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Research lines

History :: Literature and cultural artefacts :: Philosophy and Social Theories ::


Historical research about the interaction between gender and ethnicity in this programme focuses on historical processes and the representations (both popular and scientific) of these processes. Thus the projects will critically assess the ways in which historical knowledge contributes to the construction of gender and ethnicity. The themes cover Dutch and international women's history. Gender is always studied in its interaction with other categories of inclusion and exclusion. The projects focus on the colonial and post-colonial history of the Netherlands (1 and 2), the cultural history of the Netherlands in a comparative perspective (3, 4 and 5)

1. Colonialism and the History of Western Feminism (Dr. Berteke Waaldijk)
Historical narratives and explanations of western women's movements and feminisms at the end of the nineteenth century/ begin twentieth have focused on national histories of political innovation (liberalism, socialism, rise of democracy) and economic change (industrialisation, growth of consumption) within European countries. In this project the colonial context of rise of feminism in the Netherlands will be studies in a internationally comparative perspective. Continuing the research for a publication on the National exhibition of Women's Labor in the Hague in 1898, special attention will be paid to visual sources from popular culture sources and to prosopographical information ( what colonial experience did Dutch feminists have). It is expected that these will provide an additional perspective on the "whiteness" of Dutch feminist in this era. Historiographical research on the reasons of the invisibility of this colonial context in modern representations of historical feminism will be part of the project. Output:
- with Maria Grever (KUN) edited volume on (world-)fairs and genderscholarly articles
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2. Internment, Memory and Coping with Trauma. The Japanese Occupation in Diaries and Memoirs of Former Interned Women and Men in the Dutch East Indies (1942-1995) (Esther Captain)
The process of remembrance and coping with war-related experiences by Dutch and Eurasian women and women will be analysed. These persons were interned in civilian prisoner of warcamps by the Japanese during the Second World War in the Dutch East Indies (1942-1945).Their wartime and postwar diaries and memoirs will be read and thus memory and coping with war-experiences will be analysed as historical processes. Attention will be paid to gender and ethnicity: i.e. what was the effect of the separation of the sexes and ethnic groups during the war? Output:
- articles
- dissertation
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3. The Gender of Dutchness (Dr. Berteke Waaldijk)
Different facts from the history of the Netherlands have been designated by historians and cultural critics as "typical" of Dutch culture. The "welfare state" staffed by social workers and the success of the monarchy in the twentieth century are just a few examples. In a series of articles instances of Dutchness will be studied from a gendered perspective. Research will focus on the interaction between Dutchness and gender. The results will contribute to understanding of patterns of inclusion and exclusion in Dutch history. Output:
- articles
- website on history of social work in the Netherlands
- edited collection of biographies of social workers
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4. The Development of Consumption Culture and Female 'Individualisation'. The Netherlands, 1880-1920 (Dr. Christine Delhaye)
From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, the subject of 'individualisation' has been a central theme in sociological and anthropological thought. It is striking how, even now, leading commentators have been debating the issue in gender blind terms. The object of this research is to contribute to a gender specific discussion of the Western Individualisation process. In this study it will be argued that while being excluded by a masculine logic of individualisation, white middle class women were at the same time addressed in multifarious specific ways by 'other' i.e. female -and indeed often trivialised- logics of individualisation. Feminist historical analysis has convincingly shown how the cultural construction of the modern female subject occurred in strong relationship to the emerging consumer culture. In this research the central question is, if and in what ways such modern phenomena as consumption culture and fashion played a role in the individualisation of female identity. Furthermore, this research will assess how this process of individualisation of female identity has contributed to the European construction of female whiteness. In looking for an answer to these questions an analysis will be made of Dutch fashion magazines at the turn of the 19th century (1880-1920). This research will contribute to a local and a historical understanding of the interactions of gender and class and of the cultural construction of whiteness. Output:
- monograph
- articles
