Since 2010 I am holding the inter-university Westerbork chair in War and Conflict Heritage and Memory at VU University and the University of Amsterdam - where I studied history and anthropology, and graduated and obtained my PhD (both cum laude). I held positions and visiting scholarships at different universities in European history and cultural studies and am currently affiliated with the art and cultural sciences departments of the UvA as well as VU University Amsterdam. In the early 2000's I founded the master programs in Heritage and Memory Studies at the UvA, in 2010 I joined the Centre of Landscape and Urban Enivoronment (CLUE) at VU University Amsterdam as holder of a VU/UvA chair on Conflict Heritage, and from 2013-2019 I was member of the faculty council as (founding) director of the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM) where I am still co-theme leader conflict heritage. I am also coordinating a heritage, tourism and identity working group at the national Huizinga Institute, where I had been in the past a European cultural history coordinator, and I am co-theme leader Heritage and Conflict of the Amsterdam Centre for Heritage and Identity (ACHI), and Diverse Europe of the UvA's Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES), formerly Access Europe.
My research focuses roughly on two domains: Power, Culture and Elites, and Heritage, Memory and Conflict. I published around 100 publications and have been invited approximately to some 200 lectures and keynote talks. I co-organized also a substantial number of international conferences, such as The Challenge of Heritage (Amsterdam 2002), The Dynamics of War, Heritage, Memory and Remembrance (Amsterdam 2007), The Archaeology of Terrorscapes (Helsinki 2012), Competing Memories (Amsterdam 2013), and Heritage, Tourism and Hospitality (Amsterdam 2015).
Since my historical-anthropological PhD dissertation Bevoogding en Bevinding,1780-1930 (Paternalism and Piety 1989) on the crucial role of political ritual, elitist power and religious identitarianism as a (Dutch pillarised) road to modernity (awarded with a Praemium Erasmianum research prize 1990), an important part of my research is born from a fascination with the development, interpretation, and representation of culture, power, ritual and narratives. After exploring the remarkable continuity of aristocracy with the fabrication of the modern Dutch nation state in A Nation of Notables. Class, Religion and Politics (1999), Van goeden huize (2001) and Beelden van de buitenplaats (with Yme Kuiper, 2005/ rev.ed. 2014), and the early19th Brussels-Hague court culture of William II and Anna Pavlova (Bulletin KNOB 2010), which inspired a travelling Dutch-Russian-Luxemburgian exhibition Une Passion Royale: Guillaume II des Pays Bas et Anna Pavlovna (2013-2014). For many years I also explored with students and colleagues fieldtrips and archival research on topics like the cultural and territorial representation of landed power, such as the Habsburg-Burgundian courtiers, the long neglected nobility of the Dutch Republic, and the 17th c. territorial politics of the Orange King-Stadholder, which led to publications on gardening, physico-theology, art and collectioning, and the mapping of castles, estates and country houses.
Another principal area of research concerns Europe's post-Enlightenment search for purity, control, and the fascination and fear of decadence and degeneration in modern art, culture and politics, starting with the book volume De hang naar zuiverheid (co-edited1998) and on Max Nordau's hidden representation of Jewishness (Masking the Other 1999), which traces the cultural roots of 20th c. racism and the Holocaust in cultural complexities far beyond the usual domain of political ideology. Challenged by the EU's 'identity crisis' after the enlargements of 2004/07 and the rise of authoritarian populism, my interest has since then been shifted to conflict heritage, competing memories, and the postmodern legacy of totalitarianism and the Holocaust. I edited the first (bilingual) critical heritage studies handbooks Bezeten van vroeger (2005), and published widely on heritage theory before focusing more and more on the heritage and memory of the genocidal outcome of modernity's longing for ethno-national purity. The issue of the musealisation, mediatisation, staging and experiencing of war heritage is addressed in De dynamiek van de herinnering (2009, co-ed with Frank van Vree), my Reinwardt Memorial Lecture De Oorlog als beleving (2010/2011), and my inaugural Nooit meer Auschwitz? (2012). Confronted with the new rise of authoritariansm and identitarian calls for ethnic purity, I also started a decade ago a critical debate on the unexpected essentialist outcomes of the cultural community and identity narrative and stately heritage practices of UNESCO's Intangible Heritage Convention (Boekman 2011, and recently in Europe's Peat Fire 2019). My 2013 publications Archaeology of Memory and Beyond Auschwitz rethink/reframe the issue of European competing memories, Holocaust dissonances and abuses of the past in the present Age of Post-Memory and Identity. I co-edited Traces of Terror, Signs of Trauma (2014) as an outcome of my still productive Terrorscapes in Postwar Europe networking research group. In 'Kunst, kampen and landschappen' (2009) and Fatal Attraction (2015) I have tried to rethink some uneasy relations between Nazi modernism, 'Nordic' landscapes and Holocaust Memory, and the strongly tabood attraction of perpetrator heritage, which in 2019-2020 also inspired the Nazi Design exhibition in Design Museum Den Bosch. As to understand the geopolitical backgrounds of the current crisis of European identity, I have in my co-edited Religion, State Society and Identity in Transition: Ukraine (2015) and in Who owns the Crimean Past? (2016) critically commented the geopolitical and mnemonic re-mapping of Ukraine and the cultural battle over public space in the EU's borderlands. See for other other postcommunist cases also a video interview on the Forced Labor website of CEDIS FU Berlin (2014), my contriibution to Muséographies des violences en Europe Centrale et ex-URRS (Sorbonne 2016), and a Youtube video of my keynote address Bones never lie? at the Wiener Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studiën (2015) published in Mapping the Forensic Turn (ed. Zuzanna Dziuban, 2017). I am currently working on the hijacking of progressive culturalism by the New Right Identitarian movement.
