Perspectives on the world 2014

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Perspectives on the World Research within the Faculty of Humanities

Discover the world at Leiden University


A word from the Dean ‘Globalisation’ is a much-used term these days, an indication that our world is rapidly becoming smaller and that events and developments elsewhere in the world unavoidably impact our own society and culture. Rather than trying to understand globalisation, there are those in our society who seem to reject the phenomenon, preferring to hide behind our Dutch dikes away from the wicked world. It’s also true that many people fail to recognise the opportunities that globalisation offers. This is why the work of the Leiden Faculty of Humanities is crucial. Through their research, the Faculty’s academics aim to fathom and understand the languages, cultures and societies of all corners of the world. They generate knowledge and insights that benefit businesses, governments and citizens in this globalising world. Not only that, their research also feeds the teaching at our Faculty. Here, too, globalisation is a core concept. Our , students can choose from a diversity of programmes – some focusing on the language, culture and society of a single country, such as the popular Korea Studies, others offering a broader perspective. The latter include Linguistics, History and International Studies, that was launched in  at Leiden’s Campus The Hague. Both research and education make a valuable contribution to understanding the issues surrounding globalisation. There is no discrepancy between the two, as is sometimes suggested. Teaching at our Faculty is done with great commitment and passion, and its distinctiveness is partially due to its basis in the pioneering research carried out by our lecturers. After all, that’s what being a

research-intensive university is all about. Finding the right balance between research and teaching is the key. This brochure provides an insight into some of the research carried out in - at the Faculty of Humanities. You can read about Asghar Seyed-Gohrab’s research on the role of classical Persian poetry in contemporary society, and particularly how it was used in the Iran-Iraq war to motivate young men to join the army. Historian Manon van der Heijden shows that criminality was historically as common among women as among men, and that the current low percentages represent a change in the trend. The results of her research are also an impetus for criminologists to focus attention on the motives and circumstances that cause women to become criminals in presentday society. But it is not only our staff who carry out fascinating research, our students are also inspired researchers. Saskia Boer, for example, analyses new types of war photography, showing how young photographers are looking for new ways to increase public engagement. These examples together give you a good idea of the fascinating and socially relevant research that makes the Leiden Faculty of Humanities an exciting place to be.

Professor Wim van den Doel Dean


Humanities at Leiden University Leiden’s Faculty of Humanities is an international centre for the study of the world’s languages, cultures and nations. The Faculty’s research stretches from prehistoric times to the present day, and takes a broad perspective that encompasses fields as diverse as religion, philosophy, literature, art and technology.

Multidisciplinary collaboration The Faculty of Humanities is home to a wide range of renowned Dutch and international scholars with expertise in a large number of disciplines, together covering nearly all continents and time periods. Many of the Faculty’s programmes are characterised by a multidisciplinary approach, with researchers sharing their knowledge and insights and thus inspiring and strengthening their teaching and research projects. The Faculty’s research activities are currently structured within six institutes: • The Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA) focuses on bringing together art and science • The Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) combines thorough knowledge of language and culture with disciplinary approaches from the humanities, social sciences, law, and, since the establishment of Leiden University Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCSoR) in , religious studies • The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) covers the field of literature and literary studies, the history of art and material culture, and film and new media studies • The Leiden University Institute for History (LUIH) has a broad and wide-reaching academic scope. The Institute has a unique international orientation and focuses on the study of European, American, Asian and African societies in a global context

• The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) brings together all the Faculty’s linguistic research • The Leiden University Institute for Philosophy (LUIPh) studies philosophy in all its facets, in relation to the many disciplines taught at the University The Faculty of Humanities is home to more than , students. In the - academic year, our students will be able to choose from no fewer than  BA and  MA programmes, including research master’s programmes. In , the Faculty’s  staff members were engaged in teaching and research activities based on a turnover of almost  million euros. In the same year, the Faculty awarded PhD degrees to  candidates.

International research In , the Leiden Faculty of Humanities again ranked among the top universities of the world, with particularly high scores for teaching and research. International recognition was also apparent in the many research grants and prizes awarded to our researchers. One example that stood out this year was the European Research Council grant awarded to Professor Remco Breuker (LIAS). He was awarded this grant to study the dispute between the two Koreas and China based on the history of Manchuria. This multidisciplinary project considers how the ancient history of the former Manchuria influences present-day perceptions of identity in Korea and China.


