Only looking forward?

“In front of the office of the NGO stood a traditional ‘hanok’ house which caved in just a few days before I took this picture.”

By Maaike van Nus       “My initial expectation before meeting them was that they would be more, ehm, that they wouldn’t be as assimilated as they are, I mean it’s a good thing that they are, but it seems they all have cell phones, and they all have grown fairly accustomed to the life here”

This was told to me in an interview with one of my informants about the North Korean refugees he’d just met. For my master in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the VU I conducted three months of fieldwork in Seoul, South Korea. I worked with an NGO that provides North Korean refugees with free English lessons by matching them with volunteers who speak fluent English. My research revolves around these volunteers. North Korea has always been a great interest and concern of mine, as well as the resettlement of North Korean refugees once they have escaped their homeland through China, and thus I decided to focus my research on volunteers who help them in this resettlement process. Continue reading

‘What if they were really extreme’

Hayate Ait Bouzid is a Master student Anthropology at the VU who did her research about the environmental behaviour of middle-class people in Brunei Darussalam. A country that is often not known by the large public or at best misconceived. She is sharing her story about how the preconceived view of Brunei made her question her trip to this Southeast Asian country.

BruneiBeing back from my three months fieldwork in Brunei Darussalam, it feels like I have never been there really, it all seems like a dream. With emphasis on the word dream, not nightmare. To be honest, in the beginning I was quite afraid of this country, afraid of the unknown. Especially with having very few people in my surroundings knowing about this country and if they knew about it, the first two things they would say were: ‘Oh yes, it’s located on the Island of Borneo, I have been to Sabah you know’ or ‘Oh.. do you know they have the Sharia there..?’.

The latter really made me question my trip to Brunei. In one way or another I was afraid it would limit my research. So a few weeks before going there I really had this thought: ‘Sh*t, what did I get myself into, by going to this country…?.’ I was searching on YouTube for a few minutes of reassurance, but I couldn’t find much. The feeling got worse, with every news article I read about the restriction of the Sharia law in the country, the negative stories about the Sultan and how Christmas was totally banned in Brunei. Continue reading

Ik (b)en de Ander

Door Irene Smouter     Afgelopen jaar kreeg ik de kans om een half jaar te studeren in Johannesburg, Zuid Afrika, waar ik als antropologe in de dop enorm veel waardevolle ervaringen heb kunnen opdoen. Want wat wist ik nou echt over het land voor ik ging? Ik kende de verhalen over Apartheid, extreme ongelijkheid en de hoop op een ‘Rainbow-nation’, waar ieder-een gelijk zou zijn. Maar de realiteit leerde me meer, en bracht antropologische begrippen als ‘The Other’, ook wel de ‘De Ander’ in een nieuw daglicht. Als antropoloog heb ik een verlangen om ‘De Ander’ te kunnen begrijpen, dit is een rode draad geweest in mijn studie, maar ik begreep pas echt wat het begrip omhelst, toen ik in Johannesburg aan den lijve ondervond hoe het is om ‘De Ander’ te zijn. Continue reading

Living with the End

Black Hole sunBy Peter Versteeg          Recently Chris Cornell, singer of the bands Soundgarden and Audio-slave, died. Soundgarden is probably best known for their early nineties song ‘Black Hole Sun’, which is the invocation of a sort of natural disaster which will swallow everything that is ugly and false. It is a cry to be released from a depression that is caused by an awareness that life has become hollow and that the earth has been delivered into the hands of frauds, crooks and idiots. Cornell took his own life. Announcing his tragic death, news shows showed exactly this song as he played it during the last earthly gig he ever played. It is not difficult to feel its ominousness. Continue reading

Ayahuasca teaches Europe

Igreja Céu de Maria, na Holanda (Foto de arquivo: Santo Daime)

By Barbara Arisi      The ancient drink ayahuasca or daime is one of the powerful forces that connects the seemingly distant worlds of Amazon and Europe, ‘indigenous’ and ‘metropolitan’. It is born from the encounter and circulation of many traditions such as popular Catholicism, local shamanism and the Afro-Brazilian  pantheon. Forest beings such as the snake, the jaguar and the humming bird coexist in rituals with saints, gods and spirits. The result is a unique and powerful experience for those who humbly surrender to learn what ayahuasca, a beverage prepared with the jagube vine and the leaves of the chacrona, has to teach. Continue reading

Regen op een maandagochtend

Door Lysanne Vrooman         Op een maandagochtend in februari word ik wakker. Met de slaap nog in mijn ogen pak ik mijn telefoon om te kijken hoe laat het is. Ondanks dat het net acht uur is, zie ik veel notificaties van Facebook op mijn schermpje staan. De notificaties komen uit de Facebook-groep van de vrijwilligersassociatie (Baobab Experience) waarbij ik nu al zo’n zes weken meeloop en onderzoek doe in Rome. Ik lees de berichten en begrijp dat de politie is langs geweest bij het ‘kamp’ dat is opgezet voor de migranten om in te overnachten. De politie heeft de tenten leeggemaakt, opgeruimd en enkele migranten meegenomen naar het hoofdbureau voor een controle. Er wordt gevraagd of eenieder die beschikbaar is zo snel mogelijk kan komen.
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Conferentie in Marokko over Feminisme, radicalisering en extremisme

Paintings: Khadija MADANI ALAOUI, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fez

Door Edien Bartels en Lenie Brouwer
Feminisme, radicalisering en extremisme zijn grote woorden. Hoe breng je die bijeen en… waarom zou je die bij elkaar brengen? Dat zijn de vragen die behandeld werden op het congres Women’s Voices in the Mediterranean and Africa: Movements, Feminisms, and Resistance to Extremisms dat op 5, 6, en 7 mei werd gehouden in Fez, Marokko. De organisatie was in handen van het Centre ISIS pour Femmes et Développement, Fez, met als drijvende kracht Fatima Sadiqi, bekend van publicaties over gender, migratie en islamitisch feminisme.

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Ramadan Kareem, my beloved Yemen


Dark clouds over Yemen

By Marina de Regt    Last Saturday the holy Muslim month of Ramadan started. Ramadan, a month of fast-ing and feasting, a month of contemplation, a month that should be full of joy and happiness. In Ramadan Muslims experience what it means to be hungry which will make them cherish what they have and feel compassion for those who are poor and hungry. Who will fast Ramadan in Yemen this year? Are there still people left who are not starving to death? Are there still Yemenis who need Ramadan to know what it is like to be poor and hungry? Continue reading

Negligent NGO with happy parents: Voluntourism and the voice of the local beneficiaries

The NGO is located in little town in the peripheries of Arequipa

Pauline van der Valk        I have always had a keen interest in the local beneficiaries’ perspective on development projects. It was only when I started my Masters in Anthropology that I learned more about the phenomenon of voluntourism. Scholars agree voluntourism is part of the tourism sector, but also acknowledge voluntourists combine leisure activities with development practices. For this reason I found this niche market in the tourism sector highly intriguing and I decided to focus my thesis on voluntourism rather than on development. During my preparatory work I had read up on voluntourism, and the first discovery I made was that opinions on voluntourism differ greatly. There is a myriad of works concerning this topic, and I read it all – from moderately positive scholars claiming voluntourism increases mutual cultural understanding, to plain depressing works from scholars arguing voluntourism reinforces underlying global North – global South power relations. My main interest was in gaining the perspectives of those on the receiving end of the voluntourism chain. For this reason I focused my research on the experiences of the local parents and their children involved in voluntourism: the local beneficiaries. I choose this particular topic because during the preparation for my fieldwork I was rather surprised to find that the perspective of the local beneficiaries was often overlooked or under highlighted.
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Dag van de Antropologie: over solidariteit, ethiek en epistemologie

Door Matthias Teeuwen         Bij de openingsvoordracht van de ABv Dag van de Antropologie 2017 over solidariteit kreeg ik het gevoel dat ik dit allemaal eens eerder heb gehoord. De voordracht ging, kort gezegd, over het dilemma waarmee vrijwilligers en ontwikkelingswerkers zich geconfronteerd zien omtrent de scheve machtsverhoudingen tussen hen en diegene die ze helpen, namelijk: enerzijds om de hulpbehoevende als gelijke te benaderen en te delen in zijn of haar leven en anderzijds om gebruik te maken van de voordelen die je hebt als buitenstaander om de ander te helpen. Het is herkenbaar omdat het een terugkerend dilemma is in de christelijke roeping om de armen te helpen en waarin sommigen, zoals Moeder Theresa, ervoor kiezen samen te leven met de armen en anderen ervoor kiezen om een zekere afstand te houden. Is het niet interessanter om in plaats van deze bekende thematiek te kijken naar solidariteit tussen antropologen onderling?

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