Categorie archief: English posts

Time to look at girls differently

By Sophie Pape            Are you happy with your life? The way you have constructed it? What if you were born in another country? Would it be the same? It is likely that it will be quite different. Questions like these popped up while watching the documentary Time to look at girls: Migrants in Bangladesh and Ethiopia, which was shown by Marina de Regt during the EASA Anthropology of Children and Youth Seminar on 19 November 2015. Since June 2009, this EASA Network organizes monthly meetings, which bring together students,researchers, NGOs and policy makers working with children and youth (

The documentary details the lives of four girls: two living in Bangladesh where they worked in a garment factory and two living in Ethiopia where they worked in the sex industry. These girls were my age (in their twenties) or younger and had to make choices I – most likely – will never have to make. But what if I had been in their position? Would I have made the same choices?

Lees verder

Poor Whites in South Africa

Just like last year, various master students obtained a small financial allowance from the Vamos Bien-Foundation of our Department. In  return, they write blogs about their fieldwork, posted on the Like last year, we will re-post some of these field stories on our Standplaatswereld site. The first one is by Dafydd Russell-Jones. He went to South Africa to explore the experiences of poverty among white communities living in informal settlements in and around Pretoria.  This research will explore the lived realities of white South Africans who have experienced a great shift in social and economic security since the end of apartheid.


By Dafydd Russel-Jones   After commuting in and out of Westfort (an ‘improvised’ community near Pretoria) for the past 6 weeks, I was presented an opportunity to live in one of the spare rooms with a member of the Democratic Alliance and so I have been living as he does for the past week. On the very first visit to Westfort, I spoke with a young Soweto man with two kids, and Indian family who lived next door to a Zimbabwean family, a Zulu man, who was neighbours with an Afrikaner lady and also a coloured family. I was told by one of my supervisors that I should not go looking for the ‘rainbow nation’ whilst in South Africa because I simply would not find it. It is clear that the rainbow exists right here, but the colours are not united in their freedom of choice, instead they are bound in their daily struggles and alas, there is not a pot of gold sight.

During my time, I have tried to speak with a diverse range of people as possible but have carried out the most in depth interviews with minority of Afrikaners (20) as they are the focus of this study. Regardless of cultural background, there are three clear insecurities that would dominate any humans daily psychological, emotional and operational capacities; no running water, no electricity and not knowing that you will still be sleeping under the same roof come tomorrow. Lees verder

Another World

IMG_1150By Duane Jethro. I cut in the queue to buy cigarettes. The big guy behind me approaches and says, “sorry but I was in front of you”. I let him pass. But he’s not content. He turns and says, “don’t be like the Dutch they were like that. They exterminated all the indigenous people. Just look at Holland, its all flat, indicative of the flat, all conquering mindset of the people that live there”. A short, stocky dude, he’s clutching a pack of salt, rice and milk. I wonder where he comes from. “You should be more like the Spanish” he continues, “they are nice”. “Did you know the Spanish were the first people to conquere the Cape? They liked eating babies but they didn’t like black babies that’s why there are so many black people in South Africa”, he says. He speaks in deep monotones and has that wild eyed look that I do not want to test with historical facts. I am confused but nod, and try to avoid eye contact. He pays and leaves, but the confusion and anxiety of the encounter hangs like smoke on my shoulder.

Commemorations, death and memorials. These are the things I am struggling with later that same evening. The words splashed on my computer screen seem to speak with the same accent of the guy at the counter. Dealing with my thesis, I now try avoid eye contact, nod and keep saying yes. The stairs creak as my girlfriend comes downstairs clutching her phone. “Switch on the TV, president Zuma is going to make an announcement, they say”. I close the computer and switch on the TV. The public broadcaster is preparing for something big. Jacob Zuma is wearing black, and conveys the bombshell that is Nelson Mandela’s death in his own slow muddled way. We become teary and embrace. A little later, Barack Obama splashes onto the TV screen. We’re ambivalent, but he speaks with sincerity. Tears are now streaming down our cheeks. It’s all so confusing. We’d never imagined it would be like this. Lees verder

Every 12 seconds

12secondsDuring the 8th Annual Symposium on Current Developments in Ethnographic Research held this year at the VU (28-30 August) keynote speaker and political scientist Timothy Pachirat talked about his undercover, ethnographic research at an industrialized slaughter house on the kill floor. Timothy, who is Assistant Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research, wrote a book about his research, ‘Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight’, in which he explores how industrialized violence at an American slaughterhouse is organized, disciplined, and reproduced. At the slaughterhouse, 2,500 cattle are killed per day – one every 12 seconds. With his consent, we share below parts of an interview he held this year with  correspondent Avi Solomon from about his research and  book.