Professor Lisa Cheng (LUCL) received a prestigious five million euro subsidy from the European Commission for her project, Advancing The European Multilingual Experience. This research project combines linguistic, cognitive and sociological perspectives, and studies different forms of multilingualism in Europe. Themes covered include regional and minority languages, heritage languages, and languages spoken by bilingual and multilingual speakers. Cheng and her research team expressly seek to find a new approach to multilingualism. The Fulbright scholarships are awarded each year to a small number of excellent researchers and students. Last year, one of these scholarships was awarded to Sara Polak, PhD researcher and lecturer at LUCAS, for research that she will be carrying out on Franklin D. Roosevelt at Yale University. She aims to show how and why Franklin D. Roosevelt (President of the United States from -) functions as an icon in American cultural memory. Polak hopes through her research to gain a better understanding of how stories – and especially memories – are shaped by and contribute to our perception of who we are. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) each year awards prestigious grants to talented, creative researchers who engage in innovative research: the VENI grants for young researchers, the VIDI grants for researchers who have several years of research experience, and the VICI grants for senior researchers who have developed their own line of research. Last year Leiden faculty staff received  VENIs,  VIDI, and  VICI. For a list of recipients of scientific awards over the years, see

Profile themes In order to facilitate cutting-edge fundamental research at national and international level, Leiden University focuses on six key themes from among eleven multidisciplinary fields of

research. The Faculty of Humanities is engaged in research relating to four of these themes: • Global Interaction of Civilisations and Languages • The Asian Challenge • Health, Life and Biosciences • Law, Democracy and Governance: Legitimacy in a Multilevel Setting


In search of a mysterious author A mysterious text by an unknown author from classical antiquity that has had a great impact on philosophers and artists: this is something that calls for further investigation. Researcher Casper de Jonge (1977) took on the challenge, funded by a VENI grant. He studied On the Sublime and came to a number of conclusions that shed new light on the text. “I hope to have dispelled some of the mystery.” “On the Sublime is a Greek text by an author whom we have called Longinus, but about whom we know nothing. The traditional dating of the text has also been very broad, somewhere between the st century BC and the rd century AD. It is a work that seems at first sight to have simply arisen out of nothing,” says De Jonge.

Rhetoric teaching in Rome. Quintilianus, Institutio oratoria, ed. P. Burman, Leiden .

This is intriguing, especially because with his treatise on the sublime Longinus influenced a great many thinkers and artists, such as the philosophers Kant and Schopenhauer, the painter Caspar David Friedrich and the poet Wordsworth. And modernday art, too, continues to reflect a fascination with the sublime. De Jonge: “The concept of the sublime, ‘hupsos’ in Greek, describes the overwhelming effect of a passage in prose or poetry that enchants the reader or listener. You are, as it were, briefly uplifted.” Longinus describes this effect in his treatise, which also constitutes an anthology of the most beautiful texts from Greek literature. “It includes, for example, a famous poem by Sappho, which has only been preserved thanks to the fact that Longinus cited it.” In his research on ‘The Sublime in context’, De Jonge rejects the traditional image of Longinus as a completely autonomous author, and he argues that On the Sublime is clearly linked to the work of other authors from classical antiquity. With the help of a VENI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), he analysed and compared the treatise primarily with texts by authors from the st century BC. He focused on such authors as Dionysius of Halicarnassus and


Caecilius of Caleacte, who also wrote on the sublime. “It turns out that, just like Longinus, they also link the sublime with a supernatural dimension: inspiration in the writer, ecstasy in the reader, and topics that relate to the divine. In addition, these authors treat themes which we find in Longinus’ work too. One important theme is the interest in style and composition, but also the nostalgic yearning for the classical Athenian culture of the th and th centuries BC.” In this way De Jonge provides a number of arguments to support his claim that Longinus wrote his text at the start of the st century AD. In addition, he shows that the author’s ideology is embedded in the intellectual context of his time. “On the Sublime remains an inspiring text, which is a pleasure to read to this day. It is a compact treatise in a remarkable style: Longinus himself is trying to write in a sublime manner. This makes it anything but a boring handbook.” The text is also still relevant today, emphasises De Jonge. “Why is it that certain poems or texts have the power to move us? Longinus helps us to reflect on this question.”

