the global perspective from which we want to approach the European exotic needs to contrast it to two other dimensions of collecting and exhibiting: the universal and the ancestral. The universal object is one that identifies European “high” culture, whether in the form of “objective” science or individualized “art”. The process of progressively differentiating museum institutions from the curiosity cabinet and the universal survey museum into specialized science and art museums on the one hand, and ethnographic exhibitions on the other, serves to diagnose how the exotic was contrasted to the universal, and how such distinctions are newly materialized today in new museums in the global East and South. However, the “high culture” of scientific exhibitions and art museums – that often sought its European ancestry in ancient Greece and Rome - was also contrasted to the “low” culture of the folkloristic, the primitive and the popular. To the extent that “low culture” was not exoticized as ‘other’ (or ‘primitive’, or ‘savage’), it served to define more particular, and usually collective, ancestral dimensions by differentiating emerging conceptions of nationality (in, for example, historical museums) from subnational ones (in terms of collecting and exhibiting folklore, ethnicity or indigeneity). All these dimensions - exotic, universal and ancestral - could be brought together in the ritual space of the festival that, from 1851 onwards, most explicitly celebrated European exceptionalism: the “World Exposition” – a festival whose export to the rest of the world raises once more the question how the particular place of hosting a World Expo transforms the perception of its exotic, universal and ancestral ingredients.

The contrast of the exotic with the universal and the ancestral, however, also points to the crucial role that temporal distinctions of objects play in classifying European civilization as exceptional. The dominant entrance criterion of objects for early modern collections of curiosities or rarities – “wonder” – was not by definition temporal, and when Sir Thomas Browne pioneered the concepts of archaeological excavation and its accompanying differentiation of epochs in his Hydrotaphia of 1658, his categorization of “America” as both a “rarity” and a “great Antiquity” that “lay buried for thousands of years” (Browne 1977: 267) fails to differentiate spatial and temporal criteria of discovery that, to us, have become self-evident. The marking of ‘Europe’ as occupying another, and an exceptional, temporal epoch of modernity was something that could only appear as Europeans marginalized Christian prophecy in favor of conceptions of political prognosis and civilizational progress, yet our most authoritative account of these processes of claiming “the future” from which we can know the traditional past – Reinhard Koselleck’s - fails to systematically note how much this was tied to a consciousness of global timescapes (cf. Koselleck 2004 to Gruzinski 2010). The history of collecting exotic, universal and ancestral objects is crucial for understanding the unfolding of this temporal self-consciousness because it raises the question how objects differed when classified in the context of what Michel Foucault identified as three successive and discontinuous epistemic regimes: the “emblematic” world of rarities and curiosities, that gave way to a taxonomic regime during the Enlightenment, that in itself was displaced by an ordering in terms of origins and series in the nineteenth century, when our current model of the museum emerged (Foucault 1973). Critically rethinking Foucault's perspective through empirical histories of collecting and exhibiting, we propose that the conference should focus on the role of global collecting and exhibiting in the emergence of what we can call, after Michel-Rolph Trouillot, “Atlantic Universals” (Trouillot 2003) – the successive definitions of European exceptionalism in terms of Roman Christianity, the traders and settlers of Enlightenment Protestantism, and Victorian secular thought.

The conference therefore should bring together scholars whose expertise can cover the history of collections and exhibitions from early modern times onwards (but who are prepared to move the history of museums out of its confinement to European exemplars), the history of the global criteria by which the exotic, universal and ancestral objects were defined as worthy of being collected and exhibited (but including the global field expeditions by which they were brought “from the outside in”), and the ways in which such institutions, discourses and practices have been reinvented now that museums and exhibitions have become globally valued in the global East and South, often by accepting their claim to universality and without questioning their European ancestry. Its focus on the exotic places the process of differentiating out types of museums, the ethnographic the exhibition foremost, at the center of attention, but also acknowledges that the future of the ethnographic museum is often in doubt, and that its present-day fate can only be understood when contrasted to the assumptions used when setting up other, universal and ancestral, collections and exhibits – not least, the exhibits that raise the question whether present-day remains of the Victorian natural history museum (such as the Royal Africa Museum at Tervuren, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, or the Field Museum in Chicago) should themselves be turned into nostalgic exhibits with heritage value. The temporalities that shaped exhibitions that once declared Europe to be in an exceptionally advanced time and place, have now accumulated into a complex, contested and contradictory assemblage of objects, the assumptions of which need to be historically interrogated in a far more interdisciplinary fashion than before.

The conference, bringing together some 15 speakers and a number of discussants, will take place in October 2015 at University College London. It aims to start a series of discussion in order to continue them in a consortium that may apply for ERC funding.

Research Group
Prof. Peter Pels (Universiteit Leiden)
Prof. Pieter ter Keurs (Universiteit Leiden/Museum of Antiquities)
Prof. Michael Rowlands (University College London)
Prof. Oscar Salemink (University of Copenhagen)
Prof. Caroline van Eck (Universiteit Leiden)
Dr. Mariana Francozo (Universiteit Leiden
Dr. Wayne Modest (RCMC)
Dr. Martijn de Rooij (Heidelberg)

Last Modified: 12-10-2015