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The East & Europe


Dr M. Hoijtink (European Cultural History)

Members of the research group

Prof. Pim den Boer (European Cultural History)

Dr Paul Bijl (Nederlandse Letterkunde)

Ardjuna Candotti (extern PhD European Cultural History)

Dr Lucinda Dirven (Ancient History)

Dr Caroline Drieënhuizen (European Cultural History)

Prof. J.W. van Henten (Religious Studies)

Dr Mirjam H.E. Hoijtink (European Cultural History)

Ammeke Kateman (PhD Religious Studies)

Prof. Bram Kempers (Sociology and History of the Arts)

Dr Tamara van Kessel (European Cultural History)

Prof. Stefan Landsberger (Culture Contemporary China)

Dr Richard van Leeuwen (Religious Studies)

Tatiana Markaki (PhD Classics)

Matteo Merlino (PhD Arachaeology)

Dr David Rijser (Classics)

Dr Ihab Saloul (Postdoc Cultural Heritage and Identity)

Lisanne Snelders (PhD Nederlandse Letterkunde)

Prof. Vladimir Stissi (Archaeology)

Klaas Stutje (PhD European Studies)

Dr Günay Uslu (PhD European Cultural History)

Dr Claske Vos (European Studies),

Dr Thijs Weststeijn (Art History)

Prof. Gerard Wiegers (Religious Studies)

Dr Robbert Woltering (Semitic Languages and Culture)

Dr Gert Jan van Wijngaarden (Archaeology)

Prof. Irene Zwiep (Semitic Languages and Culture)

Attended by:

Dr Maaike van Berkel (Medieval History)

Prof. Michael Wintle (European Studies)

Dr Chiara de Cesari (European Studies, Cultural Studies ACW)

Josip Kesic (PhD European Studies)

Description of the research programme

Decades of critical reflection on ‘Orientalism’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Occidentalism’, have not removed meta-geographical notions such as the West, the Orient, the Islamic Middle East or Asia from our global intellectual furniture. This research group invites researchers in the wider field of humanities both to share their scholarly interest in the continuous processes of cultural interaction, exchange and transformation taking place in these regions, and to discuss the constructions of ‘the East’ and the ’Europe’, both of which have been present since antiquity. Through critical, multidisciplinary, diachronic and comparative approaches this research group intends to explore the dynamics between the twofold geographical and conceptual constructs: ‘the East’, whether identified with Islam, eastern Christianity’s, Asia or other aspects, and ‘Europe’, which includes the self-legitimization of Western culture, for a long time defined by papal rule, Protestantism and Enlightenment.

Ancient, medieval, renaissance, early modern and present day writings and debates about ‘the East’ and ‘Europe’ – the latter in the wake of post-colonialism and globalism – all call into question the Eurocentric nature of such time and space delineations. How these geographical or cultural areas are perceived, reflects the contemporary balances of power but is also subject to the changes in academic discourses and disciplines, the boundaries being established on the basis of historical, religious, political, geographical, cultural and linguistic criteria. The academic discourse is still deeply based on European thinking.

When Ottoman Sultans employed the title ‘Roman Emperor’; when Italian Renaissance artists decorated their paintings with Arabic calligraphy; when Plato was deemed a prophet in Baghdad and when Egyptian modernists claimed the Reformation as part of the Islamic legacy; when Hindu-Buddhist Javanese sculpture was to be understood as a fruit of Hellenism in the Netherlands of 1820; and when nineteenth-century Jews proclaimed themselves West – Eastern Europeans, these were often not mere cases of exoticism or even appropriation but rather reflections of different metageographies with which we are not familiar. One of the challenges of the research group is to find and explain the historical and present-day contexts and ideological functions of such cases of cultural identification.

Fields of Research

  • Historical contacts and examples of cultural transfer
  • Mutual receptions, appropriations and rejections
  • Reflection on the methodological implications of the East-West dichotomy in modern scholarship