Ancient Greek literature is studied in the Master’s and Research Master’s in Classics and Ancient Civilisations. These programmes – unique in the Netherlands in their breadth, the periods studied and the multidisciplinary approach – cover the entire range of present-day research on the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome, Egypt and the Near East.

Casper de Jonge

“The concept of the sublime describes the overwhelming effect of a passage in prose or poetry that enchants the reader or listener. You are, as it were, briefly uplifted.”


Revealing the invisible Saskia Boer (1987) completed her BA in Cultural Studies at the University of Nijmegen and subsequently came to Leiden for a Master’s programme in Media Studies. Her specialisation is Film and Photographic Studies, and in her thesis she focuses on new forms of war photography. “I am fascinated by analogue colour infrared photography, which reproduces green colours in nature as red tints on a photograph. This film emulsion was originally developed for military purposes, but it is no longer produced. There is still a small supply of it available, which is being used by photographers such as Richard Mosse. In my thesis I analyse Mosse’s work. He went to Congo to document a long-standing conflict involving a number of rebel factions. Most of the photographs show the rebels posing in a stunning tropical landscape, but due to the use of infrared film, all the green colours come out red. The effect is incredibly beautiful, but also very harsh.

Safe From Harm, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, . Member of Mai Mai Yakutumba posing in a camouflage headdress made from foliage, near Fizi on Lake Tanganyika, South Kivu. © Richard Mosse. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery and Galerie Carlier Gebauer.

“In my thesis, I investigate how Mosse and other photographers manage to record things on film that they would not have been able to record literally. Photography is generally seen as a literal representation of reality, but that is not the case here. The conflict in Congo is played out primarily in the jungle, and so does not fit the traditional image of a war situation, with its bullet holes and destroyed buildings. Mosse wanted to show the hidden history of the conflict; he wanted to reveal the invisible, and he used the properties of infrared film to create a visual metaphor. He also used a heavy, wooden camera with a tripod, which he hauled around through the jungle. This makes him quite the opposite of


the cool war photographer. His work can be qualified as both war photography and art. I see his photographs as an attempt to shake up his viewers; you have no choice but to think about how you relate to these images. “Every day we see so many dreadful depictions of wars and conflicts. As a rule, we don’t really let these images in, partially as a means of self-protection. In my thesis, I investigate how young photographers are practising a new form of photography. They go further than representation alone, and call for greater empathy from the viewer. Before my master’s programme, I completed a photography project on the disintegration of Yugoslavia. As part of the project, I visited the region and tried to photograph the long-term consequences of the war. The combination of photographic theory and practice is what really inspires me.”

Photography is one of the media studied within the Master’s in Media Studies. The four specialisations of the programme consider different forms of analogue and digital media, from literature, film and photography to the new media, and how these interrelate.

Saskia Boer

”In my thesis I investigate how young photographers are practising a new form of photography and how they go further than representation alone.”


Poetry as a political tool What is the significance of classical poetry in this day and age? Senior university lecturer Asghar SeyedGohrab (1968) used his VIDI grant to answer this question in relation to Iran. In this context, he focused primarily on the remarkable role played by Medieval mystical poems in the recent political history of the country. “I have one foot in the Middle Ages, and one foot in the modern day.” “I am a specialist in Medieval Persian literature and culture, and I examine how these concepts, forms and mystical ideas are used in modern-day Iran,” explains Seyed-Gohrab. In the course of his five-year research project, which was recently completed, he and his research team focused on three important periods in recent Iranian history. He showed that during the Constitutional

Revolution (-) poetry was used to introduce Western concepts of democracy. The Islamic Revolution () witnessed the rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeini, who in addition to being a religious and political leader, was also a poet and a mystic. “He used mystical concepts such as that of the ‘perfect man’, meaning someone who has become one with God, to position himself at the head of the regime. In this way, he united society, politics, religion and poetry in a single domain.” The third period studied by Seyed-Gohrab and his team was the war between Iran and Iraq (-), which he was himself a witness to in Tehran. “Many of the classical mystical poets died as martyrs for their presumed blasphemy. In the eighties, the regime used this martyrdom to mobilise people to go to war. The poems were used as a call to arms. The soldiers offered themselves as martyrs in the hope that they would achieve a higher moral status. They would be united with God, just like the old classical mystics.” Seyed-Gohrab explains: “Mystical poetry makes use of many metaphors, such as the image of the moth flying into the flame of a candle, to represent union with God. At the time of the Iran-Iraq war, this image was used quite literally: it represented the soldiers going to the front to die. The metaphor was taken in its most literal sense.” His research has allowed Seyed-Gohrab to


