AALS Lecture "Criminal against Humanity" April 4

Lecture by Prof. Ram Natarajan, April 4th, 2019 | 15.30-17.00

Criminal against Humanity

Juan is a former captain with the Argentine armed forces. After the Argentine state government repealed the country’s amnesty laws, he stood trial for abuses committed during the last military dictatorship, and weaponized his body as a means of defense. Scholars have emphasized that individuals who commit violence subsequently experience haunting, post-traumatic stress disorder, or problems of remorse and conscience. I show how these concepts fail to capture the critical nuances of how officers live with the consequences of their complicity in brutalities not only psychologically, but in their social worlds—their daily relationships with family members, colleagues, and government employees, and their narrative nostalgia for discourses that depicted them as heroes, and a past that never was.

Ram Natarajan is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas and a visiting fellow at Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, main building, room HG 02A-24, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam

AAls 4 april

Branching into Heritage - The Genesis of the Anne Frank Tree and its Multiplications

This presentation traces the genesis and movements of the so-called Anne Frank Tree, the horse chestnut tree that stood in a garden behind the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family were hiding during WO II.  The tree’s inconspicuous presence became charged with symbolic meaning because Anne Frank mentions it in her diary. As a local instance of the social memory of the Holocaust, the decay of the tree in its latter days became a matter of local and international concern. Since its fall in 2010, the tree lives on as cultural heritage in a multiplicity of forms and places as wood, chestnuts, seedlings, and saplings, as well as a new sprout on the remaining stump. Maybe contrary to expectation, this raises the question: what to do with that stuff? Understanding assigning the quality of “heritage” as a form of sacralization, I will show how the material of the Anne Frank Tree, although rare and desirable, also could become a sacred surplus, or even excess, i.e. sacred waste. Moral restrictions hamper many forms of transfer as well as the destruction of this sacred material. Anne Frank Tree material, therefore, is precarious matter, acting and inflicting on the lives of the people involved in unexpected ways. 

Afbeelding Anne Frank tree


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.


Conferentie 'Making Islam work in the Netherlands'

Ter afsluiting van het NWO onderzoeksproject (Making Islam Work in the Netherlands ) wordt er op donderdag 24 januari 2019 een afsluitend congres georganiseerd in Amsterdam (Vrije Universiteit) rond het thema ‘de toekomst van islamitisch gezag’. Het belangrijkste doel van het onderzoeksproject was een beeld te schetsen en meer inzicht te bieden in hoe islam vorm krijgt in Nederland in alledaagse situaties. Lees verder


Bureau Buitenland

“Twee van onze collega’s zijn afgelopen weken uitgebreid geïnterviewd door het VPRO-radioprogramma “Bureau Buitenland”. U kunt Marjo de Theije, over kleinschalige goudmijnbouw in Suriname, horen op Zomergast met Marjo de Theije, en een interview met Marina de Regt over de situatie in Jemen. 


Marie Curie ITN Proposal has been awarded

The Marie Curie ITN proposal ‘Mediating Islam in the Digital Age’ (MIDA) has been awarded. 

An international consortium of research institutes, universities and non-academic partners in six European countries has been awarded with a research grant from the Department for Research and Innovation of the European Commission in June 2018. MIDA is coordinated by the ‘Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique’ (CNRS) in Paris. The consortium includes twelve beneficiaries and thirteen partner organisations. The Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the VU, Amsterdam is one of them.

The MIDA-project rests on the premise that digitisation and technological innovation do have a tremendous impact on Islam, the effects of which are diverse and ubiquitous, and they are reminiscent of technical revolutions in the past such as print technology. The rapid changes that are already occurring are generating a sense of loss of control and instability among the general public, politicians, journalists, academics, and, not least, among Muslims themselves. The spread of modern digital media and new technologies of communication, production and dissemination, prompts researchers and social actors, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to make sense of and understand these developments.

MIDA assesses these developments in all their dimensions by formulating three major questions: How does digitisation (1) shape Islam (i.e. beliefs, practices, societies, political organizations, social institutions, and outlooks); (2) modify the relations Muslims have with their past; (3) modify and reorganize scholarship and research on Islam?

Additional information can be obtained by contacting: Prof. Dr. Thijl Sunier:

More information



“It is of course our pleasure to once again announce that both our Bachelor and our Master program came out the annual NSE-2018-survey as best programs in the land in Social and Cultural Anthropology.

We thank all our colleagues for the hard (and good!) work, and all the students that took the trouble to fill out the survey, and assess the quality of our teaching program.

Annual teaching prizes

On Friday June 22nd, the Faculty of Social Sciences announced the winners of the annual teaching prizes. Like every year, there is one StudenTalent prize, one Junior Teacher prize, and one Senior Teacher Prize, also known as the Frank van der Duijn Schouten prize.

Our Department is very happy to announce that we won both the StudenTalent prize (Koen Donatz; big congratulations!), and the Frank van der Duijn Schouten prize (Ellen Bal; also big congratulations!). Once again, we are a happy and proud Department!


Thesis Prize 2018

The dissertation (Les traits des esclaves néerlandaise et française á Madagascar aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siègles) of our PhD-graduate Rafael Thiebaut (he graduated both at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the VU in November 2017) has won the Thesis Prize 2018 of the French Comité national pour la mémoire et l’histoire de l’esclavage - Rafael will be awarded the prize on May 23rd. Our congratulations to him!

Norface success

The ST-ASGM proposal that colleague Marjo de Theije developed with colleagues from Reading, São Paulo, Campinas, Hamburg, Uppsala, Ouagadougou and Leiden was awarded with 1,5 million euro by the Norface–Belmont program "Transformations to sustainability". Part of the project is bringing the experience of GOMIAM (a big project Marjo directed in earlier years) to two regions in Africa. This grant makes it possible for her to work 3 more years with small scale gold miners in the Amazon and beyond.

For more info, see:


NALACS Thesis Award 2016/2017

"We are happy to announce that our former master student Ola Plonska, with a master thesis characterized by "her innovative research approach on communal gardens in Havana" (as the jury writes)) was winner of the prestigious NALACS Thesis Award 2016/2017. The title of Ola's  thesis is: "This Garden Is Who I Am: How Urban Gardeners in Havana Experience their Relationship With the State, Their Gardens and Moments of Freedom". NALACS is the Netherlands Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Ola received her prize during the award ceremony on 5 April in CREA, Amsterdam. The jury consisted of Flavio Eiró, Jaime Hoogesteger and last years winner Linda de Geus. We congratulate Ola, of course!"


Erasmianum award of KNAW

With enormous pleasure SCA announces that our promovenda Maaike Matelski has won one of the very prestigious Preamium Erasmianum awards of KNAW. On September 19th, 2016, she defended her dissertation Constructing civil society in Myanmar: Struggles for local change and global recognition. All the praise of that day turned out to have been justified; the award is for “een proefschrift ….van bijzonder hoge kwaliteit” (a dissertation of exceptional high quality).We congratulate Maaike, her (co-)supervisors Professor Henk Schulte Nordholt and Doctor Freek Colombijn, and are proud to have been the Department where Maaike completed her project!


Inaugurale rede Fridus Steijlen

Op vrijdag 9 februari sprak bijzonder hoogleraar Fridus Steijlen zijn inaugurale rede uit. Dat ging bepaald niet onopgemerkt voorbij, het werd een ware happening. Voor een verslag, foto's en de tekst van de rede verwijzen wij graag naar de meest recente nieuwsbrief van de Stichting Moluks Historisch Museum, waar dit alles te vinden is.


'Homogenizing Political Logic' by Pamungkas A. Dewanto (Yudha)

Interview Jesse Jonkman

Our PhD-candidate Jesse Jonkman recently returned from fieldwork, on small scale gold mining in Colombia. He did an interview on his experiences with Bureau Buitenland (VPRO). For those interested, you can access the interview (in Dutch) below:” "



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.


14 december 2017

De Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen heeft de dissertatie van Maaike Matelski voorgedragen voor de dissertatieprijs van Stichting Praemium Erasminianum. Haar dissertatie is getiteld Constructing civil society in Myanmar: Struggles for local change and global recognition en werd door haar verdedigd op 19 september 2016.



De slag om de voertaal

De VU wil meer buitenlandse studenten trekken. Daarom moeten er Engelstalige bacheloropleidingen komen. Over de voor- en nadelen zijn de meningen verdeeld, zo ook bij de faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen.
Sommige bacheloropleidingen willen overstappen op het Engels, anderen willen per se Nederlandstalig blijven. Dit hangt ook af van de vraagstukken per afdeling. 

Our Head of Departmemt was interviewed, in Ad Valvas, on the discussion about English bachelors at the VU and the Faculty of Social Sciences. See Advalvas from December 6, page 16.

Voor meer info, zie Advalvas van 6 december Jaargang 65, pagina 16!


Essay Film

Mattijs van de Port's essay film "The Possibility of Spirits" was awarded the Samodiva Award for "Best Film of the International Filmfestival of Ethnographic Films 2017" in Sofia, Bulgaria. The film, based on his research on the Candomblé religion in Brazil, was also selected for festivals in Amsterdam, Paris, Tartu, Ljubljana, Athens, Bristol and Aarhus.

The Possibility of Spirits

Antropologie studeren?

Voor wie op de laatste bachelordag was en het nog eens wil nalezen, of voor wie sowieso iets wil weten over onze opleiding culturele antropologie, klik hier voor de presentatie.

06-09 Irene Stengs benoemd tot bijzonder hoogleraar Antropologie

Irene Stengs is per 1 september benoemd als bijzonder hoogleraar Antropologie van ritueel en populaire cultuur aan de faculteit Sociale wetenschappen. Stengs is sinds 2002 verbonden aan het Meertens Instituut, in de laatste jaren als senior-onderzoeker en voorzitter van de Onderzoeksraad.

Lees verder....

25-07 Fridus Steijlen benoemd tot bijzonder hoogleraar Molukse Migratie en Cultuur

Fridus Steijlen is per 1 juni benoemd tot bijzonder hoogleraar Molukse Migratie en Cultuur in Comparatief Perspectief aan de Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen, ingesteld vanwege de stichting Moluks Historisch Museum. Tot op heden deed hij onderzoek naar, onder andere, de Molukse geschiedenis, Indische organisaties, de dekolonisatie en het dagelijkse leven in contemporain Indonesië aan het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde.

Lees verder....

Marina de Regt was awarded an 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.

VU Amsterdam has best bachelor anthropology according to NSE

Just like former years Anthropology VU Amsterdam scored very well in this year's NSE (Nationale Studentenenquete) survey. Our bachelor is the number one bachelor in anthropology in the Netherlands and our master is second. We also are the number one bachelor in our Faculty and the second best bachelor of our whole university. You can see the results for yourself on the NSE website.

Topbanner Standplaats Wereld
De weblog Standplaats Wereld wordt bijgehouden door medewerkers en (oud)studenten van de afdeling Sociale en Culturele Antropologie van de Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Dit weblog is een podium voor informatieve, prikkelende en verrassende reflecties op de actualiteit in Nederland en de wereld.