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5. Our Bodies, Ourselves: The Globalization of Feminist Body/politics (Dr. Kathy Davis)
This project focuses on how the women's health movement has shaped women's bodily experiences, cultural notions about women's health, and the transformations which have occurred in the organisation and provision of health care as a result of the women's health movement. Our Bodies, Ourselves provides the starting point for this inquiry. Often referred to as the feminist bible on women's health, it has played a key role in changing conceptions about women's bodies and health as well as providing an impetus for the international women's health movement. Since it was first published in 1971, Our Bodies, Ourselves has sold nearly 4 million copies, gone through several editions, and has been translated into 40 languages. It was voted one of the ten most influential books in the U.S. in the past 25 years. The project has three parts: a collective oral history of the authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves, the Boston Women's Health Book Collective; a discourse analysis of the various editions of the book in terms of continuity and change during the past 3 decades; and a comparison between the U.S. editions of the book and the foreign adaptations (European, Asian, South American). The aim is to explore the role which feminist and western myths play in the emergence, continuity and globalization of feminist body/politics. Output:
- scholarly articles
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6. 'Questions of Fame and Failure. Women Acting and Directing in Silent Cinema.' (Annette Förster)
This is a historical study of the careers and oeuvres of three women in three different countries, who, during the 1910s, worked as actresses on stage and in cinema, and, during the early twenties, became independent film directors. Various parallels will be drawn between their professional careers including their film historical marginalisation. The aim of the study is to reassess these women's careers and work through historical contextualization. For this, three contexts are pertinent: the emerging film industry, popular theatre and popular literature. Apart from the material conditions, special attention is given to the discursive conditions involved. Such approach leads to a rethinking of the relations between specific popular theatrical and literary genres like French revue and American outdoor fiction, on the one hand, and early cinematic genres like serial melodrama and silent film comedy on the other. Through ample archival research, a historically accountable and gendered perspective will be developed on the fame and failure of the three protagonists. Output:
- dissertation
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Literature and Cultural Artefacts

Cultural artefacts can be studied both as examples of a genre or style and as more or less obvious accounts of cultural and ideological values. This line studies the power of representation in relation to the construction of subjectivity within the discourse of postcolonial literature and other cultural artefacts. Projects 2 and 3 are part of the New Scenario's for the Humanities Programme of the Arts Faculty.
1. Gothic Engineerings (Dr. Rosemarie Buikema)
gothic representation, be it pre-victorian or postmodern, is a writing of excess and of suspense. the boundaries between the real and the imagined, the visible and the invisible, reason and emotion, the political and the personal are blurred. therefore the strength of the gothic consists of the reversal of traditional values and norms. strange things are normal and normal things are strange. the gothic has been said to give a voice to the oppressed classes, to repressed colonial histories, to the vicious aspects of family life and oedipal structures, to prohibited sexuality, to femininity and masculinity (becker 1999, botting 1996, massé 1992, winter 1992). against this background the project discusses the continuities and transformations between the classical gothic genre and its contemporary forms. the corpus will therefore consist of nineteenth centuries' novels as well as computer games and video clips. by means of the study of the thematical, narratological and rhetorical features of the gothic, the fruitfulness of gender and race as analytical categories in literary and cultural criticism will be focused on. output:
several articles and chapters in (teaching-) books
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2. Gendering Cyberspace (Mischa Peters)
this project looks at the continuities and discontinuities between the literary genre of cyberpunk (w.gibson; pat cadigan) and the kind of metaphorizations that are currently taking place in cyberspace, especially on internet. by analysing specifically the representation of the human body and of human sexuality the project attempts to map out the fantasies of recomposition and reconfiguration of the human in the imaginary of high-technology societies. interdisciplinary in that it combines literary texts with multimedia technologies, this project also aims to bridge the gap between high and low culture in the pursuit of a better understanding of what experts (castells) have defined as 'network societies'. output:
- a dissertation (2003)
- several scholarly articles.
