Rob (Robert) van der Laarse holds the interuniversity Westerbork chair in War and Conflict Heritage at VU University and the University of Amsterdam, where he graduated and obtained his PhD (both cum laude). He held positions and visiting scholarships at different universities in European cultural history and cultural studies, and was the founder of the UvA dual master heritage and memory studies and of the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM). He studied history and anthropology, and currently teaches at the art and cultural sciences departments of the UvA as well as the Free University Amsterdam (VU). Van der Laarse has been granted 1.2 million euros in 2016 in the HERA-JRP Uses of the Past call, and currently leads this EU collaborative Accessing Campscapes (iC-ACCESS) project on developing strategies for more inclusive access to contested heritage sites, and also participates as UvA lead in the Horizon 2020 CHEurope project which provides an international doctoral training programme with European key partners in critical heritage studies.
Van der Laarse's research focuses roughly on two principal research areas: Power and Elites and Heritage, Memory and Conflict. He published around 100 publications and has been invited approximately to some 200 lectures and keynote talks, and co-organized 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).
An important part of Rob van der Laarse's research is born from a fascination with culture, power and narratives, especially mapped and represented in (early) modern cultural landscape, architecture and intellectual culture. His publications include his historical-anthropological PhD dissertation Bevoogding en Bevinding,1780-1930 (Paternalism and Piety 1989) on the crucial role of religion and pillarised power politics as a Dutch road to modernity (awarded with a Praemium Erasmianum research prize 1990), further explored in A Nation of Notables. Class, Religion and Politics (1999) and books like Van goeden huize (2001) and Beelden van de buitenplaats (with Yme Kuiper, 2005/ rev.ed. 2014), which led to another fascination for (early) modern architecture of power and cultural distinction, such as explored from 2007 in Virtus. Journal for Nobility Studies, like for Habsburg-Burgundian courtiers, the long neglected nobility of the Dutch Republic, and the 17th c. territorial politics of the Orange King-Stadholder, as well as in a special issue on 19th Brussels-Hague court culture of William II and Anna Pavlova (Bulletin KNOB 2010), and the travelling Dutch-Russian-Luxemburgian exhibition Une Passion Royale: Guillaume II des Pays Bas et Anna Pavlovna (2013-2014). He also widely published on garden and landscape architecture, and currently co-edits a reader Landscape and Heritage. Theoretical Perspectives for Amsterdam University Press.
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, Van der Laarse's interest has since then been shifted to conflict heritage, competing memories, and the postmodern legacy of totalitarianism and the Holocaust. He edited a bilingual handbook for critical heritage studies Bezeten van vroeger (2005), which is widely used in Dutch academic teaching, and co-edited De dynamiek van de herinnering (2009). The issue of the musealisation, mediatisation, staging and experiencing of war heritage is addressed in his published Reinwardt Memorial Lecture De Oorlog als beleving (2010/2011), and in his inaugural Nooit meer Auschwitz? (2012). He also started a critical debate on the essentialist assumption of UNESCO's Intangible heritage convention with his essay De terugkeer van het eigene (Boekman 2011) and recently Europe's Peat Fire. Intangible heritage and the Crusade for Identity (Palgrave-Springer 2019). His 2013 publications Archaeology of Memory and Beyond Auschwitz rethink/reframe the issue of European competing memories, Holocaust dissonances and abuses of the pas in the present Age of Post-Memory and Identity. He co-edited Traces of Terror, Signs of Trauma (2014) as an outcome of the Terrorscapes in Postwar Europe project, and in Fatal Attraction (2015) reconceptualises some uneasy relations between Nazi modernism, 'Nordic' landscapes and Holocaust Memory, and in his co-edited Religion, State Society and Identity in Transition: Ukraine (2015) and Who owns the Crimean Past? (2016) he critically comments the geopolitical and mnemonic re-mapping of Ukraine and the cultural battle over public space. See also a video interview on the Forced Labor website of CEDIS FU Berlin (2014), his Sorbonne keynote 'Muséographie des mémoires concurrentes après 1989' published in Muséographies des violences en Europe Centrale et ex-URRS (2016), and a Youtube video of his keynote address Bones never lie? to the Forensic turn in Holocaust studies workshop at the Wiener Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studiën (2015), published in Mapping the Forensic Turn (ed. Zuzanna Dziuban, 2017). He is currently working on the hijacking of progressive culturalism by the New Right Identitarian movement on which he is preparing some further publications.
Van der Laarse was 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 he initated the Westerbork Archaeological Research Project, 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 he 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. Van der Laarse is 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.
Rob co-initiated in 2009 the NWO research line The Dynamics of Memory (together with Frank van Vree) as a follow-up of a research project funded by the Heritage of War program of the Ministry of VWS in which he took part as policy adviser. He was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in Wassenaar, and (with Georgi Verbeeck) NIAS theme leader and NWO project lead of the international Terrorscapes research group on transnational memory of totalitarian terror and genocide in postwar Europe. This was awarded the prestigious Premio Euromediterraneo of the Italian ministery of Culture, the Confindustria employers organisation, and public media assocation 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".
From 2004-2009 he was founding program director of the UvA dual MA in Heritage and Memory Studies, and from 2009-2015 also research coordinator at VUA research institute CLUE (Centre of Landscape and Urban Environment), and from 2013-2019 founding research director of the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM) and member of the faculty board. He is coordinator of a Huizinga Institute working group on heritage, tourism and identity, theme leader of the Amsterdam Centre for Heritage and Identity (ACHI) and of the UvA interfaculty research centre Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES), formerly Access Europe. Van der Laarse is also member of many university advisory boards, such as the academic heritage committee of the Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds, and is regularly asked for EU research committees, served as external PhD thesis supervisor and examiner at other Dutch and foreign universities like in Hamburg and Cambridge University, as JPI evaluator, and expert member of humanites panels in the Netherlands and currently the Research Council of Norway (RCN).
He is also a regulator reviewer of journal and book publications, co-founding editor of three book series: the Palgrave Studies in Cultural Heritage and Conflict (Palgrave-Macmillan) and the Heritage and Memory Studies (AHM/Amsterdam University Press), and before of Landscape and Heritage Studies (CLUE/Amsterdam University Press). He recently co-initiated the Accessing Campscapes E-Journal which will be continued as a peer reviewed journal at Amsterdam University Press, and he is member of the advisory editorial boards of KLEOS (Amsterdam Bulletin for Ancient Studies and Archaeology), Virtus. Journal of Nobility Studies (Verloren), and of Open Anthropological Research (De Gruyter).
Van der Laarse teaches at the UvA, VUA, and Huizinga institute, supervises internships, supervises tutorials and BA honours 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.
Rob has been granted more than 5 million euros research funding during the past decade, and supervises/d some 25 PhD students at different universities. See the Research tab for more information.
He 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, 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 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.