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Perspectives on the World Education and research within the Faculty of Humanities

Discover the world at Leiden University

Perspectives on the world Leiden University’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 encompasses fields as diverse as religion, philosophy, literature, art and technology. This publication gives an overview of the research and education carried out in 2015- 2016 at the Faculty’s two locations Leiden and The Hague, with facts, figures and interviews with researchers and students.

Content A Word from the dean

Interviews Impressions 2015-2016



New tools for ancient history

Exchange partners

Kim Beerden / Lecturer


Research into the limits of the law Frans-Willem Korsten / Senior lecturer

The language of babies and birds Claartje Levelt / Professor

Facts and figures




Cubs of the Caliphate

Leiden Global

Ayooshee Dookhee / Master’s student

Philosophy in times of turmoil


Glen Newey / Professor

Thinking critically about religion Bas van Rijn / Bachelor’s student

Organisations are taking students’ advice Sarita Koendjbiharie / Lecturer

The Manchu gold mine Fresco Sam-Sin / Lecturer


A word from the Dean Humanities matter defining and examining thethe notion a particularly In today’s world, universities are increasingly required to account are needed studyof of ‘freedom’ languages, –cultures and societies The Humanities more than ever topical issue at a time when certain groups, such as refugees, do for the impact of their education and research on society. This is a worldwide in the past and the present, and in our complex and fast-changing world. The not have access to all the freedoms we enjoy in our European legitimate question, especially when the universities’ activities are we are able to play a unique role in the Dutch scholarship of our researchers is indispensable society. financed through public funds. It is also a question that learning and research landscape. In addition, to understand the issues of our time. Issues universities do not need to fear, since their impact on society is this Faculty is also a solid and secure house that include, to name but a few: the recent The Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University is a place rich in both important and fundamental. The humanities are no for manyand valuable “small” disciplines like flows of migrants, thetalented rise of xenophobia in students, inspired teachers highly successful exception to the rule. Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities Egyptology, Europe, the role of religions in our supported societies, theby a Assyriology, researchers, dedicated support staff.Amerindian I hope youstudies, trains over 6,000 students in a large number of disciplines. After Indo-European linguistics andgives Buddhist political, cultural and economic developments will enjoy this year’s Perspectives on the World, which you a graduation, these students find employment in society, use their studies. work. in Latin America, Africa, theofMiddle East andand innovative taste our inspiring knowledge and skills in a wide variety of professional positions Asia, the relevance of ancient cultures for and influence the lives and futures of people, businesses and institutions. If only through its students, our Faculty has a major Humanities matter. I am very happy that present-day societies and the way language impact on society. Nor should we forget those of our students Leiden University agrees. In the coming years shapes our society. The Faculty of Humanities who become secondary-school teachers and train the next Leiden University will invest 100 million at Leiden University is proud it can provide the generations. For this reason the Faculty of Humanities takes part euros in a new Humanities Campus which knowledge needed to understand our world. in all sorts of new initiatives to prepare more of our students for will create an inspiring environment for the the teaching profession. Our Faculty was founded in 2008 and I have

next generation of students and scholars. This

served the Faculty as dean in the subsequent

is evidence that the Humanities at Leiden

As for the scholars of our Faculty, they too have a great impact on University are strong and vital and will years with pride. From 2017 onwards a new society, through their research. Humanities research shows society continue to play their crucial role in research, dean will be at the helm of a strong Faculty what it is that makes us human and has highly relevant things to teaching and society. which has seen the number of students in its say about the ‘human factor’ involved in so many processes and programmes, increasing to nearly 6,500. phenomena. This research informs policy makers, many business Professor Wim van den Doel The Faculty leaders, citizens and others about the historical background ofis home to excellent research Dean of the Faculty of Humanities programmes, issues, the role of religion in society, the uses of language, the many of them funded by the Professor van den Doel culture of societies in different parts of the world, as well asresearch many council national NWO Wim and the Dean ofHere, the we Faculty other aspects of human life. As an example, this edition of Research Council. September 2016 European focusof onHumanities Perspectives on the World highlights the research of one of our September 2015 students, Shahin Nasiri. He developed a new methodology for


Facts & Figures Leiden’s Faculty of Humanities offers an inspiring, diverse and innovative international atmosphere to academics and students from all over the world. The Faculty’s research activities are structured within seven institutes The Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA) Art and science brought together The Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) Language and culture combined with approaches from the

The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) Linguistic research The Leiden University Institute for Philosophy (LUIPh) Philosophy in all its facets

humanities, social sciences, law, and, at the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCsor), religious studies.