answer an important question: how were the people of the time persuaded to fight and risk their lives? A crucial factor in this respect is the role played by poetry in Iran. “Poems appear everywhere in everyday life. For instance, there are many people who can quote long texts by heart.” The VIDI research project was exceptionally productive and is currently still continuing in the form of sub-projects. SeyedGohrab and his team have published a series of books on various themes; the project resulted in a number of PhD defences; and some master’s students were also inspired to write a thesis on a related topic. Seyed-Gohrab: “Research is the engine of science, it is the way to inspire people, awaken their curiosity, and motivate them to ask questions. Research therefore also helps to create good education.” In addition to its scientific importance, this study of Persian literature is also valuable for another reason, he argues: “It contributes to a better understanding between the West and Iran. This is necessary, because there are still so many misconceptions.”

Persian and other Middle Eastern literature can be studied on their own or in coherence with other disciplines within the Middle Eastern Studies Master’s and Research Master’s. These programmes cover nearly the entire Middle Eastern region, both historically and geographically. Leiden Master’s programmes such as Literary Studies and other area studies cover the literature of many other languages and regions. “Research is the engine of science, it is the way to inspire people, awaken their curiosity, and motivate them to ask questions.”

Asghar Seyed-Gohrab


The dominance of a language Emma Vanden Wyngaerd (1991) completed a BA and a Research Master’s in Linguistics at Leiden University. She wrote her thesis on ‘French-Dutch code switching in Brussels’.

Photo Katrin Naert

“I have long been fascinated by bilingualism, and was keen to find out, for example, which factors determine how we switch from one language to the other. Environment and situation of course play a role, but there are also other, linguistic, factors. For the thesis I wrote at the end of my Research Master’s in Linguistics I investigated a phenomenon known as code switching: the mixing of two languages within a single conversation. I focused primarily on word order and the conjugation of the adjective. My thesis is the first study to focus specifically on the conjugation aspect. “I am originally from Brussels, where many people are bilingual. Some learn both languages at home; others speak French at home but go to a Dutch-speaking school. It was therefore relatively easy to find suitable test subjects in Brussels. I chose these two languages because they are interesting if you want to investigate the behaviour of adjectives. Not only are there differences in word order, but the adjective can also have different forms, depending on the gender. This means that together, French and Dutch provide four different options for a spoken phrase with an adjective and a noun. For example: het huis blanc, het huis blanche, het blanche huis, het blanc huis (the white house). “For my research, I constructed  sentences that covered all possible variations, and then put these sentences to my test subjects, together with a number of distractors. The subjects were


asked to indicate whether they thought a given sentence was correct, incorrect, or slightly incorrect. I wanted to investigate which language was dominant. The results were not black and white, in contrast to what the theoretical frameworks predict. My own theory is that the linguistic mechanism which determines the dominance of a language is fluid in this group of speakers. “I have put a lot of work into my thesis, and the topic still continues to fascinate me. It is so interesting that I could easily have written another two theses about it. That’s why I’m hoping to find a PhD position, for instance within a large-scale European study on bilingualism that is only just starting. That would be really great!”

In both the Master’s and Research Master’s in Linguistics in Leiden it is possible to choose from a large and varied selection of subjects and languages. There are few places in the world where so many languages are studied in combination with the key theoretical approaches to the study of language.

Do you want to know more about Emma and why she is enthusiastic about Linguistics in Leiden? If so, watch her video on YouTube: “I investigated a phenomenon known as code switching: the mixing of two languages within a single conversation.”