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3. Questions of Corporeality in the Age of Posthumanism. Bodily Matters Confronting Cultural Studies. (dr. r.c. hoogland)
This project seeks to explore, and therewith to foreground, the potentially productive role of critical-cultural studies in an investigation of the epistemological and sociocultural implications of current developments in science and technology as they are beginning to take effect in Western societies today. Its primary focus is on the human body; or, rather, on the variously differentiated processes of gendered, "racialised", and sexualised embodiment that jointly constitute human beings, individually and collectively, in their sociocultural materiality and specificity. Analyses of selected contemporary fiction and theoretical texts will serve to illuminate the critical function of cultural operations and cultural production in processes of embodiment as they variously obtain at a transitional moment in Western history. The proposed research adopts an interdisciplinary cultural-critical perspective that is centrally informed by such innovative traditions as feminist and/or gender studies, postcolonial and/or ethnic studies, and sexuality and/or queer studies. Precisely within the context of these so-called minority discourses, traditional liberal humanist notions of the universal subject, of the undifferentiated, autonomous human being, indeed, of a fundamentally disembodied rational consciousness, have come under the severest and most persistent attack. Hence, starting from a notion of irreducibly differentiated, multiple, and socioculturally specific modes of subjectivity, the body/subject is approached as a site of the mutually constitutive interaction between discourses about the body and the material reality of specific bodies. That is to say, the "problem" of the fragmented embodied self in the age of posthumanism will be explored in conjunction with the operations of fantasy and its products, of "private" or subjective (fictional) narratives about the body, as well as "public" or collective ones. Output:
- conference papers
- scholarly articles
- booklength study
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4. The Colour of Love (Dr. Rosemarie Buikema)
this part of a joint project with gloria wekker concentrates on representations of inter-ethnic love relationships and friendships in dutch colonial and postcolonial literature and film. the analysis of the emplotment of those representations will be compared to the stories told by partners involved in such relationships (as will be studied in project wekker). guiding questions in the analysis of the cultural configuration (understood as the creative expression of experience along the lines of the conventions of composition and genre) of inter-ethnicity are: by means of which emplotment do (post-)colonial representations concerning inter-ethnic bonding negotiate past and present notions of identity in terms of ethnicity, class, gender, and nationality? in which way do (post-)colonial writers and filmmakers on this topic intervene in current conceptualisations of multiculturality? these questions will be approached with semiotic and narratological methods. output:
- a joint book with Prof. Dr. Gloria Wekker
- several articles
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5. Portuguese and Indian Post-Colonial Literary Practices (Joanna Passos)
my research project carries out a comparative study on the contemporary literature being produced within two post-colonial contexts, namely cape verde and india. my approach sees literature both as an aesthetic object (which will be discussed in terms of style, narrative technique and local literary trends) and as a social text, representing people living in a specific time and place. as a social text, this comparative study will allow me to address the role of memory and history in the construction of a sense of identity in these specific post-colonial contexts. through the novels we will see how individuals confront the contradictions and tensions of the collective social structure, what kind of definition problems haunt them and what kind of issues emerge as key questions in these post-colonial societies. key words in this line of research will be: hybridism, nationalism, tradition, modernisation, representations of the nation/state, the role of women, culture as a system of habit and indoctrination, feminism, neo-colonialism, discourses of power, resistance, deconstruction and irony. taking up the conclusions of my discussion of the two chosen novels and their social and literary context, i will come back to the role of post-colonial studies as a reception strategy in the western academy, and the responsibility of this kind of researches in rejecting racism, paternalistic dismissal and silencing of marginal voices. the academic dialogue going on post-colonial studies has political implications in terms of the attitudes of the west to these emerging presences, going through the process of asserting their identity and define a position in world order. this awareness will shape my position and the way i structure my research. output:
- a dissertation (2002)
- articles in scholarly journals
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6. Identity, Textuality and Literary "Dirigisme" in French-Antillian Literature (Dr. C. Stevens)
authors from guadeloupe and martinique proclaimed themselves as both writers and theorists of the relatively new history of french-antillian literature. time and again they tried to define a specific literary identity in relation to a specific cultural identity. concepts like negritude (cesaire, 1947), antillianite (glissant, 1981) and creolite (bernabe, chamoiseau and confiant, 1989) connect the concept of identity to black west-indian identity which respects every possible socio-racial and cultural component. as a consequence of recent post-colonial criticism concepts like diversite, pensee de la relation (glissant, 1990) , tout-monde (glissant 1993) and total-monde (chamoisseau, 1977) have been added to the discussion, implying both a generalisation of black identity and a differentiation of possible identities. this research seeks to explore the theoretical interrelation of the concepts mentioned above, their literary translation and will question their function as a possible new literary "dirigisme". output:
- scholarly journal
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7. Paradoxes of Post-Colonial Culture. Feminism and Diaspora in South-Asian and Afro-Italian Women's Narratives (Sandra Ponzanesi)
the main objective of this study is two-fold. on the one hand, to dishevel the monolithic nature of the post-colonial debate by emphasising its politics of fragmentation. on the other hand, to analyse a new corpus of italian multicultural and multi-ethnic literature which also resuscitates an obscure and removed chapter of italian history: that of colonialism. by comparing the burgeoning tradition of women writers of the indian diaspora to new writings by afro-italian migrant women, a set of dissymmetrical relationships emerge which account for different colonial, linguistic and market economies. output:
- a dissertation (1999) - articles in scholarly journals
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8. The Politics of Representation (Dr. Rosemarie Buikema)
this project concerns fundamental research into literary and cultural theories which deal with the powers of representation. the aim of the project is to connect concepts like the literariness and/or the visuality of specific cultural artefacts to the politics of gender and ethnicity. this means that representation is studied both as stylistics and as a process of in- and exclusion. output:
-articles in (inter-)national journals
-chapters in (teaching)books
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9. Water Metaphors in Women's Writing (Sarbani Thakur-Weigold)
This project investigates the representation of a female imaginary order in women's writing. through a close reading of the chain of water metaphors as it occurs in the work of m. duras and v. woolf, it is claimed that this metaphor marks the metaphysical absence of the mother-as-subject. if literary sons ritually return to this site of repression, to either reconfirm their autonomous masculine subjectivity by murdering the feminine origin, the literary daughter who is positioned differently in the system of oedipalized language and meaning reacts in another way. the mother's body, transfigured as water, re-surfaces at the scene of a crime in phallologocentric order. output:
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Philosophy and Social Theories

This research line connects a select range of research projects, epistemologies, methodologies and orientations, which, while having various emphases, are all concerned with building bridges between symbolic and semiotic approaches to gender and ethnicity, on the one hand, and social and material approaches, on the other. Gender and ethnicity are thought to function as "grammars of difference" (Meijer 1996), on the (inter-)personal, symbolic and institutional planes, variously blocking and offering possibilities to construct subjectivities, identities, life chances. Feminist philosophies in the last ten years (Young and Jaggar 1999) have cast new light on the epistemological, political and ethical implications of a multi-layered understanding of the subject of feminism. They have highlighted the complex ways in which power relations inscribe this subject in a web of interrelated social and symbolic effects (de Lauretis 1987; Braidotti 1994). The strategies that can be adopted to undo these power relations are diverse. Therefore this research line aims also at a critical evaluation of the effectiveness of methodologies and strategies within feminist theory itself. Special emphasis will be given to the issues of the female body and of embodiment as a social and discursive practice (Davis 1995; 1997, Braidotti 1996). The aim of this cluster is to deconstruct classical dualities, like the ones between theory and practice, between representation and reality, between subjectivity and identity, and to develop new approaches to articulations of gender and ethnicity, building on the feminist research tradition (see Research Programme 1994-1998). Like in the other two clusters, the research projects are increasingly characterised by a trans-national focus and by an interdisciplinary approach.

Fields of study within this cluster include:
  • feminist theories of subjectivity;
  • representations of the body and questions of embodiment;
  • issues of citizenship and the construction of the nation state and Europe;
  • critique of modernity , of science and technology;
  • formations of identity in multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies.
Theoretical coherence and exchange are made possible by the thematical connections that are made within the cluster and between clusters.

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1. Rethinking the Subject of Feminism (Prof.Dr. Rosi Braidotti)
this cluster continues the work initiated in the previous research programmes in the last ten years by elucidating the central concepts and key-terms of feminist theories of the subject. it evaluates different hypotheses and different theoretical frameworks by means of which the social and discursive construction of gender and ethnicity can be explained. special attention will be paid to issues of embodiment and of sexual difference especially in french post-structuralist theories, which will be compared to the more dominant anglo-american 'gender' theories. output:
- a book-length study of sexual difference theories in philosophy
- several articles on different aspects of 'gender' theories
- detailed policy-paper on women in science, gender research and curriculum development in women's studies, for a variety of local and european institutions.
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2. Flexible Citizens and the New European Cultural Space (Prof.Dr. Rosi Braidotti)
this cluster addresses socially relevant issues related to the construction of the new cultural space of the european union. relying on a multi-layered understanding of the subject, this project tries to explore the possibility of post-nationalistic notions of european identity in terms of 'flexible' patterns of citizenship. special attention will be paid to the relation between former western and former eastern europe. more specifically, it will focus on how gender and ethnicity facilitate the formulation of new forms of european citizens and also contribute to. relying on situated multi-cultural european perspectives, such as they are also explored in the european thematic network athena, this cluster also aims at bringing into sharper focus local traditions of feminist theorisations of the subject, in the context of european multi-cultural societies. output:
- co-editing a european text book in women's studies with the athena network.
- contributing to the drafting of the european women's studies thesaurus, with the european network of women's libraries and documentation centres, co-ordinated by the iiav in amsterdam.
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3. Gender and the New Scenarios for the Humanities. (Prof.Dr. Rosi Braidotti)
this cluster participates in the arts faculty research programme about the crisis of the humanities at the end of the millennium. it focuses on the extent to which the humanities have historically had to deal with the tension between dominant and resisting or emancipating cultures. this tension has made the humanities into both a vital keeper of tradition and an important critical force in society. through emphasis on gender and ethnicity this cluster will focus on contemporary aspects of the critical traditions within the humanities, both in academic life and in a broader cultural context. output:
- several scholarly publications in international journals
- working papers of the consortium for the humanities co-ordinated by the institute for history and culture (ogc) of the faculty.
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4. Discourses of Equality and Difference in the Culture of Beauty (Dr. Kathy Davis)
cosmetic surgery in its modern form emerged at the turn of the century, primarily in the u.s. and in europe. at this time, the first handbooks, biographies and autobiographies were written in which practitioners set out the merits of this 'new' field of inquiry. since then, cosmetic surgery has undergone a veritable explosion, becoming the fastest growing medical speciality, both in europe and the u.s. it has become standard fare in popular culture with celebrities discussing their surgery and information on operations deployed in newspapers, magazines, and discussed on television and radio. in this project, i explore the cultural context of cosmetic surgery from popular culture to surgeon biographies to medical texts. some of the texts are historical - (auto)biographies of pioneers in the field of cosmetic surgery or surgical handbooks. others are more recent - media coverage of new interventions, medical debates about cosmetic surgery, interviews with plastic surgeons, representations of cosmetic surgery in 'body art'. the aim is to show how gender, ethnicity and 'race' are constructed and reproduced in the cultural discourses and practices associated with the expansion of cosmetic surgery in late modernity in western culture.
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5. The Colour of Love: Locations, Identities and the Construction of Knowledge (Dr. Gloria Wekker)
So far, research of dutch multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society has been concerned mainly with ethnic minorities as a highly problematical category, socially, culturally and economically. there has been a lack of attention for and interest in reciprocal relationship and interaction patterns between majorities and minorities. the present research explores precisely such reciprocal patterns, in the context of a dominant, upbeat and 'powerblind' discourse that celebrates these relationships as signalling the absence of racism and ethnic segmentation in dutch society. the guiding research question is: which processes of identity-formation are generated by love relationships between black and white people in the netherlands, and what discursive repertoires do inter-ethnic lovers have at their disposal to articulate their (dutch) identities? by way of interviewing mixed hetero- and homosexual couples, of different age brackets, the situated knowledge of people involved in these relationships is explored. this project proceeds in tandem with a project carried out by rosemarie buikema, who focuses on representations of inter-ethnic romantic relationships in (post-)colonial literature and film, comparing these to the stories told by partners in interviews.
