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Meet the people

Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology

Read the testimonials of students and staff to learn more about the programme.

Charlotte Renckens
  • Charlotte Renckens: Use your time as much as you can

    Charlotte Renckens is a Policy Officer (team Terrorism and Radicalisation ) at the EU, studied BCs Political Science and Cultural Anthopology (UvA) and master's in Public International Law (UvA) and Crisis and Security Management (UL).

    'First I started with a bachelor in Cultural Anthropology, which I chose for its open-minded outlook on the world. For this study I never considered a different university than the University of Amsterdam.  When I visited the open day it was immediately clear to me that this was the place where I wanted to study. Because I wanted to learn more about international relations and political theories, I also started in my second year with a bachelor's degree in political science.

    I really enjoyed both my studies in Cultural Anthropology and in Political Science. I particularly liked the emphasis on reading and writing independently, rather than sitting in lectures full-time. In both study programmes I had a number of very good teachers, of whom I remember certain lectures well. Both programmes are also quite flexible in allowing you space and time to explore other fields of study and potentially extracurricular activities.

    Learned a lot, did a lot

    In addition to my studies, I have done many different things. I followed language courses, I sat on several student boards, and did two internships, one with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and one with the Asser Instituut. I have also always worked alongside my studies. Apart from the obvious extracurricular activities such as internships and exchanges, I can really recommend working on the side if you can find the time. This gives you a good idea of what type of work you like and do not like, and what you are good at. For example, I worked as a student assistant at the Education Desk Social Sciences of the university, where I learned to cooperate in teams and to be flexible.

    Apply for the job and have a coffee

    I found my current job by applying to an EU competition for policy officers (“graduate administrators competition”), which is a year-long process with different tests and assessments. After learning that I passed this competition I could apply for specific jobs for the EU. I applied unsuccessfully to a couple of vacancies until I was invited for an interview for my current job. In this period, I also approached several Dutch people that already worked for the EU to have coffee with me, just to learn more about the work and the type of people working for the EU. So finding my current job was partly a standard process of submitting a CV and motivation letter, and partly a bit of personal advertising by meeting different people.
    In my job I work with people from many different nationalities and backgrounds. I feel that Cultural Anthropology has prepared me well for this, with its open-mindedness and emphasis on inter-cultural understanding. The courses on European politics in the Political Science programme gave me a good background to do my job, working on EU policy development and implementation.

    My advise for students would be to use your time as much as you can to discover different fields and (work) environments. It is a good thing to study a topic that truly interests you, but at the same time you have to be realistic about how desirable your studies make you for future employers. If you develop yourself beyond your study programme and you learn more about yourself in the process, this will help you in your life after university.'










First year staff

dr. Y.M. (Yo) van Ede

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Globalising Culture and the Quest for Belonging

  • Read more about Yolande van Ede

    Dr. Yolanda van Ede

    Teaches in the Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology:

    • Introduction Cultural Anthropology (1st year)
    • Ethnographic Fieldwork (2nd year)
    • Presentation and Final Exam (3rd year)

    Coming from a dance and theatre background, I was hoping that as an anthropology student I would one day be able to prove my hypothesis that there is a relationship between dance and landscape - the ground beneath your feet.

    At the time, however, dance research was seen as completely irrelevant, which led me to focus on oral tradition and religion. My dissertation ‘House of Birds’ is about the oral history of a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery in Nepal. Only after my appointment as a researcher-teacher did I go back to my first love and conduct field research on the flamenco scene in Tokyo, and later on ballroom dancers in Manila.

    The combination of theory and practice, of studying and experiencing, makes anthropology so special to me. That's why - in addition to always exploring the boundaries between science and creativity in research topics such as dance, movement, art and the senses - I also find methods and techniques of anthropological research to be a very interesting course to teach.