The Netherlands Institute in Morocco (NIMAR) The Leiden University expertise centre for Moroccan Studies

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) Literature and literary studies, the history of art and material culture, film and new media studies The Leiden University Institute for History (LUIH) The study of European, American, Asian and African societies in a global context

 


The Humanities Faculty in International rankings  Times Higher Education Ranking for Arts and Humanities: 17th (25th in 2014-2015)  QS World University Ranking by for Arts and Humanities: 40th (49th in 2014-2015)

Awards, scholarships and grants A list of all scholars who have received special prizes, grants, awards and subsidies, including Spinoza Prize winners, Vici laureates and NWO Pioneer Grants, can be found in our hall of fame:

Our student population

6,422 students

Number of study programmes  Of whom 1,671 in 27 MA studies  Of whom 4,751 in 28 BA studies  25% of MA students are non-Dutch nationals  15% of BA students are non-Dutch nationals

28 Bachelor’s programmes



Master’s programmes

Master’s specialisations

Financial Facts in 2016 in K € Total Turnover

Direct Funding

National Funding

European Funding

€ 50,456

€ 60,808 Profile Research Areas In order to facilitate cutting-edge fundamental research at national and international level, research within the Faculty of Humanities focuses on five of Leiden University's eleven profile areas:  Asian Modernities and Traditions  Global interaction of people, culture and power through the ages  Language diversity in the world  Brain function and dysfunction over the lifespan  Political legitimacy: Institutions and Identities

For more information on the Faculty of Humanities, see

€ 6,504

€ 3,051

Staff (fte) 66 full professors – 25,7% are non-Dutch nationals 183,3 - assistant & associate professors – 33% are nonDutch nationals 120,2 PhD students – 43,3 % are non-Dutch nationals

For more information on the Faculty’s plans for the 2016-2021 period, see 5

Impressions 2015-2016 Dutch King and Queen consult China experts Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Mรกxima attended a meeting at Leiden University to prepare for their state visit to China in October 2015. Leiden is known as one of the most important centres in the Netherlands for academic knowledge of Asian societies and cultures. Later in the academic year, the LeidenAsiaCentre opened its doors as an institution for applied knowledge on Asia, with a special focus on East Asia. The centre was established to answer questions emerging from Dutch society about Asia. This will be done by conducting short-term research in close cooperation with partners in society, the business sector, government bodies and knowledge centres. The LeidenAsiaCentre will also work with third parties to organise activities for the general public. Find out more at

Leiden strengthens research on Africa The African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL) became part of Leiden University in 2016. The ASCL is the only multidisciplinary academic knowledge institute in the Netherlands devoted entirely to the study of Africa. Leiden University aims to operate a more prominent Africa policy, in which the continent will become an integral part of its strategy. With more than 100 Africa scholars in the ASCL, this move will strengthen the research and teaching on the economic, social, political, legal, cultural and historical dynamics of the African continent and its position in the world. It also means that the ASCL library and Leiden University Library will now work more closely together. The University is providing considerable funding to enable the achievement of these aims. Find out more at:


Grants, prizes, titles and awards Patricio Silva, Professor of Modern Latin American History, was awarded the 'medalla al mérito' by the Chilean parliament this year, for his outstanding services to the country. The academic year 2015-2016 was a successful year for the Faculty and its students. For instance, Roberta D'Alessandro (Italian Language and Culture), Caroline Waerzeggers (LIAS/Assyriology) and Petra Sijpesteijn (Arabic Language and Culture) were each awarded a European Research Council Consolidator Grant, and Dr. K.J. Fatah-Black (History) received the Heineken Young Scientists Award from the KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences). All decorated staff members of Leiden University are given a special place in the University’s hall of fame. See

Babylab opened In 2016 the new Babylab was opened. Research conducted here looks at what babies and toddlers already understand, what they can say, and how these are related. Cognitive psychologists and linguists use the Lab to investigate how babies acquire a mental grasp of the world around them. The researchers come from several different faculties and work together in the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC). The new Babylab has major advantages not only for the researchers and PhD candidates; students, and especially those studying Linguistics, also have the opportunity to do an internship in the Lab, or to help with a research project and write their thesis about it. See also page 12

Leiden University in Morocco On 21 April 2016 the Netherlands Institute in Rabat (NIMAR) in Morocco was officially relaunched. The Faculty of Humanities is responsible for NIMAR, which actively adds to the knowledge in the

students of applied sciences. It provides an inspiring environment for the study of Morocco, the Arabic world and West Africa. In addition, the institute organises lectures, facilitates research and serves as a location

Netherlands of Moroccan languages, cultures, religion and society. The institute offers high-quality programmes for bachelor’s and master’s students from research universities and universities of applied sciences. It also develops Master’s courses and tailor-made programmes for

for training professionals in the Arabic world and Africa. Find out more at: or 7

Kim Beerden // Lecturer

New tools for ancient history Kim Beerden, lecturer in Ancient History, combines Greek antiquity with digital teaching tools. With great enthusiasm, and using blended learning, she brings her students into contact with a society from an era long before our own. Kim Beerden’s ambition is considerable: she

which they tried to do this was by means

wants her students to become world citizens.

of religion. Divination – seeking perceived

“The purpose of education is to engage

supernatural support for decisions – is one

students to be critical about how the world

of these religious phenomena.” Divination

works. One way to do this is by studying

can take different forms: “People saw signs

other people, in a different society,” she

coming from the supernatural everywhere,

says. The society that forms the focus of her

and these needed to be interpreted. To give

teaching and research is the one in which

a hypothetical example, if someone saw

the ancient Greeks lived, more than two

a certain bird flying from right to left, he

thousand years ago.

might deduce that it wasn’t a good idea to go on a journey. People also visited oracles like

Getting a grip on uncertainty

Delphi to ask for advice – for themselves or

Beerden is interested in the theme ‘uncertainty’ and how the Greeks dealt with it. For instance, they worried about such issues as availability of food, or whether there would be a war. “I conduct research into how they attempted to get a grip on that uncertain future. One of the ways in


CV 2007 – Research MA History, Leiden University 2007 – Fruin prize for best History thesis 2013 – PhD at Leiden University 2012 – Lecturer Ancient History, Leiden University

 Digital teaching tools lead to more interaction” for their community. A question could be, for

Beerden worked with Pitch2Peer, for instance,

instance, whether they should declare war on

during the 2015-2016 academic year. This

a neighbouring state.” Beerden wrote her PhD

programme was developed within the Faculty

dissertation on divination, and is currently

of Social and Behavioural Research.

engaged in broadening her research. “I want

It enables students to upload their

to concentrate on future-thinking during

assignments – blogs, video clips, animations

moments of crisis in Greek antiquity. What

– so that their fellow students can then give

happens if a society is really disrupted, for

feedback. “Students are very enthusiastic;

instance when there’s an epidemic?”

it leads to more interaction online as well as offline. You can see, for instance, that

Window on the past

discussions continue in class. Also, receiving

“People visited oracles like Delphi to ask for

She emphasises that wanting to hold on to

additional peer feedback makes writing

advice – for themselves or for their community.

something in uncertain times is universal.

essays a more exciting process.” There are

A question could be, for instance, whether they

“People are people. But it’s interesting to

other tools as well, such as Zaption, where

see how ancient cultural approaches to

students answer questions posed during

uncertainty are different from ours. In

video clips. Beerden is very clear about the

this sense, uncertainty is a window on

purpose of the digital teaching tools: “They

ancient society because it shows how social

shouldn’t simply be used because they’re

structures were arranged back then.”

available. These IT tools must really resolve

should declare war on a neighbouring state.”

a didactical problem, they are a way to make Uploading assignments

your teaching more effective.”

In her teaching, Beerden uses `blended learning’. This form of educational innovation

Ultimately, all her teaching activities are

is a priority for the Faculty of Humanities. “It

aimed at “helping students to understand

involves asking students to engage with, and

the world.” Transferring insight and asking

interact about, the teaching materials outside

students to be critical are her main purposes:

of the contact hours, which makes it possible

“It’s brilliant when you see that ‘the penny’s

to work more intensively in the class itself.

dropped’, and that you can really make a

For this purpose, digital tools may be used.”

difference for someone.”

 For more information on the

Leiden University Institute for History see:


Frans-Willem Korsten // Senior lecturer

Research into the limits of the law Sovereignty is the theme that guides the work of FransWillem Korsten, senior lecturer in Film and Literary Studies. This emphasis is evident in his research on the interfaces between the arts, literature and law. But it also is a feature of his teaching, which is aimed at helping students to achieve independent thinking. “My work is always based on the arts and

alternative, Korsten analyses literary texts such

literature, my own discipline. But at the same

as “The Case of the Animals versus Man” by

time it’s also interdisciplinary,” says Korsten.

the Brethren of Purity in Basra, written in the

During the 2015-2016 academic year he has

10th century. “In this Arabic text, man is sued

been working on his new research, which

by the animals because they’re being treated so

further explores the concept of sovereignty. He

badly. A third, independent entity, the King of

links the concept with ‘the limits of the law’,

the Jinn, the world of spirits, is the judge.”

the place where law can no longer provide an answer. Korsten: “In the past, for instance in the 17th century, rulers based their sovereign position on God. In our era, we humans have claimed the right to sovereignty ourselves. Take the ongoing discussion about animal rights, for instance. Humans are the ones who decide whether animals should have rights and, if so, which animals: apes have rights, mosquitoes don’t. But this kind of sovereignty is based on nothing at all.” In his search for an


CV 2007 – Professor by special appointment in ‘Literature and Society’ at Erasmus University 2012 – Senior lecturer in Film and Literary Studies at Leiden University 2013 – Part-time senior lecturer at the Willem de Kooning Academy and the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam

 A being with artificial intelligence could deliver legal judgement” Robots delivering judgement

cuddly teddy bears have nothing to do with

Together with his research group, Korsten is

the real, dangerous bears. For me, these toy

further examining the fascinating notion of

bears are an illustration of the perverted

robots acting as judges. “Given the current

relationship that we humans have with

developments in hypertechnology, it would be


possible for a being with artificial intelligence to deliver judgement as an independent

The essence of issues

party.” And no, this is not a far-fetched idea,

Korsten is not only a researcher but also a

he emphasises. “We’re already quite close

teacher. He has been nominated three times

to creating a self-thinking robot.” Because

for ‘lecturer of the year’ at Leiden University,

the law also has a theatrical function – “a

and in 2014 he was voted ‘supervisor of the

court case in fact is theatre” – he is now

year’. What is his vision on teaching? “For

“Humans are the ones who decide whether

considering the idea of staging a dramatised

me, it’s about showing students the essence

animals should have rights and, if so, which animals:

court case of animals versus humans. Not

of issues, and thus encouraging them to ask

apes have rights, mosquitoes don’t.”