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6. Heart of Darkness Revisited (Dr. Gloria Wekker)
Knowledge of the dutch colonial past is not central in dutch consciousness; it is considered marginal to 'real' dutch history. while dutch society is becoming more multi-ethnic, this lack of historical knowledge, this suppression of the past, becomes more untenable. a central hypothesis of this project is that current representations of blacks in the netherlands are still modelled on the colonial representation of blacks, notably from the congo. during the colonial era, european colonisers deemed congo slaves the least desirable, the most savage, the most "uncivilised". widely feared for sorcery, their knowledge of "supernatural" practices and their allegedly extreme violence, congo people are still emblematic for the abject in the western european imagination. during peaks in media coverage of the congo, expressions like "jungle mentality", "animals" etc. are routinely used. medical doctors are quoted in respectable dailies like "de volkskrant" and "nrc handelsblad", saying that their treatment of african patients, who do not have command of the dutch language, resembles veterinary practice (van assum, 1999). central in this project, which consists of several components -e.g. a feminist, post-colonial rereading of conrad's heart of darkness (1903), will be the tracing of the continuities in the representation of congo peoples in the western imagination.
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7. The Conscious Pariah. Arendt's Conception of Subjectivity in a Feminist Philosophical Perspective (Cris van der Hoek)
against the background of the tension between feminism and humanism an inquiry is made into arendt's conception of subjectivity and agency. starting point is the following question: in what ways do arendt's notions of action, freedom and judging throw a new light on the tension between autonomy and heteronomy, as it manifests itself in recent feminist philosophy. output:
- a dissertation
- scholarly articles
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8. Women Engaged in Religious Fundamentalist Practices: a Comparison of Different Case Studies in a European Perspective (Sarah Bracke)
the research project is concerned with the issue of women's engagement in religious fundamentalist movements. the emergence of contemporary fundamentalism in a european context will be related to conditions of late capitalist society, as they have been described through discourses on post-modernism, post-colonialism and post-communism. hence, religious fundamentalism will be mapped in its interaction with modernity. as my investigation focuses precisely on this interaction, i will look both at various fundamentalist discourses and the theoretical perspectives through which fundamentalism is looked upon, i.e. in this case social theory and feminist theory. from a feminist point of view, the engagements of women in religious fundamentalist movements presents itself as paradoxical. while fundamentalist agendas are particularly concerned with the control of women on the one hand, it cannot be denied that women are engaged in fundamentalist movements. in this framework of what moghadam (1994) has called a theoretical injury, the question of how agency works is explored. this question is linked to a critical discussion of identity politics. the methodology of the research consists of the comparison of several case-studies of religious fundamentalist groups in both catholic and islamic traditions in europe. qualitative research methods are used, such as participant observation and in-depth interviews/ life stories. output:
- a dissertation (2002)
- several scholarly articles
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9. Gender, Race and Sports in Post-Apartheid South-Africa (Denise Jones)
this project analyses women's access to and participation in sports in post-apartheid's south-africa. on the basis of empirical research with two different groups of women: students training at university in sports and physical education or human mobility programmes on the one hand, and very established women athletes and policy-makers in the area of sport on the other, the project attempts to map out the obstacles that still hinder full participation by women in sport. considering the heavily racialised history of south africa, the project is historically oriented and it includes an analysis of the ways in which gender, notions of femininity as well as race and ethnicity shape women's access to sport and to the physical mobility that sport requires. output:
- a dissertation ( 2000)
- several articles in scholarly journals
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10. New Migration from Eastern to Western Europe (Rutvica Andreijasevic)
the ongoing reconfiguration of european landscapes and the question of 'european' identity constitute sites of inquiry for there proposed research. this research proposes women's migration from eastern to western europe (referred to as 'new' migration) as the framework through which to investigate the current socio-political european order. women's migration is examined in the context of construction of 'new' europe and puts at the centre questions of gender and ethnic citizenship. the aim of the research is to investigate the ways in which, contrary to considerations which underscore the imminent integration of eastern europe into european union, migration exposes the exclusive membership in 'new' europe and discloses the construction of eastern europe in opposition to the west (and vice-versa). the research also involves the comparison between social representation and social reality in order to investigate whether and to which extend migrant women resist the definition in exclusively national and ethnic terms and challenge the processes of homogenisation which represent ethnic groups as monolithic. output:
- a dissertation
- scholarly articles
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