Avi: Why did you choose to go undercover in a slaughterhouse?

Timothy: I wanted to understand how massive processes of violence become normalized in modern society, and I wanted to do so from the perspective of those who work in the slaughterhouse. My hunch was that close attention to how the work of industrialized killing is performed might illuminate not only how the realities of industrialized animal slaughter are made tolerable, but also the way distance and concealment operate in analogous social processes: war executed by volunteer armies; the subcontracting of organized terror to mercenaries; and the violence underlying the manufacturing of thousands of items and components we make contact with in our everyday lives. Like its more self-evidently political analogues–the prison, the hospital, the nursing home, the psychiatric ward, the refugee camp, the detention center, the interrogation room, and the execution chamber–the modern industrialized slaughterhouse is ‘zone of confinement,’ a ‘segregated and isolated territory,’ in the words of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, ‘Invisible,’ and ‘on the whole inaccessible to ordinary members of society.’ I worked as an entry level worker on the kill floor of an industrialized slaughterhouse in order to understand, from the perspective of those who participate directly in them, how these zones of confinement operate.

Lees verder

Racism as satire

By Markus Balkenhol    Progressive Dutch were shocked when they read the racist commentary swamping critics of the Zwarte Piet figure in recent weeks. “It’s time this whining negro gets a new owner,” and “they should let him pick cotton as a punishment,” or “In Sint’s bag off the Munt tower with Quinsy Gario” were, by comparison, among the more harmless racist execrations that were flung at Gario and other critics of the figure.[1] With indignation, many proponents of the Zwarte Piet figure who understood themselves as non-racist were quick to condemn this outburst of racism. A handful began to wonder whether there may have been a point to the critique, after all. Yet the racism spilling across public media continued to be seen as an exception, representing only a few ‘actual’ racists who were in no way representative of larger proportions of Dutch society. The racist comments were understood to be altogether disconnected from the Sinterklaas celebration as such, and their racism was seen as completely out of sync with the benign family tradition they held so dear. Many have told me that they had never seen anything wrong with the family tradition, but that they were taken aback by the reactions. Lees verder

“This is how it is”. Your Informant’s Recognition as the Ultimate Reward

renskeoptredenDoor Renske den Uil
During the first semester of the master Social and Cultural Anthropology, you are working on the development of a research proposal. After four intense months of reading, writing, re-reading and re-writing, you leave to the field. Then, for a three-month period of time, you are doing fieldwork and the distant words you have read throughout the first few months of the master, are now becoming personified in the stories and lives of your informants. You start to build relationships with these informants, some superficial and formal, others profound and sometimes even evolving into special friendships. After three months have passed, you have to leave the field again. The friends you have made stay behind, but with a suitcase full of data you carry their stories and lives with you.

These stories are fixed: in your notebook, in your photo’s, in your video’s, in your voice-recorder, and most of all in your mind and heart. Returning from the field, you face three more intense months in which you have to translate the reality of your informants back into words again. Solving the ethnographic puzzle leads to the final result of this master: a complete master-thesis. After a full academic year of toiling, floundering and doubt, you hand in your thesis and ultimately receive a grade that reflects the quality of your work. For many of us, this is where the thesis-era ends. For me, however, this was not the case.

Lees verder

Anthropology Day, November 29th, 2013

As every academic year, this year again the department will organize an “Anthropology Day”. Write down November 29th in your agenda! You are warmly invited to this year’s Anthropology Day that, once again, promises to be a highly interesting and relevant symposium. This year’s theme is applied anthropology  and we invited well-known speakers who work outside academia (see the provisional program below). Please save the date. More information will follow. Lees verder