During the past decade I was a member of the advisory boards of several museums and heritage organisations, such as the Heritage of War program of the Ministry of VWS, Theme Year 2012 of the Historical Country House Foundation, Amsterdam Museum, Dutch Castle Foundation (NKS), Rijksgebouwendienst, UvA Heritage Division, the Memorial Centers Camp Westerbork, Camp Amersfoort and National Monument Vught, and trustee of Paradox Foundation (photography and new media productions). With Dirk Mulder and Jan Kolen I initated the Westerbork Archaeological Research Project (2012) a cooperative project of Memorial Camp Westerbork, CLUE-VU and RAAP as part of a wider Holocaust archaeology collaboration. He is consulted as a heritage expert by many Dutch and foreign city and memorial museums, media programs and cultural initiatives, such as the AVRO radio 1 serial Dadererfgoed (perpetrator's heritage, 2008) and the curating city's project Museumtraject Mechelen (2013). Together with Ivar Schute I took part in Caroline Sturdy Colls' awarded Furneaux and Edgar productions Unearthing Treblinka (Channel 5, 2013) and Treblinkla: Hitler's Killing Machine (Smithsonnian TV, 2014) on the discovery of the widely discussed Treblinka gas chambers. I am also regularly asked for public lectures, such as the ICOMOS-UK Annual Christmas Lecture 2014 in London and for the Utrecht Studium Generale in 2017, and the 4th Heritage Forum of Central Europe 2017.
Since the early 2000s I have been pioneering in heritage studies' research funding, which culminated in several large (inter) national research projects (see the other tab page). In 2016 I have been granted 1.2 million euros in the European HERA-JRP/ ERA-Horizon 2020 Uses of the Past call for the collaborative 4-years project Accessing Campscapes: Inclusive Strategies for Using European Conflicted Heritage (iC-ACCESS). The international team consists of fifteen academic and professional partners and five IT companies working together on assessing and experimenting with new forms of multivocal digital access to conflict heritage sites in seven European countries as the outcome of a large series of fieldtrips to European memorial campscapes (representing former Nazi and Stalinist terror). In addition, I received the same year another major grant as the UvA lead in the Horizon 2020 5-years Marie-Curie ITN project Critical Heritage Studies and the Future of Europe (CHEurope) of which the Amsterdam team (with Robin Boast and Chiara de Cesari) participates in an international doctoral training programme with European key partners in critical heritage studies. In managing these EU projects I could profit from my experience as co-leader (with Van Vree) of the NWO research line The Dynamics of Memory (2008-2014), which as a follow-up of a research project funded by the internationally unique 'Heritage of War' program of the Ministry of VWS (for which I was a sworn policy adviser) succeeded in publishing a large number of dissertations and book volumes by means of co-matching with museums and heritage institutes. As an international offspring of these projects I also received an Anglo-Dutch (AHRC-NWO) grant on Landscapes of War and Trauma together with Gilly Car (University of Cambridge), and a NWO grant for my Terrorscapes research project on transnational memory of totalitarian terror and genocide in postwar Europe from Auschwitz to the 1990s Yugoslav Wars, which was also supported with a theme group grant (with Georgi Verbeeck) as a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in Wassenaar. This network was awarded the prestigious Premio Euromediterraneo of the Italian Ministry of Culture, Confindustria, and the public media association in Rome 2013 in the category of best practice of transnational communication beyond the national cultural boundaries "that will have a fundamental impact on the building of European citizenship". The around 15 organised research fieldtrips to European campscapes in my subsequent HERA iC-ACCESS project (2016-2020) could thus draw from a strong basis of expertise on conflict sites and competing memories analysis.
