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Conference: Collaboration, Creativity and Change in the Imaginations of our Kingdom

Both national and international funding agencies increasingly require research proposals to incorporate multilevel collaboration in order to impact the lives of the people we do research with. As a beneficiary of such funding, the IMANAT (Imagining the Nation in the Classroom) consortium included partners from various disciplines from across the Kingdom. These collaborations raised some important questions: How to integrate various needs, demands and imagination, or better: who decides what is valuable to who? How can collaborations change during and after research? Does academic knowledge or research experience allow us any sort of ‘expert’ position? Must we produce academic papers and policy briefs only, or can we coproduce films, sounds and art collections? How indeed do we employ our creativity? This one-day symposium brings together artists, activists, various academics, and policymakers to share previous experiences and imagine new possibilities in Dutch Caribbean research.​

Important note: Attendance is free but registration is required at

Program December 2 2019, @Volkshotel (Wibautstraat 150, Amsterdam)

10.00 Walk in with coffee, tea and cake.

10.20 Introduction by our hosts: Naomi van Stapele (International Institute of Social Studies)  and Howard Komproe (artist).

10.30 Keynote ‘The Undercommons of the Concept’ by Stefano Harney, Honorary Professor at the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia.

This talk will consider different aspects of sovereignty as it has developed as a force in the modern world. In particular it will ask how a dedication to collective study can combat the sovereignty of concepts. Reference will be made to figures from the ‘black radical tradition,’ as Cedric Robinson named it, and will include Robinson, Huey Newton, and contemporary scholars Fumi Okiji, and Denise Ferreira da Silva. Implications will be drawn for pedagogy and research.

Responses from Aminata Cairo (Haagse Hogeschool) andan exchange with the audience.

11.30: Introduction by Jörgen Gario (artist) and an invitation to join the creative process.

​12.00: Lunch

13.00: Exchange 1 Collaboration for change within the Kingdom

As validation and societal impact have become vital aspects of a successful research proposal, multi-layered and multidisciplinary collaboration have become central to our subsequent studies. But who do we choose to collaborate with? Who decides what is considered valuable to whom? How can we remain critical as academics? How do we continue, or stop, our collaborations when our funding ends? And is there also space for theoretically driven research? This is an exchange with Jordi Halfman (UvA), Sanne Rotmeijer (KITLV), Stacey MacDonald (KITLV), Guno Jones (VU), Aminata Cairo (Haagse Hogeschool) and Arnold Lubbers (NWO).

14.00: Coffee and tea

14.30: Exchange 2 Creativity as research

Creativity tends to be understood as an addition to our academic research. What happens when we understand creativity as research? And the other way around: what does it mean to understand research as creativity?  Two films (one by Guiselle Martha-Starink and one by Nicole Sanches) will be the starting points for an exchange on how we may start to make sense of the inevitable movement of the everyday. This is an exchange with Guiselle Starink-Martha (UvA), Nicole Sanches (UU), Shamira Raphaela (film director), Mattijs van de Port (UvA), Wayne Modest (Research Centre for Material Culture) and Sara Blokland (curator).

16.00 Jörgen Gario performs

16.30 Interactive roundtable led by Francio Guadeloupe (UvA) and Yvon van der Pijl (UU).

17.30 Drinks

Long abstract
In 2013, the Dutch Scientific Research Organisation NWO invested 10 million Euros in multidisciplinary research in the Dutch Caribbean. This impulse was meant to bring together various academic disciplines to improve the living conditions on the different islands in the Dutch Caribbean. This aligns well with the Dutch National Research Agenda (deNationale Wetenschapsagenda), and the international trend towards a stronger connection between scientific research and societal issues. Also, the recent Caribbean Research Survey, in which the population of the Dutch Caribbean was asked to identify the most pressing research questions, easily fits within this trend.

The Imagining the Nation in the Classroom consortium was awarded a grant in the first funding round of the NWO program ‘Caribbean Research: A Multidisciplinary Approach’. The research (2 PhD projects and 1 postdoc project) focussed on issues of non-sovereignty, nation-ness, and alternative imaginations of belonging, especially, but not exclusively, of youths on the different Dutch Caribbean islands. The consortium ambitiously brought together researchers from anthropology, educational sciences, and cultural studies, who were appointed at universities throughout the Kingdom. Together they studied matters of belonging, migration and learning, and collaborated with educators and artists at the Research Centre for Material Culture, to present their findings and, possibly, make a change.

By collaborating from the start, the research aimed to be open to the approaches, opinions, and criticisms from various actors, not in the least those residing on the Dutch Caribbean islands who were somehow concerned with the subjects addressed by the project. Yet, we quickly learned that several of these actors, be it students, researchers, policymakers, or anti-colonial activists, often had conflicting ideas or little interest in our questions. Others had little patience with our academic methods and approaches, or desired other implementations of research findings. As such, our collaborations raise important questions about how to be engaged and critical, while moving within the contested realities of the manifold imagined communities that together shape the Kingdom of the Netherlands. How do we research with rather than about others? And do we have to set aside any notion of being the authoritative ‘expert’? Other questions that surfaced included: How do we apply outcomes of our shared learning processes in ethical ways? Do we consult with and report back to stakeholders, both on the islands and in The Hague throughout the entire research process? What other venues do we as academics have to share what we learn and make the desired impact?

The goal of this one-day seminar is to share relevant and concrete experiences from our research that provide starting points to discuss questions surrounding creative learning, knowledge utilisation, and dissemination. One illustrative case revolves around a lesson plan about slavery and human rights that was established through multidisciplinary, Kingdom wide collaboration. Students (bachelor, master and PhD) from the University of St. Martin (in the Dutch Caribbean), joined forces with those of the Iselinge University of Applied Sciences and the Universities of Utrecht and Amsterdam (all in the Netherlands) to co-construct, implement, and test a school method relevant to the diverse pupil population on Sint Maarten. As a research method within a PhD project, this collaboration allowed for new ways of learning from and with research participants. Also, as a concrete and extensive form of research utilisation and valorisation from the beginning, the collaboration raised questions concerning ownership and shared interests. How to navigate different idea(l)s and needs? How to accommodate all social segments and classes? And what happens when funding ends and our implementation remains incomplete?

If future research consortiums are to become multidisciplinary hubs that tackle socially relevant questions in order to make a valuable and lasting change, we must learn from our past endeavours. Therefore, we invite you: academic, artist, educator, policymaker, funding specialist, and concerned citizen, to join this one-day creative re-imagination of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

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