Utrecht University: Two humanities scholars receive KNAW Early Career Partnership

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has awarded its Early Career Partnerships external linkto Dr Pooyan Tamimi Arab (assistant professor of religious studies) and Dr Lorena De Vita (Assistant Professor in the History of International Relations ). The programme encourages researchers at the start of their careers to enter into or develop interdisciplinary collaborations in order to arrive at new fundamental research insights in all fields of science.

They will have the opportunity to organise an interdisciplinary meeting and will receive €10,000 to do so.

The study of religions will have to adapt

Pooyan Tamimi Arab has a background in interpretive studies such as art history, philosophy, and cultural anthropology, all of which are crucial for understanding religions. With the relentless growth of the Internet scholars like Tamimi Arab have unprecedented opportunities to study global secular and religious dynamics. Tamimi Arab: “The 2020s start, for the first time, with half of the planet’s population connected to the World Wide Web while new technologies and applications allow researchers to produce scholarship deemed impossible only a few years ago. Given these developments’ impact on societies and on religions, the study of religions will have to adapt.”

Secular and religious dynamics in a digital age
In the proposed conference for the KNAW Early Career Partnership, (Prof. Birgit Meyer, Dr Pooyan Tamimi Arab, Dr Ernst van den Hemel external linkand Dr Ammar Maleki) will explore how innovative digital methods and special attention to digital phenomena can reveal current societal transformations and pave the way to a new understanding of the global secular-religion nexus beyond the quantitative-qualitative divide. The speakers will present on developments in the field of online surveying, digital humanities and ethnographic research on the varieties of religious experience shaped by Internet-connected devices.

New digital methods
“Working together with someone like Ammar Maleki, a political scientist at Tilburg University, proved very effective in designing, measuring, and interpreting Iranians’ religiosity, an innovative research that was not possible to conduct on the same scale only a few years ago. At the same time, I saw that other colleagues like Ernst van den Hemel at the Meertens Institute were using new digital methods to better understand the power of religious discourses by European populists”, Tamimi Arab explains. “By bringing these Dutch and other international researchers together, I hope to learn more and to share the methodological opportunities and pitfalls with the Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG). It is fantastic that the KNAW is supporting this partnership! Thus far, my experience is that interdisciplinary collaboration requires just doing it, trying things out with an open mind and intrinsic motivation. But then it’s also important that we have a platform like the KNAW to share results and organize the output in a systematic way”.

Can reparations restore political dialogue and societal connections?

“What brings representatives of victims and perpetrators to sit down at the same negotiating table – and what keeps them there?” is a central question in Dr Lorena de Vita’s research. De Vita. In March 1952, German, Jewish and Israeli representatives met in the Netherlands, in secret, to negotiate a reparations agreement (Wiedergutmachung/Shilumim) that was unprecedented. Signed later that year in Luxembourg, the 1952 agreement was ground-breaking. And it made history. I analysed the German-Israeli perspectives on those talks in my recently-published book, ‘Israelpolitik’. Yet, that research led me to ask much bigger questions. For example: Can reparations restore political dialogue and societal connections in the aftermath of widespread atrocities?”

An interdisciplinary and international conversation
The KNAW Early Career Partnership will help De Vita build an interdisciplinary and international conversation among established experts and emerging scholars from the fields of law, philosophy, history and anthropology, who will work together to re-assess the 1952 talks and their legacy. With the support of historians of the calibre of Prof. Beatrice de Graaf and Prof. James Kennedy, international law experts in the field of victimology and reparations such as Rector Magnificus Prof. Rianne Letschert and Dr Brianne McGonigle Leyh, this KNAW Partnership will kickstart a conversation aiming to add a multidimensional and multidisciplinary perspective to existing studies on reparations, mapping what we can still learn from those early, and often forgotten, negotiations.




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