Emma Vanden Wyngaerd


Criminal women – not so unusual “The traditional view is that women are much less likely to be involved in criminal activities than men. But no one has ever questioned whether this has always been the case,” says Professor of Social History Manon van der Heijden (1966). This is precisely the question she addresses in her VICI research project on Crime and Gender, which covers four centuries and four European countries. “I show that in the past there was indeed a high rate of crime among women.” “The proportion of women in the European crime figures of the th century is indeed low. For a long time, this figure was approximately %. In the Netherlands, the percentage of women criminals increased slightly in the s and s to around %, which is still low. Criminologists assume that this pattern also applies to the past,” says Van der Heijden. While writing her thesis, she discovered that in th century Rotterdam, nearly % of crimes were committed by women, and a student later calculated that in the same period in Leiden, women were responsible for as much as % of crime. These figures run

entirely counter to the prevailing image. In  Van der Heijden was awarded a VICI grant, which allowed her to set up a largescale research project on this theme. “We focus on female criminality in Dutch, English, German and Italian cities between  and . And we will soon also be investigating the situation in French cities.” Holland plays a special role among the countries under investigation. In Early Modern times, Dutch women had a lot of freedom. Van der Heijden: “The legal system in Holland gave women more opportunities than elsewhere. This was for example the case for inheritance law, but women were also allowed to conduct trade independently. The Golden Age is always viewed from the perspective of men, but in those days, the cities were virtually run by the women whose men were away with the Dutch East India Company (VOC).” This free role in society also impacted women’s criminal behaviour. In Dutch cities between  and , more women than men were convicted for theft, handling stolen goods, minor violent crimes or fornication. The criminals were usually single women, sometimes with children. “They had to make it on their own, often drifting from city to city in search of work. It would have been but a small step to theft or handling


stolen goods.” In , Van der Heijden published a book on criminal women in Holland in the period from  to . The research project, which is due to run until , shows a comparable situation in English cities, but Van der Heijden expects that Germany and Italy will yield different results. “Women were less free there. In Germany, single women were often taken into a family as a servant, which both gave them protection and ensured they were controlled.” In Italy, the strong role of the Church probably had a mitigating influence. This research not only leads to a rewriting of criminal history, it also throws new light on modern-day female criminality. Van der Heijden: “Criminologists now focus nearly exclusively on men – for what reasons and under what circumstances do they turn to crime? Our research shows that it is also useful to analyse these factors in the case of women. And this is indeed what is happening now, due to the many contacts we have with colleagues in the field of criminology. This is a rewarding additional application of the results of our research.”

The Leiden Master’s and Research Master’s programmes in History are unique in the Netherlands because of their strong international orientation and their focus on the study of European and non-European history in a global context. The wide range of chairs in history, combined with the availability of unique archive materials, facilitates a study of nearly all areas of the world – in the History Master’s, or one of the area studies programmes. “Many women had to make it on their own, often drifting from city to city in search of work. It would have been but a small step to theft or handling stolen goods.”

Manon van der Heijden


Farmers and nomads Tse Peter Angwafo (1967) came to Leiden in 2012 for a Research Master’s in African Studies. He also holds a Master’s degree in Sociology from Nigeria, as well as a Master’s degree in Rural Sociology from Cameroon, his home country. He went on to work as a teacher of sociology and as the director of an NGO in Cameroon. His research master’s thesis covers land conflicts and land grabbing in Cameroon. “I first came into contact with Leiden University in , in Cameroon, when I was asked to work as a research assistant in a Leiden research project. At the time I was introduced to students and researchers who informed me about the excellent reputation of the African Studies Centre in Leiden. For my Leiden thesis I concentrated on the Wum region in the north-west of Cameroon, where there is a conflict between the indigenous farmers and the nomadic Fulani. I undertook to analyse the different aspects of this conflict.

“In Wum, one can see very clearly the negative effects of the  Land Law. Under this law, the original owners of land can be dispossessed by the state, and traditional laws for customary tenure no longer apply. This causes a complex and even chaotic situation where wealthy individuals – the domestic elite – can acquire large plots of land. As a result, the original population are left landless or have to rent land they used to own.


“Wum is an interesting region, as the Land Law here has resulted in a persistent conflict between the resident Aghem farmer population and the Fulani. The Fulani are a nomadic people with large herds of cattle that often damage the agricultural land owned by the farmers, usually women. Also, some of the wealthy herders now buy land themselves, which never used to be possible. Traditionally, land rights in Wum were determined through the female line. But now, under the Land Law, the rights of the Aghem women are compromised. The women focus their anger about this fact on the Fulani, while in fact the problem does not lie there, but with the state-installed Land Law. “The situation in Wum shows that a new Land Law is needed in order to prevent chaos and unrest from spreading across the rest of the country. In my thesis, I conclude that it is vital that such a land reform is inclusive: it should guarantee the landowning rights of women as well as of the nomadic herders, and it should respect traditional forms of ownership.”