Ms G.N.R. (Rozemijn) Aalpoel MSc

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

WP Groep: Docenten Antropologie

  • Read more about Rozemijn Aalpoel

    Rozemijn Aalpoel (MSC)

    Teaches in the Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology:

    • Tutorial Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (1st year)
    • Tutorial Introduction to Development Sociology (1st year)
    • Tutorial Applied Anthropology

    ‘ln the act of writing culture what emerges is always a highly subjective, partial, and fragmentary but also deeply personal record of human lives based on eyewitness accounts and testimony.

    If  "observation" links anthropology to the natural sciences, "witnessing" links anthropology to moral philosophy. Observation, the anthropologist as "fearless spectator", is a passive act which positions the anthropologist above and outside human events as a "neutral" and "objective" (i.e., uncommitted) seeing I/eye. Witnessing, the anthropologist as companheira, is in the active voice, and it positions the anthropologist inside human events as a responsive, reflexive, and morally committed being, one who will "take sides" and make judgments, though this flies in the face of the anthropological nonengagement with either ethics or politics’ (Scheper-Hughes 1995: 415).

    When delivering the above speech, Nancy Scheper-Hughes addressed a room full of established and trainee anthropologists with high and clenched fists. With goosebumps on our arms and amazement in our minds, my fellow students at the time and I knew it even better. Anthropologists should not restrict themselves to observing, participating and writing about something without being involved; anthropologists can take positions, choose sides and be open about their positionality, and precisely because of the latter they are still able to guarantee the time-honoured pursuit of 'objective' knowledge.

    For me, anthropology finds its strengths outside the walls of the university. Armed with pen, paper and words, I see anthropologists as academic poets who, with their visions, words and aerial fists, can question, criticise or even change the world as it is today on a local level. My interest in a committed anthropology brought me to the Master's in Applied Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. This is a form of anthropology in which anthropologists contribute to concrete issues in the 'real' world. I am an anthropologist who has done research in her own community for ethical reasons. This ethics led me to a group of international volunteers from a Dutch NGO. They were staying at a place that some called the maritime border of Europe. I am currently a mentor and junior lecturer in the first year of the Bachelor's programme, where I try to be a companheira for brand new anthropologists.

    Scheper-Hughes, Nancy 1995 'The primacy of the Ethical: Propositions for a militant Anthropology'. Current Anthropology 36(3): 409-440.

dr. L.G.H. (Laurens) Bakker

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Moving Matters: People, Goods, Power and Ideas

  • Read more about Laurens Bakker

    Dr.Laurens Bakker

    Teaches in the Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology:

    • Introduction to Development Sociology (1st year)
    • Orientation on Development and Inequality (2nd year)

    I do conflict research, looking at how conflicts are being fought by different parties. In practice, this mainly involves issues over land, forests and mines, and fieldwork with local populations, NGOs and militias.

    My areas of expertise are normativity - when people don't agree, what does the law say, and what do people do, and why do they claim to be allowed to do so? - the anthropology of development, and violence. This combination produces a lot of interesting information about the relationship between politics, economics and the interests of different groups in society. This information can be useful to understand and (sometimes) reduce contemporary conflicts (read for example Anton Blok's ‘The Mafia of a Sicilian Village 1860-1960’).

    My lectures are mostly inspired by these topics and are based - where possible - on my own research. It is a lot of fun to explore the complexity of topics with students and to clarify the coherence and (power) relations between groups. As a teacher I always learn new things here: it is very nice when a room-full of people reflect on (old) problems and can offer new insights.   

dr. P.T. (Peter) van Rooden

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Globalising Culture and the Quest for Belonging

  • Read more about Peter van Rooden

    Dr. Peter van Rooden

    Teaches in the Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology:

    • Philosophy of Science (1st year)
    • Anthropology of North America (2nd year)
    • Orientation on Religion (2nd year)
    • Deep Reading (Honours and Talent programme)

    I did not study anthropology, but theology. I received my PhD degree on a scientific-historical study into the rise, in 17th century Europe, of the Christian study of rabbinic literature.