that Korsten is an animal rights activist; his

questions themselves. I want them to learn

interest is purely academic. He is curious

autonomously how to deal with the literary

about the consequences for our thinking

texts that I offer them. They don’t need to

about sovereignty if the law is tested

follow my path, I want them to find their

by an independent third party. “If we think this through completely, as an experiment, we will probably arrive at an entirely different legal order.”

own path.” He is constantly innovating his teaching methods. “The increase in scale means that I now only see some students once or twice during their entire university career. I therefore want to create a different

Perverted relationship

kind of contact. I am currently developing

Korsten does want to make a point about

online lectures, which serve to stimulate

the relationship between animals and

mutual exchange. Of course, I also want to

humans. “The photograph shows me with

see students `in vivo’. The arts are about how

a teddy bear. These toy bears became

we organise the world. So you mustn’t study

popular because of Theodore – or Teddy

the arts and literature on your own, you

Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society see

– Roosevelt, who liked to shoot bears. The

must always talk about them together.”

 For more information on the


Claartje Levelt // Professor

The language of babies and birds “It’s amazing how children can learn something as complex as language.” Claartje Levelt, Professor in First Language Acquisition, is fascinated by the way we acquire our language and how we learn to form the relevant sounds. She studies this not only in young children, but is also involved in comparative research on song birds. The Babylab is Levelt’s brainchild and has an

Budgerigars and zebra finches

important role in her research. The updated

Levelt’s colleague Carel ten Cate, professor in

lab, which was previously located within the

Animal Behaviour, does the same tests with

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences,

budgerigars and zebra finches. “We want to

was opened at the beginning of 2016. Levelt

know the extent to which language can be

is proud of it: “We do tests with babies and

learned with a mechanism that isn’t specific

very young children here, all focusing on

to language learning or to humans, and at

different aspects of language acquisition.”

what point the birds stop learning. After all,

One of her research topics is how babies

people have language and birds don’t. What is

learn a grammatical structure. The children

‘the extra’ in the human brain that makes this

– always accompanied by their mothers or

possible?” The ambitions go further, because

fathers – hear a series of simple patterns, each with three syllables, in an artificial language. For example: dofafa, mudidi, sakoko. The researchers then expose them to new series of the same or slightly different patterns, and measure whether they recognise the structure that they heard earlier.


CV 2005 – Visiting professor, Brown University 2007 – Lecturer, Leiden University 2007 – VIDI grant 2014 Professor in First Language Acquisition, Leiden University

 What mechanisms are involved in learning a language?” this method can perhaps also be used to

early stage of the Dutch word for ‘olifant’

discover why languages are structured in a


specific way. In other words: what you’re not able to learn will not occur in a language.

Enthusiasm for the subject Levelt involves not only her PhD candidates

Up to now, budgerigars score best on

but also her MA and BA students in the

recognising grammatical patterns. Zebra

Babylab. For instance, she teaches the MA

finches and, surprisingly, babies seem to

course ‘Methods in Child Language Research’,

be performing less well. Levelt: “Of course,

and offers students the opportunity to do

we learn something from this. It could be

an internship in the Babylab and become

that the artificial grammars we use with

familiar with different research methods

the children aren’t similar enough to a real

for language perception and production in

language. In 2016-2017 we’re going to look

young children. “This results in Bachelor’s

“In the Babylab we see that language

intensively at this matter.”

and Master’s theses, and last year even in

production develops in systematic steps, with

a publication with an MA student.” She

the children each time learning something

First words

considers it very important to have personal

Levelt has been fascinated by language

contact with her students; this is the best

acquisition since the start of her

way to convey enthusiasm for the subject.

academic career. It was the subject of

“I also give lectures and work groups in

both her Master’s thesis and her PhD. She

phonology for BA students. I want them to

meticulously recorded the first words of

have an Aha! experience: this happens, for

her three children – “the oldest is now 20”

instance, at the moment they realise they’re

– in notebooks (in the photograph). Those

using phonological rules themselves in their

first words now also play a part in another

speech, which they previously weren’t aware

line of her research, focusing on language

of.” For her, the subject is more than worthy

production. “In the Babylab we analyse

of that enthusiasm: “Language is a unique

how children from 1 to 2.5 years learn to

human behaviour, it’s something very special.

speak. Here we see that language production

That’s why I want to know exactly how we

develops in systematic steps, with the

acquire that behaviour.”

children each time learning something extra. For instance, a world like `osai’ is an

See also:


 For more information on the

Leiden University Centre for Linguistics see


Ayooshee Dookhee // Master’s student

Cubs of the Caliphate

Ayooshee Dookhee chose a highly current topic for her International Relations and Affairs MA thesis: ISIS’s recruitment of children. Her research brought her close to the organisation’s way of thinking. “They do not see children as children.” The Middle East with its many conflicts is

myself.” Her findings on ISIS are combined

a fascinating region to Ayooshee Dookhee,

with research on the Lord’s Resistance

and it was this fascination that inspired

Army (LRA) in Uganda. This rebel

her decision to study ISIS child soldiers

group is known for its large-scale violent

in a thesis entiteld ‘Illusions of childhood:

recruitment of child soldiers.

The Cubs of the Caliphate’. “When I started the project, there wasn’t any substantial

Political and military agents

research on the topic available, which made

Dookhee’s hypothesis is that “ISIS doesn’t

it likely that this would be a challenge.

see children as children. Children are

I was looking for that challenge; I didn’t

political and military agents, just like adults

want to write an academic piece on

are. To ISIS, they are at the core of their

something that had been done before.” There was a lot of primary material that she could use, though, as ISIS had already started releasing information through its propaganda machine in the form of videos and social media posts. She analysed this material with the help of a Libyan friend as a translator - “And I’m learning Arabic


CV 2014 – BA European Studies, Politics and International

Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London

2016 – MA, International Relations and Affairs,

Leiden University

2016 – Innovating Justice Accelerator Intern at HiiL

 I didn’t want to write an academic piece on something that had been done before”

survival strategy. The fact that they are born

these “can be seen as perpetrators of violence”

into ISIS and are forced to join, means that

too. This is in contrast to the reasoning of

they grow up with the organisation’s values

many NGOs that child soldiers cannot be held

and are likely to promote them.” Dookhee

accountable for their deeds during conflicts.

argues that the organisation deliberately uses family structures as a way of reinforcing

Autonomy for students

“To ISIS, children are political and military

itself. “Children are not taken from their

Dookhee, who came from the UK to Leiden

agents, just like adults are.”

families and are not used to destroy their

to do her Master’s, particularly values the

communities, like the LRA does. The family

freedom that she experiences in her study. “As

structure means that ISIS appears to be

a student you are given a certain autonomy,

functioning as a society, making it clear that

which was also clear in the freedom I was

they are more than just another rebel group.”

given in developing the research question for my thesis.” It was exactly this thesis that was

Absence of emotion

one of the factors that got her an internship

Studying the footage and texts on ISIS and

with HiiL, an international firm in The Hague

the LRA was a gruesome task, she admits.

that develops innovations related to legal

“At times I was baffled that people could

questions. “I hadn’t started the thesis yet at the

do such things.” A striking observation was

time of the interview, but HiiL’s was interested

the absence of emotion on the faces of the

in the idea that I had for my research.” She

children in the ISIS videos. “It is amazing how

combined the internship with her research and

confident these kids seemed; there appears

writing, and is proud of that. The next step, she

to be no remorse.” This supports her line of

hopes, will be a PhD in which she will be able

argumentation that child soldiers are not

to further explore the role of children within

necessarily innocent victims, but in cases like


 For more information on

masterprogrammes at Leiden University see:


Glen Newey // Professor

Philosophy in times of turmoil

Philosophy can offer practical answers to practical questions, says Glen Newey, Professor of Practical Philosophy. Questions about political decisions, for instance, even if they concern issues as complex as the British decision to leave the EU. When asked about the main event of the

justice, my view is that in order to be of any use,

year, Glen Newey is very clear: “The British

political philosophy has to take into account

referendum on the European Union, the Brexit

political realities, even if they are unpleasant or

that came out of it and its spin-off effects – the

even morally degrading.” One might well call

consequences are likely to be felt for many

this view Machiavellian, he admits, and states

years to come.” Brexit raises questions about

that in order to explain the value of practical

democracy and legitimacy which are closely

philosophy, one must define what politics is

linked to his research, such as: “Which is the

exactly. Newey: “In my view, politics addresses

more legitimate way of determining things – by

the question of what joint action we take in a

referendum or by parliament?”

certain situation. Politics is: free individuals

One of Newey’s main research projects focuses on the philosophical exploration of the notion of politics, analysing two opposite ends of the scale: the idealistic, or utopian concept of philosophy and its practical counterpart. Newey himself is a representative of the school of Practical Philosophy: “Whereas the utopian philosophers talk about ideal principles of


CV 2005 – Professor of Politics and International

Relations, Keele University

2012 – Professor of Political Theory, Université Libre de Bruxelles 2014 – Professor of Practical Philosophy, Leiden University

 I’m learning from students’ insights as much as they are learning from me” posing this question and trying to answer it.

which was launched in September 2015. It

This may include means like deception, lying

is designed for students who are interested

and the use of power.” A crucial element in this

in philosophy, but who do not have a strong

theory is freedom of speech, which is essential

philosophy background. Here, the concept

to his realistic concept of politics. “If you don’t

of practical philosophy is addressed not only

have free speech, you don’t have politics.”

in theory, but also in practice. Students have the option of doing an internship at one of

Real people

the many human rights organisations, NGOs,

Philosophy is something that can benefit real

or international institutions that are based in

people in the real world, says Newey (in the

The Hague, thus gaining hands-on experience

“The consequences of Brexit are likely to be

photo with Kant and Nietzsche puppets). “It is

of what philosophy in a work environment

felt for many years to come.”

a way of engaging with practical questions that

means. The specialisation is partly based

come up for most people in their lives and that

on a similar programme offered by Oxford

can become philosophical.” Take, for instance,

University, which could be seen as “a sort of

the Brexit referendum. Here the question of

vocational training for people who pursue a

the primary focus of loyalty comes up. “Are you

career in public service”. It will become clear

loyal to the government or to supranational

in the future whether this will also be the

institutions such as the EU?” Philosophy

case for the Leiden PPE. In this programme,

can help answer questions like these, and

students are invited to engage in discussions

Newey therefore attempts to open up the

and interaction. Newey says. “I like to develop

philosophical world to a wider audience. This

courses that are linked to my research, and I’m

he does, among others, in his blog for the

learning from students’ insights as much as

London Review of Books, in which he writes

they are learning from me. We are finding out

about political issues from a philosophical angle.

things together.”

Hands-on experience Newey has developed the MA specialisation

See also

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE),

 For more information on the

Leiden University Institute for Philosophy see


Bas van Rijn // Bachelor’s student

Thinking critically about religion

What was his high point from the past academic year? Well, actually the entire year was a high point. One thing is clear: Bas van Rijn, BA student in Religious Studies, is happy with his degree programme. “Religious Studies is sometimes confused

programme. “You learn to ask questions

with Theology,” says Bas van Rijn,” but

like: How does religion affect a person,

that’s a totally different degree programme.

why does a given religion attract a

Here in Religious Studies we analyse

particular group of people, and what do

many different religions from the outside,

those who practise a religion get out of it?”

whereas Theology mainly examines a single

In addition to that, his stint as teaching

religion from within.” The programme

assistant in 2015–2016 introduced Van

in Leiden is known for its breadth. A

Rijn to a whole new field: educational

whole range of religions is studied from

innovation. Lecturer Markus Davidsen is

an interdisciplinary perspective. While

advocating the introduction of religion as

that includes the major religions, such as

a required subject in secondary schools;

Christianity and Buddhism, other forms of

In the Netherlands, the subject is taught

religion are examined as well, like New Age

almost exclusively in schools with a

belief systems and even religions derived

specific approach. Van Rijn was involved

from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and the

in organising a conference on this topic

Star Wars films. Unifying factor Critical thinking and examining an issue from many different angles are two of the things Van Rijn values in the BA


CV 2013 – BA in Religious Studies, Leiden University 2015 – Teaching Assistant for Markus Davidsen 2015 – T.F.L.S. student association board member

 For the people that practise them, magic rituals really seem to work”

that brought together scholars, policy-

contact with the body, you can really imagine

makers and government officials. “A school

something being transferred through that

subject like this could be a unifying factor,”

contact.” This is not true only of exotic beliefs;

he says, “reducing the fear people have

the same applies to a well-known Catholic

“Outsiders often look very skeptically at magic

of other religions and improving mutual

ritual, for instance. The Catholic Church

rituals like the use of voodoo dolls or rain


teaches that the bread and wine administered


to believers turn into the body and blood of Voodoo and rain dances

Christ. “It feels logical that when we introduce

In his BA thesis, Van Rijn shows that religion

something into our body that it actually takes

is a multifaceted phenomenon. “I wanted

some effect in the body.” These are universal

to investigate how it is possible that, to the

cognitive processes. They are partially

people who practise them, magic rituals

responsible for the fact that practitioners can

really seem to work. Examples are the use of

be convinced that their ritual has an effect.

voodoo dolls or rain dances. Outsiders often

“These processes aren’t exclusively used in

look at these rituals very sceptically. Using

magical rituals, they are natural processes

theories from cognitive psychology and

that people use every single day to structure

cognitive linguistics, I show that there is a

their existence.” Van Rijn hasn’t grown tired

certain logic to the form of this sort of ritual

of this topic yet: “Ideally, you would also have

and the idea behind it. This is the case with

to conduct empirical research on this.” He

reiki, for example, with its laying of hands to

hopes to delve further into these issues while

transfer a particular energy. People perceive

pursuing his MA in Theology and Religious

a logic in this practice: if there is actual


 For more information on

bachelor programmes at Leiden university see


Sarita Koendjbiharie // Lecturer

Organisations are taking students’ advice Sarita Koendjbiharie is passionate about preparing BA International Studies students for their career. She’s the coordinator of a consultancy project course, where students provide recommendations to managers. “I can see the students really growing in

world. Every year she attracts a range of

this course. In just three months, they learn

different projects based on the knowledge

so many academic and practical skills - in

requirements of large organisations. “Students

that sense, it’s a real `pressure cooker’.” Sarita

satisfy those requirements by working in

Koendjbiharie is talking about PRINS

diverse teams. They analyse the question

- Practising International Studies -, the

and then conduct research under the close

consultancy project done by all 3rd year BA

supervision of the PRINS tutors.” Students

International Studies students (375 in 2015-

receive coaching and feedback through

2016). Koendjbiharie is both a lecturer within

tutorials, workshops and lectures given by

the BA programme and the coordinator of

professors from the Netherlands and other

PRINS. With her background in management

countries. These lectures are tailor-made for

and organisation, she developed this highly

the project, so that the students are introduced

innovative course. The most exceptional

to the concepts and theories needed to answer

aspect is that “here students aren’t students any more: they’re functioning as consultants for organisations and their real-life problems.” Practical impact In PRINS, Koendjbiharie works with large companies, government organisations and NGOs, which is quite unusual in the academic


CV 2005 – MSc Marketing Management, Rotterdam School

of Management, Erasmus University

2014 – PhD, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University 2014 – Lecturer BA International Studies, Leiden University

 Managers get a supply of innovative ideas, based on scientific research” the practical question of their client organisation.

selection, in spite of the fact that they have a

“As far as I know, our university is the only one

different perspective than, for instance, students

with a consultancy course in the BA phase.”

of economics, business administration or law,”

An example of these projects is the research

says Koendjbiharie. “Our students introduce the

for OPCW, the organisation for the prohibition

expertise of several disciplines, and can take a

of chemical weapons. The organisation faces

cultural-historical approach to solving issues.”

the challenge of navigating the new world of digital diplomacy and the use of social media.

Prize for the best team

“Six teams presented their reports about

The course gives students more self-confidence

this issue. And now we can see that OPCW

for their prospective careers. This is true for

is basing its social media posts on students’

all students, whatever their next step may be:

“Our students introduce the expertise of


a Master’s, an internship or a job. “They’ve

several disciplines, and can take a cultural-

gained experience in solving problems relating

historical approach to solving issues.”

Added value

to the international business world, such as

Koendjbiharie is responsible for building up the

sustainability and anti-corruption, and have

network of PRINS partners. Examples are Shell,

seen the theories and concepts coming to life.”

Unilever, Nationale Nederlanden, Ashoka and

The closing sessions of the course were therefore

Transparency International. “The organisations

the highlight of 2015-2016 for Koendjbiharie.

and companies endorse the added value of this

30 teams presented their recommendations in

partnership. Managers get a supply of fresh

a consultancy pitch to a critical jury composed

innovative ideas based on sound scientific

of managers, academics and members of the

research – something they often don’t have time

Faculty Board. “I was very impressed by the

for themselves. But students do have that time

level of their professionalism, work ethic and

and space.”

content-related knowledge. The students have proved themselves as experts.” For each project,

PRINS is also a ‘showcase’ for presenting the

the jury chose the best team that successfully

qualities of Humanities students to major

combined theory and practice. Their prize?

players like these organisations. “Our students

“Acknowledgement of the value of their ideas

aren’t always the first choice in recruitment and

that will be put into practice!”

 For more information on International Studies, see


Fresco Sam-Sin // Lecturer

The Manchu gold mine Fresco Sam-Sin is a lecturer and is fascinated by Manchu, the language spoken in the imperial court of the last dynasty of China. The passion he brings to the subject is infectious: an increasing number of students is taking his courses. “The launch of the journal Debtelin was

studied as if they were actually Chinese.

absolutely the high point of the past

As a result, almost no one reads texts in

academic year for me.” Fresco Sam-Sin

Manchu; researchers usually study the

explains that this journal – the title means

Chinese translations. But these

‘booklet’ – contains translations of Manchu

translations don’t give the whole story.

texts done by his students and himself. The

Also, there are about four million items

journal is produced using crowdfunding,

that haven’t been read yet. That’s

a method that is still quite uncommon in

a gold mine! A real wealth of

the academic world. Debtelin unites three

information is waiting, which

aspects that are very characteristic of Sam-

can give us a completely different

Sin: his aim to encourage students and

picture of the last Chinese dynasty.”

offer them opportunities, his sometimes unorthodox methods for getting things done, and his enthusiasm for Manchu. This is the language of an ethnic group in north-eastern China, which today is spoken by only a handful of people. The Manchus established the Qing dynasty in 1636. It was the last imperial dynasty of China and existed until 1912. Sam-Sin: “The Manchus assimilated with the Chinese, so they’re now


CV 2008 – MA Chinese Studies at Leiden University 2014 – Started development of 2016 – Started PhD track at Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen 2014 – Lecturer, Leiden University

 A digital platform is a way to really put a small language on the map”

Material culture

outside the University. “It’s a digital learning

Sam-Sin himself first became fascinated

and research platform, where we make all

by Manchu through Leiden University

kinds of sources accessible. Not only text,

Professor Uwe Blaesing, who has studied a

but also objects and maps. I use the platform

large number of languages. Now Sam-Sin

to give students individual assignments in

tries in all kinds of ways to draw the attention

addition to the lectures, such as translations

of students and researchers to Manchu,

and academic annotations. I also use it to

which has almost been forgotten. At the same time, he is working on a PhD dissertation at the University of Tübingen, focusing on the material culture of the Manchus. “I look at things like coins, steles and

link people who have the same interests, and it allows students to have contact with researchers in other countries. I can see

“A wealth of information is waiting, which can

that this has a very positive effect for the

give us a completely different picture of the

students: they become inspired to search for

last Chinese dynasty.”

greater depth.”

tiles from every possible angle, and draw conclusions about

Two pertinent sentences

what they say about Manchu

The platform’s success attracted the attention


of the University’s expertise centre for online learning, ECOLe, and it now supports

Search for greater depth

Sam-Sin and his team in developing a

While Sam-Sin would attend Professor

similar digital classroom for Hittite, another

Blaesing’s tutorials with just two other students,

‘small’ language. “This is a way to really put a

as a lecturer he now has around thirty

small language on the map; soon the whole

students, about half of whom live in other

corpus will be available online.” However,

countries. Sam-Sin brings these students

he still wants to emphasise the importance

and other researchers together on the

of the – physical – teacher. “Two pertinent

online platform, which he

sentences in a lecture can spark something

developed with IT specialist and Chinese

in students that stays with them forever, and

the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies see

Studies student Léon Rodenburg, initially

makes them into good scholars.”

 For more information on


Exchange Partners Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities has a wide range of academic exchange partners all over the world. For a complete overview of all Leiden University partners see: 24

The Faculty has agreements with universities on programme level and faculty level, while there are also numerous university-wide agreements with universities in and outside Europe. This global overview represents a selection of our exchange partners, as an illustration of the Faculty’s reach.

Japan  Akita International University  Kanazawa University  Tohoku University

Greece  Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Korea, South  Chung-Ang University  Hanyang University  Dongguk University

Ireland  National University of Ireland – Galway  University College Cork

Macao  Universidade de Macau Singapore  National University of Singapore Taiwan  National Taiwan University Thailand  Chulalongkorn University  Thammasat University Turkey  Boğaziçi Üniversitesi  Middle East Technical University  Sabancı Üniversitesi

Australia Australia  Monash University  University of Sydney

Europe Austria  Universität Wien

Africa Morocco  Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie de Rabat

Asia China  Beijing Language and Culture University  Shanghai International Studies University Hong Kong or British National (Overseas)  City University of Hong Kong  University of Hong Kong India  O.P. Jindal Global University  Symbiosis International University Israel  Tel Aviv University

Belgium  Universiteit van Antwerpen  Universiteit Gent  Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Czech Republic  Univerzita Karlova v Praze Denmark  University of Copenhagen Finland  University of Helsinki France  Université Montpellier (Paul Valery)  Université Paris I (Pantheon-Sorbonne)  Sciences Po Grenoble Georgia  Tbilisi State University (Ivane Javakhishvili) Germany  Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin  Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München  Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Hungary  Eötvös Loránd University

Italy  Università degli studi di Roma “La Sapienza”  Università di Bologna Norway  University of Oslo Poland  Uniwersytet Wrocławski Portugal  Universidade Nova de Lisboa Russian Federation  Perm State University Sholokhov Moscow  State University for Humanities Spain  Universidad Autónoma de Madrid  University of Deusto  Universitat Internacional de Catalunya Sweden  Lunds Universitet  Uppsala Universitet Switzerland  Université de Genève Ukraine  National University of Kyiv - Mohyla Academy United Kingdom  University of Edinburgh  University of London, King’s College  University of London, University College London

North America Canada  Université Laval Mexico  Instituto Tecnológicoy de Estudios Superiores de Occidente – ITESO United States  Bentley University  University of Florida

South America Chile  Universidad Central de Chile  Universidad Diego Portales


LeidenGlobal Leiden is home to a wealth of knowledge about all possible regions and cultures of the world. LeidenGlobal – a network comprising four of Leiden University’s faculties, two museums and five other knowledge institutes – links and publicises this knowledge, by offering a platform for advertising events such as symposia, exhibitions and lectures organised by the network partners.

LeidenGlobal Network Partners  Faculty of Humanities  Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences  Leiden Law School  Faculty of Archaeology

LeidenGlobal’s website also gives access to the partners’ unique collections, such as NINO’s

 African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL)

collection of clay tablets and the Asian collection of the University Library. In addition,

 International Institute for Asian

it can be used by the media, academics and anyone else with an interest to track down researchers with a specific (regional) expertise within the LeidenGlobal network.

Studies (IIAS)  Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean

LeidenGlobal also organises various annual activities itself, often in conjunction with Leiden City Council and other partners in the community. One example is the Voice4Thought festival, highlighting a specific theme such as ‘People in Motion’ through film, theatre, debate and workshops. LeidenGlobal also offers two graduate courses for PhD students each year, in which they are challenged to look beyond their own discipline. LeidenGlobal therefore brings the world closer in many different ways.



Studies (KITLV)  Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO)  Dutch National Museum of Antiquities (RMO)  National Museum of Ethnology (RMV)  Roosevelt Study Centre (RSC)

Perspectives on the World Education and research within the Faculty of Humanities

Interviews Annette Zeelenberg, ZeelenbergCommunicatie

Editors Regine Mulders Annette Zeelenberg

Translation Academic Language Centre, Faculty of Humanities

Portrait photography Marc de Haan

Design Creja

Other photo’s Monique Shaw (p. 6), MINUSMA/Marco Dormino (p. 6), Olaf Meyer (p. 7), Bjørn Christian Tørrissen (p. 11), Sea Turtle (p. 19), Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden (p. 25), Museum voor Volkenkunde (p. 25)

Graphic production UFB / GrafiMedia September 2016

Visit us online For more information about the Faculty, its programmes and institutes, see All previous editions of Perspectives of the World can be viewed at

    The information in this publication is correct as of August 2016, but Leiden University reserves the right to make changes affecting policies, curricula or any other matter in this publication without further notice.

Discover the world at Leiden University

Perspectives on the World 2016  

Education and research within the Faculty of Humanities

Perspectives on the World 2016  

Education and research within the Faculty of Humanities