The Research Master’s in African Studies is offered jointly by Leiden University and the Africa Studies Centre. Students specialise in both a theme and a region. Leiden also offers a one-year Master’s in African Studies. The Master’s and Research Master’s programmes are interdisciplinary, combining disciplines from Humanities as well as Social Sciences. “In the Wum region in Cameroon, women’s land-owning rights are compromised under the national Land Law.”

Tse Peter Angwafo


Letters as loot “A goldmine for researchers.” This is how Professor Marijke van der Wal (1949) describes the 17th- and 18th-century Dutch letters that were the subject of the large-scale research project she directed from 2008 to 2013. The letter writers came from all social classes, from upper to lower, which provided a unique opportunity to examine the diversity in the development of the Dutch language. More than fifteen thousand Dutch private letters were captured together with commercial mail and other documents during the wars between the Dutch Republic and England. Marijke van der Wal: “The letters were rediscovered in the s, but it was only in  that historian Roelof van Gelder made an inventory of all the confiscated documents in the National Archives (Kew, UK). I immediately saw the unprecedented opportunity for research into

the history of the Dutch language.” To date, our view of the Dutch language of the past has been based primarily on the writings of well-educated upper-class men. What makes these particular letters so extraordinary is the fact that the senders were people from all walks of life, not only men, but also women, and even children. “It is exceptional material for my linguistic approach: ‘language history from below’,” comments Van der Wal. The letters represent communication between sailors and other Dutchmen overseas, and their relatives back home. They give modern readers an unexpected glimpse of the private lives of people in the th and th centuries. Van der Wal: “We found, for example, a letter from a young boy to his father, in which he asks for gifts: a silk skirt for his little sister and a monkey for himself.” There are also love letters and letters full of everyday worries. But Van der Wal and her research team did not focus primarily on the contents of the letters. Instead, they examined the linguistic diversity and changes in the Dutch language in the th and th centuries. Van der Wal: “Our research shows that there was still a remarkable degree of variation in language use, contrary to the traditional picture of a relatively uniform standard language in this period. We noted remarkable differences in writing style,


usage of words and phrases, and sentence structure, both between social classes and between men and women. In addition, we were able to map language changes and to show how these changes progressed. One example is the epistolary form of address. We see that a new form of address, UE (your honour) comes into use among the higher classes in the th century and is then adopted by the lower classes in the course of the th century. This is an example of a language change that spread from above.” A remarkable spin-off of this research project ( is the internet application through which the letters have been made available to researchers and other interested parties. Van der Wal: “In collaboration with the Institute for Dutch Lexicology, we have made our letter corpus available with advanced search facilities. The letters have been processed and details have been added about the letters themselves, the senders and the addressees. This opens up new research opportunities. Both linguists and researchers from other disciplines can now make extensive use of this rich source.”

The Dutch-taught Master’s in Neerlandistiek/ Dutch Studies is a perfect starting point for research on subjects like that of Professor Marijke van der Wal. At research master’s level or, for other language studies, the Master’s programmes in Linguistics offer ample opportunity to combine one or more language studies with diverse theoretical approaches. “The confiscated letters provide excellent material for my linguistic approach: ‘language history from below’.”

Marijke van der Wal


A state without a country Lisanne van Unen (1992) completed her BA in International Relations and International Organisations in Groningen and went on to complete a Master’s in International Relations, specialising in International Studies, in Leiden. In her thesis, she investigates different aspects of Tibetan democracy. “Following the Chinese occupation of Tibet, many Tibetans settled elsewhere in the world. There is for instance a large Tibetan community in Northern India, which is also the home of the Dalai Lama and the seat of the Tibetan government in exile. The government is democratically elected by Tibetans outside Tibet, including those in the Netherlands, who also have voting rights. The still young democracy has evolved since the s step by step into something quite remarkable: a state without a country.