    Coincidence and happiness led me to the political history of Christianity, and to a job with a research group of religious anthropologists, who after a number of years became part of our department. There I found, but richer and better, what I had been looking for when I went to study theology: insight into the different ways in which people can live their lives, accurately described and subtly understood.

    Teaching is fun. I only really understand something when I explain it. But it's not just an intellectual pleasure. Teaching is like a ritual, and for the teacher, what Durkheim says about the believer who participates in a ritual is true: “The believer who has communed with his god is not simply a man who sees new truths that the unbeliever knows not; he is a man who is stronger”.

    The best book, because it is crystal clear and well written, I know that illustrates the usefulness of the philosophy of science for the practice of anthropology is from Ian Hacking: The Social Construction of What? (Harvard 1999). 

dr. V.A. (Vincent) de Rooij

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Globalising Culture and the Quest for Belonging

  • Read more about Vincent de Rooij

    Dr. Vincent de Rooij

    Teaches in the Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology:

    • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (1st year)
    • Orientation on the Politics of Language (2nd year)
    • Narrating the Self (3rd year)

    As an anthropology lecturer I am mainly concerned with the question of how people use linguistic means to shape their environment and their own relationship with that environment.

    My research as a linguistic anthropologist mainly focuses on processes of stereotyping and inclusion and exclusion. Within the Anthropologists Professional Association, I and a few others form the working group 'Antropologie in onderwijs’ (Anthropology in education), which aims to introduce anthropological insights and methods in non-university education.

    Over the past few years I have mainly focused on the social meanings of youth language and other language variants that are often negatively stereotyped in Dutch society, but are essential for the formation and experience of a group identity by the users themselves. I am also interested in how people are becoming more and more connected to technology in their communication with others, and how this affects their thinking about themselves and the world.

Ms N.J. (Noëlle) Steneker

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

WP Groep: Docenten Antropologie

  • Read more about Noëlle Steneker

    Noëlle Steneker

    Teaches in the Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology:

    • Tutorial Writing Ethnography (1st year )
    • Tutorial Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (1st year)
    • Tutorial Philosophy of Science (1st year)
    • Tutorial Introduction to Development Sociology (1st year)

    I originally decided to study anthropology because I was interested in the relationship people have with their world and how they talk about it and express it. And a focus on the wider world attracted me.

    When my first lecture started with the statement that ‘All Truths are Constructed’, I knew I'd made the right choice. Since then, I have fallen in love with the discipline, a love that I now enthusiastically share with my students!

    My Master's thesis was about narratives of cultural heritage in Hawaii. I also did fieldwork in Japan, Turkey and Amsterdam. Recurring themes in my research are art, morality and language.

    Studying how people interact and share with each other is the most beautiful thing there is. Here I can see up close that everyone is the same, but still different. Perhaps the most important thing about anthropology is the openness to look at what can 'be'. And reflecting on your own underlying assumptions. The anthropologist doesn't just let go, but constantly asks 'why?'. Nothing is self-evident, but it can always be done differently. By respecting the complexity of the world, you get a little closer to a more inclusive story. This careful approach to knowledge provides an enormous amount of creativity and flexibility in thinking about social possibilities.

    Tip for new students: a good way to get an idea of what anthropologists are doing is to read ethnographies!

Dr L.J. (Luisa) Steur

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Moving Matters: People, Goods, Power and Ideas

  • Read more about Luisa Steur

    Dr. Luisa Steur

    Teaches in the Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology:

    • Introduction to Development Sociology (1st year)
    • Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean (2nd year)
    • Political Anthropology: Power and Protest (3rd year)

    The book that really got me hooked to anthropology as an undergrad student was ‘Death without Weeping’ by Nancy Scheper-Hughes.