I am a regulator book reviewer of historical and cultural sciences journals, and peer reviewer of international journals, founding co-editor of the Palgrave Studies in Cultural Heritage and Conflict (Palgrave-Macmillan), of Heritage and Memory Studies (Amsterdam University Press) with Saloul and Britt Baillie, and previously of Landscape and Heritage Studies (AUP), as well as a member of the editorial advisory boards of KLEOS (Amsterdam Bulletin for Ancient Studies and Archaeology), Virtus. Journal of Nobility Studies (Verloren), and of Open Anthropological Research (De Gruyter), and from 2016-2019 of the Accessing Campscapes E-Journal (with Dziuban) and founding editor of its successor the Heritage, Memory and Conflict Journal (HMS) which will be launched in Fall 2020 with an Accessing Campscapes special journal issue. I am also regularly asked for EU research committees, served as external PhD thesis supervisor and examiner at Dutch and foreign universities like Hamburg and Cambridge University, as Horizon 2020 evaluator, and as an expert member of humanities panels in the Netherlands and from 2019-2021 of the Research Council of Norway (RCN).
I teach at the UvA, VUA, and Huizinga institute, supervises internships, tutorials and BA honours programme and MA theses, and PhD research on heritage and memory, museology and landscape studies, terrorscapes, competing memories and conflict heritage. See the Courses tab for more information.
During my career I have been granted more than 5 million euros research funding, and supervises/d some 20 PhD projects at different universities. See the Research tab for more information.
I was also the honorary promotor (with Pim den Boer) of Charlotte van Rappard at the dies natalis celebration of the University of Amsterdam in January 2015, who was honored for her contribution to international treaties on cultural heritage, illegal trade, and the research and restitution of WW II's stolen Jewsh art.
Prof. dr. R. van der Laarse
University of Amsterdam, Art and Culture Department, BG 2 Campus, room 1.11, Turfdraagsterpad 15
1012 XT Amsterdam
University of Amsterdam, Postbus 94551
1090 GN Amsterdam
Most of my teaching is related to the heritage and memory (dual) master programs at the UvA and VU University of Amsterdam. I am also supervising tutorials, BA honors, and MA theses on heritage and memory studies, cultural history and cultural studies, focusing on themes like European terrorscapes and competing memories, landscapes of power, elites and aristocracy, purity and modernity, war heritage and Holocaust memory, conflict heritage and heritage of conflict, spatial-digital mapping and experience design, authenticity and identity, commodification and uses/abuses of the past, heritagescapes and memoryscapes.
Robert van der Laarse (Universiteit van Amsterdam): Bones Never Lie? Unearthing Europe’s Age of Terror in the Age of Memory Chair: Zuzanna Dziuban (Wiener Wiesenthal Institut fur Holocaust-Studien, VWI) SWW 2015: The Forensic Turn in Holocaust Studies? Re-)Thinking the Past Through Materiality Datum: 26 Juni 2015 Ort: Bruno Kreisky Forum für internationalen Dialog, 1190 Wien
Terrorscapes in Postwar Europe: competing memories and narratives, Holocaust and occupation paradigms in a context of EU enlargements and crisis. Lecture at the Seminar ‘Muséographie des violences en Europe centrale et ex-URSS’, Paris-Sorbonne, May 2014
Visies op een stadsmuseum: Yves Desmet (Hoofdredacteur De Morgen), Bruno De Wever (Prof. Dr. Geschiedenis UGent), Rob van der Laarse (Prof.Dr.Geschiedenis-Antropologie UV Amsterdam), Chris Dercon (Directeur Tate Modern Leuven), Dirk De Wachter (Psychiater-Psychotherapeut). Youtube @ Museumtraject Mechelen 2013
Video interviews (English) with Rob van der Laarse, Robert Jan van Pelt and others on the making and meaning of Auschwitz-Birkenau as Europe's iconic Terrorscape (Paradox production, Thomas Vroege and Zhenia Sveshinsky, NIAS January 2013)
Van der Laarse is (was) Project Leader of the following granted, collaborative research lines, programs and projects:
Van der Laarse was honorary promotor (with prof.dr. Pim den Boer) of Charlotte van Rappard at the dies natalis celebration of the University of Amsterdam in January 2015, honored for her contribution to international treaties on cultural heritage, illegal trade, and the research and restitution of WW II's stolen Jewsh art.