“This democracy is based on a limited national identity. There is an unwritten yet clear definition of what it means to be a Tibetan, a definition that is shaped at least partly by the political situation, because the Tibetan identity is to a certain extent defined by opposition to China. This is referred to as ‘othering’: you are not what the other is, and vice versa. One aspect of this identification is that there is little debate within the Tibetan democratic system. There is not always enough scope to deviate from the common norm. “In my thesis I also investigate the concept of territory. The general assumption is that a state must always involve a physical territory, and that a given nation is linked to a concrete area, demarcated in its sovereignty. I use the case of Tibet to disprove this assumption. As far as Tibet is concerned, because people do not have access to the country itself, the concept of territory is necessarily reduced to the idea that exiled Tibetans have of their native land, an idea that is based on the stories they tell each other about their country. It is the role of this discourse that I find truly fascinating. It influences not only their concept of national identity, but also the way that the Tibetans organise themselves politically.


“The field of international relations has so far not really focused very much on Tibet, and most of the research has been done from an anthropological perspective. This makes my thesis quite unique. Leiden does offer the opportunity to investigate these kinds of topics, which has benefited my research enormously.”

The Master’s in International Relations focuses on current global and regional issues and offers a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical experience. The study of the cultures, ideas and beliefs that underlie the current processes of global change is an important characteristic of this Humanities programme. The language and culture of Tibet are also studied in the Asian Studies programmes. “There is an unwritten yet clear definition of what it means to be a Tibetan.”

Lisanne van Unen


Master’s Programmes - African Studies African Studies (research) Arts and Culture • Architecture • Art of the Contemporary World and World Art Studies • Design and Decorative Art Studies • Early Modern and Medieval Art • Museums and Collections

Classics and Ancient Civilisations • Assyriology • Classics • Egyptology • Hebrew and Aramaic Studies Classics and Ancient Civilisations (research) • Assyriology • Classics • Egyptology • Hebrew and Aramaic Studies

Arts and Culture (research) Asian Studies ( EC) • Chinese Studies • Japanese Studies • Korean Studies Asian Studies ( EC) • East Asian Studies • History, Arts and Culture of Asia • Politics, Society and Economy of Asia • South Asian Studies • Southeast Asian Studies Asian Studies (research)

History • Ancient History • Archival Studies • Colonial and Global History • Europaeum Programme European History and Civilisation: LeidenOxford-Paris programme • Europe - • Cities, Migration and Global Interdependance • Political Culture and National Identities History (research) • Ancient History • Colonial and Global History • Europe -

• Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence • Political Culture and National Identities International Relations • European Union Studies • International Studies Latin American Studies Latin American Studies (research) Linguistics • Chinese Linguistics • Comparative Indo-European Linguistics • English Language and Linguistics • French Language and Linguistics • German Language and Linguistics • Italian Language and Linguistics • Language and Communication • Language Diversity of Africa, Asia and Native America • Theoretical Linguistics and Cognition • Translation in Theory and Practice (Dutch/English) Linguistics (research)

Literary Studies • English Literature and Culture • French Literature and Culture • German Literature and Culture • Italian Literature and Culture

Neerlandistiek / Dutch Studies • Moderne Nederlandse letterkunde • Nederlandkunde • Nederlandse taalkunde • Oudere Nederlandse letterkunde • Taalbeheersing van het Nederlands

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Literary Studies (research) North American Studies Media Studies • Book and Digital Media Studies • Comparative Literature and Literary Theory • Film and Photographic Studies • Journalistiek en nieuwe media Middle Eastern Studies • Arabic Studies • Islamic Studies • Modern Middle East Studies • Persian Studies • Turkish Studies Middle Eastern Studies (research)

Russian and Eurasian Studies Philosophy ( EC) • Philosophy of Humanities • Philosophy of Law • Philosophy of Natural Sciences • Philosophy of Political Science • Philosophy of Psychology Philosophy ( EC) • Ethics and Politics • History and Philosophy of the Sciences • Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Culture • Philosophy, Politics and Economics Theology and Religious Studies

Perspectives on the World Research within the Faculty of Humanities Editors Jesca Zweijtzer Annette Zeelenberg Interviews Annette Zeelenberg Translation Academic Language Centre, Faculty of Humanities Portrait photography Hielco Kuipers Design Tra[design], Nenke van Wermeskerken Graphic production UFB / GrafiMedia September 

Faculty of Humanities Lipsius Building Cleveringaplaats    Leiden PO Box    Leiden Telephone:     (Leiden University switchboard) More about the Faculty of Humanities Visit us online For more information about the Faculty, its programmes and institutes, see: The recipients of scientific awards are listed at: A list of candidates who recently received their PhD can be found at: Subsidies received by researchers are listed at: