Public lecture Development Expatriates: International Community at Work in Tbilisi and Nairobi

The Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology presents the first lecture in the Amsterdam Anthropology Lecture Series. The theme of this year is Current Issues in Anthropology.

Bengt Karlsson will talk about Development Expatriates: International Community at Work in Tbilisi and Nairobi.”

Date: 26 November

Time: 15.30-17.00

Place: MF A 311, (Medical Faculty), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

International aid is commonly criticized for being ineffective or that it reproduces power structures and inequalities between the global North and South. People working within the development industry are equally often condemned for being over-paid and having a lavish lifestyle in the midst of poverty. Yet, there are no signs of development being on the retreat. Who are the people populating international aid organizations like the United Nations, state agencies known under acronyms like USAID, DFID and Sida and the numerous non-governmental organizations like Save the Children, Care, Oxfam or Médecins Sans Frontiérs? Who are the development professionals, where are they coming from, what are their aspirations, hopes and dreams, and what do they think about themselves and what they do? A special category of development workers have made international aid their permanent mission in life moving from country to country, staying for longer or shorter times in each place. It is the lives and works of these nomadic professionals – the “development expatriates” - that concerns us here.

Bengt G. Karlsson is professor of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University. His main research interests relate to the larger issue of the society-environment interface, with particular focus on the politics of ethnicity and environment in India. During recent years Karlsson has developed these themes within the framework of political ecology. Presently Karlsson works with two projects, one dealing with development expatriates and another with rural livelihoods, poverty and migration in India.



Bachelor Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology best according to Elsevier

VU Amsterdam's bachelor in Cultural Anthropology and Developmen Sociology occupies the highest rank among other bachelor anthropology studies in the yearly poll on higher education by Elsevier magazine (Dutch content).



Welcome professor Dalakoglou


We warmly and proudly welcome our new Professor Dimitris Dalakoglou! Until 2015, Dimitris worked as a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Sussex University. His research focusses on the anthropology of infrastructures and urban public spaces. Since 2012, he holds an ESRC-Future Research Leadersgrant for the project The City at a time of Crisis.  

For more information about Dimitris Dalakoglou’s projects, publications, the films that he co-produced, his personal interests and activism, see his personal website.



Lecture Thomas Hylland Eriksen recorded


We recorded Thomas Eriksen's seminal lecture: “Boat refugees in the Mediterranean: An anthropological perspective on the global situation”. Eriksen discusses what anthropologists can do about this crisis, in which Europe shelters itself off from the world, as we need to put the humanity of people center stage.


Nominations Faculty Prizes 2015

This year, our student Ike Haasjes was nominated for the Faculty's '" Student talent prize" 2015. The jury praised Ike for the many extracurricular activities she conducts and the business she has put up for coaching and training.

Our lecturer Rhoda Woets was nominated for the "Best junior lecturer'' prize 2015. According to the jury and based on a report by the students from the Education committee, she listens carefully and is able to stir up enthusiasm for doing ethnographic research by telling about her own research in various ways.

We congratulate Ike and Rhoda with their nominations!


New Book on Migrant Domestic Workers in the Middle East

Dr. Marina de Regt has just published an edited volume together with Dr. Bina Fernandez about migrant domestic workers, entitled "Migrant Domestic Workers in the Middle East".

For over half a century, the Middle East - and the Arabian Peninsula in particular - has been major migration corridor for domestic workers from Asia and Africa. Migrant domestic workers comprise a significant proportion of the migrant labour force in these countries, in some cases, nearly fifty per cent. This volume goes beyond a discussion of the working conditions of migrant domestic workers to show the multidimensionality of their lives in the Middle East. The chapters illustrate these women's varied processes of "making a home in the world," the existential transformations they undergo, and the multiple ways in which they are able to exert agency, despite the constrained choices they are often forced to make. Contributors show how the spaces these women occupy disrupt and challenge given notions of the public-private divide, re-working them as spaces of encounter and of relationships of belonging, spiritual connection, friendship, conviviality, and sociality. This volume presents a vibrant portrait of migrant domestic workers in the Middle East as more than passive victims of abuse and exploitation, showing how they (like people everywhere) are actively engaged in finding a balance between acting and being acted upon, between struggle and accommodation, closure and openness, and movement and stasis.

Published by Palgrave Connect, for more information, click here.


New Book by Thijl Sunier and Nico Landman


A new book by "our" Professor Thijl Sunier together with professor Nico Landman (UU), has just been published. The book, entitled "Transnational Turkish Islam" provides a state of the art portrait of the Turkish Islamic infrastructure in seven European countries. The book analyses how the Turkish Islamic organizational landscape has developed over the course of time against the background of three major changes: the transformation of Turkish Muslims from migrants to permanent residents in Europe, the rooting of Islam in Europe, and the societal and political changes in Turkey in the past decades. These changes impact the way Turkish Muslims organize locally, nationally and transnationally. Turkish Islamic organizations today act not just on a national level, but are embedded in a transnational field. The authors take critical issue with the assumption that Islam in Europe should be cut off from its roots and forced into a national model. They argue that maintaining transnational networks is not in contradiction with rooting in the local society.

For more information, see the site of publisher Palgrave Macmillan.


Emmaly Berghuis receives Unilever research prize for her master thesis


Emmaly with her supervisors, Edien Bartels and Ina Keuper, © Nanning Barendsz.


On 27 november 2014, Emmaly Berghuis received the Unilever research prize for her master research on chronic pain among Moroccan women in the Netherlands.

We congratulate Emmaly with this important prize!

See Emmaly Berghuis' article on her research and the research prize on our departmental blog Standplaatswereld (in Dutch).


Nomination MA thesis Moos Pozzo


Moos Pozzo. Picture: Mary Kouwenhoven photography.


We are proud to let you know that the master thesis of Moos Pozzo titled "Not All Fingers are Similar: Rights, Access and Participation of Asylum Seeking Youth (aged 12-23) in the Netherlands" has been nominated for the Jaap Doek Children Rights Prize

The winner will be announced during a festive ceremony on Thursday 11 December (15.00-16.30) at the Sterrewacht (room C1.02) in Leiden.


The Anthropology of Children and Youth Network celebrates its 5-year anniversary


The Anthropology of Children and Youth Network , based at VU University, Amsterdam, celebrated its 5-year anniversary during the 16 June seminar. The Networks brings together academics and practitioners engaged in research and work with children and youth. An official Network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) since March 2012, it organises monthly seminars that promote child- and youth-oriented theory, methodology, and research ethics. Besides, it serves as a platform for (interdisciplinary) academic research and enhances dialogue with practitioners through joint research projects, publications and conferences. The Network is chaired by Dr Sandra J.T.M. Evers and the seminars are hosted by the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology (VU University Amsterdam)

At the celebratory meeting of 16 June the Network launched the special issue of the European Journal of Development Research (issue 26.2 April 2014) - Guest editors: Sandra J.T.M. Evers, Shanti George, Roy Gigengack, Roy Huijsmans. The title of this special issue is "Generationing" development: situating children and youth in development processes.



The Latin American Studies Programme (LASP) has received a grant

The Latin American Studies Programme (LASP), which is coordinated by CEDLA, has received a grant of 850.000€ from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). LASP is an interuniversity graduate programme dedicated to research and graduate education on Latin America. The common research aim of LASP is to understand and explain the key social, political, cultural and economic transformations in this region in the context of global developments. LASP applies a comprehensive and integrated approach that combines a range of theories and methods from the social sciences and the human

LASP is the platform for collaboration of researchers from five academic institutions:
1) Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA);
2) Department of Cultural Anthropology of Utrecht University;
3) Programme Group Governance for Inclusive Development of the University of Amsterdam;
4) Department of Latin American Studies of Leiden University, and
5) Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of VU University Amsterdam.

The finances received from NWO are meant for the expansion of this interuniversitary collaboration. It will allow LASP to finance PhD projects of four of its most promising students.


Sandra Evers best lecturer of the Faculty of Social Sciences


We proudly congratulate Sandra Evers who has been awarded the prize for best lecturer of the Faculty of Social Sciences by the student board of the faculty.

On Wednesday 11 June, Sandra Evers received the price amid cheering. The student board sang praise of Evers' enthusiasm, open attitude and trust in her students.

As FSW's best lecturer, Sandra Evers is nominated for the VU University Education price which will be awarded during the opening of the academic year on Monday 1 September.


Keetje Hodshon Prize

Prestigious Keetje Hodshon Prize for VU Anthropologist

The Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities has awarded Dr Marleen de Witte, post-doc with the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, VU, the Keetje Hodshon Prize 2012. Dr De Witte receives the prize for her dissertation ‘Spirit Media: Charismatics, Traditionalists and Mediation Practices in Ghana’ (2008, University of Amsterdam, cum laude) and her other publications.

De Witte conducted research in Ghana, where she explored the generation, spread, and adoption of new, mass-mediated forms of religion in the public sphere. She compared the use of mass media by a charismatic-Pentecostal mega-church and an African traditionalist religious movement and through in-depth ethnographic research discovered that both religions are much closer entangled than their media expressions might suggest at first sight.

The Keetje Hodshon Prize is established by the J.C. Ruigrok Foundation in Haarlem as a stimulation prize for excellent young researchers who have done original research in the humanities. Once every four years the prize is awarded in the field of philosophy/theology. De Witte will receive the prize, a medal and € 12.000, during a ceremony in Haarlem on June 14.


Master thesis Anna-Riikka Kaupinnen nominated

The Master thesis of Anna-Riikka Kaupinnen has been nominated for the Africa Thesis Award 2011 organized by the African Studies Centre, Leiden, and ended up among the top three nominations.

Anna-Riikka graduated cum laude at the VU department of Social and Cultural Anthropology in 2010. Her thesis, titled ‘Faces that change. Doing ‘African Beauty’ at Home, in Salons and on Stage in Accra, Ghana’ analyzes the practices and ideologies of ‘African’ beauty in three arenas: the home setting, beauty salons, and a televised beauty contest. Her account offers a fascinating view of the different trajectories through which people in Africa relate to modern changes through their beauty practices as well as their reflections on beauty and appearance. She provides highly original insights into ‘doing beauty’ in Ghana, bringing out the intersections and tensions between everyday beauty practices and ideological projects of ‘Africanizing’ beauty. She places her analysis in a broad theoretical framework that shows how and why beauty is central to the formation of personal and collective identities.


Short-listed thesis

Short-listed master thesis Diana Iftodi 

The thesis of our 2010-2011 masterstudent Diana Iftodi (from Rumania) has been shortlisted for the 2011 thesis-award from the Netherlands Association  of Latin American and Caribbean Studies (NALACS). The thesis was titled ‘Orgullo Potosíno’ - Awakening regionalism: explaining record mobilizations during popular protests in Potosí, Bolivia, 2010.

She did, eventually, not win the award, but her thesis, on the massive protests in the Bolivian city of Potosí of 2010, was praised by the jury for its excellent quality. The report highlighted the analytical sophistication of the text, in which Diana avoided simple schemes on mobilization and the underlying, one-dimensional identities and interests. Instead, a unique combination of motives like “solidarity, community, dignity and unity”, triggered by the current progressive government in Bolivia itself, seems to have prompted the huge participation in and appeal of the protests.

The jury-report adds that “During the discussions we had as a jury, this specific thesis triggered a much wider discussion on contemporary politics, protests and society in Bolivia. This already indicates the rich ‘food for thought’ this thesis brings to us as readers. This is one of the reasons why we agreed that this thesis should be part of the top 3 selection. Diana has written a rich story, and has succeeded in telling the story of the people in Potosí during the 2010 demonstrations, as she has set out to do in the beginning of her research project. This deserves an applause!”

The Department obviously congratulates Diana with this result – and with the thesis!


PhD Thesis Miranda Klaver

The thesis of Klaver (with distinction) addresses the remarkable success of Dutch evangelical and Pentecostal churches against the backdrop of the widespread decline of ‘traditional’, mainstream churches.

In her study Klaver argues that people rediscover the Christian tradition through active participation in religious practices like contemporary worship music, the Alpha course and rituals like baptism by immersion. Theoretically, the thesis offers a new and innovative approach in the study of religion by stressing the importance of affects, emotions and the body. The media attention shows the relevance of this study for both policymakers and religious institutions who are engaged in the future of religion and Christianity in The Netherlands.

The PhD thesis is nominated for the junior Societal Impact Award on behalf of the faculty of Social Sciences and ended up with the top three nominations of the VU university. At 20th of October the winner will be announced during the Dies Natalis. 


Where are the alumni Social Sciences working? Read more about it in their stories at this website.


Seminar: Human security in practice

The Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, VU Amsterdam, held farewell lectures by Prof. dr. Oscar Salemink and Prof. dr. James Ferguson, on Friday 24 June 2011.

In January 2011, Oscar Salemink  joined the Department of Anthropology and the Asian Dynamics Initiative, of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. His valedictory lecture at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at VU University is entitled “What is human about security? Reflections on human security as a paradigm for anthropology”. In this lecture, he will argue that valuable paradigms for understanding society, such as human rights and human security, also need to be applied with caution, because of the blindfolds that such frames could impose on.

James Ferguson will also give his final lecture in his capacity of visiting professor to the department. In his lecture “The Sociality of Cash: Money, Markets, and the Mutualities of Poverty” , he will discuss the critics of programs of social assistance in the global South and how access to the cash economy and socialism entail mutually enabling practices in poor people’s livelihoods in southern Africa.

What is human about security

Groepsfoto staf SCA


Price of education 2011

Freek Colombijn has won the price of education in 2011 at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

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