AALS lecture by Joanna Mishtal - 19 September 14.00

AALS lecture | Thursday 19 September from 14.00 till 15.30 |

The Backlash against Gender: From Local Experiences to Transnational Considerations by Joanna Mishtal 

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, main building, room HG 07 A 32, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam

Title: The Backlash against Gender: From Local Experiences to Transnational Considerations.


In this lecture I will draw on my anthropological research in Europe carried out since 2001. Specifically, I aim to focus on how campaigns framing gender as dangerous are both local and global strategies broadly aimed against a range of human rights related to race, gender, sexuality, and other social justice issues. I consider how backlash against “gender” manifests in contexts with historically close church-state relations, and increasingly neoliberal states. The presentation draws on two streams of research in Europe: my analysis of abortion politics in Poland, Ireland, and recently Malta, and an analysis of infertility politics based on research conducted on access to Assisted Reproductive Technologies in Poland. Both streams of inquiry engage with larger questions of reproductive justice and gender governance– the ways in which health policies that differentially impact women are shaped by states’ agendas and their relationships to religious institutions and business interests. My analysis will also consider the extent to which these strategies are derived from or build on statements and dictates generated by the Vatican, and how this larger historical context illuminates opposition to reproductive rights across different contexts. Thus, the anti-gender opposition will be explored as both transnational and local campaigns, and as shared across geopolitical settings. Overall, I raise questions about the social, political, and ethical implications of these campaigns, and ways of thinking about our own potential interventions as scholars and educators, as well as our engagement with the public debates.


Joanna Mishtal is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Central Florida, Department of Anthropology. She received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology (2006) from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and held the Ellertson Postdoctoral Fellowship in public health at Columbia University (2006-2008). Her research interests focus on health and gender governance, reproductive rights and policies, and democratization, with the geographic focus on Europe and EU governance. Her significant publications include The Politics of Morality: The Church, the State and Reproductive Rights in Postsocialist Poland (Ohio Uni. Press 2015); A Fragmented Landscape: Abortion Governance and Protest Logics in Europe (with S. De Zordo and L. Anton, eds., Berghahn Books 2015); and sponsored by the Brocher Foundation Special Issue of Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Journal, “Between Policy and Practice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Equitable Access to Health Care” – (with M. Radkowska-Walkowicz, eds., 2016). Her work has been funded by the Fulbright Fellowship, European Research Council, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, among others.


Ellen Bal was awarded the Van der Duijn Schouten Onderwijsprijs

On 25 January 2019 Ellen Bal was awarded the Van der Duijn Schouten Onderwijsprijs, the award for the best senior teacher and education manager of the whole Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The Department is very proud of her success and is happy to have such competent teaching staff, from which both Bachelor and Master students can profit.



On January 12, the annual Faculty New Years-Drinks, combined with the also annual Talma-lecture, took place.  Different Departments of the Faculty rotate in delivering this lecture. This year our Department had its turn, and our colleague Marina de Regt was in charge. She delivered a beautiful and captivating talk on recent developments in Yemen, and addressed the predicaments of doing research (especially ethnographic research)  in warm-torn areas. Visiting the region is impossible, only through archives, or through the continuous and often heartbreaking messages and accounts of local friends and colleagues can one still obtain insights in the events in such a perturbed country. Her talk was very well received. We as a Department are proud of her.

Not less worth mentioning was that our former master student Jochem Kootstra was (ex aequo) awarded with the FSS annual thesis prize. Yet another reason to be gratified!


Marina de Regt was awarded a NWO/WOTRO research grant

Marina de Regt has been awarded a research grant from NWO/WOTRO for the project “Syrian Refugee Youth in Jordan: Early Marriages in Perspective”. The research will be carried out in cooperation with Yarmouk University, Caritas Jordan and the NGO Ahel Al-Jabal, all located in Jordan. The research is part of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) research projects in Jordan.


