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Master Cultural and Social Anthropology

Karin Wesselink: 'Anthropology is an attitude'

Alumna testimonial

Karin Wesselink, graduated in Cultural and Social Anthropology in 2002, and Utrecht School of Journalism.

Karin Wesselink
Karin Wesselink

Anthropology and journalism go together superbly and thanks to my background as an anthropologist I know how to ask questions about potentially sensitive topics. I see quite a few journalists who treat people without respect. It is all about problems, and hypes dominate. When it comes to transparency and self-reflection, I think anthropologists are better. They know: ‘you're not objective; there is always a frame of reference that determines how you approach something, or the angle that you take.’ Sometimes, it seems like the media wants to classify people using labels and stereotypes. I don't feel comfortable with such an approach. 

An intellectual challenge

After finishing my journalism studies, I was ready for a substantial challenge. At first, I regarded Anthropology as a kind of intellectual hobby, but gradually I became more interested in the field, and decided to finish my degree. My thesis was about drug use amongst young women in the nightlife scene. One of my conclusions was that the use of drugs amongst the group in question had a lot in common with a rite of passage. During my studies, I worked as a freelance journalist and did field research for the Bonger Institute, which studies lifestyles and crime. In the process, I established a good network, which led to assignments after I graduated. As a freelancer, I spent eight years working for Samsam, an educational children's magazine. Two years ago, I was hired on as an editor and have travelled to countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, Thailand, Ambon, Uganda and Morocco to interview children. Writing for children has always been my passion; I love the creativity required to relate to a specific audience, and that is also what I like so much about what an anthropologist actually does: relating to someone else, and being constantly amazed. In the past, I also wrote articles on a freelance basis for magazines such as One World and publications geared towards young people such as Hoe Overleef Ik... and MoodieZ for which, I interviewed young women about their faith.

Anthropologist - journalist

I self-published the book 21 STRALEN (‘21 RAYS’). 21 STRALEN is about Goli Abduhraman, a Kurdish woman living in Amsterdam. In the book, she talks about her childhood in Iran and Iraq, but mostly about her fight against breast cancer. For many ethnic minority women, this disease is still a taboo subject, which is exactly what motivated Goli to tell her story. I worked with Goli for over three years. Goli's Dutch is good, but sometimes she found it difficult to find the right words. I was acutely aware of how the language presented a barrier. Consequently, I asked some questions as many as 10 times, formulating them in various ways. Very educational!
Anthropology instilled a certain attitude within me. After having been somewhere that didn't really appeal to me, I always tell my boyfriend on the way home: ‘Anthropologically speaking it was interesting.’

Would you like to know more about 21 STRALEN? www.penacenter.com