Funding for 18 new PhDs in the humanities

20 June 2019

Research ranging from studies into cultural identity in Dutch online youth culture and early language development in gestational diabetes to the Babylonian socio-economic landscape in the first millennium BCE: 18 talented emerging researchers will spend the next few years carrying out research projects, thanks to funding from the PhDs in Humanities programme. The programme is funded by the Programme Office Sustainable Humanities and the NWO Domain Social Sciences and Humanities.

A total of 3,3 million euros was awarded in this funding round.

The PhD projects were selected from the universities involved in the process Sustainable Humanities. The aim of the PhDs in the Humanities Programme is to give a boost to the supply and promotion of young talent in the humanities. The institution that submitted the application provides a matching contribution of at least 20% for each project that is awarded funding.

The decision-making body consisting of Professor Frits van Oostrom (chair Programme Office Sustainable Humanities) and Professor Wim van den Doel (chair NWO Domain Social Sciences and Humanities) selected the following projects based on recommendations by the selection committee.

Projects are presented alphabetically according to the names of the applicants, the project title is provisional.

Opening up the black box: artistic explorations of technological surveillance
Applicant: Prof. dr. R.L. Buikema - UU
Candidate: R.L.L. Wevers

Many contemporary European art exhibitions currently address the growing importance of technological surveillance in post-9/11 Europe. This PhD project analyses a corpus of exhibitions of ‘surveillance art’, and investigates how they form an important contribution to public understanding and critical reflection on the impact of technological surveillance. The project examines the Arts as an innovative site where technological surveillance is scrutinized, socially just alternatives are designed and where citizens can be educated and made critically aware of the impact and implications of this form of surveillance.

New research on early language development in gestational diabetes
Applicant: Prof. dr. A. Chen - UU
Candidate: R. Ganga

Even before birth, children learn from speech in their environment. Findings from infants born too small and born preterm suggests that disturbances in these prenatal experiences with speech negatively impact their language development, but how is yet unknown. Therefore, this research focusses on the interaction between immaturity of the brain and prenatal experiences with speech and their consequences on language development in children from mothers with gestational diabetes. Furthermore, the results will help us understand why children from mothers with gestational diabetes often have a language delay. Based on this information, intervention can be developed in the future.

+31 Negotiating Cultural Identity in Dutch Online Youth Culture: Hip-Hop’s represent
Applicant: Prof. dr. Y. van Dijk - UL
Candidate: F.A. de Roest

Today, 8 out of 10 music streams in the Netherlands are Dutch hip-hop. This PhD-project studies how Dutch youth uses online hip-hop culture to (re)define a new expression of Dutch cultural identity in a global context. It combines multimodal discourse analysis of both professional and amateuristic Dutch hip-hop performances and online ethnography of the reactions to these performances to analyze how hip-hop enables Dutch youth to negotiate their cultural identity along different axes of locality, ethnicity, religion, gender, class and age. The project offers societal and academic knowledge on the deployment of hip-hop in cultural identity processes of youth.

Back to the roots of ethics: reciprocity in Ancient Hebrew
Applicant: Prof. dr. H. Gzella - UL
Candidate: C. Staps

Reciprocity is the basis for fundamental ethical principles as the golden rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”). Although the Bible has a lasting influence on our culture, we know surprisingly little about what reciprocity meant in biblical times. In this study, we investigate the concept of reciprocity in ancient Israel, by looking at how reciprocal situations are described in language. This study does not only contribute to biblical studies or linguistics: going back to the roots of our own ethics can fuel discussions about morality in a time of growing individualization.

The Babylonian socio-economic landscape as mirrored in the archive of a priestly family in the first millennium BCE
Applicant: Prof. dr. K. Kleber - VU
Candidate: L. Cecilia

Babylonian clay tablets are valuable sources of information on society, economy and many more aspects of life in ancient Mesopotamia.
My research aims to provide an in-depth study of social interactions in the important and dynamic period between the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Empires. For this purpose, I will produce the first scholarly edition and analysis of circa 300 mostly unpublished texts that once belonged to the private archive of a priestly family that lived in the middle of the first millennium BCE. The micro-history of this family serves as a mirror reflecting the larger socio-economic and political landscape of Babylonia.

Gazing Ahead: China’s Imagined Futures in Digital Art
Applicant: Prof. dr. ir. B.J. de Kloet - UvA
Candidate: J. Snels

China is leapfrogging into a digital future. While Western depictions of China’s future tend to be dystopian and those of the Chinese government utopian, this project examines the alternative imaginations of the future that exist in Chinese digital art. It asks: how do Chinese digital art works imagine and construct different futures for China, and what are their social and political implications? The project studies what imaginations of future hyper-urbanization, body modification, and surveillance are anticipated and aspired to in Chinese digital art and analyzes them using posthumanist theory and object-oriented ontology.

The everyday life of media fans: ritual and sacralisation in online media fandom
Applicant: Dr. K.E. Knibbe - RUG
Candidate: W.F. Wagenaar

Digital media have made it possible to engage in new, consuming ways with the fictional worlds of different media. This is especially true for media fans, who routinely explore their favourite story worlds online. Such involvement raises concern about people becoming disconnected from the ‘actual’ world. Existing research on fandom fails to adequately address the complex interactions between online fan activities, fictional worlds, and people’s everyday lives. This project uses theory on ritual framing and sacralisation to fill this gap, with the aim of developing a new framework for studying the cultural significance of fictional worlds and media fandom.

The prehistoric origin and spread of the Indo-Iranian languages: A linguistic test of hypotheses rooted in genetics and archaeology
Applicant: Prof. dr. G.J. Kroonen - UL
Candidate: A.I. Palmér

How did the Indo-Iranian languages, a branch of the Indo-European language family, end up being spoken in Asia? Recent studies on ancient DNA suggest that prehistoric Indo-Iranian speakers migrated from the Indo-European homeland in the Ukrainian Steppe all the way to Asia – but not without going through Central Europe. This project will test this hypothesis by comparing linguistic evidence to archaeology and genetics to better understand the prehistoric spread of the Indo-Iranian languages.

Nature, Crisis, and Creativity: The Landscape of the Northern Netherlands as Critical Material, from Abstract to Activist Art
Applicant: Prof. dr. A.S. Lehmann - RUG
Candidate: A. Haveman

This project shows how artists have use the landscape of the Northern Netherlands as critical material. It illustrates how artists’ first experiments with the use of the landscape as their material since the late 1960s are still relevant. These histories are related to present day artists, who are engaging with issues such as the rising sea levels or the earthquakes in Groningen. The result will not only provide insight
into a hitherto neglected chapter of Dutch art history, but also show how artists might foster awareness or challenge perspectives in the face of contemporary ecological crises.

Forensic use of medical biobank – an ethical analysis of the transforming boundaries of Confidentiality
Applicant: Prof. dr. G. Meynen - VU
Candidate: N.F. de Groot

Whether patients visit the family physician for a blood test or have their gall bladder surgically removed, this bodily material will probably be kept in a storage depot for decades. From approximately fourteen million Dutch citizens, bodily material is stored in biobanks across the country. Should it be possible for the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes to use this material? This project will examine whether – and if so, how –forensic use of medical biobanks can be ethically justified. The project’s results could have important (inter)national policy implications.

A typological and theoretical perspective on reduplication in Sign Language of the Netherlands
Applicant: Dr. R. Pfau - UvA
Candidate: C.M.J. van Boven

Reduplication is a common word formation process in both spoken and sign language. Under reduplication, a (part of a) word stem is repeated. This study will offer the first comprehensive account of reduplication in Sign Language of the Netherlands. The study will describe the functions of and restrictions on reduplication of both nouns and verbs. Beyond description, the study will offer a typological and theoretical perspective on the phenomenon. First, results will be compared to earlier findings from both sign and spoken languages. Second, the patterns will be analyzed within a well-established linguistic framework, namely Optimality Theory.

“Is this /ourguy/?”: Tracing Political Identity Formation within Anonymous Online Subcultures
Applicant: Dr. B. Rieder - UvA
Candidate: S.H. Hagen

This research sets out to explore how anonymous online subcultures use digital objects as vehicles for political identification. These subcultures have been attributed increased political relevance in the last few years, notably for being seen as caught up in an “online culture war”. In the absence of personal connections, how are these masked groups able to constitute themselves as political collectives? Can we use their cultural productions, like memes, to tell the story of their identity construction and the formation of political groups?

From European ports to Caribbean homes: Second World War refugees in global transit.
Applicant: Prof. dr. P. Romijn - UvA
Candidate: R. de Jong

During the Second World War about three hundred, mainly Jewish refugees, reached the Caribbean from the Netherlands after a flight through largely occupied Europe. They arrived in countries with
multicultural societies under different colonial regimes. This project investigates how the interaction between governmental institutions and the agency of the refugees – their ability to act – influenced the course of their flight and subsequent fate. The research aims to provide insight into overseas flight migration during wartime.

Age and Existence: An Empirical-Philosophical Investigation of Late Life
Applicant: Prof. dr. J. Slatman - UvT
Candidate: H.G. Eilenberger

According to the model of successful ageing, a fulfilled late life involves three things: health, bodily and mental fitness, and active engagement with life. Though popular among policy makers and researchers, the model reduces the notion of success to measurable numbers. Thus, the subjective experiences of elderly people fall by the wayside. To illuminate this blind spot, my project starts from phenomenology, a philosophical movement that focuses on the concrete “howness” of experience. Using ethnographic tools, I will interview elderly people about their perceptions and experiences, which will aid me in developing a more comprehensive perspective on ageing.

Conscious Reflection versus Embodied Habits: The Human Mind from a Nonhuman Perspective
Applicant: Prof. dr. M.V.P. Slors - RU
Candidate: B. van Woerkum

How does human cognition relate to various forms of nonhuman cognition? To understand human cognition in an evolutionary perspective, this question must be answered. This project aims to do this by defining cognitive capacities in a novel way: as the way organisms skilfully respond to possibilities for action their environment offers them due to the specific bodies and sensory capacities that they possess.

Changing gender: Language variation and change in gender marking in Dutch dialects
Applicant: Prof. dr. A.P.C. Swanenberg - UvT
Candidate: K.G.A. Doreleijers

Shifts in nominal gender marking attract the attention of many language users. In Dutch, phrases like ‘de meisje’ are for example quite salient, but also in Dutch dialects there is an abundance of variation. In this project we study Brabantish dialects that originally had different markers for masculine, feminine and neuter lexical gender. Which varieties do we find and why? We will not only investigate the grammatical restrictions on dialect change, but also the social function of dialect use, for example in identity construction. The insights we gain will be disseminated to heritage organizations, educational institutions and language policy-makers.

Imagining climate change: The Humanities at the forefront of climate change research
Applicant: Prof. dr. F.R.R. Vermeylen - EUR
Candidate: U. Hahn

Given that humanity significantly contributes to climate change, the emerging and innovative field of the Environmental Humanities is highly needed to re-imagine climate change as a human – instead of merely a scientific – challenge to achieve much-needed positive change. One area of investigation in the Environmental Humanities is visual art addressing climate change, as it can render invisible causes creatively palpable by using various forms of artistic imaginations. This research will extend this important work by inquiring how contemporary artists frame and represent the human-climate change relation and, moreover, how they can foster public engagement with climate change through their imaginations.

Speech planning and monitoring in Parkinson’s disease
Applicant: Prof. dr. M.B. Wieling - RUG
Candidate: T. Rebernik

With the worldwide ageing of the population, there is an increased prevalence of age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD). In PD, speech is also affected. Given the importance of being able to communicate effectively, the ultimate goal of this project is to investigate which aspects of speech – planning or monitoring – are affected most in PD. Importantly, we do not only investigate the produced speech, but also the underlying movement of the articulators. Another goal of this project is to assess if there are Parkinson-specific patterns in our results which may help develop better diagnostic tools and speech therapies. 

Source: NWO