Dr W.D.E. Aerts (1952) has been named Professor by Special Appointment of the Political History of Gender in the Netherlands and will occupy the Wilhelmina Drucker Chair in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The chair was established on behalf of the International Archives for the Women's Movement (Stichting Internationaal Informatiecentrum en Archief voor de Vrouwenbeweging, IIAV) and was named after the Amsterdam feminist Wilhelmina Drucker (1847-1925), who was the inspiration for, among others, the Dolle Mina action group in 1969.
Through the years, Mieke Aerts has continually focused her research on topics that allowed her to combine a historic and a philosophical approach. She wrote a number of influential programmatic articles about key concepts within gender studies and the need for a historicising view of gender. She also initiated the compilation of a conceptual history of gender in the Netherlands, on which a multidisciplinary team of authors have been combining their efforts since 2005 and which is to be published in 2009. In addition, Dr Aerts is the author of works about the history and political philosophy of feminism in the Netherlands, and about the historic contribution of women to Dutch political culture. Among those are works about the Netherlands' first female minister, Marga Klompé, entitled De politiek van de katholieke vrouwenemancipatie (‘The politics of the Catholic women's liberation'), in 1994 and In afwachting van de première (‘Waiting for Ms prime minister') in 2005.
In recent years, Dr Aerts's interest has become focused on the processes of ‘politicisation' and ‘depoliticisation': the conditions under which relationships and issues are - or are not - politicised. A gender-oriented perspective hones the focus of research into these processes. Gender has only relatively recently become the subject of politicisation and is usually also experienced as a personal matter, sometimes even as a natural (biological) category (sex). Research into gender as a political issue therefore casts light on the possibilities and limitations of the politicisation of personal qualities or issues of ‘being' (in other words, human practices that are not experienced as ‘what you do' or ‘what you have' but rather as ‘how or who you are'; as a part of your identity). This offers insights that are also relevant with respect to, for example, ethnic, national, sexual or religious identifications. The focus of Dr Aerts' teaching and research lies on developments in the Netherlands, though with the understanding that political repertoires are always subject to active processes of import and export, which themselves take little account of borders in any sense of the word.
Dr Aerts began her academic career at the UvA, where she has worked as a lecturer in Women's Studies Social Sciences since 1980, and as a lecturer in Political Science since the mid-1990s. After several years as a postgraduate researcher in History at Maastricht University, from 2001 on she has mainly been active as an independent researcher and as affiliated senior researcher at the IIAV.