Workshop: Framing Jews and Muslims in Public Debate and Political Theory Today

This is the closing workshop for the NWO-funded project Critique of religion and the framing of Jews and Muslims in Public Debate and Political Theory Today (2013-2018) in which we try to understand recent controversies concerning Jewish and Muslim religious practices in Europe in the light of the broader history of framing Jews and Muslims in the European context. These controversies are usually framed in terms of shifting relations between secular cultures and (orthodox) religion, both in public and in academic debates about them. The central research question of our research project is how such framing is related to how Jews and Muslims have been historically, and still remain, the objects of cultural stereotyping, racialisation and discrimination.

During this workshop, we want to pick up on the central questions that have occupied us throughout the project, and that have become more salient in the course of the last years, with the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, on Jewish persons and locations, the killings on November 23 2015 in Paris, the increase of both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism/Islamophobia and the securitization of religion, Islam in particular. Please feel welcome and register via

It is from 21-24 June, download the programme here.


The NWO-research group ‘Critique of Religion; Framing Jews and Muslims in political theory and public debate’:

Yolande Jansen (University of Amsterdam and VU Amsterdam); Thijl Sunier (VU Amsterdam); Matthea Westerduin (VU Amsterdam); Anna Blijdenstein (University of Amsterdam)


Dimitris Dalakoglou of VU Anthropology was awarded a VIDI grant for INFRA-DEMOS

Dimitris VIDI research grantProf. Dimitris Dalakoglou, who holds the Chair in Social Anthropology at our department was just awarded a VIDI Innovative Research Grant  from the Dutch Organization of Scientific Research (NWO) for his project INFRA-DEMOS: Socio-Technological Innovation, Infrastructural Participation and Democracy.

Infra-Demos is an anthropological project that will study the relationships between infrastructures and innovative socio-technological forms of participation arising within the infrastructural gap (IG). Using traditional and digital ethnography, but also quantitative methods, Infra-Demos will ethnographically be located in Greece, which is in the centre of the current Euro-crisis, giving rise to novel and innovative forms of civil activity focused on IG. The application of self-management and peer-to-peer practices—inspired by the commons and economic solidarity—and by using digital and other technological innovations, allow new crisis-resilient socio-technological systems to emerge, independent from the State and capitalist market institutions operating on a new sphere of social activity.

Dimitris Dalakoglou started studying infrastructures ethnographically in 2004, in the form of cross-border motorways and energy infrastructures in the Balkans. His PhD titled ‘An Anthropology of the Road’ was awarded in 2009 from UCL. Whilst his Inaugural Professorial Lecture in 2016 at VU was titled 'Anthropology and Infrastructures: From the State to the Commons’.

VIDI is the leading national grant for research innovation, it is awarded once a year from NWO to the best research proposals submitted with 40% of the assessment based on the past performance of the candidate, another 40% is based on the quality of the research proposal and 20% for the practical utilization of the project.

Dimitris’ Academia page with all his publications is available here.


Newspaper Article by Promovendus

Pamungkas A. Dewanto, a promovendus of the department, recently published an article in one of Indonesia's biggest newspapers: Kompas. The article includes a brief overview of the current situation of Indonesian migrants in Saudi Arabia focussing on the new migration channel of Indonesian domestic workers after the government formally stopped sending migrants to the Middle East. In the article, he urged both governments to discuss the safety issues of Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia. If you happen to read Bahasa Indonesian: here's the article.


We are looking for talented and motivated students who want to participate in the PEOPLE project as part of their Master's trajectory. Students will write their Master's thesis on the basis of assigned research and will be jointly supervised by academic staff from the VU and a mentor from Dutch project partner, Alliander.

In the PEOPLE-project universities and research institutes collaborate with industry partners in the sectors of energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

PEOPLE project

For more information, please contact Giulia Sinatti:


Rethinking Indonesia's 'Islam Nusantara': From Local Relevance to Global Significance

Islam Nusantara

Schedule of the Conference.


Maaike Matelski wins Faculty PhD Dissertation Award

Maaike Matelski was granted the FSW PhD Dissertation Award for her thesis Constructing Civil Society in Myanmar Struggles for Local Change and Global Recognition. Jury chair Thijl Sunier:  “Maaike Matelski’s work on the development of civil society in Myanmar has theoretical as well as very practical value. She managed to obtain an in-depth understanding of what is going on in this complex and interesting country. Her findings can be generalized to other, similar complex but very different countries in conflict.”

This year's award celebration was unique because there were two winners. The other winning candidate was Jeroen Wolbers from Organization Sciences with his thesis Drawing the line: Cross-boundary coordination processes in emergency management


VU Amsterdam Ethnographic Film Day

AEFDlogoOn the 7th of December the department hosted the second Amsterdam Ethnographic Film Day. It was a day of interesting discussions elicited by the screening of four films which represented four different takes on film in ethnography. It attracted a large audience consisting of students, film-makers and ethnographers. 

The first film was the documentary ‘Inside the Mind of Favela Funk’ by Elise Roodenburg and Fleur Beemster. It is based on the research they did in the Favela’s of Rio de Janeiro and inspired by their desire to share this research with a wide audience. The result was an attractive film of high quality which did well in international film festivals. 

Afterwards we saw ‘Love Home’ by Sanderien Verstappen and Willy Sier. Our film day was the debut of this film which was made in order to capture part of the research that Willy Sier conducted in China on camera. In addition, the film was an unexpected research instrument because the makers came to new insights by watching the footage of their informants countless times in the process of making the film. 

The next film was a webdocumentary called ‘Demal te Niew (Go and Come Back)’ by Marcella Pasotti, Viola Bachini and Silvia Lami, advised by Giulia Sinatti. The makers guided us through the interactive interface of the web documentary (which will be released on 16 December) which allows users to access film, pictures and infographics about Senegalese return migrants. Mattijs van de Port argued that this might be the future of ethnography in which film, text and infographics can be accessed on a single web platform. 

The last film was ‘The Possibility of Spirits’ by Mattijs van de Port. This film represented another take on film in ethnography in which film is used in order to complement text in ethnographic representations.

For the full programme and the synopses of the films: click here.


New project funded and about to start!

The Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the Vrije Universiteit receives European Commission funding (Erasmus Plus scheme) for the collaborative project: 'PEOple-centred development approaches in Practical and Learning Environments (PEOPLE)'

PEOPLE is a 3-year project bringing together Higher Education Institutions in the social sciences and industries from the sustainable energy sector to engage in joint research, teaching and learning. The project will develop and implement People-centred Learning Cycles, in which students, academic staff and industry professionals jointly solve real-life business challenges. In the Netherlands, the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology will collaborate closely with the Dutch energy grid operator Alliander. Academic and industry partners in the Czech republic, Slovenia and the UK participate in the project Consortium.


Elsevier Beste Studies Gids

Our Bachelor programme Culturele Antropologie en Ontwikkelingssociologie has earned first place among anthropology degrees in the annual ranking carried out by Elsevier. Our Master was awarded a good second place in the ranking. In both cases students highly valued the content of the programme and the quality of the teaching staff.


Inaugural lecture professor Dalakoglou

Inaugural Lecture Dalakoglou

On monday the 13th of June Dr Dimitris Dalakoglou gave his inaugural lecture entitled Anthropology and Infrastructures: From the State to the Commons. He thereby accepted the chair in Social Anthropology of the department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit. The department would like to congratulate Dimitris Dalakoglou with his new chair! 


Good results on the national student survey

Our Master ended up on the top of the list in the national student survey! We scored high on theoretical content and acquired skills and improved greatly on preparing the students for the job market. Check out the results here! Our Bachelor programme also ended up high on the list taking up second place. Also, have a look at the clip of the Master Social and Cultural Anthropology: