Funding for seventeen new PhDs in the Humanities | NWO (2024)

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 programme is funded by the Programme Office Sustainable Humanities and the NWO Domain Social Sciences and Humanities. A total of 3,2 million euros was awarded in this funding round. The institution that submitted the application provides a matching contribution of at least 20% for each project that is awarded funding.

Research projects 2021

The decision-making body consisting of Professor Frits van Oostrom (chair Programme Office Sustainable Humanities) and Professor Anita Hardon (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.

What’s So Funny? (Self-)Representations of Jewish and Muslim Women in British Comedy Entertainment and Humour in Everyday Life

Applicant: Prof. dr. C.A.M. van den Berg - RU
Candidate: A.L.F. Spoliar

This research examines representations of Jewish and Muslim women in TV comedy entertainment and humorous self-representations of Jewish and Muslim women in day-to-day life in contemporary Britain. Muslim women are often framed, in academic and public discourse, as lacking a sense of humour. Conversely, Judaism is typically associated with self-deprecating humour. Humor has the potential both to transgress boundaries and facilitate new dialogue, and to reinforce old norms. This project explores the role of humour in the (self-)representations of Jewish and Muslim women, and how they are positioned (and position themselves) in terms of gender, race and religion in Britain.

Languages of Vulnerability in Early Modern Women's Poetry

Applicant: Prof. dr. C.A.P. Clarkson - UvA
Candidate: A-R.K. Shack

Looking at how poetry articulates subjectivity in construction, this thesis is concerned with how early modern female poets represent and articulate vulnerable selfhood in lyric poetry. Situating itself in critical discussions on selfhood and gender in early modernity, this thesis reflects on patriarchal discourses of control that governed women and the female body. The research argues that for early modern female poets selfhood is not only complicated by tension between self-sufficiency and interpersonal relationships, but is contingent on vulnerability itself.

Rhythms and Rupture: Everyday Life in Three Towns in Habsburg Central Europe, 1890-1930

Applicant: Prof. dr. J.F.J. Duindam - LEI
Candidate: F.M.M. Visser

The fall of the Habsburg Empire in 1918 had major consequences for Central Europe. Despite national-political changes and the formation of new nation-states, many aspects of life remained the same. In the everyday life of local communities this stability becomes particularly evident. People identify strongly with their city and region, yet they also relate to more abstract spaces like nation, state and empire. In this project I compare levels of continuity and change between 1890 and 1930 in the everyday practices of three local communities – Linz, Bolzano/Bozen, and Budějovice/Budweis – and examine how these reflected and shaped territorial identities.

SAFEGUARDING A HEALTHY FUTURE: Dutch preventive child health intervention between politics and practice, 1901-2020

Applicant: Prof. dr. R.D. Futselaar - EUR
Candidate: R.M. van der Meer

A growing group of medical and political reformers claims that Dutch health care should focus more on prevention. Critics, however, argue that these ambitions elaborate on increasing governmental control throughout the twentieth century. Yet, remarkably little is known about the history of Dutch preventive child health interventions. This PhD-project therefore investigates how physicians, officials and parents practically shaped child health intervention, and analyses how local health infrastructures influenced the twentieth-century political debate on prevention. This research thereby results in a relevant long-term perspective on the ideologically driven public health policies and preventive practice.

Bridging Nationalisms: Italian Ideas of Transnational Solidarity Between the Processes of National Unification in Italy and Germany (1830-1871)

Applicant: Prof. dr. B.A. de Graaf - UU
Candidate: S. Lissi

Between 1830 and 1871, Italy and Germany both experienced processes of national unification. ‘Bridging Nationalisms’ examines Italian ideas of cross-border solidarity between these processes in order to better understand the transnational dimension of nationalisms. It analyses the origins and mutations of these Italian ideas and studies how Italian actors used them to foster positive emotional response among Germans. Against the backdrop of a present-day rise of Identitarian movements, ‘Bridging Nationalisms’ seeks to surpass understandings of nationalist movements as disconnected entities. Through its innovative methodological approach, it sheds light on the multitude of bridges and cultural transfers between them.

Old English Renewed: Tracing Transitional English in the Twelfth Century

Applicant: Prof. dr. J. Grijzenhout - LEI
Candidate: A.M.W. van Baalen

The twelfth century is a crucial period in the history of the English language; it is the transitional period between two language stages which differ vastly in terms of their phonology, morphology, and lexis: Old English and Middle English. This project uses a vastly underutilised source to trace the linguistic developments of twelfth-century English: linguistically updated manuscript copies of originally Old English texts. ln doing so, this project will provide unique insights into the lexical, phonological and morphological developments that took place in the language during this important period.

A study into the impact of socio-economic changes on the respiratory health of past Dutch populations

Applicant: Dr. A.G. Henry - LEI
Candidate: M. Casna

Respiratory disorders have had a constant presence throughout human history and still greatly contribute to the global burden of disease worldwide. Differences in prevalence of these respiratory diseases throughout time and space are linked to risks posed by different environments and activities. Through a detailed study of over 1000 archaeological skeletons, this research investigates prevalence rates in several Dutch populations in order to highlight the impact of socio-cultural changes on respiratory health in the medieval (1200-1449 CE) and early modern (1500-1850 CE) periods.

Small words play a major role in social participation

Applicant: Prof. dr. H. de Hoop - RU
Candidate: I. Wets

For many people, communicating flows easily. Unconsciously, you frequently use words such as ‘well’ for a smooth interaction. They are crucial to structure and nuance your message. After a brain injury, communication no longer runs smoothly. How are these words used then? Are they too difficult and therefore omitted or used more often as a solution to communication problems? This research will lead not only to new theoretical insights, but also to recommendations for clinical treatment.

Out of Breath: Towards a politics of breathability

Applicant: Prof. dr. L.M. Huijer - EUR
Candidate: S. van Balen

Facing ecological crises requires that we turn our attention to the breathability of humans, nonhumans and our (immediate) environments. By imagining ourselves to be air- and breath-independent, we lost sight of practices of care towards our environments and each other - and thus find ourselves in a society out of breath. In this dissertation, these breathability practices inform a future-oriented politics of care for facing the ecological crisis. The nitrogen and biodiversity crisis will function as case studies.

Human Rights and the Anthropocene; Thinking Through the Implications of the Critique of Anthropocentrism for Universal Rights

Applicant: Prof. dr. H.Y.M. Jansen - UvA
Candidate: J. Leeuwenkamp

This project rethinks human rights from a non-anthropocentric perspective. It analyzes the implications of the critique of anthropocentrism by eco-philosophers such as Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway for the human rights framework. It focuses in particular on their understanding of human-nonhuman relations as ‘earthbounded’ and its implications for human-human relations. The aim is to reconceptualize the ethical and political foundations of human rights beyond anthropocentrism, without undermining the normative power of universal rights. The project involves case studies about Urgenda, the Embassy of the North Sea and the Dakota Access Pipeline, where questions of ecological and social justice are interconnected.

On or off the Silicon Valley bandwagon? How the people behind the data reshape the smart city

Applicant: Prof. dr. M.S.S.E. Janssen - EUR
Candidate: M. Fried

Technologies and stories about how technologies can help cities circulate rapidly and globally. App-based services, entrepreneurial start-ups, and innovative tech-companies are allegedly the answer to urban challenges. But do digital workers —typically seen as crucial in transforming cities according to Silicon Valley’s recipe— really think, talk, and act accordingly? This ethnographic project compares the experiences of three types of digital workers in cities in The Netherlands and Argentina. The project, thereby, provides insights into how digital city workers, against the odds, can re-shape the Silicon Valley bandwagon.

The Becoming-Playful of Warfare in the Netherlands

Applicant: Prof. dr. J.F.F. Raessens - UU
Candidate: D. Jansen

Some say training simulations, ‘serious games’, and remote-controlled drones turn warfare into just a game. But to what extent can we really speak of a so-called ‘ludification of warfare’, and how should we explain such a process? This research will map out the military, academic and commercial interests that underpin this phenomenon, in order to subsequently see how those interests propagate and maintain the ludification of warfare in the Netherlands, and to what extent those interests themselves are legitimized by the same process.

Numerical development in Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

Applicant: Prof. dr. J.E. Rispens - UvA
Candidate: H.M. de Vries

Children with developmental language disorder (DLD) often have difficulties with counting and mathematics, but the cause of these problems is still unknown. This project aims to investigate how these numeracy deficits relate to DLD. First, we want to know if children with DLD can use linguistic rules in their number system. Two languages (Russian, Dutch) will be compared, as the transparency of the rule system could be of influence. Furthermore, we will investigate whether statistical learning can explain deficiencies in numeracy. Insight into numeracy development in DLD can contribute to better diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.

Favoured by the Gods: An Inquiry Into Theories of Divine Election relating to Poverty and Wealth

Applicant: Prof. dr. P.B.A. Smit - VU
Candidate: P.D. Dekker

What does it mean that someone is rich? Or poor? Religious answers to such questions, especially those relating to divine election, largely impact society as they (co-)determine how people evaluate wealth and poverty and related issues. Though widely popular, these religious beliefs have not yet been systematically explored, compared, and evaluated in light of their societal implications. To fill that hiatus in the current state of research, this project addresses the following research question: How can contemporary Christian beliefs relating divine election to wealth and poverty be evaluated critically in light of their potential societal implications?

hom*o Imperfectus: Animals, Machines, and the Quest for Humanity in Late Mediaeval France

Applicant: Prof. dr. C.K.M. von Stuckrad - RUG
Candidate: S. Gins

What does it mean to be human, and what roles do (other) animals play in the answer to this perennial question? This project approaches mediaeval encyclopaedias, mechanical animals, and so-called animal trials in fifteenth-century Burgundy from an original anthropocritical perspective. These salient case studies constitute historical antecedents of the growing interest in the interplay between humans, nature, and artificial intelligence. In this manner, this investigation provides an important historical impulse to pressing debates surrounding the ecological footprint of humankind, the ethical implications of developing increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence, and the acknowledgment of nonhuman animals’ subjective rights.

Catastrophe or just a drama: Dating the Minoan eruption of Thera

Applicant: Prof. dr. S. Voutsaki - RUG
Candidate: P. Erdil

The Minoan eruption of Thera (Santorini) is considered to be one of the defining events of the Greek Bronze Age. A secure date has never been achieved, and hence the impact of the eruption on the Late Bronze Age societies of the Aegean has remained unresolved. By bringing new scientific data together with traditional archaeological evidence, this project strives to establish a secure chronology for the eruption, creating a benchmark that will bring this long-running drama to a conclusion.

New research project on the role of rhythmic abilities in speech segmentation

Applicant: Prof. dr. F.N.K. Wijnen - UU
Candidate: I.M. van der Wulp

Infants face the challenge of segmenting continuous speech into words and likely use statistical learning (SL) to aid this process. Individual variation in SL ability at an early age is associated with later vocabulary development and language disorders. An outstanding question is how such individual differences in SL arise. Rhythmic abilities are hypothesized to drive these differences, as well as general cognitive abilities (e.g. pattern recognition, working memory). This project will investigate if rhythmic and/or cognitive abilities predict individual performance on SL tasks. This will provide new insights on language acquisition and possibly early detection of language disorders.

Funding for seventeen new PhDs in the Humanities | NWO (2024)
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