Robert (Rob) van der Laarse is the Westerbork professor in Heritage and Memory of War and Conflict (interuniversity UvA-VU University chair) and the founding director of the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM) at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam. He studied history and anthropology at the same university, where he graduated and obtained his PhD (both cum laude), and was awarded in 1990 a Praemium Erasmianum research prize for his historical-anthropological dissertation on the crucial role of power and religion in the 19th c. politics of identity in a small town community as a Dutch road to modernity. He held positions and visiting scholarships at different universities in European cultural history and cultural studies, was founding director of heritage studies at the University of Amsterdam (2004-2010) 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 for his collaborative EU project Accessing Campscapes (iC-ACCESS). He also participates as UvA lead in Horizon 2020 projects, such as the CHEurope project, providing an international doctoral training programme with European key academic and societal partners funded under the Marie Curie ITN 2016 call.
His research focuses on (early) modern European elite and intellectual cultures, cultural landscape, heritage and identity politics, the cultural roots and postwar memory of the Holocaust, and Europe's competing memories iafter 1989 and the EUs eastwards enlargements. In close collaboration with experts of different disciplines he also 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). He published around 100 publications and has been invited approximately to some 200 lectures and keynote talks.
An important part of Van der Laarse's research is born from a fascination with culture, power, narratives and representation. His publications include Bevoogding en Bevinding. Heren en kerkvolk 1780-1930 ( Paternalism and Piety 1989); De hang naar zuiverheid: de moderne cultuur van Europa (co-edited, 1998), with a foreword of the late George L. Mosse, on Modernity's search for purity and fear of degeneration under the shadow of the Enlightenment; A Nation of Notables. Class, Religion and Politics (1999); 'Masking the Other: Max Nordau's Representation of Jewishness', Historical Reflections (1999); Van goeden huize (2001); Beelden van de buitenplaats. Elitevorming en notabelencultuur in Nederland in de negentiende eeuw (with Yme Kuiper, 2005/ rev.ed. 2014). He also edited a special issue on the architectural history and heritage of Dutch Royal Palaces of Bulletin KNOB (2010/5), and a contribution on the palaces of KIing William II and Anna Pavlova in Brussels and The Hague to the catalog Une Passion Royale: Guillaume II des Pays Bas et Anna Pavlovna, a 2013-2014 travelling exhibition of the Dordrecht's Museum together with the Hermitage (St. Petersburg) and Villa Vauban (Luxembourg). He publishes also regularly on the cultural history of the nobility and country estates of the Burgundian-Habsburg Netherlands and the Dutch Republic, such as on Virtus and Distinction (2007), Nobility and Identity (2011) and the 17th c. territorial politics of Orange and Amsterdam (2015). He is currently completing a reader Landscape and Heritage. Theoretical Perspectives, co-edited with Jan Kolen, for Amsterdam University Press.
Challenged by the EU's 'identity crisis' after the enlargements of 2004/07 and the rise of authoritarian populism, Van der Laarse's interest is more and more focused on conflicted heritage, identities, competiing memories and restitution issues. He edited a bilingual handbook for critical heritage studies Bezeten van vroeger. Erfgoed, musealisering en identiteit (2005), which is widely used in Dutch academic teaching, and co-edited with Frank van Vree De dynamiek van de herinnering. Nederland en de Tweede Wereldoorlog in een internationale context (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 lecture 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', in Boekman 88 (2011), and the hijacking of progressive culturalism by the New Right Identitarian movement on which he is preparing some further publications. His contribution 'Archaeology of Memory: Europe's Holocaust dissonances in East and West' to the EAC volume Heritage Reinvents Europe (2013), and a chapter 'Beyond Auschwitz: Europe's Terrorscapes in the Age of Postmemory' in Marc Silberman and Florance Vatan, eds. Memory and Postwar Memorials (2013) rethink the issue of European competing memories in the present Age of Identity. He co-edited Traces of Terror, Signs of Trauma (2014) as an outcome of the 'Terrorscapes in Postwar Europe' project, in Fatal Attraction (2015) he reconceptualises the notions of authorship and authoritarianism to reveal some silenced 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 War, heritage and the dynamics of memory (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).
Van der Laarse is member of the advisory boards of several historical and heritage journals, organizations and museums, such as Virtus. Yearbook of the History of Nobility, 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) that also collaborates in the Terrorscapes project. He chairs the Huizinga working group Heritage, Tourism and Identity, and the scientific advisory board of the Westerbork Archaeological Research Project, a cooperative project of Memorial Camp Westerbork, CLUE and RAAP which will become part of a European 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 Treblinka gas chambers, and discussed with Schute his ground-breaking discovery of the Sobibor gas chambers for Radio 5. Van der Laarse presented the ICOMOS-UK Annual Christmas Lecture 2014 in London under the title of Heritage, Conflict and the Dynamics of Memory, and many public lectures for Dutch audiences, such as at the Utrecht Studium Generale in 2017.
Together with Frank van Vree he initiated in 2009 the NWO research line The Dynamics of Memory as a follow-up of a research project funded by the Heritage of War program of the Ministry of VWS in which Van der Laarse took part as policy adviser. He was fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in Wassenaar In 2012-2013, and (with Georgi Verbeeck) NIAS theme leader and NWO project lead of the international Terrorscapes research group 'Transnational Memory of Totalitarian Terror and Genocide in Postwar Europe'. The Terrorscapes project was awarded a Premio Euromediterraneo 2013 in the International Press Office in Rome 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 2009-2015 he was also research coordinator at VUA research institute CLUE (Centre of Landscape and Urban Environment) and the Amsterdam Centre for Heritage and Identity (ACHI) on the Heritage and Memory of War and Conflict. Since 2013 he is co-theme leader European Identity and Culture of the Centre for Contemporary European Studies ACCESS EUROPE (UvA / VU Amsterdam), and he is the founding director of the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM), a member of the advisory committee academic heritage of the Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds, and of the Academic Advisory Board of KLEOS Bulletin for Ancient Studies and Archaeology.
With Ihab Saloul and Britt Baillies he is founding series editor of the Palgrave Studies in Cultural Heritage and Conflict, with Saloul also of Heritage and Memory Studies (AHM/Amsterdam University Press), and from 2010-2015 he was co-founding series editor of Landscape and Heritage Studies (CLUE/Amsterdam University Press). And as project lead of the HERA iC-ACCESS project he initiated the Accessing Campscapes E-Journal under chief editorship of Zuzanna Dziuban.
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.
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.
Prof. dr. R. van der Laarse
Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
Oude Turfmarkt 141
1012 GC Amsterdam
Van der Laarse supervises tutorials, BA honors, and MA theses on heritage and memory theory, museology and site analyses (ethnographic, semantic, visual, spatial, forensic, and digital turns), European terrorscapes and competing memories, focusing on themes like landscapes of power and landscapes of memory, aristocracy and elite cultures, 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)