    The way she forces you to understand something you’d almost want to not understand – the fact that some mothers in a desperately poor slum in the North-East of Brazil don’t weep over their children’s deaths – is very powerful, as is the way she lays bare the injustice and absurdity of the supposedly rational state medical system operating in the area.

    Having grown up in the Philippines where there is a lot of desperate poverty of the kind Scheper-Hughes describes and where there’s also all kinds of discourses circulating that try to blame poor people themselves for their poverty – and which also try to uphold clever state policies as the solution – it was a real relief to read a book that squarely took the side of the oppressed and so sharply criticised the state.

    I eventually moved more towards Marxian anthropology than Scheper-Hughes, but I do retain the aspiration in my research to understand the world from the perspective of the oppressed and, from that vantage point, to contribute to the intellectual effort of dismantling the legitimating discourses of overarching power structures – especially global capitalism. What I enjoy about teaching is the chance to help students with similar aspirations develop their capacities and, more generally, to stimulate students to become curious about a whole range of things they might have earlier taken for granted. And I'm glad that in doing so I can draw on the experience I got from the many different countries I've lived in, including Chile, Hungary, South Africa, the US, India and Cuba.


dr. M. (Milena) Veenis

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Globalising Culture and the Quest for Belonging

  • Read more about Milena Veenis

    Dr. Milena Veenis

    Teaches in the Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology:

    • Writing Ethnography (1st year)

    When I originally chose to study anthropology, at that time I wanted to understand why people often recognise something meaningful in external matters (clothing, hairstyle and other externalities), giving them the feeling that there is a common identity.

    How and why do material things become so important? Who decides which things lend themselves to this and which do not? How do objects relate to the meaningful things they express? How is this communicated and how does it change? These I now recognise as questions about power and identity: how does power that is not formally anchored work? What is a shared identity? Who decides what and who does and does not belong to it? How do people make their 'identity', how do they recognise it and how do they express it? How do they learn culture and how does this change?

    These are key questions of anthropology. With the help of material and external matters, people express the connections they make together, and which they use to exclude people they define as 'others'. The inclusion and exclusion that result from the way in which people divide the world into a part known as 'self' and a part known as 'other' is socially highly relevant - as evidenced by the hatred and aggression that can be mobilised with the help of such identifications.

    I myself started to focus on the classic 'other' of many Dutch people: Germans. I did this first in a German village in Argentina and later in the eastern part of Germany (the former GDR). In both contexts I became fascinated by the way the past sings along in the present, without people being aware of it. I was fascinated by outward appearances and I am specialised in material culture and consumption. The nice thing about these themes is that even though they are visible, it is often difficult to say why they are meaningful. To me, anthropology is actually the study of what drives people, without them knowing exactly why and how. Teaching anthropology students at the University of Amsterdam is often a lot of fun, because most of our students are critical, socially interested, intrinsically motivated for their studies, and they are open to the world around them.

dr. D.H. (Danny) de Vries

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

  • Read more about Danny de Vries

    Dr. Danny de Vries

    Teaches in the Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology:

    • Anthropological Research Methods 1 (1st year)
    • Anthropological Research Methods 2 (3rd year)

    When I moved to Tennessee, USA, I got my first immersion in anthropology. Yes, I was already interested in culture when I was still studying Environmental Psychology in Groningen.

    But the difference between students of ecology, psychology, and agriculture and horticulture was still not as great as that between myself and the southern United States. Luckily my American girlfriend was able to show me around.

    And that's how it started. Fascinated, I read an anthropological book about ‘The Dutch’, written for and by Americans, in a small bookstore near the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Just turn around? A first lesson in reflexivity. I was admitted to the Master’s and PhD programme in anthropology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and many years later I got my PhD degree on research into cultural memory and risk expectations in American flood plains. I also worked as an evaluation researcher in global health on a project to increase capacity among medical personnel. Since 2010 I have been back in the Netherlands and am involved in education and research in public health care, emergency aid, HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases.